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Head of Scottish Fingerprint Service resigns...

THE head of the Scottish Fingerprint Service has resigned, it was announced yesterday.

Ian Todd was in his post within the Scottish Criminal Record Office for just over a year.

The announcement comes days before the service is taken over by the Scottish Police Services Authority.

Although he came to the post long after the Shirley McKie affair, Mr Todd reportedly supported the forensic scientists involved in the case.

Ms McKie, a former police officer from Troon, Ayrshire, was accused of leaving a fingerprint at the Kilmarnock home of a murder victim, Marion Ross, ten years ago. But she challenged the findings of the fingerprint experts working for the Scottish Criminal Record Office and was later cleared of perjury.

Last February, she received a £750,000 out-of-court settlement from the Scottish Executive. An inquiry concluded that there were "fundamental weaknesses" in the service that had to be addressed.

Ken Macintosh, the Eastwood MSP who represents three of the fingerprint experts involved in the case, said:

"I think that this is yet another example of someone who has had to leave the fingerprint service purely because they have had the courage, the moral courage, to stand up and defend the officers, these public servants who believed this was Shirley McKie's fingerprint."

Last updated: 30-Mar-07

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1. Jeeemy, Grey Scotland / 10:14am 30 Mar 2007

My oh My the heat in that kitchen is getting unbearable,
Or is it getting out before they get caught.
Ken Macintosh, the Eastwood MSP who represents three of the fingerprint experts involved in the case, said:
"I think that this is yet another example of someone who has had to leave the fingerprint service purely because they have had the courage, the moral courage, to stand up and defend the officers, these public servants who believed this was Shirley McKie's fingerprint.
Ken:- who seeking re-election .
Opinion, is not facts, evidence has to be facts not opinions.
Scottish law is based on principal not precedent nor opinions

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2. 11+failed, the pans / 1:57pm 30 Mar 2007

"I think that this is yet another example of someone who has had to leave the fingerprint service purely because they have had the courage, the moral courage, to stand up and defend the officers, these public servants who believed this was Shirley McKie's fingerprint."
What an absolutely disgraceful statement. With these type of comments being made by MSPs, Ms McKie ought to be paid another £750,000 in compensation, but out of MSPs pockets.


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Four fingerprint experts at the centre of the Shirley McKie fingerprint scandal have left their jobs.They took redundancy from the Scottish Fingerprint Service on Friday.

Labour MSP Ken Macintosh said the officers concerned had been "forced out of the door" and "gagged".

The McKie case centred around a print found at a murder scene which was wrongly identified. The former detective got £750,000 compensation.

Forensic scientists

The fingerprint experts left the SFS the day after the resignation of the man in charge of the service.

Ian Todd stepped down as acting director of the Scottish Criminal Record Office, which encompasses the SFS, after a year in the job.

Although he came to power long after the Shirley McKie affair, Mr Todd reportedly supported the forensic scientists involved in the case.

Ms McKie, a former policewoman from Troon, Ayrshire, was accused of leaving a fingerprint at the Kilmarnock home of murder victim Marion Ross 10 years ago.

Four officers originally identified the print.

Six officers, who have given long years of public service, have been investigated over and over again and have always been cleared
Ken Macintosh
Labour MSP

But Ms McKie challenged the findings of the experts and was later cleared of perjury.

Two other fingerprint officers involved in the case are also expected to take redundancy.

Labour MSP Ken Macintosh, who sits on Holyrood's Standards Committee and has spoken on behalf of some of the officers, told BBC Scotland they had been shown the door and prevented from speaking out.

He said: "Six officers, who have given long years of public service, have been investigated over and over again and have always been cleared.

"Yet what is happening is that they're being shown the door and forced to sign contracts in which they are gagged and not allowed to speak about this case in public.

"They are not being offered any kind of decent enhancement and the contrast between their treatment and the £750,000 paid to Shirley McKie is disgraceful."

'Tainted experts'

Iain McKie, who has campaigned on behalf of his daughter Shirley, said any experts "tainted" over the affair had to go to ensure the fingerprint service's credibility.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "There's no doubt in my mind that unless they rid the new service of the tainted experts, then the new service will have no credibility.

"While I have got no feeling about individual experts myself, I feel that this action will take the new service forward."

