Waiting on lords' word

19:25, Mar 05 2009

Convicted double murderer John Barlow's lawyer has scorned FBI forensic evidence during a "successful" start to clear his client's name.

Greg King appeared before five Privy Council law lords in London yesterday morning in a last bid to clear Barlow's name for the 1994 murders of Wellington father and son Eugene and Gene Thomas.

Mr King's first victory during the opening day of a two-day hearing was convincing the lords to hear the case despite the New Zealand Court of Appeal's refusal.

He told the lords that crucial evidence relating to the weapon and bullets that killed the Thomases had been falsely linked to Barlow.

Evidence from FBI agent Charles Peters had been proved to be flawed and that had unduly influenced the jury at Barlow's third trial after juries had failed to reach a verdict at two previous trials.

Mr Peters testified forensic testing showed bullets found at the crime scene matched those belonging to Barlow. But the tests have since been discredited worldwide for providing many false matches.

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The Crown case in all three trials hinged on proving that Barlow's CZ27 pistol, and related bullets and a silencer, was the murder weapon.

Deputy Solicitor-General John Pike said Mr King's attack on the FBI agent was "not so cogent as it would be otherwise", because there was other evidence that the bullets used to kill the pair came from Barlow. He agreed Mr Peters' evidence was not as damning as it had been but said evidence from scientist Peter Wilson and others showed the bullets were Barlow's.

After the hearing Mr King said: "All we ever asked for in this case was for the opportunity for the case to be considered on its merits - and we've been successful because the Privy Council has given us that."

The Privy Council has four options: refer the case back to the Court of Appeal, quash the convictions and leave the New Zealand courts to decide whether to try the case again, quash the convictions and acquit Barlow, or reject the appeal.

Angela Barlow said she had spoken to her husband last night and he was "really relieved" the appeal was under way.

SHOT DEAD IN THE OFFICE

1994: Businessman Eugene Thomas and his son Gene are shot dead in their central Wellington office.

1995: John Barlow is jailed for life after he is found guilty at his third trial. Juries at his first two trials could not agree on a verdict.

2008: Barlow is granted a two-day Privy Council appeal hearing in London.

The Dominion Post