A miscarriage of justice

On 28th October 2011, at Bristol Crown Court, Dr. Vincent Tabak was found guilty of murdering landscape architect Joanna Yeates on 17th December 2010 and sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum tariff of 20 years. The evidence proving that he was made the scapegoat in a cruel and deliberate miscarriage of justice to protect the real killer is summarized point-by-point in “Guilty until proven Innocent”. The British and international news media and even the Leveson Inquiry have been muzzled to prevent them from exposing this evil scandal.

The DNA merchants

“You get called biased, in the police's pay.”

- Forensic scientist Lindsay Lennen, quoted in The Guardian, 17th January 2012

As Sandra Lean has pointed out (“No Smoke”, 2008, p. 163), there is no formal legal requirement for forensic scientists, blood splatter analysts, stomach archeologists etc. In principle a QC can call anyone to testify as an expert witness, and it is up to the opposing Counsel to attempt to discredit the witness. Only pathologists are required to have their credentials legally attested before they can give evidence in court.

Molecular geneticist
Dr. James Walker
Vincent Tabak’s prison confession was a fake, but the DNA evidence used to deny him bail was not further tested. His manslaughter plea was unsound, the other circumstantial evidence against him was faked, and he had no motive to kill Joanna Yeates. DNA evidence lends itself readily to being faked, without the fraud being detectable. It is necessary only to be slightly careless with laboratory precautions to permit cross-contamination to occur and obtain a “false positive” match. Juries and the public, meanwhile, have been groomed by popular science programmes on TV and articles in the printed media extolling the wonders of DNA – at no cost to the forensic experts who earn huge profits from convicting innocent defendants.

The bedroom of the basement flat shared by
Joanna Yeates and Greg Reardon, where he
alleged her earrings were found
“Twenty-five-year-old Jo Yeates appeared to simply vanish on the night of December 17 while walking home from a night out at the pub with her friends,” wrote journalist Tina Orr Monro in the February 2012 issue of Police magazine. “Initially, it was treated as a missing person’s case after her boyfriend Greg Reardon returned home from a weekend and reported her missing on December 22. [00.45 on December 20th according to his testimony and most other accounts] But as her disappearance was so out of character, the police were already concerned for her safety, and several items, including the bedding from the couple’s first floor flat, were sent to a forensic laboratory for analysis, although nothing of significance was discovered.”

Joanna Yeates’s bathroom at 44 Canynge Road
after forensic scientists had been at work on it.
Vincent Tabak did not mention the bathroom
in his testimony. Were the forensics technicians
told to eliminate potentially incriminating traces?
These are excellent reasons for questioning the validity of the circumstantial evidence furnished in this case by LGC Forensics, which was founded in 1996 following the privatisation of the Laboratory of the Government Chemist. The DNA Team Leader at LGC Forensics is molecular geneticist Dr. James Walker. LGC Forensics were paid the best part of £83,379 for the part they played in “Operation Braid”, yet, despite weeks of very conspicuous occupation at 44 Canynge Road, the large team of scientists evidently did not discover a scrap of evidence for Joanna’s killing in her flat there. If they had done so, the Prosecution would certainly have made sure that the jury heard about it.

Although the protracted forensic examination of the house was well publicised in the media at the time, it was not even mentioned once during the trial. The only whiff the jury got of this part of the investigation was the conspicuous sight of chemical residues on the walls that met their eye when they entered Joanna’s bathroom during their field visit to Canynge Road. The bathroom was the only room in the flat that Vincent Tabak did NOT mention in his testimony of his alleged encounter with her. On 4 January 2011, SWNS published a photo of two people with breathing apparatus wearing protective overalls outside her flat, with a police warning sign in the foreground, “DO NOT ENTER – Dangerous chemicals”. The journalist explained that it is common to search a crime-scene for traces that have been “hyper-cleaned”, but the case against Vincent Tabak was made possible only because this intelligent man had apparently made no efforts whatsoever to cover his tracks. Was this effort just for show, or were the people in overalls engaged in eliminating any possible traces that could reveal the presence in the flat of the persons seen and heard by the landlord? Neither Ninhydrin, which the article mentioned, nor other scene-of-crime chemicals, are normally considered especially dangerous.