A Holyrood inquiry into the case found there were "fundamental weaknesses" in the fingerprint service which had to be addressed.

The inquiry also ruled there was no evidence the fingerprint officers concerned had acted maliciously when they made the identification.

The fingerprint service is due to be taken over by the new police service body, the Scottish Police Services Authority, from next week.


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McKie's father welcomes fingerprint jobs cull.

THE departure of four fingerprint experts at the centre of the Shirley McKie case was a "necessary cull", her father said last night.

All have agreed to a secret severance package complete with a gagging order.

The news was greeted with dismay by one MSP, who described it as "shameful".

But Iain McKie, who has campaigned endlessly on behalf of his daughter, said there was no other option.

He believes the move will allow the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA), which takes charge of fingerprinting in the country from today, to flourish.

The four experts were among a group of six who had identified McKie, a serving police officer, as leaving her fingerprint at a murder scene in Ayrshire. She vehemently denied ever being in the house and after a near 10-year probe was exonerated.

The now-retired officer received a £750,000 compensation pay-off from the Executive last year.

Iain McKie said: "This was long overdue but much needed. It was a necessary cull. The Scottish Fingerprint Service would never have gained worldwide acceptance until this had happened.

"People say they have been sacked, but they were not sacked. They sacked themselves."

Commenting on the SPSA, McKie added: "This is an ideal opportunity to move on.

"It is a new dawn and a massive opportunity and I hope they [the SPSA] will grab it."

Late on Friday, it was announced that Robert McKenzie, Allan Dunbar, Hugh McPherson and Charlie Stewart were to leave their posts with the Scottish Fingerprint Service (SFS).

It is claimed they were told to go, otherwise they would lose their jobs when the SPSA took over the running of the SFS.

Their remaining colleagues, Tony McKenna and Fiona McBride, are expected to follow suit - with similar restrictions over discussing the terms.

Ken Macintosh, Labour MSP for Eastwood in Renfrewshire, said the group had "basically been made unemployable".

He added: "There has been no special deal for these people. This is them being sacked effectively. They have children at university and mortgages to pay. Their careers are totally blighted by what has happened.

"I find it a most shameful episode. It is a scandal."

A spokesman for Unison, the union representing the six, said: "We can confirm that four of the staff of the Fingerprint Service have accepted a severance package and left the service.

"These members had to suffer constant and unfair pressure for the past nine years and it is entirely understandable that they have taken the option to leave and get on with their lives."

The experts' departure comes just two days after Ian Todd quit his post as acting director of the Scottish Criminal Record Office - the agency which, until it became part of the SPSA, oversaw the SFS.

He was appointed years after the McKie affair emerged, but Todd was known to be a firm supporter of the staff at the centre of the row.

It was also rumoured that he did not see eye-to-eye with the SPSA chief executive and ex-British Transport Police assistant chief constable David Mulhern either.

Commenting on the new agency, Mulhern said: "This move will deliver a far more effective approach to supporting the Scottish Police Service in the investigation and detection of crime by delivering a seamless evidential capture and analysis from crime scene to courts."

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said: "By bringing the [police services] together under a single national authority, we can build on the strengths of the past and find new ways to improve the way we support frontline police officers."


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Just read in the local paper Shirley McKie`s book is out this week called The price of innocence its detailing her fight to clear her name written by her father and co-author Michael Russell. 

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Interesting reading I hope


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Battle: Iain and Shirley McKie wait to hear if...

Iain and Shirley McKie wait to hear if Alex Salmond is successful.

 

Angiolini 'tried to protect her predecessor' in McKie inquiry...

LORD Advocate Elish Angiolini lobbied to protect her predecessor from scrutiny in the forthcoming public inquiry into the Shirley McKie fingerprint scandal, according to government sources.

The Government will announce within weeks that it intends to press ahead with the judicial inquiry into the McKie affair, which rocked the Scottish political scene for much of last year.

Judges from Northern Ireland have already been approached to chair the planned inquiry, in the face of a determined attempt within the Crown Office to dramatically reduce its scope.

Senior Government sources have claimed that Crown Office advisers - including Angiolini - lobbied to keep former Lord Advocate Colin Boyd from being included in the inquiry.

