Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Murder accused identified before

John Pope
John Pope claims he had been bitten by one of Karen Skipper's dogs as he pulled a thorn from its paw

A murder jury in Cardiff has been told police had evidence pointing to the man now on trial at the time the victim's ex-husband was tried for the killing.

Karen Skipper was drowned in Cardiff's River Ely, her hands tied with the leads of her dogs she had been walking.

Cardiff Crown Court heard John Pope's colleagues identified him from an e-fit but police were convinced Philip Skipper was the killer and charged him.

Mr Pope, 59, of Fairwater, Cardiff, denies murder and the trial continues.

The court heard police published an efit of a man in a waxed jacket with a rucksack spotted near the murder scene.

Mr Pope's workmates at a local engineering firm thought it looked remarkably like him.

Karen Skipper
Karen Skipper was found drowned with her hands tied her back

One of them phoned Crimestoppers, and the police interviewed Mr Pope and discovered that he had a waxed jacket and a rucksack.

They also spoke to Mr Pope's former wife, who told them he had abused her for years and forced her to have sex with her hands tied behind her back.

The partially clothed body of Mrs Skipper was found with her hands tied behind her back.

But detectives were convinced her ex-husband was the killer, the trial heard.

And when they charged Philip Skipper, the colleague who had called Crimestoppers apologised to Mr Pope for his suspicions.

The trial has previously heard Mr Pope was questioned as part of the initial investigation but denied knowing the dead woman.

Philip and Karen Skipper
Philip Skipper was cleared by a jury of murdering his wife Karen

Ten years later, he was arrested and acquitted of a minor offence but gave a blood sample for the national DNA database, the jury was told.

Robin Spencer QC, prosecuting, said detectives found the defendant's DNA profile matched a sample found on Mrs Skipper's clothes.

The court heard garage worker, Phillip Skipper, 38, became the prime suspect and was later arrested and charged but cleared following a five-week trial. He has since died.

Mr Spencer added: "The police were left with two nagging loose ends in the murder.

"Before Mrs Skipper was attacked, a man was seen close-by wearing a three-quarter length wax coat. He was never identified despite an appeal on BBC's Crimewatch UK.

"The other loose end was that on the outside lining of her jeans pocket a small bloodstain was found.

DNA profile

"Tests were done and it didn't belong to Mrs Skipper or her husband."

He said the DNA was found to match Mr Pope after his arrested in 2006 on an unrelated matter.

The court heard the clothing on the bank of the River Ely was re-examined and a smaller speck was found on Mrs Skipper's underwear.

Mr Spencer said: "It also matched Pope's DNA profile."

The court heard Mr Pope was arrested and changed his story to admit he had met Mrs Skipper once in a "chance encounter" three weeks before she died.

Mr Spencer said: "In his interview he said he had seen her two dogs tied up outside a shop and noticed one had a thorn in its paw.

"He pulled it out and the dog bit him, causing his finger to bleed. He said Karen Skipper offered him a handkerchief to stop the bleeding and she could have got his blood on her hand."

The court heard his explanation was "patent nonsense" and that the blood came from her killer on the day she was murdered.

The trial continues.

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