DNA linked to murder accused found on strangled mother’s clothes, court told

Mary McLaughlin
Mary McLaughlin (PA Media)
16:14pm, Wed 07 Apr 2021
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DNA found on the dress worn by, and dressing gown belt fastened around the neck of, a woman strangled to death in 1984 is attributable to her alleged murderer, a court has heard.

Mother-of-11 Mary McLaughlin, 58, was found dead at her home in Partick in Glasgow’s west end in October of that year after spending a night out at bars playing dominoes, the High Court in Glasgow has heard.

Graham McGill 59, denies murdering her and tightly fastening a belt from her dressing gown around her throat with intent to rape on September 26 or 27 that year.

On Wednesday, forensic biologist Joanne Cochrane told jurors she had re-examined items of evidence in the 36-year-old cold case with modern techniques she called the “gold standard of DNA profiling”.

Reading from her report, she told the court: “DNA attributable to Graham McGill was found on one cigarette end recovered from the home of Mary McLaughlin.

“Semen attributable to Graham McGill was found on a dress worn by Mary McLaughlin. DNA attributable to Graham McGill was found on the ligature around Mary McLaughlin’s neck.”

DNA, including semen, attributable to McGill was also found on a black bra found nearby her third floor flat in Crathie Court on Laurel Street, Mrs Cochrane added.

She went on: “The finding of semen attributable to Graham McGill on the dress worn by Mary McLaughlin in our opinion would be explained if semen from Graham McGill was deposited on to the dress during some form of sexual activity.

High Court in Glasgow (PA Archive)

“In our opinion one explanation for the finding of DNA attributable to Graham McGill within the knot of the ligature could be that Graham McGill had held the ligature while tying the knot.”

Under cross-examination by defence counsel Sarah Livingstone, Mrs Cochrane agreed she could not say when the semen was deposited on the dress and the manner in which it occurred.

Ms Livingstone said: “You’re not saying Graham McGill tied this knot?”

Mrs Cochrane said: “No, we’re considering it as one explanation. We’re aware there could be another explanation,” adding: “We accept the possibility of secondary transfer.”

A post-mortem examination carried out on October 2 found Ms McLaughlin died of ligature strangulation at least five days previously, jurors heard.

The level of alcohol in her blood indicated she was “grossly intoxicated” at the time of her death, the court heard.

The trial has been told that Ms McLaughlin was unemployed, had previously gone by surnames Cullen and Mullen, and had 11 children by two different partners.

McGill was arrested by officers in December 2019 and charged after police interview, the court heard.

He also faces a separate charge of threatening to murder Suzanne Russell and children at a house in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, between January 1 1985 and December 31 1988.

The trial, before judge Lord Burns, continues.

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