The Story of Finger Print’s in the case of Colin Marr
If we accept that there were initial errors on the night of Colin Marr’s death, the communications from Fife Police would have us believe that this is the only failing. It seems worthy of note that in documentation we have, it was stated around February 2008 that this case was to be treated as suspicious until such time as homicide could be eliminated. From this it is unbelievable that the fingerprints on the knife did not start to be tested for until late 2008.
In our meetings with the Procurator Fiscal in 2009, we were told by Fife police that there was only signs of a single partial print on the knife handle. We had stated that we had been told by one of his officers that there were more signs of prints, this was vehemently rebutted. In February 2011 at the FAI it was clear that there were other signs of the knife been held at the bottom of the blade (area closest to handle). The quality was poor for recovering fingerprints in this area but the DNA was also destroyed in recovering the single partial on the handle.
From the partial that was recovered, it was established that it was not the other key person’s print. The problem now remained, how could it be proven that it was Colin’s print as he had been cremated and had no prints taken. They set about this by eliminating other potential handlers of the knife and also comparing documents that were probably handled by Colin. In doing this they got what was thought to be a match from the documents and decided it was Colin’s print. Unfortunately they did not set above eliminating who may have held the documentation and today, five years on, this is still an issue as not everyone has been eliminated.
From our perspective we do believe that the print is most likely Colin’s but there are two things that need to be considered before assuming that this shows that this was carried out by Colin;-
The first being that, as the knife was in the house, it could have been used by Colin at any time prior to that evening. This would have been just as true if another person who lived in the house prints were found to be present. Also, it was widely state at the FAI by Fingerprint experts that not everyone leaves prints.
The second being, is the print that is left congruent with the act that took place. In this case there is a lot of room for debate. According to an expert considering, the force taken to make the wound, the force required to remove the knife, it had to be gripped with great force. Also, whoever did this would be in a highly agitated state and would be perspiring through their hands. The expectation therefore is that there would be very clear signs that the knife had been held and particularly that of palm prints. In this case these physical expectations were not present.
As this was about the only tangible point that may have shown Colin did this, fingerprints was an area of some discussion at the FAI with many experts called as witnesses. Most actually thought the print was most likely from the left hand, Colin was right handed. We also had a situation where the Junior QC for our opposite side made a suggestion that she would show that the knife had not been wiped or cleaned and therefore considering the earlier statement regarding the expectations from the physiology ,i.e., there should be signs of a print and as it was Colin’s print it shows that self- infliction was most likely. This was a statement that undermined a key witness. She also stated that if she was wrong with regards the cleaning of the knife she would be corrected by the Crown’s QC. She was later proven to be wrong but the problems she caused were never corrected by the QC and the key witness was never brought back to re-represent his views.
We did have an expert from outside of the Scotland who presented his findings based upon techniques that are used in other countries. Unfortunately, in the end, as these techniques were not used in Scotland his findings were deemed inadmissible.
In the end the outcome of all of this deliberation was that the position was neutral, fingerprints as they were presented proved nothing.