Saturday, June 25, 2005

Shoe print key evidence in robbery case

Forensic tests showed there was “strong evidence” to suggest that a shoe print taken at the scene of a robbery in the Alameda Gardens matched the shoes worn by the defendant at the time of his arrest, the Supreme Court was told yesterday.

But Roger Blackmore, a UK-based forensic scientist with 25 years’ experience, also told the court that he could not state conclusively that the defendant’s shoes had made the marks found at the scene.

Andrew Bonavia, of 51/7 Flat Bastion Road, has pleaded not guilty to one count of robbery. Mr Bonavia is accused of robbing Doris Ilmer, a German woman who was on a work placement in Gibraltar, but he claims that he was not in the area at the time of the alleged incident on July 16th, 2004.

During his evidence, Mr Blackmore told the court that there were four stages to conclusively matching a shoe print to a shoe. Under methodical questioning from Crown prosecutor Karina Khubchand, he explained that he had examined three shoe prints taken at the scene but none had passed all four stages. However he added that two of the prints had passed the first three stages of the test. Those prints showed the same pattern as the soles of the defendant’s shoes, they were roughly the same size and they reflected the corresponding degree of wear on the shoes themselves, Mr Blackmore told the court.

But even though every individual shoe has distinctive marks on the sole, neither of the shoe prints recorded sufficient detail to show any marks specific to the defendant’s shoes. Despite this, Mr Blackmore concluded that the shoes worn by Mr Bonavia when he was arrested “could have” made the shoe prints found at the scene of the crime.

The forensic specialist then considered how common this type of shoe is, and the likelihood of finding another pair of the same size and with the same wear on the soles. He concluded that “one in several thousand” pairs of this type of shoe, which he described as “fairly rare”, would match the print found at the scene of the crime. “My conclusion was that there was strong scientific support that these particular shoes [the defendant’s] made these marks,” Mr Blackmore said.

But under questioning from Selwyn Figueras, the defendant’s lawyer, Mr Blackmore conceded that he did not know what types of shoes were available in Gibraltar and Spain. The implication was that the he could not say with certainty how many people wore shoes similar to Mr Bonavia’s.

“For all you know, this could be the most popular shoe in Gibraltar,” Mr Figueras put it to Mr Blackmore.

But Ms Khubchand, during cross-examination, asked Mr Blackmore if he had made any enquiries about the popularity of this type of shoe in Gibraltar. He replied that he had asked local forensics police officers earlier this year. “As far as they were concerned, it wasn’t a common shoe,” he told the court.

The prosecution has now concluded its case and the defence has called no witnesses.

The case continues on Monday.

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