Joanna’s front door

Source: SWNS
The removal of Joanna’s front-door
On the day when the front page of The Daily Mirror raised the newspaper’s eyebrows at DCI Jones’s insistence that Greg Reardon was not a suspect – 29th December 2010 – Avon & Somerset Constabulary announced that they were going to take away Joanna’s front door for forensic analysis. They did so very conspicuously in full view of the TV cameras. An unnamed source claimed that further forensic examination was being carried out inside the flat, so the entire operation was probably a ruse to unnerve residents and provoke a reaction from someone who might incriminate themselves out of fear that his DNA would be found on the door. In the course of his interview with detectives two days later in Schiphol, Vincent Tabak asked Detective Constable Karen Thomas why the police had removed Joanna Yeates’s front door. The police officer would tell the jury at his trial that she had answered: “Removing the front door of a murder victim’s apartment is standard procedure”. The jury was never told the purpose of this procedure, nor any forensic evidence it might have produced.

The DNA evidence that was not further tested

Forensic scientist Lindsay Lennen
On 17th January 2012, The Guardian published an interview by journalist Jon Henley with Lindsay Lennen, a body fluids and DNA specialist on the staff of LGC Forensics.

It started as a missing person inquiry, explained Henley in his article. The team from LGC Forensics started by examining items from Joanna’s home, looking for foreign DNA. After Joanna Yeates’ body was found on Christmas day, a colleague of Ms Lennen’s went down to Bristol to supervise the removal of Jo’s clothing and preserve any body fluids. “The body was frozen, so that was quite tricky.” Under the media glare, explained Ms Lennen, the work was flat-out: clothing, swabs, suspect’s clothing, all analysed and turned round in 48 hours.

Journalist Jon Henley
“Eventually, we found something,” Ms Lennen said. “On swabs and tapes from her breasts, and tapes from three areas of her jeans. There were DNA components that matched one of the suspects, Vincent Tabak” But there wasn’t enough, of enough quality, to evaluate – perhaps because of the high salt levels where the body was found, following heavy snowfall – so the team deployed an LGC technique known as DNA SenCE, which purifies, concentrates and enhances otherwise unusable DNA: “We couldn't say whether the DNA was from saliva, or semen, or even touch. But we could say that the probability of it not being a match with Vincent Tabak was less than one in a billion.” With the killer’s confession, Lennen’s DNA evidence was not further tested. “It happens, in court,” she says. “You get called biased, in the police’s pay. You have to tell the truth, not stretch what you have. If you don't know which of two alternatives is more likely, you must say so.”

The “rapist” with the 190 mile alibi

A person outside Bristol Crown
Court on 18th October 2011
believed to be Tania Nickson
The colleague who took the swabs and tapes from Joanna’s body seems to have been forensic scientist Tania Nickson, who went to both Longwood Lane and Flax Bourton Mortuary on 26th December 2010. However, it was Lindsay Lennen who testified in court about the DNA on the body, so there is no guarantee that the samples allegedly linked to Vincent Tabak actually came from Joanna’s body, and not from somewhere at 44 Canynge Road where his DNA might be expected anyway. There could have been a mix-up of samples at LGC Forensics, just like the one that resulted in a man from Exeter, Adam Scott, being charged on 20th October 2011 with having carried out a rape 190 miles away in Manchester on a day when he had a solid alibi to show that he was in Exeter and had never been to Manchester. According to The Mail Online (1st October 2012): Upon his release in May 2012, Mr Scott, from Exmouth, Devon, said he had endured a ‘living nightmare’. He said: ‘I am furious at the pain it put me and my family through. They kept me in a segregation wing which was full of rapists and paedophiles. I suffered lots of verbal abuse and other inmates spitting at us and shouting “paedos”.’