Although a spokesman for the Government last night insisted the claims were "nonsense", the move will focus further attention on Scotland's troubled prosecution service at the end of what has been yet another controversial week for the organisation.

Last Thursday, Angiolini was accused by Lord Hamilton, the Lord Justice General, of having undermined the independence of the judiciary in the wake of the World's End trial collapse. The judge in the case, Lord Clarke, had thrown the case out, arguing there was insufficient evidence. Angiolini then told Parliament she believed there had been enough evidence to put it before a jury.

The McKie case has plagued the Crown Office for nearly a decade after the former policewoman was wrongly accused of having visited a murder scene in 1997 after a print found near the body was mistakenly identified as hers.

She was subsequently charged with committing perjury after denying in court that the print was hers. Last year, after being acquitted, she was awarded £750,000 in damages by ministers, who conceded there had been an "honest mistake".

However, the affair snowballed after Scotland on Sunday revealed a secret police report stating there had been "criminality" and a "cover-up" in the way the case had been handled.

Boyd has come under scrutiny over why, despite the police report, he decided not to charge the fingerprint experts at the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) who made the original claims. The Crown Office insisted there was "insufficient evidence" for a prosecution.

An announcement on the inquiry - demanded by the SNP while the party was in opposition and promised before the election - has been expected for several months, but has been delayed as its exact remit is disputed.

One insider said: "There was a very strong attempt to have a remit that declared Boyd should not be considered at all. The legal establishment has fought a rearguard action."

However, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is believed to have refused to water down the terms of the inquiry. Ministers have also decided they must recruit a judge from outside Scotland to chair it, to ensure the strictest impartiality. As with the inquiry into the decision-making surrounding the death of Surjit Singh Chhokar, when Sir Anthony Campbell, Justice of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland was appointed, a judge from the province is in the frame to be appointed.

An inquiry has also been backed by the Faculty of Advocates, which has warned that it is required to restore confidence in the justice system.

A parliamentary inquiry was held earlier this year into the affair but failed to stifle demands for a judicial investigation which would be given access to all documentation relating to the case.

Iain McKie, Shirley's father, said: "I hope that the Government will stand firm against the people who would like to see the remit weakened to protect the legal establishment."

He added: "In the wake of the World's End fiasco, the whole system needs to be looked at. Alex Salmond last week said he supported Elish Angiolini's statement on the World's End case because it showed openness and accountability, so it would be only consistent of them to stick with the same principles in this case."

Labour MSP Ken Macintosh, who has supported the SCRO officers in the case, said he too believed the inquiry should have a wide remit.

However, he warned that the inquiry could be flawed because of the presumption that McKie was wrongly identified.

He said: "They will try to base this on the premise that the identification was wrong, and because they are therefore starting from a false premise they can't help coming to a false conclusion."

A spokeswoman for the Crown Office said the matter was "not appropriate" for it to comment upon. Of the claims that the Crown Office had tried to reduce the remit of the inquiry, a spokesman for the Government said: "This suggestion is absolute nonsense. We hope to make an announcement on the inquiry shortly."

Boyd was unavailable for comment.


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A PUBLIC judicial inquiry into the Shirley McKie fingerprints affair is to be chaired by a top judge from Northern Ireland, the Scottish Government said today. [sneaky]

Lord Justice Campbell will inquire into the case and report on how any "shortcomings" can be avoided in future.

The inquiry is expected to start in September.

The move was announced by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill who said: "For over a decade, the Shirley McKie case has cast a cloud of suspicion and uncertainty not just over the individuals involved but over the criminal justice system.

"Previous reviews have helped to shed some light on matters, but they have not fully explained the events.

"They have not entirely dispersed that cloud."

The minister went on: "Public concern remains.

"This is not an issue we can allow to wither on the vine - unless we are prepared to allow public confidence to wither with it."

Former policewoman Ms McKie and her father have long campaigned for a public inquiry into the case, and the SNP committed to an inquiry in its election manifesto.

Ms McKie, from Troon in Ayrshire, was accused of leaving her fingerprint at the Kilmarnock home of murder victim Marion Ross in 1997.

She challenged the findings of fingerprint experts working for the Scottish Criminal Record Office and was later cleared of perjury.

