DNA evidence links suspect to shopkeeper’s murder scene

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Forensic testing on the blue and white bandana recovered from the scene where shopkeeper Woneta Anderson was murdered has shown the presence of DNA belonging to accused Avie Howell, who is on joint trial with Kaniel Martin for the August 2008 killing and the July 2008 murder of British couple Benjamin and Dr Catherine Mullany.

In addition to finding Howell’s DNA on the item, other tests have also shown the presence of gunshot residue on clothing belonging to both accused.

First, forensic biologist Clare Stangoe of the UK delivered the DNA evidence. The expert said eight profiles were taken from the bandana (parts of the bandana were cut away and tested) and all eight matched the DNA profile of Howell.

Stangoe said the stains tested on the bandana were more than likely from Howell’s saliva and based on the manner it was deposited the fabric had to have been wet before the saliva got there.

“In my opinion the bandana came directly into contact with the mouth or with a substance bearing a substantial amount of wet saliva and it had been deposited since the item was last washed,” Stangoe told the jury.

She went on to explain that a statistical analysis was also done and the estimated probability that the DNA profiles obtained belonged to someone other than Howell is “less than one in a billion.”

Stangoe also testified to analysing a pair of grey denim Pepe pants belonging to Howell and she confirmed that the DNA profile found on the waistband showed a “mixed profile,” including a match to Howell.

“From the seam of the inside of the waistband we obtained a mixed DNA profile with DNA present from at least three individuals. Again, the prominent components matched those from the references of Avie Howell. … I could not completely exclude Ithrone Howell as a possible contributor but this may be because he is related to Avie Howell so they may share components in common … However, all of Avie’s components are shared in the mixed results,” the expert testified.

It was on those jeans, among other clothing, that forensic scientist Dr Christopher Moyneham said traces of gunshot residue were found.

Dr Moyneham, the lead scientist at LGC forensics in the UK, said the front and back of the pants were examined and a “moderate” amount of gunshot residue was recovered.

“Seven particles of gunshot residue were found on the front of those jeans and one particle was found in the waistband and two particles in the front left pocket,” the expert said.

Additionally, when an examination was done on a yellow shirt taken from Howell, Moyneham said gunshot residue was found on the front and back.

Meantime, the scientist said he found gunshot residue on two pairs of pants previously identified as property taken from the second accused, Martin.

On one pair of pants there were two particles of residue on the back and another single particle on the front while the second pair had one particle of residue in the waist.

Prior to revealing that gunshot residue was found on the clothing taken from the accused men, the forensic expert explained that residue comes from the primer, propellant, bullet jacket, cartridge case and the gun that fired the bullet, but the most useful distinctive material comes from the primer.

He said gunshot residue is deposited on surfaces within three metres from where a gun is fired, therefore it would be found on the person who fired the weapon, persons/items close by and the victim, if the person is within the range.

The trial, which has been ongoing for over a month and which has seen 79 witnesses testifying so far, continues in the High Court today.

Relatives of both accused have been present throughout the case, while Benjamin’s parents, who came shortly after the trial commenced, have also been present daily.

Catherine’s parents, who also arrived in the first week of the trial, left three weeks ago.

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