Fake fingerprint claim in McKie case
THE forensic expert who helped clear Shirley McKie of perjury in a murder inquiry has revealed the man police accused of the killing may have had faked fingerprint evidence used against him.
Pat Wertheim has alleged that the Christmas gift tag found at the home of murder victim Marion Ross may have been "fabricated" with David Asbury's thumb print to link him to the crime.
Wertheim examined a photograph of the print in close detail while carrying out his investigation into the former policewoman's case.
He said marks on the photograph are highly similar to those that show up when a print is faked and that unlike the vast majority of fingerprints left at crime scenes, which are smudged and incomplete, Asbury's was as clear as those taken in the more clinical setting of a police station.
Wertheim has now asked for the print to be released so it can be re-examined. It is understood to be in the possession of the Procurator Fiscal in Kilmarnock, but it has so far proved difficult to obtain and McKie's family fear it may have been destroyed.
Shirley McKie was a detective with Strathclyde Police when, in February 1997, she was seconded to the murder squad investigating the death of Marion Ross.
A thumbprint on a door frame was examined by the SCRO and wrongly identified as McKie's. When she denied having visited the murder scene, she was charged with perjury.
Wertheim was one of two US fingerprint experts who gave evidence that the print was not hers. McKie was acquitted and was recently awarded 750,000 compensation by the Scottish Executive. Ministers claimed the incident was an "honest mistake". But demands are continuing to grow for a public inquiry into the case.
The Asbury print was found on a gift tag decorated with bows and holly leaves in Ross's home but in the event that identification was not considered controversial because Asbury admitted having been in the victim's home the week prior to her murder.
He was convicted on the basis that a fingerprint on a tin of money in his bedroom was that of the murdered spinster. His conviction was quashed when Wertheim showed that the fingerprint was not hers, and Asbury has now raised a civil action against the SCRO.
Last night Wertheim said his latest findings would heap further pressure on ministers to launch a proper investigation into the affair. He said: "There are some suspicious things here. Some of these things raise alarms that demand further investigation. There are some suspicious lines in the photograph of Asbury's fingerprint on the gift tag, the kind of thin lines I might expect to see in a piece of acetate with a photocopied fingerprint.
"I am not accusing anyone of making up evidence. All I am saying is that it bears a second look.
"There may be a perfectly valid explanation for the issues surrounding the fingerprint on the gift tag and if that is the case, then I would accept that my suspicions are ill-founded. But this case just keeps getting weirder and weirder. The only way I can see to resolve it is with a judicial inquiry."
The revelation last night sparked fury from McKie's family. Her father Iain said it suggested Asbury was "fitted up". He said: "Two out of the three prints identified in the Marion Ross murder case have been proved wrong. There are now suspicions about the third. If experts have doubts about this tag it must be examined. If the print is wrong we are looking at a much more serious investigation. Was Asbury fitted up? "
Scotland on Sunday has previously revealed that police fingerprint experts manipulated evidence and covered up errors in the investigation.
Several fingerprint experts at SCRO failed positively to identify McKie's print, only for their views to be ignored. A report into the affair by James Mackay, the former deputy Chief Constable of Tayside Police, later concluded that McKie's print "was disputed from the outset".
A spokesman for the SCRO said: "A civil action by David Asbury is ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further."
Strathclyde Police refused to comment but a spokeswoman said: "Any new information that comes to light in respect of this inquiry will be investigated."
A Crown Office spokesman said it had no comment to make.
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