In February 2006 she was given £750,000 in an out-of-court settlement with the then Scottish Executive.

No date was given for the start of the public judicial inquiry, and Lord Campbell will remain focused on his duties in Northern Ireland until August, said the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government will hand over any material it held that might be useful to the inquiry, and in an "exceptional" move the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, would do likewise.

And if requested, ministers and prosecution and government officials would appear in person.

Lord Justice Campbell said today: "The importance of this inquiry is evident to me.

"I know from my previous experience of conducting this type of work in Scotland that, by their very nature, inquiries tend to deal with issues that are difficult and sensitive.

"I intend that this inquiry will be both rigorous and fair in dealing with issues and individuals arising from the Shirley McKie case."


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http://petercherbi.wordpress.com/2008/03/15/scots-justice-system-awaits-clean-up-of-injustice-as-justice-secretary-macaskill-announces-long-awaited-mckie-fingerprint-inquiry/


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Expert tells of ‘gut-wrenching feeling’ prints did not match...

  • 6540636
  • Shirley Mckie was accused of leaving her print at a crime scene...

A US expert yesterday told how he got a “gut-wrenching” feeling when he realised a fingerprint at a murder scene did not appear to match that of a policewoman accused of leaving it.

Texan Pat Wertheim was called to give evidence at the opening of the second phase of an inquiry into the Shirley McKie fingerprint controversy.

Former policewoman Miss McKie, from Ayrshire, was accused of leaving her fingerprint at the home of a murder victim in Kilmarnock in 1997.

The print was identified by officers with the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO), but other experts disagreed that it proved a match.

A public inquiry began in June to address questions over the steps taken to identify

and verify the fingerprint, known as “Y7”. Mr Wertheim, giving evidence in Glasgow, was called to examine the mark in 1999.

His detailed notes were shown to the inquiry, chaired by former appeal court judge, Sir Anthony Campbell.

Mr Wertheim said he got a “gut-wrenching” feeling when he realised that the print taken from a door frame at the home of murder victim, Marion Ross, and that of Miss McKie, did not appear to match.

He said: “I decided that I was going to have to go back and complete a very thorough analysis without reference to the SCRO productions.”

Miss McKie was tried for perjury following the Marion Ross murder trial, but was later acquitted.

She then raised an action for damages and, in 2006, was awarded £750,000 in an out-of-court settlement by the then Scottish Executive.

Mr Wertheim told the inquiry: “It’s difficult to accept that another expert has made a mistake. Every time it happens my gut twists up a little bit.”

The witness was asked to compare SCRO annotated diagrams of the crime scene mark and Ms McKie’s inked fingerprint.

He agreed that some highlighted features corresponded but disputed others.

Mr Wertheim, who described fingerprint comparison as “both an art and a science” earlier explained the process to the inquiry.

Experts look at three levels of detail – the overall pattern, individual points such as ridge endings and features within a single ridge.

He said that it generally took two to three years’ training to bring someone to an accepted level of proficiency.


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McKie will not appear at fingerprint case inquiry...

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Shirley McKie, the former policewoman accused of leaving her fingerprint at the home of a murder victim, will not appear in person to give evidence to the inquiry about her case.

Ms McKie, from Ayrshire, was accused of leaving her fingerprint at the home of Marion Ross in Kilmarnock in 1997. The print was identified by officers with the former Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO), but other experts disagreed that it proved a match.

A public inquiry began in June to address questions over the steps taken to identify and verify the fingerprint.

Ms McKie was tried for perjury following the murder trial, but was later acquitted. She then raised an action for damages and, in 2006, was awarded £750,000 in an out-of-court settlement by the then Scottish Executive.

Sir Anthony Campbell, the former appeal court judge who is chairing the inquiry, requested in September that Ms McKie attend the inquiry to give evidence. However, she has now been excused for medical reasons. She has provided written evidence.

Critics have questioned the point of an inquiry if Ms McKie is unwilling to take part.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby, QC, the former Lord Advocate who has been criticised for his role in the case, is expected to give evidence today.

The inquiry has looked at the steps taken to identify and verify the fingerprints associated with the perjury trial. It will make recommendations as to what measures may be introduced to ensure that any shortcomings are avoided in future.

