- 2 of 3
- Episode name:
The Murder of Lynette White
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- TX confirmed:
- 9:00pm ~ 10:00pm
Week 06 2023 : Sat 04 Feb - Fri 10 Feb
- Sun 29 Jan 2023
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Cold Case Forensics
“Every contact leaves a trace. It’s just whether or not we’re clever enough to find it." Dr Angela Gallop
New three-part crime documentary series Cold Case Forensics unlocks the secrets that finally solved some of Britain’s most controversial murder cases.
The series delves into the world of leading forensic scientist Dr Angela Gallop and her team, as they unpick clues that no one had unearthed before.
The horrifying deaths of Rachel Nickell, Lynette White, and Stephen Lawrence have all been expertly cracked by Dr Angela and her team after previous failures in each of the police investigations.
Rachel Nickell had been found dead on Wimbledon Common in 1992, shocking the entire nation to its core. How did a new DNA breakthrough and evidence on Rachel’s son catch the killer?
The 1988 murder of Lynette White in Cardiff had resulted in one of Britain’s worst miscarriages of justice and by 1999 it remained unsolved. But how did Angela and her team find the forensic clues to catch the killer?
The racist, cold blooded, murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 in London remained unsolved for more than a decade. The twists and turns of one of the most infamous killings in history were uncovered by Dr Angela, as she finally proved who took young Stephen's life.
This is an ITV Cymru Wales production for ITV
The Murder of Lynette White
“You’ve heard of a nightmare on Elm Street, well this was a nightmare on James Street.” - John Actie, originally charged with Lynette White's murder
In the second episode, Dr Angela describes how she and her team were called in by police re-investigating the murder of Lynette White, who had been stabbed more than 50 times at her flat in Cardiff on Valentine's Day 1988.
A group of men, known as the Cardiff Five, had originally been charged with the murder, three were later convicted in a huge miscarriage of justice in 1990, but all had been cleared by the end of 1992. In 1999 a fresh team of detectives were brought in to look at the case. One of the innocent men, John Actie, describes his disbelief after a white man had been spotted near the scene covered in blood, yet five Black men had been arrested for the murder, saying: "You know, when they're telling you… A girl had been stabbed 50 to 70 times. Don't put this on me. But they did. That's what they wanted to do. There was nothing we could do."
When Dr Angela was brought in she realised much of the potential forensic evidence from the grisly scene had been lost during the original investigation: "The main thing that struck me was that they had a sketchy understanding of the blood patterns at the flat and it had told them enough to know where the attack had started and probably where Lynette's throat had been cut… And then also the fact that her body had been moved where probably the bulk of the attack then took place. But didn't really tell you anything about how the attacker might have got out afterwards."
There was, though, some blood at the scene which belonged to another person than Lynette. Because the original investigation took place before DNA was used as a key forensic evidence, much of the scene had been sprayed with Ninhydrin, which helps bring out fingerprints - but which destroys DNA. So Dr Angela and her team chose to reconstruct the room in the flat where Lynette's body had been found in the hope of finding new places to hunt for DNA evidence.
In the film Dr Angela and forensic examiner April Robson re-enact the scene they constructed to demonstrate how they found a key breakthrough in the case. Dr Angela says: "When we came along trying to understand the scene, we thought, well, one of the best ways of doing that is through all the blood patterns that are captured on these wallpaper strips. So what if we recreate the crime scene with these wallpaper strips? And so April and I got a whole set of office dividers together in a large room, and we erected them in roughly the same shape and size as the original flat had been in. And then we stuck up the bits of wallpaper on the dividers. And in this way, we could recreate the crime scene."
They found trace blood on a cellophane cigarette packet wrapper from the original flat, and having drawn a partial DNA profile from it, the team began the hunt for 'Cellophane Man'. They even tested the original five, just to rule them out. Angela says: "We felt that some of the police still felt that the Cardiff five could have been responsible for the murder. And so one of the first things we did when we got Cellophane Man's profile was to compare that against their DNA profiles, but it matched absolutely none of them. It was nothing to do with them."
Dr Angela and April managed to find further blood traces on the skirting board from the flat - despite the fact it had been redecorated several times since the murder - and even traces from the front door, which had a mix of blood from the suspect and from Lynette. But the murderer's DNA was not on the police's system. The police decided to undertake a radical method called familial DNA testing, which narrowed down the pool of suspects to 600. Senior Investigating Officer Kevin O'Neill says: "So that was like the first time, I got to be honest, I thought, ‘we're going to get him’. Because if it had been thousands, if it had been tens of thousands, we would have got to him eventually, but it wasn't tens of thousands."
The team analysed the evidence for further elements in common with ‘Cellophane Man’. One match stood out head and shoulders above the rest - the uncle of a 14-year-old boy on the DNA system, a reclusive security guard called Jeffrey Gafoor. Kevin O'Neill says: "We go to see him, we get that sample. And I remember these times quite vividly, and I never thought we'd get to this. I think it's incredible. It was a fantastic feeling. It was so exciting."
In July 2003, Gafoor admitted in court to murdering Lynette White - although he never explained why he had killed her. The painstaking forensic investigation which had brought him to justice had taken four years, but Angela and her team had finally uncovered the clues to reveal exactly what happened on that dark Valentine’s Day in Cardiff in 1988.
In Cardiff, Dr Angela meets John Actie, who tells her he's still suffering trauma from his wrongful imprisonment: "Sometimes I’ve got to keep my telly on in the night. I mean, because if the telly goes off and I wake up, I think I'm in a cell."
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