DNA evidence on coat

THE DNA of a Lurgan man accused of killing a police officer was uncovered on a coat in the boot of what officers believe was the getaway car, a judge heard on Monday.

Giving evidence at the Belfast Crown Court trial of former Sinn Fein councillor 40-year-old Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, 20, forensic scientist Faye Southam said she uncovered McConville’s DNA profile on three separate sites on a brown jacket found in the boot of Wootton’s Citroen Saxo car.

Despite McConville’s protestations that he did not own the jacket Ms Southam, who told the court her expertise lay in interpreting DNA findings, said that in her opinion “the findings are more likely to be obtained if he was the regular wearer of the jacket”.

She described how McConville’s DNA was found on both cuffs and on the inside of the collar, adding that the chances of the profiles coming from an unknown male, unrelated to McConville, were one in a billion.

McConville, from Aldervale, Tullygally, and Wootton, from Collingdale, Lurgan, are accused of murdering 48-year-old Constable Stephen Carroll on March 9, 2009 – just two days after two soldiers were gunned down outside Massereene Army barracks in Antrim.

Sharon Wootton, also from Collingdale, Lurgan, faces a charge of perverting the course of justice on dates between March 8, 2009 and October 20, 2009 in that she allegedly gave false information to police and “removed a computer or computers from her home address believing her home address might be searched and the said computer or computers seized by police”.

Constable Carroll, a 48-year-old married man and grandfather with 24 years’ service in the police, was nearing the end of his 12-hour shift when he was sent to a 999 call in Lismore Manor where a gunman was lying in wait 50 metres away.

According to prosecuting QC Ciaran Murphy’s opening statement, trial judge Lord Justice Girvan, sitting without a jury, will hear evidence that a tracking device had been planted in Wootton’s Saxo car that was parked close to the scene of the killing and left within minutes of the shooting.

On Monday, Ms Southam said the purpose of her examinations was to “address the issue of who could have worn the clothing recovered from the boot of the car”.

As well as the brown jacket, a body warmer and a blue sweatshirt were also found in the boot of the Saxo car but the forensic scientist, who has almost 30 years’ experience, told the court the only item she found McConville’s DNA on was the brown jacket.

She said that at two locations, inside the collar and the inside of the right cuff, she uncovered “medium strength” DNA profiles matching McConville while on the inside of the left cuff she found a mixed profile with McConville being the major contributor and an unknown person the minor.

Other samples taken from different areas of the jacket – including the inside pocket, arm pits and elbows – gave very small DNA profiles but were not big enough to give full profiles.

Under cross-examination from McConville’s defence lawyer Sean Devine, Ms Southam agreed her findings showed that “at least two and up to five” people had been in contact with the jacket to deposit DNA on it.

Later on Monday, Lord Justive Girvan heard evidence from a detective from the E-crime unit who testified that when he examined a Compact Presario computer tower in the days after the shooting, he uncovered a document detailing plans for a “Craigavon Republican Youth New Unit”.

He said that of five registered users of the computer, one was listed as JP and another as Sharon Helen Louise but that during a search of the JP account and using the search term “weaponry” he found a temporary works document.

The officer told the court on the document he found typed “the aims of the Republican Youth New Unit are to assist in the full removal of British forces from Ireland, assist all Irish republican armies”.

Under “activities”, the author had written, “painting republican slogans, minor punishments, training activists and recruiting”.

The trial continues.