An incorrect match of forensic profiles, as in this example, is known as a “false positive” (How the Probability of a False Positive Affects the Value of
DNA Evidence, Thompson, Taroni & Aitken, J Forensic Sci, Jan. 2003, Vol. 48, No. 1
Paper ID JFS2001171_481)

The scientists who went to Longwood Lane

Forensic archaeologist
Dr. Karl Harrison
The jury at the trial of Vincent Tabak heard evidence from two scene-going forensic scientists whose presence in Longwood Lane had been requested by the police after Joanna Yeates’s body had been found. Tania Nickson testified in person, and it may also have been she who read out the statement from ecologist Dr. Karl Harrison, who is also described as a forensic archaeologist. Tania Nickson’s professional qualifications are unclear, as is her relationship to LGC Forensics at the time of this investigation. She seems to have subsequently become a member of the staff of the School of Defence & Security, Cranfield University, Shrivenham. There is strong support for the proposition that she did not attend the crime scene until Boxing Day. If this were the case, then she could not have seen the body itself lying on the grass verge of Longwood Lane. Nor could she know with any certainty that the blood that she took from the wall and determined was Joanna Yeates’s blood had not been collected from the victim’s nose and smeared on to the wall for the purpose of falsifying the evidence. It is unclear whether Dr. Harrison, who was Lead Scientist in the Ecology Team at LGC Forensics at the time of Joanna Yeates’s death (and who subsequently became Lecturer in Forensic Archeology at Cranfield University), arrived at the scene in time to see her body before it was moved. His statement implies that he did, but it cannot be ruled out that the materials he analysed were the leaves and snow that he had been told lay underneath, over and around the body.
Flowers in Longwood Lane after it was re-opened. A patch of wall and
three stones on top of it have been lightened, to make us think that this
is where stains of Joanna’s blood were found, and that the verge below
is where her body was dumped.
Who was this mystery woman captured on video by ITN
leaving Longwood Lane on Christmas day 2010?
Was she a forensic scientist?
Or was she Rebecca Birch, whose dog found the body?

Who were these other suspects?

Jon Henley’s article in The Guardian marks the first time anyone connected to Operation Braid had publicly indicated that the police had any suspects as early as 48 hours after the body was found. Who could they be? Joanna’s work colleagues Darragh Bellew, Elizabeth Chandler and Michael Brown knew that Joanna was expecting to be alone on the evening she disappeared. Her best friend Rebecca Scott knew about Joanna’s movements, and might have been much closer to Clifton than she claimed. Colleague Samuel Huscroft, brother’s friend Matthew Wood, or Peter Lindsell could have made their way to Clifton after receiving her text messages. Neighbour Peter Stanley was at home for at least part of the evening and knew that Joanna’s boyfriend was going away.

The landlord and the blackmail

Joanna Yeates’s landlord
Christopher Jefferies
According to DC Karen Thomas’s testimony, Vincent Tabak did not become a suspect until 31st December 2010. The swab of his saliva taken that day in Schiphol did not need enhancing, so it could have been matched straightaway with the samples from the body that must already have been enhanced by that time. The landlord Christopher Jefferies, on the other hand, was arrested on 30th December 2010. We don’t know whether his 2nd witness statement (signed on 22nd December 2010) was potentially incriminating for Joanna’s boyfriend, as Mr. Jefferies never testified at the trial, but the police must have made the landlord what Lindsay Lennen would designate a “suspect” as soon as the body was recovered. Nor has the general public ever been told whether forensic evidence played any part in the police’s alleged suspicion of Mr. Jefferies. The general public did not learn about the DNA on the body until 3rd January 2011, when it was leaked by The Mail, presumably after a tip-off from someone at LGC Forensics. Unlike the general public, their scientists knew very well that they had not found the landlord’s DNA on Joanna’s body. They knew that nothing to incriminate him had been found in either of his cars, nor in the house. So they were in a position to blackmail Avon & Somerset Constabulary into focusing on suspects whose conviction would help them promote their DNA SenCE process.

