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Accused’s DNA not a match for profile on gun in St. John's attempted murder trial

Sheriff’s officers escort Michael Hannaford from the courtroom as his trial wraps up for lunch in St. John’s Tuesday. On the witness stand in the background is RNC Const. Sherry Legge, a forensic identification officer.
Sheriff’s officers escort Michael Hannaford from the courtroom as his trial wraps up for lunch in St. John’s Tuesday. On the witness stand in the background is RNC Const. Sherry Legge, a forensic identification officer. - Tara Bradbury

Nothing to connect .22-calibre gun to Michael Hannaford, defence points out

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Michael Hannaford’s hands were wrapped in bandages when he was arrested and brought to RNC headquarters last May. Underneath were raw, burn-like abrasions he reportedly received in a fall from his dirt bike. Less visible to the eye on the palm of his right hand was a single particle of gunshot residue.

The particle was discovered by forensic experts who tested swabs of Hannaford’s hands taken by police after his arrest. Also tested was a .22-calibre gun recovered from a field near Hannaford’s house, days after a woman told police Hannaford had shot her.

No usable fingerprints were obtained from the gun, and the only usable DNA found on the trigger — determined to be that of a male — did not match Hannaford’s profile. Two other DNA profiles located on the gun were too weak to be determined.

“So nothing forensic taken from the gun tied it to Mr. Hannaford?” defence lawyer Tim O’Brien asked RNC forensic identification officer Sherry Legge in provincial court Tuesday.

“Correct,” Legge replied.

Hannaford, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to murder Samantha Burke by shooting her, assault causing bodily harm, uttering threats, pointing a firearm, damaging property, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and unauthorized possession of a firearm. Tuesday was the second day of his trial, and Legge was the only witness called to the stand.

RNC Const. Shane McClafferty testified Monday he had been one of two patrol officers to respond to a report of an altercation at Hannaford’s home on Empire Avenue last May 18. He arrived to find Hannaford outside the residence with Burke and another woman, and an SUV with a smashed window in the driveway. After taking a statement from the second woman — who told the court Monday that Hannaford had smashed the window with a machete in an attempt to defend himself from Burke — McClafferty said he escorted Hannaford inside the house.

There was a sheathed machete near the front door, the police officer testified.

Michael Hannaford is escorted from the courtroom by sheriffs during a break in his trial Monday.
Michael Hannaford is escorted from the courtroom by sheriffs during a break in his trial Monday.

While escorting Hannaford back outside and into the police vehicle, McClafferty said Burke yelled at him, “When am I getting my $70 or I’ll tell them what you did to me.” Burke then told McClafferty that Hannaford had shot her earlier that morning, and lifted her shirt to reveal a bloody bandage on her side.

McClafferty testified Burke had told him that she and Hannaford had planned to meet at a store near her house around 5:30 that morning so he could repay her $70 he had borrowed from her.

She came out of her Crosbie Road residence and saw Hannaford sitting alone in a car in the nearby PowerPlex parking lot with what she described as a rifle, then heard several loud pops.

Burke declined medical attention at first, according to McClafferty, but later agreed to go to hospital.

Legge told the court she joined Burke there, and Burke allowed the officer to take photos of her injuries.

Photos presented in court show two circular wounds on Burke’s side, each about 10 mm wide.

“She would calm down and get upset, depending on what was happening,” Legge testified. “She said Mr. Hannaford had been sitting in his car and she was approximately five feet away. He said, ‘I’m going to shoot you,’ and she said, ‘Go ahead,’ and then she got shot.”

A police search of the area near the PowerPlex turned up nothing, Legge testified.

Police obtained warrants to search Hannaford’s residence and vehicle. The machete was seized from the front entrance of the home, and other items taken by police included surveillance cameras that had been set up in Hannaford’s bedroom window, drug paraphernalia, a cellphone and a pellet gun determined not to have been used in the shooting. Investigators also seized ammunition found in the basement, including a single .22-calibre bullet. Legal firearms located in a safe were found to be irrelevant to the case.

Two more cellphones and drug paraphernalia were taken from Hannaford’s vehicle, and the vehicle was swabbed for gunshot residue, Legge said, though forensic experts opted not to accept them for testing.

“It was explained to me that the hands have more evidentiary value than any inanimate object,” Legge said when questioned by prosecutor Paul Thistle.

The trial has adjourned until July 8, when more witnesses are expected to testify. Hannaford will remain in custody until then.

Burke is also in custody, having been sentenced March 19 to 129 days in jail for assaulting a woman twice, resisting arrest and breaching court orders.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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