Sunday, November 13, 2011

Man sues Australian authorities over negligent DNA testing

A MAN who was charged with a double murder then had the charges withdrawn is suing over a DNA bungle. Russell John Gesah, 46, is claiming negligence and wants damages.

He is suing the State of Victoria, along with several current and former Victoria Police employees, including ex-chief commissioner Simon Overland. Mr Gesah says he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, according to court documents.

He was charged in July 2008, with the 1984 murders of Ferntree Gully woman Margaret Tapp, 35, and her nine-year-old daughter Seana. The Herald Sun reported at the time that a sample from the murder scene, where Seana was sexually assaulted, was compared with 400,000 DNA profiles on the national database. Police alleged a match was found to Mr Gesah.

But the charges against him were withdrawn two weeks later.

The Herald Sun reported a double-check found an unrelated exhibit containing Mr Gesah's DNA was tested on the same day and in the same place as material from the Tapp crime scene, generating a risk of contamination.

The discovery sparked a review of every crime solved by DNA in Victoria in the 20 years since the technology had been introduced. In all, about 6000 cases were reviewed.

In a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court at Geelong this year, Mr Gesah said police failed to adequately investigate possible contamination of his DNA sample with the sample obtained from clothing belonging to Seana Tapp.

According to court documents, Mr Gesah says he was a Torres Strait Islander living in Queensland at the time of the murders and had never been to Victoria.

Original report here.

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