Fibres 'may have come from Wright's car'

A SINGLE black nylon fibre found in the hair of an Ipswich prostitute suggested her head could have been in “forceful or sustained" contact with carpet on the floor of a car owned by Steve Wright, a court has heard.

A SINGLE black nylon fibre found in the hair of an Ipswich prostitute suggested her head could have been in “forceful or sustained” contact with carpet on the floor of a car owned by Steve Wright, a court has heard.

Ray Palmer, an expert in fibre analysis, said the fibre found in 19-year-old Tania Nicol's hair matched carpet in the front and rear passenger footwells of 49-year-old Wright's Ford Mondeo.

Mr Palmer said different makes and models of cars used different kinds of carpet but the fibre found in Miss Nicol's hair was “indistinguishable” from the carpet in Wright's car in terms of microscopic appearance, dye and chemical composition.

He said he had examined swabs taken from the headrests and the backs of seats in the Mondeo and had not found any other fibres from the footwell carpet on them.

During his second day in the witness box at Ipswich Crown Court, Mr Palmer said that nylon car carpets were designed to be “tough and durable” and did not shed fibres very easily.

He said, because of this, “some force” was needed to break fibres before they could be transferred to another surface.

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Prosecution counsel Peter Wright QC asked: “What are you able to conclude in respect of this single carpet fibre in her hair?”

Mr Palmer replied: “The findings in my opinion represent a more forceful or sustained contact with the carpet of the car or items in Steve Wright's home environment at or around the time of her disappearance rather than brief contact.”

He said that if the fibre found in Miss Nicol's hair hadn't come from direct contact with the carpet in the car it had come from forceful or sustained contact with an item already bearing a nylon fibre which matched the carpet in Wright's Mondeo.

However, he said the fibre found in Miss Nicol's hair was a 5mm long coarse fibre which would not have become airborne readily.

In addition, he had not found any corresponding black nylon fibres on any other item belonging to Wright or in his home.

Cross-examined by defence counsel Timothy Langdale QC, Mr Palmer conceded that he could not say how many Ford cars had similar carpets to that in Wright's car.

Asked by Mr Langdale: “So there is nothing to say, bearing in mind these girls' lifestyles, that she did not pick up a carpet fibre from a vehicle other than this?”

Mr Palmer replied: “I cannot rule that out.”

He also agreed that because of the nature of their work there was a greater likelihood of the women's heads coming into contact with a range of materials while having sex in a variety of cars and places with different men.

Mr Palmer said that, in addition to fibres found on the women's bodies that could be linked to Wright, he had also found other fibres which he believed were “highly likely” to have come from the clothes they were wearing when they disappeared or their home environments.

Wright, of London Road, Ipswich, has denied murdering Miss Nicol, Gemma Adams, 25, Anneli Alderton, 24, Paula Clennell, 24 and Annette Nicholls, 29, in late 2006.

The court has heard that the bodies of the five women, who all worked as prostitutes in Ipswich's red light district, were discovered in countryside on the outskirts of the town in a ten-day period in December 2006.

During his evidence yesterday, Mr Palmer said that tiny fibre fragments found on the naked bodies of Miss Alderton, Miss Nicholls and Miss Clennell, which matched fibres found at Wright's home, in his car or on his clothing, “would not occur by chance”.

He said the chances of finding fibres linked to Wright on one of the women's bodies were “very small” and the chances of the same fibres being found on the bodies of three women were “even smaller”.

He added the chances of the fibres coming from someone other than Wright or his home environment would be “infinitesimally small”.

He said that, in addition to the single black nylon fibre found in Miss Nicol's hair, he had also found other fibres which suggested she had been in “forceful or prolonged” contact with items from Wright's home, car or clothing around the time of her disappearance.

The trial continues today.