The Chrysler Neon that Christopher Jefferies had been
car-sitting for a friend, about to be taken away from
44 Canynge Road to be forensically examined
On the evening of Sunday 2nd January 2011, according to Amanda Hirst’s testimony to the Leveson inquiry, there were negotiations between Avon & Somerset Constabulary and a national tabloid newspaper to avoid the publication of potentially compromising detail relating to DNA found on Joanna’s body. The negotiations, she asserted, resulted in a compromise. An unattributed source claimed in the exclusive article in The Mail that a single sample of DNA had been taken from Joanna’s body soon after it was found. The newspaper wrote that the revelation had been made the day after police had released the landlord, but that attempts had been made soon after it was found (i.e., before the arrest of the landlord) to match this DNA with DNA already on police records and with DNA samples taken during the investigation.

The saliva on her body

  • On 11th and 12th January 2011, The Sun ran an exclusive story from unidentified police sources about DNA samples allegedly from the killer’s saliva on Joanna’s body
  • On 13th January 2011, The Mail carried a story predicting a breakthrough from DNA from saliva found on Joanna’s body.
  • On 16th January 2011, The Mirror carried a story linking LGC Forensics to the murder in 1992 of Rachel Nickell and the firm’s involvement in the Joanna Yeates case. Dr. James Walker was identified as the scientist in charge of the firm’s DNA team. Unattributed statements claim that results of DNA swabs from the body were expected within days, but could be used only after an arrest.
  • On 16th January 2011, The Sunday Express carried a report claiming that a tiny sample of DNA had been found on Joanna’s lips.
  • On 17th January 2011 The Mail carried a story predicting a breakthrough from ‘partial’ DNA on Joanna’s body and giving their source as LGC Forensics.
  • On 19th January 2011, 25 days after Joanna’s body had been found (and the day before Vincent Tabak’s arrest), the police leaked to The Sun newspaper a claim that they had made “a major breakthrough” in their search for the killer. This claim, and references to it in other media, were subsequently removed from the internet. It referred to the “enhanced DNA” match with which he would be confronted on the second day of his interrogation.
  • On 21st January 2011, The Sun announced: “Mild-mannered architect Vincent Tabak, 32, was arrested on suspicion of murder yesterday… DNA traces were found underneath Jo Yeates’s clothing, police sources revealed yesterday — suggesting for the first time that she may have been sexually assaulted. Samples were found on the 25-year-old’s breasts, midriff and jeans.

Leaked from the laboratory for “financial gain”

After Vincent Tabak had been arrested, on 20th January 2011, he was probably told that the police had received an anonymous tip-off from a “sobbing girl” who had telephoned in response to the televised appeal from Joanna’s parents. It was probably not until his second day in police custody that he and his solicitor were confronted with the detectives’ claim that a match had been found between the DNA profile derived from the saliva swab taken from him after his arrest and DNA found on Joanna’s body. The second statement that he and the duty solicitor prepared and submitted to the police said he had “no knowledge” of how the DNA match obtained from Miss Yeates’s body and clothing, which had been the grounds for arresting him, could have been his, and he disputed that it was his DNA at all. In this statement, he further suggested that this “evidence” might have been leaked to the press from the laboratory for “financial gain”. This probably refers to the report published in The Mail on 3rd January 2011 and the succession of other unattributed reports published in the media during the intervening weeks.

The match was faked

If the enhanced DNA from the body matched Vincent Tabak’s DNA but not Christopher Jefferies’s DNA, that would have been a very good reason for police not to arrest the landlord, nor to wait nearly three weeks (with the aggressive national media growing increasingly critical and impatient) until 20th January 2011 to arrest Vincent Tabak. The fact that they did both these things indicates that the match obtained by analysing the unidentified body fluid on Joanna’s body was fake, contrived in the secure knowledge that it would be safe to do so, because the police were planning to trick Vincent Tabak into standing trial for a manslaughter plea entered by an imposter anyway. As Lindsay Lennen herself so pointedly stated to Jon Henley, the existence of the “confession” meant that the DNA evidence would not be subject to further testing. In other words, her forensic evidence was dependent on an unsound plea.

Why did they wait three weeks?

