Home Biologist Forensic biologist calls Shandee Blackburn murder investigation “forensic train wreck”

Forensic biologist calls Shandee Blackburn murder investigation “forensic train wreck”

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The family of murdered Mackay woman Shandee Blackburn have called for an independent investigation into a state government-run forensic lab into its handling of evidence.

The 23-year-old was walking home from work in the early hours of February 9, 2013, when she was brutally stabbed more than 20 times.

No one has been found guilty of his murder.

Independent forensic biologist Dr Kirsty Wright recently reviewed hundreds of forensic files from the murder investigation for Australian newspaper Shandee’s Story podcast series.

Speaking to the media today, she said it was a “forensic train wreck.”

“What I found is pretty amazing,” she said.

Dr Wright said there had been errors throughout the DNA profiling process carried out by the Queensland Health lab.

“Critical errors which may have prevented the identification of the culprit of Shandee’s murder,” she said.

“One example being a DNA swab that was collected in a pool of fresh blood from the gutter where Shandee was killed, and the lab was unable to obtain a DNA sample from that sample.

No DNA in the car

Ms Blackburn’s former partner John Peros was found not guilty of her murder by a Supreme Court jury in a 12-day trial in 2017.

In August 2020, Coroner David O’Connell discovered that there was ample evidence to show that Mr Peros had killed Ms Blackburn and that there were no other possible conclusions to be drawn based on the evidence.

Mr. Peros has claimed his innocence.

John Peros was found not guilty by a jury of Shandee’s murder, but a coronial inquest last year revealed evidence pointing to him. (ABC News: Sophie Meixner)

Dr Wright said there were “more worrying” issues with the forensic evidence relating to Mr Peros.

“A total of 51 samples from John Peros’ vehicle were collected and sent to the lab,” Dr. Wright said.

“33 of those samples were tested and incredibly no DNA from the driver was found in his own vehicle, which the science officer observed to be unclean.

“Systemic errors”

She said there were also 17 incorrect results that were released by the lab as part of the investigation that incorrectly linked people to crime scene samples taken from Shandee’s clothes.

“It is inexcusable that a single incorrect result is released by a lab, but in this case there were 17,” she said.

“Something very, very bad happened in this lab.

“I don’t think other cases have been spared from these issues and I think these are potentially systemic errors and what we are seeing with Shandee’s case could be the tip of a very big iceberg.”

Vicki Blackburn holding a photo of her daughter Shandee.
Vicki Blackburn’s 23-year-old daughter Shandee was stabbed to death in February 2013.(ABC Tropical North: Harriet Tatham)

Ms Blackburn’s mother, Vicki Blackburn, echoed Dr Wright’s call for an investigation and said the evidence needed to be tested again with “the utmost urgency.”

“It is not something that can be excused, allowed to be swept under the rug, silenced or ignored.

“This is totally unacceptable. It is shameful.”

Investigation necessary for “public interest”

Smiling photo of Shandee Blackburn in a restaurant with a drink.
No one has ever been convicted of the murder of Shandee Blackburn. (Facebook)

Criminal lawyer Kristy Bell, who represented the Blackburn family at the coronary artery inquest, said it was vitally important that the evidence be retested in case it shed new light.

“An assessment can then be made as to whether a request could be made by the prosecution for a person to be retried,” Bell said.

She said Dr Wright’s analysis could have an “astronomical impact” on Queensland’s legal system.

“It is in the public interest that this be fully investigated.”

A spokesperson for Queensland Health said he could not comment on individual cases.

“The role of the forensic and scientific services is to provide analysis to the Queensland Police Service and to provide the court with professional evidence describing this analysis,” the spokesperson said.


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