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Murder victim’s DNA found under alleged killer’s nails

DNA matching the profile of murder victim Ida James was found under the fingernails of Norris Simpson, the Supreme Court heard.

Mr Simpson, 54, is currently on trial for the murder of the retired social worker, who was fatally stabbed in her Paget home overnight between September 1 and September 2, 2011. He has denied the charge.

DNA expert Candy Zuleger told the court that she tested several samples related to this case, including fingernails from both the defendant and the victim and blood samples recovered from the floor of the murder scene.

She told the court that a mixture of DNA was found under the fingernails of Mr Simpson’s left hand. While Mr Simpson himself was the major donor, the DNA of a minor donor matched the profile of Ms James.

Tests of Ms James’ fingernails revealed no DNA profiles other than that of Ms James herself; tests on blood found at the scene were attributed only to Ms James.

Under cross-examination by lawyer Craig Attridge, Ms Zuleger agreed that DNA can be transferred on a handshake or even on money. She said the transfer of the DNA found under Mr Simpson’s fingernails would require more than “exchanging a bank note”, but she couldn’t scientifically exclude the possibility.

She also agreed that people are constantly shedding skin cells, but that in her expert opinion such shedding could not account for the results of the DNA test.

“That would be more along the lines of a minor donor, if at all,” Ms Zuleger said. “It wouldn’t be as strong a profile as what was obtained.”

The court also heard from Government analyst Desiree Sprigs, who told the jury that she oversaw the search of Mr Simpson’s bedroom at a house on North Shore Road and seized several items.

She told the court officers discovered a blue baseball cap with a small portion of “flesh-like” material on its front.

They also discovered a handwritten letter addressed to Mr Simpson complaining that he had failed to pay rent on his bedroom between April 1 and May 30, 2011.

The unsigned letter thanked him for his work on the property, but said that starting June 1 he must pay $800 a month, or at least part of the sum combined with further repair work.

“I cannot afford to let you stay at my house rent free,” the letter read. “I’m unemployed and have expenses.”

Case officer Detective Constable Cheryl Beech also took the stand, laying out the timeline for Mr Simpson’s arrest and processing.

Mr Attridge questioned Det Con Beech about several lines of inquiry not involving his client. The officer said she was aware Ms James had expressed concern about a man who lived near a property she owned on The Glebe Road and had looked into installing a security fence at that property.

Police had investigated a claim that one of Ms James’ relatives had asked her for $75,000 a few weeks before the murder, she said.

Det Con Beech told the court that she understood that officers spoke to family members, who denied the story.

Brenda Davidson, from the Paget Medical Centre, described a physical examination of Mr Simpson carried out following his arrest.

Dr Davidson noted several minor cuts and bruises on the defendant’s arms and shoulders which were a day or two old. Among the injuries was a cut to the pinky finger of his left hand which she said appeared to have been caused by sharp metal.

Under cross-examination, she said the injuries could have been caused while performing manual labour, but only if the labour had been done in the previous day or two.

The trial continues today.

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Published January 24, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 24, 2013 at 12:19 am)

Murder victim’s DNA found under alleged killer’s nails

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