The former policewoman’s father, Iain McKie, has called on Sir Anthony to use his powers to put all the witnesses under oath, and urged Lord Boyd and the former justice ministers, Cathy Jamieson and Jim Wallace, who were in office during the scandal, to give evidence.

Ken McIntosh, the Labour MSP for Eastwood, who has long defended the four fingerprint experts who lost their jobs following the misidentification, said that the hearings would provide an opportunity to show they have been the “real victims” of the affair.

“Despite all the inquiries saying they have done a professional job they continue to be portrayed as responsible for the fate of Ms McKie,” he said.

In a written statement, Sir Anthony said: “The inquiry issued a notice to Shirley McKie, dated September 1, 2009. The notice informed her that ... I required her to attend at certain oral hearings of the inquiry to give evidence.

“She then submitted a claim to the inquiry seeking to be excused from compliance with the notice on medical grounds. She provided medical evidence in support of her claim.”


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Dundee forensic scientists in fingerprint first

A fingerprint on an onion. Picture: PA

FORENSIC scientists at Dundee’s Abertay University have successfully recovered latent fingerprints from food for the first time in Britain in a potential major breakthrough in the fight against crime.

 

Foods are notoriously difficult surfaces from which to recover prints and are often overlooked as potential sources of evidence.

But the team at Abertay have modified an existing technique, initially designed to recover fingerprints from the sticky side of adhesive tape, to lift prints from both fruit and vegetables.

Their findings have now been published in the forensic science journal “Science & Justice” to allow other forensic scientists to replicate their results.

Dennis Gentles, a former crime scene examiner who has worked at Abertay University for the past ten years, said the results of their research were “significant"


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Fingerprints give police new clues for solving crime


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Mark of innocence

In 1997, a smudged print from one of PC Shirley McKie's thumbs was found at a murder scene in Kilmarnock. When she denied it was hers, no one believed her - after all, fingerprints don't lie. Then the truth emerged - it wasn't her print after all. Now she has been awarded £750,000 compensation but calls for a public inquiry are mounting. By Eamonn O'Neill

McKie was part of the team investigating Ross's murder. She had stood outside the house, but she had not been part of the unit that entered the crime scene. The fingerprint could only mean one thing: that McKie had illegally entered the house some time after the killing.

McKie, who was then 35, denied that it was her print. She also denied ever having set foot inside the victim's house. But no one, of course, believed a word of it: they all knew that fingerprints do not lie.

That one fingerprint from Ross's house went on to cause an awful lot of trouble, for an awful lot of people. It destroyed McKie's promising career in the police, it threw doubt upon the investigation into Ross's murder, and it has now very seriously undermined the reputation of fingerprint science in Scotland.

Because, it seems, it was not actually McKie's fingerprint. In February this year, McKie, now 43, was awarded a compensation payout of £750,000 from the Scottish Executive after she was wrongly accused of leaving the print. Calls for a public inquiry into the case are now mounting by the day.

"I was in the police for 36 years," says Iain McKie, Shirley's father. "I always believed fingerprints didn't lie. Now ... I know different."

Iain, who is 67, lives in a flat in Ayr, on Scotland's south-west coast, overlooking the Irish Sea. He used to serve with the CID so he "knew what happened in the police", and initially, although he says that his daughter "wouldn't tell lies", he questioned her denial of having been inside Ross's house. "I was saying to her, 'Look, Shirley, if they say your fingerprint was found in there then it must be your fingerprint ...' They had it checked and they had it checked. You never argue with that - people have been hung on a fingerprint."

Iain McKie says that it is normal practice to rule out any "innocent" prints from officers involved in a case simply by comparing prints at the scene to photographic records kept of officers' prints. In this case, Shirley's prints turned out not to have been taken earlier on in her career, so investigating officers asked her to give her prints for elimination purposes. She duly gave her prints - and one of them ended up matching the print on the doorframe.

But McKie stuck to her story. She had never been inside the victim's house and therefore hadn't left that print.

In May 1997, Shirley repeated this story at the trial of a 20-year-old joiner named David Asbury, who had been accused of murdering Ross. But despite her throwing doubt on to the whole issue of fingerprints at the scene - and despite the fact that fingerprints were used as evidence against Asbury - he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

McKie had stuck to her guns but, as it turned out, her troubles were only just beginning. Within a month, she was off work, suffering from anxiety and depression. The police, she says, wanted her to change her story and admit that she had entered the murder victim's house and accidentally left a print, and they were piling on the pressure. Challenging the Scottish Fingerprint Service, a branch of the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO), was simply unheard of.

