Wellington forensics stretched by influx of cases

  • 04/08/2015
Forensic investigator working at a crime scene

By Dave Williams

The number of homicide inquiries in Wellington is creating a backlog of forensic work for ESR scientists and could mean the evidence may not be brought to a murder trial, a court has been told.

Kelly Leigh Crook, 28, Darrin John Wilkie-Morris, 24, and Stuart Graham Wilton, 27, were in the High Court at Wellington today ahead of their planned trial in February next year on a charge of murdering Matthew Stevens.

Mr Stevens' body was found beside his car on the Paekakariki Hill Rd, on the Kapiti Coast. Police initially thought the death was a crash but a post-mortem showed Mr Stevens had been beaten and stabbed repeatedly.

Today, Crown prosecutor Kate Feltham said she could not guarantee evidence from ESR would be available by the end of the year.

"There is a backlog at ESR which is largely due to the large number of homicides in the Wellington region," she said.

There was little they could do except urge ESR to do the work quickly, she said.

Justice Simon France said the court was also under tremendous time pressure.

"The consequence is if the evidence comes too late it won't be accepted," he said.

But ESR, the Crown-owned research institute which does the forensic work for police, denies there is a backlog.

Wellington had experienced a spike of about five murders in 11 weeks, spokesman Stephen Corbett said.

That happened from time to time, but the Wellington centre was able to farm work out to centres in Auckland or Christchurch if there was a lot of work.

Some of the forensic work was extremely time-consuming, especially when dealing with DNA analysis.

"You just can't just push a button, click and there's your answer," Mr Corbett said .

"We will do our best, but we can't afford to make mistakes."

HOMICIDES BEFORE THE WELLINGTON COURTS:

* fatal Johnsonville stabbing in July

* the February shooting murder of Adam Watkin, 39, in Taita

* the fatal February stabbing of Otaihanga woman Catherine Stewart.

* the March stabbing death of 24-year-old mother Sherena Williams in Upper Hutt

* the March stabbing death of a 37-year-old man in Cannons Creek, Porirua

* the 2013 Mei Fan murder

* the 2014 axe murder of Upper Hutt woman Sandra Geurin

* the killing of Bruce Coker in Tawa around Christmas 2014.

NZN