North East Wales

Stephen Hough trial: Notes on Janet Commins' body samples 'destroyed'

Janet Commins Image copyright North Wales Police
Image caption Janet Commins' body was found in a field, four days after she went missing

Notes made by a biologist taking samples from the body of a schoolgirl killed 40 years ago have since been destroyed, a court has heard.

Stephen Anthony Hough, 58, is on trial for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Janet Commins, whose body was found in a field in Flint on 11 January 1976.

He is also accused of her sexual assault and manslaughter.

Retired biologist Anthony Peabody told Mold Crown Court standards of record-keeping had changed over the years.

Under cross-examination by Patrick Harrington QC, Dr Peabody, who was involved in the post-mortem examination, also agreed the labelling of some swabs taken from Janet's body had not been conducted in the way he would have expected.

The court heard that the pathologist on the case gave Dr Peabody a mouth swab, but Dr Peabody did not record the fact he received it.

Mr Harrington suggested Dr Peabody had made a mistake, to which he replied: "No, I'm afraid not."

Dr Peabody said they were only required to record and refer to items "on which we found something of obvious significance", and the fact there was no record of the mouth swab suggested it showed nothing of significance.

"It is not a mistake. It is how things were done in 1976," he said.

Image copyright Andrew Price
Image caption Stephen Hough (r) denies all the charges against him

The court has already heard from prosecutor Mark Heywood QC that Janet died "as a result of her neck and her external airway being compressed and blocked during that sexual assault".

He also told the jury the schoolgirl was spotted with two boys before she went missing.

One man has already served a sentence after admitting Janet's manslaughter, but he says he did not kill her.

Mr Heywood said that Noel Jones, who was 18 at the time of the death, "never challenged the circumstances of his conviction, but he asserts that he always knew that he was innocent and he only confessed due to the pressure that he felt placed upon him at the time".

In 2006, a review of the scientific evidence in the case was carried out and DNA from a man was identified from samples taken from Janet's body.

In 2016, Mr Hough's DNA was taken by police in an unrelated matter and a match was found, prompting his arrest.

The trial continues.

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