Coroner finds no DNA evidence in Truscott case


Globe and Mail Update

POSTED AT 12:13 PM EDT ON 10/04/06

Ontario's chief coroner said Monday that it is impossible to conduct DNA testing on the remains of Lynne Harper, the victim in one of Canada's highest profile murder cases.

The girl's remains were exhumed last week as part of a review of the conviction of her 14-year-old neighbour Steven Truscott, who was jailed in 1959 for the crime.

Mr. Truscott spent years on death row for the young girl's rape and murder before being released on parole in 1969. In 2004, a report by a retired judge concluded that there had been a miscarriage of justice in the case, which was later referred to Ontario's Court of Appeal for review.

The exhumation of the girl's body was carried out under the orders of Ontario Attorney-General Michael Bryant with the consent of Lynne's family.

Both Crown and defence experts were present at the disinterment and when later forensic examinations were carried out in Toronto.

It had been hoped that DNA recovered from the body might help provide clear answers in the case, which has haunted the Canadian justice system since the time of the young girl's murder.

Dr. Barry McLellan, the province's chief coroner, said Monday, however, that that now appears unlikely.

“It is clear to the experts, having regard to the condition of Lynne Harper's remains, that it will not be possible to conduct DNA testing on the remains to advance the criminal investigation into this death,” Dr. McLellan said.

That information had been given to the girl's family last week.

“Everyone involved has approached the disinterment and the subsequent examinations with the utmost of respect for Lynne Harper and her family,” Dr. McLellan said in a statement issued by his office.

“It was a conscious decision to wait until today to release this information, notwithstanding the significant public interest in the process, to provide the family with appropriate privacy until the re-interment was complete.”

All information arising from the forensic examination will be given to both defence and Crown counsel in the case.

Mr. Truscott had lived in anonymity for the three decades after his release from prison. He came forward in 1997, looking to prove his innocence in the killing and had offered his DNA for testing.

The girl's body was re-interred late Friday after a short religious ceremony attended by her family.

With a report from Canadian Press