Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Ipswich Murders Trial - Day 11

In contrast to the past two weeks of weirdly random witnesses and their bits and pieces of evidence, today we had a single witness called Doctor Nat Carey.

Doctor Carey is a home office pathologist, and for the first time I felt the entire trial was on solid scientific ground. No stupid and insulting figures of “a billion to one,” no squinting at poor quality yellow orange CCTV footage, no dim criminal boyfriends with their inept testimony.

Instead we had solid forensic pathology, of the type at least as old as Sir Bernard Spilsbury. Doctor Carey dealt by the victims in the order they were discovered:

Poor Gemma was found in a few feet of the cold water in Belstead Brook. Because of the time she was immersed in the water, Gemma’s fate is something of mystery. Like the good scientist he undoubtedly is, Doctor Carey began to fudge.

Peter Wright QC: There is evidence to the effect the deceased was seen in the early hours of the 15th of December. How did the state of the body correspond with the time of death?

Doctor Carey: [the body was] ...entirely consistent with death on or around the 15th of December, but death a few days afterwards was also possible.

This answer might be expressed in less esoteric circles as “15th of December or anytime up to a few days afterwards; I’m not sure.”

Then there was the cause of death; drowning or suffocation? Doctor Carey didn’t know; Gemma either drowned or was put in the water at most a few hours after death.

Gemma was only 5ft 2”, which surprised me, until I remembered the ridiculously high heels she used to wear – I now realise to compensate for being short. She was slim and weighed less than 9 stone – frankly I’m amazed she was even that heavy, I’d have guessed as low as 8 stone myself.

There was a red patch about 6cm in diameter around the bridge of the nose. And very slight bleeding into the white of the left eye. Most telling of all, and we’ll come back to this, was the fact that Gemma’s lungs showed signs of over-inflation – a sure sign of death by asphyxia.

But what in turn caused the asphyxia?

Doctor Carey started hedging again – no direct evidence of drowning but downing possible, no direct evidence of smothering but smothering possible, no direct evidence of compression of the neck but compression of the neck (due to the flexibility of young cartilage) remained a possibility. Even a drugs overdose (morphine as a product of Heroin) remained a possibility. This is boring realistic science, and Doctor Carey’s honesty and refusal to be led up the certainty path was impressive:

This is a negative autopsy. There was a lack of anything obvious that caused her death and I had to conclude that the cause of death was un-ascertained.

You don’t hear that in the films. Ever.

There was more of the same when it came to the second body, that of Tania Nicol. Tania was in the water the longest; she went missing on or around October 31st but her body wasn’t found until December 8th. Dr Carey found:
  • Signs of asphyxiation
  • Significant amounts of morphine (from Heroin)
But unlike Gemma, clear signs of violence, or at least rough restraint; a bruise to the inner right upper part of the right arm, and another on the back of the knee. Disturbingly, the prosecution suggested that this bruise might be caused by someone kneeling down on the knee itself, while (presumably) Tania was on the floor, perhaps fighting for breath.

Despite this, Tania’s death remains a mystery; Dr Cary suggested that because of the effects of a high dose of Heroin, more normal signs of a struggle when being suffocated were missing.

Finally there was a ton of evidence from the last three victims, found in the open air, completely naked, and relatively quickly after they were killed. Anneli Alderton was found on her back with her arms outstretched in a crucifix position.

Here at last, you felt Dr Cary was more confident and had something to work on. Swabs were taken for DNA evidence. There was also the curious fact that the body was dark brown in colour, perhaps Dr Cary speculated, as a result of ‘overhanging vegetation’ falling on it.

I think he means leaves.

There were plenty of small signs of injury on Anneli’s body; most ominously bruising to the neck, bruising to the left arm and bruising to the shins. You can wish and hope that Gemma and maybe even Tania slipped away in a blissful Heroin induced trance, scarcely aware that they were being smothered, or drowned or whatever.

Dr Cary denied us any such comfort with his report on Anneli. Once again, the tell tale signs of suffocation were the over inflated lungs, this time with air bubbles on the surface of the tissue. Anneli had probably been raped while she was dying, or immediately before; there was a nasty bruise around the vagina.

Annette Nichols body was also carefully placed, and whoever did that also laid her long hair out straight on the ground pointing upwards. Thankfully there were fewer signs of trauma, except for some small scratches. Yet again we heard of those tell tale hyper inflated lungs, and little sign of how they were denied air. Dr Carey suggested ‘neck compression’ as the way that shows the least trauma. Yet again there was the Heroin by-product Morphine in the body, as well as traces of Cocaine and Methodone.

The last victim was Paula Clennel. A tiny little soul, she weighed less than 7.5 stone despite being 5ft 5”. Her body was dumped face down, and showed no signs of being ‘displayed’ like the preceding two. Sadly there were plenty of signs of traumatic injury; A pattern of bruises on the neck, scratches elsewhere, even small blood spots. “Irregular marks” (whatever those are) on the mouth, chin, nose and side of the neck. Cause of death? Suffocation - most likely due to compression of the neck.

Dr. Carey is back tomorrow. So far his evidence has been cautious, rigorous and entirely plausible.

But how, beyond reasonable doubt, to link it to Steve Wright?



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