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Jones
In an interview with The Bristol Evening Post, 31st October 2011, DCI Phil Jones made the highly questionable allegation that the delay in arresting Vincent Tabak was due to the time it took to enhance the DNA. In the subsequent TV documentary “Murder at Christmas” he stated that the DNA on the body alone would not have been sufficient to charge the accused with killing Joanna Yeates. However, Mr. Clegg failed to cross-examine Lyndsay Lennen nor any other witness in court about the reasons why Vincent Tabak had not been arrested until nearly three weeks after he was made a suspect and a sample of his DNA had been obtained.

The February 2012 issue of Police magazine included an article by journalist Tina Orr Monro based on an interview with Lindsay Lennen, who made this excuse for the huge delay in analysing the samples taken from Joanna’s body: “The DNA appeared to have either degraded or to have been inhibited. One theory put forward by the DNA unit was that there may have been high levels of salt in the snow, which might have inhibited the DNA. A high salt level might have resulted from the gritters, but this was not known. We cannot say for definite, but it could have accounted for the issues we had surrounding the profile,” says Lindsay.

Tina Orr Monro
Amazon Author Central)
“The DNA obtained from Jo’s body and clothing was ‘weak’, says Lindsay. This meant the lab had to use a more sophisticated process that allowed them to enhance what DNA they had. The method enables scientists to enhance the smallest amount of DNA to bring it up to a level where they can interpret a profile. While scientists worked to get a result, the pressure to find Jo’s killer mounted. The forensic company set up an internal focus group of five scientists to ensure ‘a cohesive and rapid, customer-focused response’. The group comprised the most appropriately experienced and qualified forensic scientists, who carried out the DNA examinationsas well as interpretation, peer review and quality review,” wrote the journalist.

“The focus group was quite specific to this case and it worked very well as it meant the different scientists could come together and share their findings. Everyone was aware of what was happening in the case even in areas outside their own specialism,” says Lindsay.

“Then, 25 days after the discovery of Jo Yeates’ body, scientists made a breakthrough. They found DNA matching Vincent Tabak on one of the samples recovered from her body. After two days of questioning, Tabak was charged on 22 January 2011 with Jo’s murder,” wrote Tina Orr Monro in Police magazine. The arrests of both Christopher Jefferies and Vincent Tabak fell on Thursdays, which lends support to the proposition that both were planned well in advance, probably in relationship to the magistrates. Vincent Tabak was charged, furthermore, just 28 days after the recovery of Joanna’s body. Delaying his charge any longer would have obliged the police to submit to a peer review by a senior officer from another force. So the timing of the TV appeal on 17th January by Joanna’s parents, which precipitated the alleged anonymous tip-off from a “sobbing girl”, must also have been timed to suit the timetable for Vincent Tabak’s arrest. The “sobbing girl” was never even mentioned at the trial, so she must have been invented for the purpose. The timing of the “breakthrough” in the enhancement of the DNA alleged to have been made on the 25th day must therefore also have been planned before the parents’ TV appeal, lending additional support to the proposition that the DNA on the body was contrived, and that it would never have survived being tested in court.

The wool fibres from the black coat

Vincent Tabak in Asda wearing his black coat.
The time display from the supermarket’s CCTV
at the lower left-hand corner of the recording
has been blurred out.
Vincent Tabak’s black coat seen in the Asda CCTV (and impounded by police after his arrest) was stated by Counsel for the Prosecution – but not by any witness under oath – to have been the source of eleven wool fibres found on Joanna Yeates’s body and also in the car he used. Yet no traces of her DNA were found on the coat. According to a tweet by Sky News from the trial, the prosecution also claimed that other fibres found on her body and on the clothes she was wearing when it was recovered could be matched to the fabric lining the boot of the car. In a press release (reproduced below) issued a fortnight after the trial, LGC Forensics claimed credit for the fibre analysis. Counsel for the Defence nevertheless chose to allow all this fibre evidence go unchallenged, despite its lack of any statistical significance.

Lindsay Lennen in the witness stand

Body fluids and DNA specialist
Lindsay Lennen leaving Bristol Crown Court
on 18th October 2011 with an unidentified man
Testifying in court on 18th October 2011, Lindsay Lennen told the jury about the swabs taken for DNA analysis from Joanna Yeates’s chest, and the samples taken from her clothes and the car used by Vincent Tabak. She was in the witness box for nearly 50 minutes.

