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Victim's blood linked to accused's shoe in 2012 Fernwood murder

Nov 02 2012

Leslie Hankel's DNA was found on the top of a Nike running shoe worn by Samuel Mcgrath during a break, enter and robbery in the early morning of March 3, 2010, an RCMP forensic scientist testified Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Tony Brown, a scientist who works at the RCMP forensic lab in Vancouver, gave expert evidence on forensic DNA analysis at the second-degree murder trial of Mcgrath and Andrew Belcourt. The accused have pleaded guilty to robbery with a firearm and breaking into Hankel's apartment. The jury must decide whether they are also guilty of murdering the 52-year-old Victoria man.

Brown told prosecutor Patrick Weir that he compared known DNA profiles of Hankel, Belcourt and Mcgrath with the results of DNA forensic tests taken from the shotgun, shoes, clothing and a backpack seized by police investigating Hankel's murder.

Brown testified that Hankel's DNA was found on the forestock and butt of the shotgun.

Hankel's DNA was found on Mcgrath's right Nike running shoe, Brown testified.

Hankel's blood was found on the right Reebok running shoe worn by Bel-court that night, Brown testified. Belcourt's DNA was found on articles of clothing seized from the trunk of the car the two accused were in at the time of their arrest. A black knapsack, also found in the trunk of the 1989 Thunderbird, initially screened positive for blood, Brown testified, though a confirmation test for blood turned up negative.

The jury was asked to look at four black knit gloves which were found - along with Hankel's wallet - in a knotted white plastic grocery bag in the trunk of the car. Two hairs were found on the gloves. One of the hairs matched Hankel's DNA, Brown testified.

Hankel's DNA was found on two of the gloves and his blood was found on a third glove, Brown said.

Mcgrath's DNA was found on one of the gloves with Hankel's DNA, Brown told the jury.

Hankel's blood was also found on the kitchen floor, said the scientist.

During cross-examination, Mcgrath's defence lawyer, Mike Munro, asked if a cloth used to clean blood from one running shoe could transfer DNA to another running shoe.

Yes, Brown replied. Munro also asked Brown if he could date the smear of Hankel's blood on the kitchen floor.

Brown said there was no reliable way of dating the blood smear.

"It could be a matter of weeks. It could be a matter of hours?" Munro asked.

"Yes," Brown said.

Brown also confirmed it was possible to pick up DNA from a stain on the floor, though less likely if the stain had dried.

The jury is to return to court on Monday.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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