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Tuesday, December 15, 1998 Published at 23:47 GMT


Ear print catches murderer

Dorothy Wood (centre) was suffocated with a pillow during a burglary

A man has been convicted of murdering an elderly spinster on the basis of "earprint" evidence, in what is believed to be a legal first.

BBC Correspondent John Cundy: An innovative if bizarre piece of evidence
Mark Dallagher, 25, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, was caught after police matched an imprint left on the window of the 94-year-old victim's home with his ear.

Dorothy Wood, who was frail and profoundly deaf, was smothered with a pillow at her home in Fartown, Huddersfield in May 1996.

[ image: Dallagher's distinctive earprint was found on Mrs Wood's window]
Dallagher's distinctive earprint was found on Mrs Wood's window
The court heard evidence during the two-week trial from international ear experts including Cornelis Van Der Lugt of the Netherlands, that the ear print was a unique match to Dallagher.

Detectives believe Dallagher put his ear to Mrs Wood's window to listen for signs of anyone in the house.

'Great step forward'

Norman Sarsfield, of Wakefield Crown Prosecution Service, said the verdict was "a great step forward for forensic evidence".

Jonathan Hallewell reports: Dallagher denied being the murderer
He said: "This is probably the first time that such evidence has been used successfully in a murder trial and will form the basis of case law in the future.

"In planning to use the ear-print evidence we sought the advice of experts in order to prove that it could not have belonged to anyone else."

Dallagher, who denied murder, was jailed for life at Leeds Crown Court.

Afterwards his sister, who declined to give her name, insisted he was innocent and said she planned to appeal.

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