She claimed that the partial DNA profile obtained from the sample taken from Joanna Yeates’s chest was from two people. It was a million times more likely to be from JoannaYeates and Vincent Tabak than from Joanna and another person.

Vincent Tabak’s and another unidentified person’s partial DNA was also found on Joanna Yeates’s jeans – behind her knees – she alleged. She claimed that the DNA could have been transferred by touch or even breath, and this would have been consistent with Vincent Tabak’s carrying her body.

Lindsay Lennen asserted that the statistical interpretation of the results from Joanna Yeates’s jeans showed that it was 1,100 times more likely that this DNA was from Vincent Tabak and another person, rather than two unknown people unrelated to the defendant.

The boot of the Renault Megane. No one ever
testified in court whether this vehicle were actually
registered to Tanja Morson or anyone else connected
with the case
She also testified that the car used by Vincent Tabak was examined, and that Joanna’s DNA was found in it.

The witness told the court that there were blood stains on the sole and toe of Joanna Yeates’s sock and on her finger nails. Her blood was found on her pink T-shirt and lilac bra, as well as on the sole of the toe of the one thick grey sock she was wearing on her left foot. (According to This Bristol, 19th October 2011, the sock belonged to Joanna’s boyfriend Greg Reardon.)

Lindsay Lennen also confirmed that Joanna Yeates’s DNA was recovered from minute traces of blood found in the boot of the Renault Megane car allegedly belonging to his girlfriend that Vincent Tabak was allegedly driving on the night Joanna disappeared. Lindsay Lennen claimed that there was less than one in one billion chance that this was not Joanna’s blood.

Counsel for the Defence cross-examines Lindsay Lennen

William Clegg QC
Defence lawyer William Clegg, QC, asked if there was DNA found of any unidentified persons. Ms Lennen replied: “No there was not”. Mr. Clegg phrased his question in such a way that the witness was spared having to tell the court whether enhanceable quantities of DNA were found of the following identified persons who lived at the same address: Tanja Morson, Vincent Tabak, Greg Reardon, Christopher Jefferies, Geoffrey Hardyman.

Mr. Clegg explained to the jury that scientists could not say whether blood traces in the boot were the result of direct contact.

He asked Lindsay Lennen if Vincent Tabak’s DNA could have been transferred to Joanna Yeates if he had used a cycle bag to take her body from her flat in Canynge Road, Clifton, to Longwood Lane. She said that it may well have done, as the cycle bag would contain his DNA.

Mr Clegg asked: “What if we knew the body would have been placed in a cover that you would put a bicycle in? If the cover was done up that would prevent the transfer of DNA, unless DNA got on the cover of the cycle bag?”

Miss Lennon said: “Either that, or the blood was sufficient enough to seep through the cycle bag.”

Mr Clegg asked: “If at Longwood Lane the body was taken out of the cycle bag and the cycle bag put back in the boot, any blood transfer onto the bicycle bag either directly from Miss Yeates or the hands of Vincent Tabak would be a candidate for the DNA in the boot?”

Miss Lennon replied: “Yes it could be.”

Mr Clegg continued: “If a cycle bag was used to transfer the body from Canynge Road to Longwood Lane and that the cycle bag had previously been used to store the bicycle of Vincent Tabak then it may well be that the cycle bag itself would contain DNA from him, which in turn could be transferred to Miss Yeates – if he had her in that bag?”

Miss Lennon told him: “Yes that is possible.”

Mr Clegg also speculated that DNA on Miss Yeates’s body and jeans could have been from Vincent Tabak’s attempt to put the body over a wall.

Lindsay Lennen replied that it could not be discounted.