McKie was sick and off duty until the following March, when she was suddenly arrested, taken to a station, strip searched, and then charged with perjury for her part in the Asbury trial. "They got the dawn chorus organised: they phoned her up, she answered the phone and there was nobody there so she hung up, and then they went around and got her there," says her father. "Then they took her into the police office where, in 1992, I had been in charge ... She got bail and came home and lay on the floor weeping. You'll understand that I became very, very protective of my daughter at that stage."

Iain and the family began fighting back. But the first QC hired by the family simply did not seem to believe the fingerprint service could be wrong. The second QC, Donald Findlay, also initially had his doubts, but took on the case.

Crucially, at this stage, everyone - including Iain and Shirley McKie - still believed that the print found at the murder was hers: the issue for them was, how did it get there? Had McKie, either before or after the murder, without any recollection, once been inside the premises? Or had she touched a doorframe - again without any memory of it - that had ended up inside the house?

"We wondered if she'd once visited a joiner's yard and touched a plank of wood that ended up inside Marion Ross's house," says Iain. "Or maybe she'd sleepwalked herself there? Except that meant dodging the 54 police who had guarded the place [after the murder] and never seen her inside. Or - believe it or not - she wondered herself if she had been abducted by aliens or something. I mean, nothing was out of the question."

Out of the blue, when McKie was surfing the internet looking for fingerprint experts to help her with her case, she came across an American expert named Pat Wertheim, a respected professional who had trained FBI personnel. Within a few months he was in the UK with a colleague named David Grieve, inspecting the McKie print that had been found inside Ross's home. He reached a shocking conclusion: the print was not Shirley McKie's.

Later on, when McKie stood trial in 1999 for perjury, three SCRO experts claimed that her print had indeed been found inside the victim's home. Iain says: "The two Americans - Wertheim and Grieve - came in and showed the court that it wasn't Shirley's print at the murder scene. They won the day and Shirley was found unanimously not guilty and she was congratulated by the judge for the way she comported herself, which was almost unheard of."

The two US experts brought in by McKie's defence team argued that the "mark" found on January 14 1997 inside Ross's house and then identified by SCRO experts on February 10 as belonging to McKie bore no resemblance to McKie's actual fingerprint, with one saying the "obvious" differences took only "seconds to see".

In television dramas there is often a scene where a computer is fed a print and then spits out a name. In reality, the fingerprint identification process is a lot clumsier. Forensic police officers attend a crime scene and use fine black powder to dust surfaces for prints. When they find a mark, it is usually quite clearly visible to the naked eye. This mark, when finally identified as a human print, is then compared to a print from whoever is being checked out or investigated. The prints are photographed and placed side by side for visual inspection by experts. Experts try to identify 16 points of similarity in each print.

Computers sometimes play their part - the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System does help police authorities worldwide to narrow down their search by eliminating hordes of unlikely matches - but eventually, in nearly all cases, final identification will still come from a human expert visually inspecting two sets of prints. According to the Americans, whoever matched up the print at Ross's house with McKie's prints was simply wrong.

Later, in 2002, it was alleged that there had, in fact, been a fundamental and significant division of opinion about the identification among the SCRO's own experts in February 1997 - at the same time as the SCRO were telling the murder squad detectives that the print was definitely McKie's.

Following McKie's acquittal for perjury in 1999, the family hoped for an apology from the chief constable, but it did not come. "That really, really got her down and she became more ill after that," says Iain. "There was anxiety and pressure because of the stress of it all. She was at [the] stage where if she saw a police car she'd start to physically shake. She even planned her own suicide."

After talking to Iain McKie, he and I travel across Ayrshire to meet Shirley herself. She lives in the nearby coastal town of Troon and works in a little gift shop there. He warns me that she is strict about timekeeping and, indeed, when we meet Shirley, she seems angry that we are late.

I ask her what her reaction was to a parliamentary statement made recently by Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell, who claimed that the SCRO's identification of her print had been an "honest mistake" and "that [it] was accepted by all the [parties] involved" and everyone had "moved on".

