DNA samples of ‘zero’ quantity

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TRACES of DNA linking a Magherafelt man to the murders of two soldiers are at most 100 billion times smaller than a gram, Antrim Crown Court has heard.

Genetic data recovered from a getaway car used in the gun attack on Sappers Patrick Azimkar, 21 from London and Mark Quinsey, 23 from Birmingham are classified as ‘low template’ DNA due to their size, a forensic scientist told the court.

Shivers (46) from Sperrin Mews and Lurgan republican Colin Duffy (44) from Forest Glade deny two charges of murder and the attempted murder of six others - three soldiers, two pizza delivery drivers and a security guard.

The attack took place in March 2009 outside Massareene army base in Antrim.

The prosecution has said the DNA from both men was found in a getaway car.

Their trial heard Shivers’ DNA was allegedly recovered from three matchsticks and a mobile phone found in or around the partially burnt Vauxhall Cavalier.

The court was told the DNA from seven others, six men and a woman was also found in the car.

The court was read parts of a new statement made by Shivers in which he said that two friends - not named in court - would smoke with him in his house and would often take his matches.

Dr Emma Watson, a forensic scientist, who has been giving testimony this week was challenged on her evidence.

Patrick O’Connor QC representing Shivers, asked the expert about the quantities of DNA found on the matchsticks and phone.

She said two samples were officially classified as ‘zero’ quantity and one was measured as 0.01 nanograms (100 billionth of a gram).

But she told judge Mr Justice Anthony Hart who is sitting without a jury that analysis could still be carried out on such samples. Enhancement techniques were used on some of the data, she said.

She had previously said a full DNA profile matching Mr Duffy was found on the tip of a latex glove.

His barrister put it to her that she had no way of knowing how and when the DNA had come to be there.

But the forensic scientist said the strength of the profile had led her to conclude that Mr Duffy had worn the glove. She also agreed with him that DNA linking Colin Duffy to a seat belt buckle came in very low amounts, but later said despite this, her results were reliable.

Crown counsel Terence Mooney QC acknowledged the data was small.

“We are dealing with a very small amount of recovered DNA,” he said, then asked Dr Watson: “Can reliable results come from those quantities of DNA?”

“Yes they can,” she replied.

Mr Duffy and Mr Shivers also deny six charges of attempted murder and one of possession of guns and explosives.

The trial continues.