Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hair is the Answer. Boxes of evidence passed to a judge

A HUGE dossier of evidence against the parents of missing Madeleine McCann was passed to a judge last night as the case dramatically sped up. TEN BOXES of paperwork were handed over by Portugal’s District Attorney Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses just hours after he had received them from police.

The fact he quickly put the case before Judge Sylvia Bidarra is an indication he believes it is too strong to simply throw out. A decision on whether to prosecute Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry could now come in days.

The ten box files contained DNA results, police interviews with the couple, witness statements, intercepted emails and tapped phone calls. A crucial element of the case is hair believed to belong to Madeleine, allegedly found in a Renault Scenic rented 25 days AFTER she disappeared.

Police reckon it, along with other DNA evidence, shows the four-year-old’s body was hidden before being moved to its final resting place. Bodily fluid with an 88 per cent match to Maddie was also in the car, cops told local newspapers.

The McCanns insist the hair in the car must have brushed off belongings. But a police source said it had to come directly from the body. The source said: “There was so much hair it could not be from DNA transference, but from the body being in the boot.”

Toxicology reports on the strands — which could show if the four-year-old had been given any medication — have also been described by sources as “significant”.

The bodily fluids were found in the boot, under the carpet in the spare wheel space.

Another sample of DNA was found underneath a seat. Blood has also been discovered from floor coverings in the family’s holiday apartment under the sofa and on a window sill — both showing a strong genetic match to Madeleine. Another source claimed: “This is pretty damning stuff, it does not look good.”

Last night top forensic scientist Professor Dave Barclay — who worked on the Soham murders and was an adviser to TV show Waking The Dead — told The Sun: “If hair has been found in the car then it depends whether it’s a clump or not. A clump would be bad news. If the blood was a smear, it’s possible some was transferred to a toy and came off in the car.”

Dr Richard Leary, a former Assistant Director of the Jill Dando Institute, said: “If they can distinguish that the fluid is from the putrefaction of Madeleine’s body it will be incredibly damning.

“But if that is the case then I can’t understand why they haven’t charged already.

“If it is a saliva or urine sample then it’s a different ball game. If it was a small sample then it is possible it could have got there from cross transference on clothing or her cuddly toy.”

Dr Leary — who runs Forensic Pathways, in Tamworth, Staffs — went on: “The circumstances in which evidence was found can be telling. If the parents, for example, say she had not hurt herself on holiday, that would be undermined by blood then being found under the settee. It would be even more damning if it’s correct that a blood spot was found on a bedroom wall which someone had tried to scrub away.

“On the other hand, kids cut themselves and if these are small specks of blood, the size of a pinhead, it’s neither here nor there in evidence.”

Yesterday coroner Jose Pinto da Costa insisted DNA matches did not have to be exact to be admissible in court. He said: “In a criminal investigation the percentage of the result of DNA obtained from the gathering of biological samples has to pass 78 per cent.”

He also explained why blood traces found in the car did NOT contradict the police theory that Madeleine was long-dead before being put in the car. He said: “Putrefaction gases can push the diaphragm, and blood can come out of the mouth and nose.”

But British experts hit out at the way DNA evidence appears to have been collected.

Prof Barclay, of the UK National Crime and Operations Faculty, said: “It’s very surprising the police didn’t keep hold of the flat. Police here sometimes buy a crime scene house and keep it until a trial.

“It also seems bizarre the McCanns have been driving the hire car. Every police force in the UK would have kept the car if they suspected it contained evidence.”

And Alan Baker, of Bericon Forensics in Stoke, said: “When you receive a DNA sample in the laboratory you are dependent on it having been collected, preserved and packaged properly. But in this case the crime scene at the apartment was not preserved.

“The fact that the McCanns were able to carry on driving the car weeks later is absolutely lamentable and quite farcical.” Many of the samples collected in Praia de Luz were sent for examination to the Forensic Science Services in Birmingham.

Officers will fly to Britain in the next few days. They will liaise with UK detectives and scientists.

They are also believed to want to interview Kate for a third time. Meanwhile police are investigating if Gerry is Madeleine’s biological father. She was born by IVF and cops now want to know for certain if Gerry or another man was the sperm donor.

Yesterday the couple were visited for an hour by Chief Supt Bob Small, of Leicestershire CID. Last night experts said the district attorney’s decision to put the case before a judge so soon could be because he is seeking permission to alter the McCanns’ bail conditions or charge them.

But it may also be he wants judicial approval for a search warrant or phone bugging. The judge has ten days to decide. The McCanns, both doctors, deny any involvement in Maddie’s disappearance.

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