Serial child killer Robert Black's defence team have raised fresh doubt over whether his alleged victim, schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy, had been sexually assaulted.
Black did not take the witness stand on the first day of his defence case yesterday. But his legal team called evidence from a leading forensic pathologist who said it could not be concluded for certain that nine-year-old Jennifer had been subjected to a sex attack.
Jennifer was snatched from the roadside close to her Ballinderry home 30 years ago on August 12, 1981. Her body was found six days later floating in a dam close to Hillsborough.
It is the prosecution case that Jennifer's abduction and murder was a sexually-motivated crime.
They say that van driver Black, a notorious paedophile, kidnapped her while he was in Northern Ireland delivering posters.
But forensic pathologist Dr Christopher McIlroy told the court yesterday that he felt it was not possible to say for sure if Jennifer had been sexually assaulted.
Giving his evidence via video-link from Malaysia where he is on a lecture tour, Dr McIlroy said that the lack of injury on Jennifer's body was "significant" when trying to establish if she had been sexually assaulted or not.
However, prosecution barrister Toby Hedworth QC said: "If you have the body of a young girl who is abducted in circumstances where there is no ransom note, one of the starting points surely would be, has this girl been sexually assaulted?"
Dr McIlroy agreed that injuries are not always evident when there has been a sexual assault.
He also accepted that he could not rule out an injury having been missed at the original post-mortem examination, and said the techniques used in that examination were significantly different from those used today.
Dr McIlroy also said it was difficult to say if Jennifer had died after being strangled or if she had drowned.
He did agree, however, that "in all likelihood" a ligature had been tied around her throat.
Prosecutors believe Jennifer's killing bears similarities with the murders of three other young girls who were killed by Black during the 1980s, particularly with the death of 10-year-old Sarah Harper in Leeds.
Both the prosecution and defence have now completed their evidence in the trial and will now begin their summing up for the jury, which will take several days.
Prosecution and defence barristers have now completed their evidence in the trial of serial child killer Robert Black who is accused of murdering Ballinderry school-girl Jennifer Cardy 30 years ago. They will now begin summing up for the jury. Jennifer was abducted from the roadside in August 1981. Her body was discovered six days later floating in a dam.