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Shelley Joffre reports
"An inquiry was launched following concerns about Shirley McKie's case"
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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK
New doubts over fingerprint evidence
David Asbury
David Asbury pictured after his conviction
Fingerprint evidence crucial to the conviction of a man for murder may have been flawed, a BBC Scotland investigation has discovered.

In 1997, David Asbury, from Kilbirnie in Ayrshire, was jailed for the murder of Kilmarnock woman Marion Ross.

But he denied the killing and independent fingerprint expert Pat Wertheim has cast doubt over evidence presented in the case.

Mr Wertheim's involvement began when BBC Scotland asked him to examine fingerprints which had led to former Strathclyde policewoman Shirley McKie being tried for perjury.

Amelia Crisp
Amelia Crisp: "Seemed to be damning evidence"

With his help, Ms McKie was cleared and an inquiry launched into areas of the Scottish Criminal Record Office's fingerprint bureau.

But now that Mr Wertheim has examined the evidence which helped convict Asbury, there have been new calls for the SCRO in Glasgow to be fully investigated.

John Scott, of the Scottish Human Rights Centre, said: "If what came out of your first programme was alarming in relation to Shirley's position and her fingerprint, then this is even more concerning.

"It's difficult to see how this can be anything other than the most serious problem that has ever been encountered with fingerprint evidence."

The fingerprint which was on the tin inside of David Asbury's apartment is not Marion Ross's print

Pat Wertheim

When Marion Ross was stabbed to death in her home there was no sign of forced entry, and the police began looking for anyone who would have had contact with her.

They discovered some builders - including Asbury - had done work at her home the previous year.

Ms McKie was then a Strathclyde Police detective assigned to the case and on a search of Asbury's house she found a tin containing 1,800.

It was dusted for fingerprints and one was found that could not be matched up either to David Asbury or to his family.

Shirley McKie
Shirley McKie: Won perjury case

Prints were then taken from Marion Ross and SCRO experts said the print on the tin matched.

At the High Court trial in May 1997 most of the evidence against Asbury was circumstantial and the print on the tin proved crucial.

Asbury's mother, Amelia Crisp, said: "That seemed to be the damning evidence. The fact there was a fingerprint on that tin the prosecution at his trial said the tin belonged to Marion Ross and he'd taken the tin with money in it out of her home, and that's why her print was on it. But that's not the case at all."

When police dusted Marion Ross's home they found a print on the bathroom door frame close to her body.

The SCRO staff identified it as belonging to Shirley McKie but in court she denied having been there.

Bayle and Wertheim
Allan Bayle and Pat Wertheim: Review of evidence

Asbury's mother said: "I believed her. I watched her give evidence, and I knew she was telling the truth.

"Yet again she wasn't going to be believed either because it was her word against the fingerprint experts."

Nine months after the murder trial Ms McKie was charged with perjury and accused of lying when she maintained she had never been in the house.

She began her own investigation and just before her trial made contact with US expert Pat Wertheim.

Unanimous verdict

He compared her print with one found at the crime scene and said: "It was clear to me that a mistake had been made. This was not an identification.

His opinion was backed by another American expert and the jurors were unanimous in their verdict that Ms McKie was not guilty of perjury.

Now, after reviewing the evidence against Asbury, Mr Wertheim and another expert, Allan Bayle, are unequivocal.

"The fingerprint which was on the tin inside of David Asbury's apartment is not Marion Ross's print. It's that simple," said Mr Wertheim.

The SCRO director, Harry Bell, said it would be "inappropriate to discuss" the latest allegations in the light of the current inquiry and an imminent appeal by David Asbury.

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See also:

19 Jan 00 | Scotland
Fingerprint procedure review call
17 Jan 00 | Scotland
Frontline Scotland
18 Jan 00 | Scotland
Finger of suspicion: transcript
07 Feb 00 | Scotland
Inquiry into fingerprint evidence
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