Arlette Riedo took the stand today. Her purpose was to confirm that the mobile phone and digital camera Gerald Barry admits stealing had belonged to her daughter. Speaking through an interpreter she answered quietly but directly to every question. “Correct.”
She explained that the black Sony Ericsson W810i had been bought by the 17-year-old only a week before she travelled to Ireland. The same phone Barry sold to his sister’s boyfriend a couple of weeks after Manuela’s death and then travelled around County Galway as it was passed from one hand to another.
The silver Olympus digital camera had been a present from Manuela’s uncle. When it was found under the mattress of the bed Barry slept in, it still held the batteries her father had marked “2007” for the sake of efficiency.
Arlette Riedo was on the stand for only a few minutes but the proximity to the man accused of murdering her daughter in such a violent manner took it’s toll. When she took her seat she bent down, hiding her face from the watchful press who fill the benches beside the accused.
In any trial of this kind there is forensic evidence. Frequently that evidence will include a DNA analysis of certain items, to find a concrete link with either the accused or the deceased. Today we heard such evidence. Stripped down to statistical formula it is mercifully sterile, coming, as it does after a grim litany of swabs and samples that dissect a loved one even more completely than the post mortem evidence.
When a deceased person undergoes a post mortem the purpose is to gather as much evidence as possible. To find a cause of death, the state of the life that person once lived. Forensic samples are different. Sterile tubes holding over sized cotton buds and labelled with blunt anatomical terms. This can seem more brutal than any internal investigation the pathologist might do. There is an absolute distance from the person that once lived and breathed, a whiff of formaldehyde and disinfectant.
But while the post mortem can rarely speak in absolutes these swabs and glass jars can at least come close. Their results might still come in statistical long shots that duck an absolute definite but the shots are so long definite they may as well be.
The big test in this trial is the condom found hanging from a branch on a bush near Manuela’s body. Containing a substantial amount of a yellow liquid, which may or may not have been urine, it also contained semen.
Swabs were taken and tests were done. The results were definite as far as a 1 in 100,000,000 long shot. The semen belonged to Gerald Barry. Separate tests were done on the outside of the condom.
This yielded a mixed profile, one male, the other female. Once again it was a mere statistical equivocation. All the elements of the DNA that the scientists tick off for a match were there for both Barry and Manuela. There were no elements found that didn’t fit. Once again a figure almost bigger than comprehending 1 in 100,000,000.
That’s as definite as the scientists tend to go. It’s not exactly a litmus test – either red or blue depending on acid or alkali. But then the possibilities in this are so much greater.
The prosecution case is drawing to a close. But for now a break to allow for the festivities of Patricks Weekend.
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