Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Forensic evidence at heart of case

Undercover British soldier Robert Nairac was killed in Northern Ireland more than 30 years ago

At the heart of the failed case against Kevin Crilly was forensic evidence from the scenes of Captain Robert Nairac's abduction and death.

Expert Richard McClean examined blood and hair relating to the killing and Mr Justice Richard McLaughlin outlined his findings.

He looked at stones from the car park of the Three Steps Inn, Drumintee, South Armagh, which were contaminated with blood. A hair was found which bore some "microscopic similarity" to hairs from a brush belonging to Capt Nairac. The appearance of the root of the hair was consistent with it having been forcibly removed from the head.

A hairbrush was seized from Capt Nairac's room at Bessbrook Mill, Co Armagh, where he was based. Hairs found in the bristles were found and compared to those discovered at the inn. Stones were collected from the Flurry bridge at Ravensdale Forest where there was a sign of a struggle. They were contaminated with blood. Another eight hairs were also discovered.

A Ford Cortina belonging to the Crilly family was examined and on the floorwell of the rear off-side of the vehicle a large loose mass of 650 hairs, similar to those on the brush, was discovered. More hair was found at the bridge in Ravensdale in the form of a small lock comprising 180 hairs.

Efforts to compare the blood, which was likely to have come from a common source, with Capt Nairac's blood type were made. However no blood was found in the car.

Scrapings were taken from the wall of the bridge suspected of having been made by a bullet, there were also scrapings taken from a mark made by a bullet on a test fire. The metal content of the test and the mark on the bridge were the same, indicating that the suspect mark may have also been made by a bullet. A black four-holed button was found at the top of a ditch which had a thread attached which appeared to have been pulled from a garment.

According to retired Irish forensic scientist Dr James Donovan there were signs of a considerable struggle at the stream running under the bridge. He noted sods of grass close to the stream were broken up. There were signs of blood in drips and smears and a line of blood consistent with it having spurted.

Mr Justice McLaughlin outlined BBC Spotlight's June 2007 interview which the prosecution alleged implicated Crilly in the abduction and murder. His admissions included that he had been to the Three Steps Inn on the night of the abduction. He regretted what happened that night and said there was a bit of a battle outside. Crilly also admitted he was told to go to Dundalk in Co Louth, in the Irish Republic, and get a man named Townson, which he did and then dropped him off.

The judge said an inference of guilt cannot be drawn from his decision to abscond as outlined in his Spotlight interview. There was also no proof he knew who IRA Officer Commanding (OC) Liam Townson was. The judge added: "This cannot be said to establish beyond reasonable doubt that he left Townson at the scene in circumstances where it was unambiguous, ie beyond reasonable doubt, that Crilly was assisting in murder, kidnap or false imprisonment."

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