"I was amused at how the most senior minister in Scotland can stand up, knowing what there is to know about the case, and say what he said," she says. "It bemuses me and that's turned to disgust."

In the same week as that McConnell statement, McKie, who was about to go to court to sue the police for damages, had accepted a £750,000 settlement from the Scottish Executive.

McKie says she detests anyone thinking that she has "won" anything. She says that accepting the offer felt like "copping out".

"You see, as big as this has become, the worse I seem to feel. The more people who say, 'It's fantastic and you're so powerful', then the more my self-esteem gets lower and I become more and more drained."

For a long time she hoped to resume her police career, but that dream has been destroyed. Even when she was cleared of perjury, she never got an official apology from any superior in the force. "They were basically saying that I'd lied," she says.

It may well be that someone lied here - but it was not McKie. In 2000, an independent report reached the conclusion that possible criminal prosecutions should be considered against certain SCRO personnel. The author of that report was James Mackay, a much-respected former deputy chief constable of the police force in Tayside. In a statement to McKie's lawayers in August 2003, he said, "It is my view and that of the inquiry team that there was criminality involved in the actings of the SCRO experts and that that criminality first reared its head in February 1997 ... It should have been patently obvious to those involved that a mistake had been made and there were opportunities then for the mistake to be acknowledged and dealt with. The fact that it was not so dealt with led to 'cover-up' and criminality."

But nothing, apparently, was done about these allegations. Earlier in the same year, a letter signed by 14 fingerprint experts from Lothian and Borders police, sent to the then justice minister Jim Wallace and the Lord Advocate, the senior legal officer in Scotland, concluded: "At best the misidentification is a display of gross incompetence by not one but several experts within that bureau [SCRO]. At worst it bears all the hallmarks of a conspiracy of a nature unparalleled in the history of fingerprints." But again, that had led nowhere.

Still, no one at the SCRO has yet lost their jobs or apologised. The same goes for the police.

To make matters worse, David Asbury, the man originally convicted of murdering Marion Ross in 1997, was sensationally acquitted in August 2002 - because of faulty fingerprint evidence. The SCRO experts had got it wrong again. They had claimed that a tin found in his flat during the investigation bore a "mark" - later classed as a "print" - which belonged to the murder victim, Marion Ross. This was incorrect and his conviction was duly quashed.

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Yet it is difficult to find any "great division" at all. Scores of fingerprint experts from around the world say that the SCRO is plain wrong. The SCRO is merely backed by a tiny handful of increasingly isolated dissenters who say that they could be right. Britain's fingerprint community has been shattered by the SCRO's stance; the McKie case is referred to as "the Scotch Botch".

It has also recently been alleged that the prints presented by the SCRO in 1999 at the McKie perjury trial had been cropped. This meant that whole prints were not being shown, only parts of them, blown up and cropped advantageously. McKie's claims of innocence still won the day, but the cropping allegation would probably have gone down badly in court if McKie had not settled. Speaking from Tuscon, Arizona, Wertheim says, "I first looked at the images in March 1999 and knew in seconds that they'd been cropped. It's like looking at a snap of your wife and knowing immediately that her head's been cropped. Anywhere in the world would require you to present the whole image, so this was highly irregular."

Michael Mansfield QC is one of those calling for a public inquiry. He believes that the McKie case is a "hugely important and damaging case for the UK justice system as a whole. I don't think the McKie case should ever have been prosecuted in the first place. I know from past experiences in disputed IRA cases, such as the Danny McNamee bombing case, that the whole so-called 'science' of fingerprinting needs to be re-examined. It's a science in the loosest terms - it's more of an art. More quality control is needed. Fingerprint science isn't infallible.

"The SCRO experts who wrongly identified that McKie print should have all their prior cases reviewed. In fact, I am writing a letter to England's Attorney General asking for a review of cases where fingerprints have been pivotal. Public confidence in this process needs to be reassured. The Mckie case is potentially explosive for the English legal system. That's why it deserves a full Scottish public inquiry as fast as possible."

In her flat in Troon, McKie says she is beginning to see a future for herself, but it's "in another country. But maybe that's because I feel like running away at the moment".


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