The Story so far
Shirley McKie was a successful police woman until February 1997 when she was accused of leaving her fingerprint at a crime scene and lying about it. This all happened in the line of duty when she was part of a police team investigating the vicious murder of Marion Ross in Kilmarnock, Scotland.
Shirley testified as a crown witness at the trial of David Asbury accused of the murder. Asked about the crime scene she stated that she had not been in the murder victim's house even although 4 experts from the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) had identified a 'thumbprint' from the house as hers.
A few months later in an early morning raid she was arrested by the police. She had to go to the toilet, shower and dress with a female police officer looking on and after that she was brought to a police station (where her father had been a commanding officer), marched past colleagues and friends, strip searched and thrown in a cell. She was charged with perjury. The only evidence against her was the disputed fingerprint found in the murder house.
The SCRO experts maintained it was a valid identification at David Asbury's and at Shirley's trial and they still refuse to admit their mistake.
All experts from abroad who testified in court and others later invited by the Scottish investigating authorities to study the print have clearly stated, and demonstrated, that the latent from the crime scene definitely did not come from Shirley McKie.
The testimony of two renowned American experts David Grieve and Pat Wertheim at Shirley's trial for perjury in May 1999 saved her from a possible 8 years jail sentence. Effectively they saved her life because Shirley has since stated that she could not have faced prison knowing she was innocent.
At her acquittal the trial judge Lord Johnston took the unusual step of saying,
“Shirley McKie……personally I would like to extend to you my respect for the obvious courage and dignity which you have shown throughout this nightmare…..I very much hope you can put it behind you. I wish you all the best."
The acquittal by the court should have closed the case with an apology from SCRO and the rehabilitation of Shirley. But that never happened, instead the smearing and insinuating continued trying to discredit both Shirley and the foreign experts.
Although there were official enquiries and numerous recommendations made to make SCRO 'effective and efficient' the experts and their supervisors, including Police and Crown Office, continued to maintain that they were right in their identification and that it was merely 'a matter of opinion..' The truth was suppressed and experts were threatened with disciplinary action if they discussed the case. One expert Allan Bayle at New Scotland Yard was forced from his job because he insisted on speaking up in Shirley's defence.
The very science used so often to assist in finding the truth was not only discredited by the mistakes but even more by the silence of the British fingerprint establishment.
After three years of campaigning, through letters and with media attention from newspapers and some BBC television programmes, finally the Scottish authorities ordered an investigation by 'Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary'. That investigation concluded in August 2000 that the mark was not made by Shirley McKie .
David Asbury who was jailed for the murder of Marion Ross was freed after independent experts, invited by the Scottish authorities, concluded that the identification of another crucial fingerprint in his case was also erroneous.
All experts who revealed the SCRO mistakes were foreign. No UK expert other than Allan Bayle was prepared to or allowed to give his opinion !
In spite of a statement in the Scottish Parliament, following the findings of HMIC, from the Minister of Justice that a mistake was made, the SCRO and its management still did not admit to the erroneous identification.
The 20th of March 2002 the conclusions of an "Internal Independent Enquiry" into the work of SCRO were issued. This report will not be published.
The most important conclusion was;
"that no matters of misconduct or lack of capability have taken place in the work surrounding the fingerprint comparisons of the McKie and Asbury marks and prints"
The report follows the consistent line taken by SCRO that fingerprint evidence is just an opinion and that simply put, SCRO has another opinion in these cases.
This line of thinking was introduced first by the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Mr. Ben Gunn who stated in a BBC TV program, ‘Panorama,’ in 2001; that fingerprint evidence is evidence of opinion not fact because "human beings see different things and experts see different things"
Strangely enough these qualifications of the evidence being “just an opinion” were never brought forward during the investigations and the court cases against Shirley McKie and David Asbury.
The suspended experts have been reinstated in their jobs.
In response to a special request from Michael Russell, a member of the Scottish Parliament, all experts from the fingerprint community world wide were invited to examine the fingerprints and to either support a statement that the fingerprints are not identical and that a disturbing mistake has been made, or to support the identifications.
171 experts from 18 countries (including 26 American states) supported this statement with none opposed.
This unprecedented statement was handed over to the Minister of Justice in Scotland on Friday the 3rd of May 2002. A scheduled debate for the 15th of May was cancelled because the subject was regarded to be sub judice. This caused a political row and very critical media coverage.
Michael Russell and a number of MSP's continue in their efforts to get a debate in Scottish Parliament.
Over the past 8 years the SCRO, Police, Crown Office and Scottish Executive have challenged many of the statements made by Shirley, her legal team and supporters without offering any explanations of their own other than to say they are right and the rest of the world wrong.
Recently it was revealed that in 1997 5 experts at SCRO had refused to agree with the 'Shirley McKie identification'. This had been covered up. In addition the major Police enquiry held in 2000 concluded that the experts and possibly others should be prosecuted for criminal offences.
The effect of all this is;
1. The mistake has not been admitted by SCRO and Shirley McKie has not received an apology.
2. Her fight for compensation and a new career is being severely hampered.
3. Although David Asbury is a free person his future is uncertain and the murderer of Marion Ross has never been identified.
4. Given the exposure of two wrong identifications a number of major questions hang over the Police investigation of Marion Ross's murder and the mystery of how two mistakes came to be made in the one case has never been resolved.
Shirley has been granted a civil hearing at the Court of Session and this will start on 7 February 2006 and last for 5 weeks.
The attached ‘fact’ sheets contain a summary of the ‘facts’ as we know them. The 'Shirley McKie' sheet is updated to March 2005. The above agencies are welcome to offer some ‘facts’ of their own in response.