DNA link in 2002 sex attack on girl

A 32-year-old man is on trial in Invercargill after DNA linked him to an alleged burglary and indecent assault on a 7-year-old girl eight years after the incident.

Hayden John Dallas Matchett has pleaded not guilty to indecently assaulting a girl aged under 12 and burglary of the house where the incident occurred at Te Anau on March 8, 2002.

The trial, in Invercargill District Court, began yesterday before Judge Michael Turner, with an opening address from Crown solicitor Mary-Jane Thomas.

Ms Thomas told the court Matchett was questioned by police after DNA from a baseball cap left at the crime scene matched his eight years after the incident.

About 3.40am on March 8, 2002, the complainant, who was staying at a friend's house, was asleep in bed when a man entered the house through a closed laundry door.

The man went into the bedroom where the girl was sleeping, knelt down beside the bed and indecently assaulted her, Ms Thomas said.

The girl, who is now a young woman, woke up and told him to go away and within a short time he left. No one other than the 7-year-old had seen the man, she said.

Police were contacted and in the bedroom they found a blue Nike cap, she said.

The cap was examined at the time by ESR for DNA and a blood stain and cellular material was found. There was no DNA match in the system, she said.

Police conducted a widespread inquiry after the girl gave them a description of a man with spiky blonde hair, but no arrest was made, Ms Thomas said.

Every now and then, in unsolved cases, DNA is run through the system. In 2010 there was a match and the DNA evidence provided "extremely strong scientific support for the proposition that the DNA originated from Matchett", Ms Thomas said.

Matchett was spoken to by police and said he was living in the area at the time of the incident. He had no memory of going to the house or indecently assaulting the complainant, she said.

Defence lawyer Mike Newell said in his opening statement the DNA was not a factor in the trial. The defence did not dispute the DNA was probably Matchett's.

The issue was instead whether the intruder wearing the cap was Matchett.

Mr Newell said there would be evidence to lead the jury to believe several people had previously worn the cap.

Matchett's evidential interview, conducted by Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Bowman, was played to the jury yesterday.

In the 2012 interview, Matchett told Mr Bowman he remembered being as alarmed and shocked as everyone else when he heard about the indecent assault.

He told Mr Bowman he could not recall being involved in the incident. He said his hair colour had only ever been red or black, had never been spiky and he had never worn caps.

Matchett told Mr Bowman he used to be a heavy drinker and, on a few occasions, had woken up in areas with no recollection of how he got there.

Mr Bowman asked him if it was possible he was involved in the incident but did not remember. Matchett said he had no idea.

Mr Bowman is expected to be cross-examined this morning and closings are expected this afternoon.

The Southland Times