Fri | Apr 27, 2018

Bloody evidence

Published:Sunday | November 24, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Bullet reportedly submitted by INDECOM to the Forensic Lab after a post-mortem with blood present. The bullet shown here was reportedly washed by the Forensic Lab but to no avail.-Contributed
A close-up of a bullet reportedly submitted by INDECOM four days after a post-mortem with blood present.

Forensic chief accepts INDECOM's challenge to prove that it is storing bullets with blood on them

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

DIRECTOR OF the Forensic Services of Jamaica, Dr Judith Mowatt, has shot down assertions by head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), Terrence Williams, that she might have misled Parliament when she declared that the oversight body had compromised evidence by storing bullets with bloodstains on them.

Moving to set the record straight, Mowatt sent The Gleaner pictures of bloodstained bullets purportedly submitted to the Forensic Lab by INDECOM.

Williams had dismissed as false Mowatt's pronouncements that INDECOM was storing bullets with bloodstains, leading to the degradation of the projectile.

"It is a case where Parliament could have been misled. It is a serious matter," the INDECOM declared.

But in a Gleaner interview last week, Mowatt noted that she was challenged to produce the evidence and the exhibits speak for themselves.

"At the time he made the statement Mr Williams was clearly unaware of the relevant facts," said Mowatt.

Washing bullets

Another bone of contention between INDECOM and the Forensic Services of Jamaica is the question of who should wash the blood off bullets.

Williams had charged that pathologists had always washed the bullets and packaged them before handing them over to INDECOM or the police, depending on whose case it is. He pointed out that the pathologists come under Mowatt's supervision because she is in charge of legal medicine.

However, Mowatt stated emphatically that it has never been the duty of pathologists to wash traces of blood from bullets, but rather the work of forensic scientists.

She stressed that it was the duty of the forensic practitioners to preserve the evidence.

According to Mowatt, if the blood remains in prolonged contact with the bullet, the evidence would be compromised.

The forensic expert said research had shown that the prolonged contact of blood or tissues would cause the striations on the bullet to degrade as the metal corrodes.

She also argued that the blood and tissues would become firmly dried and, therefore, not amenable to removal by conventional means.

"Either way, the ability to analyse the ballistics evidence is compromised," she insisted.

INDECOM had indicated that it would respond to Mowatt's latest salvo, but up to the press time a response was not forthcoming.