The unattributed theory that a large bag had been used to transport the body was leaked by the police to The Mail and published on 22nd January 2011, two days after Vincent Tabak was arrested. The reason given for inventing the bag was that no drag marks had been found on the body. However, it would also explain why the quantity of blood in the car boot was so microscopic that it was all used up in the analysis process, so no independent examination of this evidence would be possible. Nevertheless LGC Forensics must have enhanced and analysed these blood stains, if they existed at all, so quickly that (according to DCI Phil Jones in the documentary film “Murder at Christmas”) the analysis formed the basis for charging Vincent Tabak with murder just two days after he had been arrested and his girlfriend’s car taken away for forensic examination. The police and the lawyers were fixated with propping up their scenario that Joanna died in her flat, despite the absence of any blood or other forensic evidence in the flat to prove this – a fact that was carefully kept from the jury.

44 Canynge Road, where the jury
was told that Joanna was killed.
LGC Forensics were paid £83,379
but found no evidence in the
house to support this.
By the time Lindsay Lennen took the witness stand, the jury had already visited and inspected Joanna’s flat and had been told that it was there that the defendant had admitted killing her. However, the scientist did not once refer to the forensic investigation that her colleagues had made at 44 Canynge Road, or to the fruitless search there for blood spots and tell tale DNA. Mr. Clegg knew very well that his client would in due course be telling the jury the defendant’s astonishing tale of how he claimed to have hauled the dead Joanna into her bedroom, laid her on her bed, then carried her round to his own flat, pausing halfway to lay her on the snowy ground while he recovered his breath. The jury would hear how Vincent Tabak alleged that he had at first laid the bloodied body in the hallway of his flat, then moved her to the spare room, before putting her inside his bicycle cover and carrying her out to the boot of his car. In his cross-examination of Lindsay Lennen, Mr. Clegg carefully avoided asking her what traces this had left behind. They both knew that no traces of blood or DNA had been found, and nothing was said that might cause the jury to wonder whether what they had heard was a pack of lies.

Joanna Yeates’s boyfriend
Greg Reardon
outside Bristol Crown Court
on 17th October 2011
Joanna Yeates’s boyfriend testified that they had had a bit of a kiss and a cuddle at 5.00 p.m. before parting on the day of her death, yet Mr Clegg failed to cross-question Lindsay Lennen about the presence of his DNA on Joanna’s body, and the forensic scientist had not volunteered this important detail in her testimony. The absence of his DNA on the body would have cast doubts not only on Greg Reardon’s testimony and on his entire relationship to Joanna, but also on Lindsay Lennen’s analysis. Had his DNA been detected, then its distribution would have either supported or contradicted the prosecution’s case.

Steve Allen boasts about this forensic “success”

Steve Allen
Managing Director of
LGC Forensics 2007 to 1013
LGC Forensics press release, 14th November 2011: LGC Forensics, the UK’s largest independent provider of forensic services, successfully used a range of advanced forensic techniques, including LGC’s proprietary DNA enhancement method, DNASenCE, to link Vincent Tabak to the 2010 murder of Joanna Yeates… Working closely with Avon & Somerset Police, LGC Forensics was instrumental in obtaining a DNA profile from evidence found at the crime scene and in linking this with a range of supporting forensic evidence, including from Tabak’s [girlfriend’s] car. The crucial evidence was provided by the work to refine the DNA procedures in order to enhance the DNA samples – which were inhibited, possibly by the unusually high levels of salt at the location of the body, because of a recent snow fall… LGC Forensics set up an internal focus group of forensic scientists who carried out the technical DNA examinations, as well as interpretation, peer review, and quality review. The group analysed a number of items taken from Joanna [Yeates]’s flat and submitted by Police for analysis as well as further evidence from the area where Joanna [Yeates]’s body was found. The scientists used a combination of analytical tools including exacting DNA enhancement work and fibre analysis, and consideration was also given for recovery of hair, ecology and biological samples. Steve Allen, Managing Director of LGC Forensics, said: “The successful use of painstaking forensic analysis in this case is a positive result for the Yeates family and for Avon & Somerset Police. We always welcome the opportunity to contribute our skills and expertise to important investigations such as this one, and we are pleased that the very detailed and thorough work of our forensic scientists helped bring resolution to this case.”

