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Murder trial hears fibres recovered from woman found dumped in woods match those from accused’s car

The Central Criminal Court jury also heard today that fibres recovered from the mother-of-three’s clothing and nail scrapings matched those taken from a carpet inside the interior of a car associated with the accused.

Evidence was also given that paint fragments removed from the deceased’s clothing matched paint taken from the same car in both colour and composition.

Noel Long (74) with an address at Maulbawn, Passage West, Co Cork, has pleaded not guilty to murdering 54-year-old Mrs Sheehan between June 6 and June 12, 1981, at an unknown place within the State. Her body was found by forestry workers at The Viewing Point, Shippool Woods in Cork six days after she went missing.

Retired forensic scientist Dr Maureen Smith today told Mr Brendan Grehan SC, prosecuting, that she had worked in the biology department of Forensic Science Ireland from 1979 to 2014. Her work entailed examining body fluids and textile fibres from crime scenes and individuals to determine if there were any possible links between them.

Dr Smith said she received Mrs Sheehan’s navy overcoat with a white trim, a navy pinafore dress and brown tights on June 17, 1981. She also received a Sellotape lift from a shoe belonging to the deceased.

The trial has heard that when the victim was found in undergrowth at Shippool Woods her dress, slip and bra was pulled up covering her head and there was a pair of tights on her right foot. Her navy coat was lying in briars about 20 yards from the road.

Dr Smith told Mr Grehan that she also received Sellotape lifts taken from a light blue Opel Kadett car by retired Detective Inspector Colm Dardis on June 18 1981. The witness said her examination was to see if there were any links between Mrs Sheehan’s clothing and the Sellotape lifts from the Kadett.

“Any loose debris from the surface of Mrs Sheehan’s clothing was removed on Sellotape lifts,” she added.

Mr Dardis (86) has already testified that he examined the Kadett on June 16, 1981, and took 44 surface lifts from the inside of the vehicle and its boot.

The trial has also heard from retired Superintendent Matthew Thorne (91) that he stopped Mr Long driving a blue Opel Kadett with registration plate OZF 426 on the Curraheen Road in Bishopstown in Cork on the morning of June 16, 1981.

Mr Thorne said he sat into the front passenger seat of the car and directed the accused to drive to the Bridewell garda station in Cork city. The Kadett was put into the station yard to be examined.

Asked by Mr Grehan what she had recovered from Mrs Sheehan’s navy overcoat that was of significance, Dr Smith said she removed nine black viscose fibres which matched fibres from black carpet taken from the interior of the Kadett.

The former scientist said she also found four black viscose fibres on Mrs Sheehan’s navy pinafore type dress, 20 black viscose fibres on the deceased’s brown tights and two black viscous fibres on nail scrapings taken from the victim’s right hand, all of which matched the fibres taken from the carpet inside the Kadett.

Dr Smith said she also found fragments of blue metallic paint on the Sellotape lifts taken from Mrs Sheehan’s coat, dress and shoe, which matched metallic paint from the Kadett.

Asked by Mr Grehan whether there was any other matter on Mrs Sheehan’s tights, Dr Smith said she found 26 fragments of green paint on them, which matched green paint fragments recovered in debris from the Kadett. The witness said she also found two fragments of light blue paint on the tights, which matched fragments of blue and white paint taken from debris in the motor vehicle.

Dr Smith said she had removed a flake of yellow and grey paint from the tights, which she passed on to her colleague Dr Sheila Willis.

Dr Smith said she removed a number of fragments of red foam from the dress and tights, which matched numerous items of red foam found in the Kadett.

The next witness, retired forensic scientist Dr Sheila Willis told Mr Grehan that she worked in the chemistry section of Forensic Science Ireland and examined materials that might form an association between victims and suspects.

Dr Willis said the fragments of blue paint found on Mrs Sheehan’s shoe consisted of three layers – metallic blue, grey and dark grey – which matched the control paint from the Kadett in both colour and composition.

“In those days most car paints consisted of three layers and it was possible to slice it in such a way that you could see the individual layers, check the individual colour and check how they compared with fragments received from the clothes,” she explained.

The former director of Forensic Science Ireland also said the fragment of yellow and grey paint recovered from the tights matched a fragment of yellow paint recovered from the Kadett. It had the same layer structure and infrared system, she added.

She said the deceased’s tights contained numerous prills and small circular pieces of metal and that similar prills and metal were “plentiful” in the metal of the motorcar.

This afternoon, forensic scientist Amanda Lennon, also from Forensic Science Ireland, agreed with Mr Grehan that her job was to review the reports on trace evidence in the case which she had previously received from Dr Smith and Dr Willis. She also agreed that she was particularly doing so to assist with the query as to whether or not Mrs Sheehan was in the Kadett car.

She further agreed that she had access to the slides of the fibres and paint samples in relation to the Kadett car, the deceased’s clothing and the nail scrapings.

Ms Lennon said her conclusion from the findings was that there is “very strong support” for the view that Mrs Sheehan was in the Kadett car rather than she was not.

The trial continues.

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