Conviction on finger print evidence

February 23, 1939

Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012

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Finger prints found at the scene of a crime were used for the first time in evidence in the Supreme Court in Invercargill yesterday, when the Crown Prosecutor (Mr H.J. Macalister) based the case for the Crown exclusively on finger prints found on a broken window pane.

The principal witness was a finger-print expert from the Criminal Registration Branch, Wellington, and it was his evidence that resulted in the conviction of the accused, who will be sentenced today.

The case was one in which Sandford Robert Young was charged with breaking and entering by night on December 8 the premises of the Port Craig Timber Company and stealing a safe containing money and the books of the company.

Mr B. W. Hewat appeared for the accused who pleaded not guilty.

The following jury was empanelled: John Forrester (foreman), William Gladstone Crowley, Leonard Roy Marchant, Michael Donovan, Prince Bell, Adrian Benjamin Turner, John Bayne, John Davidson, Gilbert Adam Brown, George McLeod, John Peddie, William Robert Riley.

Mr Macalister said the office of the company was broken into on the night of December 8 and the office safe was removed.

Entry was gained by breaking a window at the back.

After having broken the window the thief had to remove pieces of glass left stuck in the frame, and finger prints were found on these.

These prints were the only clue to the identity of the thief, and the pieces of glass were sent to the Criminal Registration Branch in Wellington, where the prints were compared with the prints of the accused and were found to be identical.

The accused was interviewed and denied all knowledge of the crime, saying he had not been near the company's office for four years.

He would give no information as to his movements that night but subsequent inquiries showed he had hired a car at 6.50pm and had returned it sometime after 10.30pm, and before 7.30am the next day.

If had travelled 26 miles.

The evidence of identity was furnished by the accused's finger prints and that evidence was the strongest evidence of identification known to modern science.

Herbert Sydney John Craig, manager of the Port Craig Timber Company Ltd, at Invercargill, said he went to his office the morning after the theft and found the front door open.

The safe had been removed from the premises and investigation showed the door had been unlatched, apparently from inside.

The contents of the safe included a cash box containing about £30, and a number of the firm's books.

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- The Southland Times

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