The limitations of “low copy number” DNA

“Enhancement” of DNA is similar to (and open to the same objections as) the “amplification” process used for what some scientists call low copy number DNA – or in other words, blowing it up to infinity until it matches somebody. If you can get one brick in a wall to match, then bingo! – your wall matches your man with the single brick. Another way to look at it is to claim that you won the National Lottery, just because you got one of the numbers right out of six. You can certainly say that you got a match, but it is an “enhanced” match and a cop-out. For DNA to be conclusive, it must be a full profile taken from saliva, blood, hair, skin or flesh, or semen, or other bodily parts or extracts. In murder cases there is always exchange of bodily fluids or human hairs etc, whether pubic or head hair. Clearly, to find only a brick in the wall of a tiny particle of, let’s say saliva, is not credible, because, if investigators were to find any saliva trace of the killer, it would be a lick or cough or a splatter effect that would deposit a significant amount of DNA that would be capable of yielding a result. Finding the tail-end of alleged DNA is grasping at straws that are simply not there. Partial or enhanced DNA is not DNA, period. In other words, you couldn’t draw conclusions on the basis on alleged partial DNA – except of course to back up the stitch-up of a scapegoat and pretend that you have DNA.

The most obvious use of DNA analysis is for paternity tests, where you have two willing people trying to see if their DNA matches. Your children and your grandchildren would have conclusive matches with your DNA.

A private company specializing in DNA testing for forensic purposes has a strong commercial interest in encouraging politicians and detectives to test the DNA of as many potential suspects as possible. After Joanna Yeates’s landlord Christopher Jefferies was released, there was a call from Kerry McCarthy, the Labour MP for Bristol East, for all the men in Bristol to be DNA tested.

A company such as LGC Forensics has a vested interest in promoting the use of DNA as evidence. Had DCI Phil Jones made Joanna Yeates’s boyfriend a suspect, there would have been no need for any DNA testing, and LGC Forensics would not have received any publicity. DCI Phil Jones chose, however, to make Operation Braid an “A+ murder investigation”, concentrating his 70 detectives on unlikely suspects. Vincent Tabak was arrested and charged almost entirely on the basis of evidence obtained by enhancing DNA. His conviction provided LGC Forensics, as we have seen, with high-profile publicity at home and overseas to promote their DNASenCE process. It will not look so good for the firm when Vincent Tabak’s innocence is formally established.

Joanna Yeates with
her kitten Bernard
Yet its use here was phoney. There was no need to use DNA to establish a link between Vincent Tabak and Joanna Yeates, as the link was already established – they lived at the same address and shared the same dustbins, small car park and cat territory! Vincent Tabak’s own testimony hinted at the scope for DNA cross-contamination by the agency of Joanna Yeates’s kitten Bernard, who was always getting in to places where he shouldn’t be. Vincent Tabak’s statement to the police after his arrest that the DNA on the body was the result of a leak from the laboratory for financial gain suggests that the duty solicitor from Crossman may have suspected that LGC Forensics, aware from the arrest of Christopher Jefferies that a scapegoat was being sought, themselves advised Avon & Somerset Constabulary that DNA testing would almost certainly reveal naturally occurring DNA links between any of the inhabitants of 44 Canynge Road?

The real killer of Joanna Yeates would have had the opportunity to smear samples of her blood from his clothes inside the boots of other cars parked at 44 Canynge Road, especially those he found unlocked, to incriminate their owners. The fact that Vincent Tabak, whom the police and the CPS depicted as so cool and calculating, did not do this, suggests that he was not the real killer. Since they acknowledged that Vincent Tabak was clever and cunning, he would certainly have been clever enough to have avoided leaving DNA traces if he really had killed and dumped Joanna Yeates.

The curious case of the cryptoanalyst found in a carpet bag

There are more signs that LGC Forensics’s laboratories are far from being “all ship-shape and Bristol fashion”. In another recent murder inquiry, the results of the analysis of a sample of partial DNA found on the hand of the body of Gareth Williams, a young man locked in a holdall, were accidentally destroyed when a member of the staff of LGC Forensics keyed in two codes incorrectly. In the Stephen Lawrence case, a member of staff at LGC Forensics made a ‘typographical error’, leading Scotland Yard to spend more than a year trying to trace a non-existent suspect. These are examples of “false positives”.