Expert 'found' loyalist killer's prints

Expert 'found' loyalist killer's prints

A fingerprint expert has declared that he was "100% certain" he uncovered palm prints belonging to a loyalist killer in a hijacked taxi used in another sectarian murder

Fingerprint comparison expert Dennis Thompson was giving evidence at the Diplock, no jury Belfast Crown Court trial of 59-year-old Robert Rodgers on Tuesday.

He said that given the pattern, ridgeflow and characteristics of Rodgers' palm prints, he had no doubt they matched those uncovered on the rear passenger window and steering wheel of the hijacked taxi.

Rodgers, from Tierney Gardens in Belfast, denies the murder of 19-year-old Eileen Doherty who was shot and killed on 1 October, 1973.

Diplock, no jury trial judge Mr Justice Horner has already heard how the teenager was unwittingly sharing a taxi from the Ormeau Road back to west Belfast with her killers when the two men hijacked the taxi on Annadale Embankment in south Belfast.

Miss Doherty and the taxi company's now deceased owner John Sherry initially fled, but the men got out from the back seats, jumped into the driver's and passenger seats before chasing after them.

Mr Justice Horner heard how once the car caught up with the girl, the passenger got out, grabbed her by the arm and shot her three or four times in the head from close range before fleeing the scene. The hijacked Chrysler car was found the next day.

It was when it was examined that scenes of crime officers uncovered palm prints on the inside of the rear passenger window and on the steering wheel.

On Tuesday, Mr Thompson said he re-examined the unsolved file at the request of the Historical Enquiries Team.

He recounted that on New Year's Eve 2009, with finger and palm prints now held on a massive computer database, the computer gave Rodgers as one of 15 possible matches - but that when he compared the prints to other prints already held on file, he was able to say with such certainty they came from Rodgers' hands.

Rodgers was not arrested and interviewed until a year later but during police questioning, after his solicitor read out a short prepared statement denying involvement, he refused to answer any questions.

Mr Justice Horner also heard that on 10 February 1975, Rodgers and another man were jailed for life for a murder which was committed on 25 September 1974.

Reading the statement of investigating officer former RUC Detective Inspector Samuel Stewart, the lawyer described how Rodgers and his accomplice were on a stolen motorbike, lying in wait on Park End Street for their victim 18-year-old Ciaran McElroy.

"The reason he was shot was because he was a Roman Catholic and his assassination was part of the plan of the organisation to which they belong," quoted the lawyer.

The teenager was shot a number of times but the pair were captured by an army patrol less than 400 yards from the scene of the killing after a member of the public shouted out to the patrol.

Detained at the scene, a search of Rodgers uncovered a Walther handgun along with two live rounds of ammunition in his top pocket.

Having recounted the details of Rodgers' conviction for murder, Mr Mooney told Mr Justice Horner that was the end of the Crown case against him.

Defence QC Gregory Berry told the judge that on Wednesday he intended to lodge two applications to have the case against Rodgers dismissed.

The trial continues. At hearing.


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