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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 17:33 GMT
Sarah evidence 'could be contaminated'
sweatshirt
The red sweatshirt found in Roy's Whiting's van
Evidence linking murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne to the man accused of killing her could have been contaminated, a court has heard.

A strand of the eight-year-old's hair found on a sweatshirt in Roy Whiting's van could have been transferred there by police forensic experts, Lewes Crown Court was told.

Raymond Chapman
Mr Chapman: Forensic scientist with 21 years' experience
Raymond Chapman, a forensic scientist with 21 years' experience, said 55 items of evidence had been sent to his team for examination.

They included the red sweatshirt found in Mr Whiting's Fiat Ducato van and two hairbrushes from the Payne family home.

A note on two bags containing the brushes said they could contain hair from each member of Sarah's family.

'Unlikely'

The court heard that several hairs were found on the outer sticky edge of the brown forensic bags, including a long, fine strand which looked like the one found on the red sweatshirt.

The hairs were tested and found to be those of Sarah's younger sister Charlotte, now six.

Questioned by the defence, Mr Chapman acknowledged it could not be ruled out that one of Sarah's hairs had become attached to the outer edge of the bag and then transferred to the sweatshirt by forensic expert Zelda Kemp.


It opens up the possibility that there may have been a transfer from one to another

Raymond Chapman

But he thought it "unlikely".

Sally O'Neill, QC, defending, said finding the hairs on the packages would have caused Mr Chapman "considerable dismay" and it raised the possibility the evidence was contaminated.

Asked if it opened up the chance of contamination, he said: "Yes."

Miss O'Neill said one of Sarah's hairs could have become wedged in a gap between a plastic window in the forensic bag and the bag itself.

Mr Chapman again told the court it was "unlikely".

Miss O'Neill said the hair could have come out of the bag when Ms Kemp cut it open, resulting in it being transferred to the sweatshirt.

"So there we have a mechanism for how the hair of Sarah Payne could have got on the sweatshirt," Miss O'Neill said.

Mr Chapman agreed, but he said that in his opinion the hairbrush and sweatshirt packages would have had to be placed in the same bag and shaken several times for any chance of a single strand of Sarah's hair being transferred.

Landing carpet

Pc Eric Prior told the court he had packaged hairbrushes in plastic tubes and tamper-proof bags at the Payne family home in Hersham, Surrey.

He accepted some hairs may have become stuck to the bags' adhesive strips when he put the bags on the landing carpet, although he had not noticed any.

When Ms Kemp was asked if she had seen any hairs on the packaging when she examined the sweatshirt, she said she had not.

On Wednesday, Mr Chapman told the court the chances of the hair found on the sweatshirt in Mr Whiting's van not being Sarah's was "in the order of one billion to one".

Sarah disappeared from a country lane as she walked back to her grandparents' home in Kingstone Gorse, West Sussex, on 1 July last year.

Her body was found on 17 July in a shallow grave near Pulborough, West Sussex.

Mr Whiting, 42, formerly of St Augustine Road, Littlehampton, West Sussex, denies her kidnap and murder.

The trial was adjourned until Friday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ben McCarthy
"They are disputing how [the hair] got there"
Full coverage of the trial

The verdict

Catching a murderer

Protecting children

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