Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Investigator admits evidence may be tainted

  • Print

NOBODY at the scene of the tragic discovery could have predicted the problem that lay ahead. After all, how do you preserve evidence you don't even know you've collected?

That's the scenario that played out in January 1985 when Winnipeg police investigators combed through a storage shed where the frozen body of Candace Derksen, 13, had been found.

Their actions that day are now the focal point of a high-profile case in which a man whose DNA has since been linked to the killing is on trial.

Mark Edward Grant's defence lawyer, Saul Simmonds, immediately took aim Thursday at the way police conducted the investigation. The teen vanished on her way home from school on Nov. 30, 1984, triggering an exhaustive search that involved hundreds of volunteers.

Retired officer Ronald Allan admitted in cross-examination the scene could have been "contaminated" after police found the teen's frozen body, her hands and legs bound with twine.

He said investigators had no way of knowing at the time of scientific advances that were to come, allowing for forensic testing that would lead them to Grant more than two decades later.

Several officers walked through the shed and surrounding area, not wearing any protective clothing, masks or hair nets, as they collected about 40 exhibits, Allan told jurors. Those included seven strands of hair found on a wooden stump that have now been linked to Grant.

"While you realize today you may have been contaminating things, you wouldn't have realized that back in 1985?" Simmonds asked.

"As far as things like hair and skin, no, we wouldn't," Allan replied. Allan couldn't say how many different sets of hands touched the twine from which Grant's DNA was ultimately extracted using advanced scientific techniques.

Simmonds suggested there's no way of knowing who the many officers at the scene previously had contact with, implying the possibility material was transferred to the scene.

Simmonds asked Allan whether officers at the scene that day could have "coughed, sneezed... scratched themselves" while searching for evidence.

Allan said it was possible, but the passage of time means there is no way to specifically remember.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2011 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

The Winnipeg Free Press is not accepting comments on this story.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Weather for final Fringing weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A young goose gobbles up grass at Fort Whyte Alive Monday morning- Young goslings are starting to show the markings of a adult geese-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 20– June 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Winnipeg control growth to deal with climate change?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google