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How a tuft of blue fiber led detectives to a killer

A tuft of blue fibers found in a murder victim’s mouth helped lead police to her killer, a BBC documentary explains.

Vina Patel, 51, was found dead in her office at Cort and Co solicitors in Leicester on January 15, 2009.

Her body was discovered at the bottom of the stairs by her husband and daughter, making it look like a trap. But the police suspect malicious intent.

The police investigation was re-examined in BBC’s expert witness, which focused on the work of Professor Roger Robson, a leading expert in textile fiber and hair forensics with over 40 years of experience.

Lawyer Vina Patel, 51, was found dead in her office in Leicester on January 15, 2009.  Her body was discovered by her husband, pictured, and daughter at the bottom of the stairs

Lawyer Vina Patel, 51, was found dead in her office in Leicester on January 15, 2009. Her body was discovered by her husband, pictured, and daughter at the bottom of the stairs

Professor Jobson was able to analyze distinctive blue fibers found on Vina’s body, eventually helping her link her murder to her business partner John Cort, who had hired a hit man to carry out the murder so that he could receive a life insurance benefit. to get.

“It’s amazing that a tiny thread of a few fibers can lead to all kinds of other evidence and even crack the case for researchers,” said Professor Jobson.

In the case of Vina’s murder, forensic investigators found tufts of blue fibers “hanging from the side of her mouth” and “protruding between her fingers” from one hand.

Professor Jobson continued: ‘The inference’ [was] something had either been used to restrain her, perhaps wrapped over her head.

“Or, if she had been murdered and the body was put in situ to make it look like an accident, she might have been wrapped in something so that the body could be moved.

“Every contact leaves a trail, so we try to look at the victim’s clothing. Each fiber has usually traveled a short distance from the manufacturing stage to where we find it, which can give it a bit of individuality.’

Critical clue: Blue fiber (seen in the image) proved to be integral to solving the murder case

Critical clue: Blue fiber (seen in the image) proved to be integral to solving the murder case

Critical clue: Blue fiber (seen in the image) proved to be integral to solving the murder case

First, Professor Jobson analyzed the morphology, cross-sectional shape, color and chemical composition of the two fiber samples and determined that they were of the same material.

“It was relatively easy to identify the fibers,” he continued. “They were made of blue polypropylene,” a nylon-like material used to make hard-wearing rugs and carpets.

“But they were really unusual because they were exceptionally thin. I had never seen such polypropylene fibres.’

The next step was to rule out the possibility that the fibers had simply been transferred from something she came into contact with in her home or office. Once this happened, the fibers were much more likely to be associated with her perpetrator.

Detailed examination revealed a fish-eye extrusion marker along the length of the fiber. ‘The marker is like a fingerprint, specific to their brand,” Professor Jobson explained. It meant he might be able to trace the material back to the manufacturer.

He started a company in Bradford.

“They had their technical team together and by the end of the first day they knew they could take themselves out,” he said. In the end they followed the fiber to its source: a ‘factory’ in India.

Expert Witness: The police investigation was re-examined in BBC's Expert Witness, which focused on the work of Professor Roger Robson, pictured, a leading expert in textile fiber and hair forensics, with over 40 years of experience

Expert Witness: The police investigation was re-examined in BBC's Expert Witness, which focused on the work of Professor Roger Robson, pictured, a leading expert in textile fiber and hair forensics, with over 40 years of experience

Expert Witness: The police investigation was re-examined in BBC’s Expert Witness, which focused on the work of Professor Roger Robson, pictured, a leading expert in textile fiber and hair forensics, with over 40 years of experience

“They had a talk with the director, and sure enough, this man had used this very fine polypropylene fiber to make small carpets.”

They did not export them to the UK or Europe, but exported to one outlet in Jamaica.

At the same time, police had been investigating the transactions of her business partner, John Cort, also a close friend for 30 years.

As it turned out, Cort led a lavish lifestyle far beyond his means, owned two flats in West London and a penthouse in Leicester, and paid for expensive hotel stays in London.

Weeks before Mrs Patel’s death, he had convinced her that they should increase their life insurance policy from £500,000 to £1.5million because he claimed he had a serious illness.

More than £650,000 was missing from the company’s customer account, which should have been paid to customers or mortgage lenders. He also took £1.1 million from the company, the BBC claimed.

The DNA found on Vina’s body closely matched Brian Farrell, described by the BBC as a friend and sometimes lover of Cort.

Professor Jobson was able to analyze distinctive blue fibers found on Vina's body, which ultimately helped link her murder to her business partner John Cort, pictured

Professor Jobson was able to analyze distinctive blue fibers found on Vina's body, which ultimately helped link her murder to her business partner John Cort, pictured

He hired hitman Brian Farrell (pictured) to carry out the murder so he could get a life insurance payout

He hired hitman Brian Farrell (pictured) to carry out the murder so he could get a life insurance payout

Professor Jobson was able to analyze distinctive blue fibers found on Vina’s body, which ultimately helped link her murder to her business partner John Cort, left, who had hired hitman Brian Farrell (right) to carry out the murder, so he could get a life insurance payout

When questioned by police, Farrell made no secret of the fact that he’d been in the office and said he and Cort had sex, so it’s possible his DNA had somehow been transferred to Vina shortly before they got married. was murdered.

This statement meant that his DNA alone wouldn’t be enough to tie him — or Cort — to the crime.

But investigations revealed that Farrell had recently returned from Jamaica, the only country to which the Indian factory exported.

Police believed he bought the rug during his visit, brought it back to the UK and then wrapped Vina’s body in the rug.

The court evidence suggested that she either fell because she was attacked or was assaulted, and her body made it look like an accident.

John Cort of Leicester and Brian Farrell of West London were found guilty of the murder of Mrs Patel in May 2010 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

With a minimum term of 29 years for Cort and 28 years for Farrell, Ms. Judge Linda Dobbs told them the murder was “premeditated, calculated and ruthless.”

During the trial at Nottingham Crown Court, the court learned that Cort, who is in debt, hired Farrell to commit the murder in a “contract murder” that would lead to a huge life insurance payout.

The suitcase was held together by unique blue fibers.

Professor Jobson added: ‘Just a few tufts of fiber take you across the world to India, then back across the world to Jamaica, and then all the way back to Leicester.

“It just shows what powerful inferences fibers can provide for a study.”

Expert Witness is available to watch on iPlayer

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