A murder trial heard today of the "distinct smell of decay" after a specialist police dog uncovered the make-shift riverbank grave of pensioner Attracta Harron four months after going missing walking home from Mass in December 2003.
Dungannon Crown Court also heard that the riverbank bordered the Concess Road home in Sion Mills of 23-year-old farm labourer Trevor William Hamilton who denies murdering the 65-year-old mother of five on December 11 2003.
Mrs Harron`s naked body, a meal sack for a shroud, was uncovered in the make-shift grave on April 5, 2004 by one of two specially trained police dogs from South Yorkshire Constabulary who had been drafted in to help in solving her disappearance.
Constable John Ellis, said he realised the dog operated by his team-mate Martin Grime, a dog called "Eddie", a Springer Spaniel, had found something, because of his barking.
He added he continued searching with his dog "Frankie" a Border Collie, and that when he approached Constable Grime`s position, "there was a distinct smell of decay".
Constable Grime had told the court that as he searched the hedgerows and riverbank "Eddie" jumped into the stream and at one stage was being swept away by the current.
However, the dog managed to swim back up and jumped unto a pile of stones on the further bank and started barking.
"I immediately noted that he had found something and I made my way to the bank and saw what he had found," said Constable Grime.
The Sheffield based officer revealed this was the second time his team had allegedly uncovered evidence in the case after being called in by Strabane police to help in the search for the retired librarian.
He revealed that in February 2004, during a search of Hamilton`s mother`s burnt out car, "Eddie", allegedly uncovered traces of blood which the prosecution claim came from Mrs Harron.
Blood samples recovered from a mat in the red Hyundai Lantra car when tested for DNA, showed there was a billion to one chance it had not come from the pensioner.
Constable Ellis also claimed that his dog, "Frankie" also uncovered something in the rear of the car.
He said that unlike "Eddie", for some reason his dog did
not stay in the back of the car, but jumped from the vehicle and "alerted me with the dog looking back into the car".
Earlier the court heard that the cause of the fire which gutted the car could not be established.
The court heard that the car was burnt at Hamilton`s home the day the retired librarian disappeared while walking to her Strabane home across the border after attending daily Mass at Murlough Church in Lifford, County Donegal.
Forensic expert Denis McCauley, said while
he found no traces of an accelerant such as petrol, paraffin or diesel, he had established the fire had begun in the interior of the vehicle and spread to the engine compartment.
The forensic expert said from follow-up examinations carried out in March and April, 2004, he was able to say that the driver`s window was open between 14 and 15 inches, at the time of the blaze.
Mr McCauley said that the three other windows were probably closed, but had all four windows been shut the fire could have extinguished itself, by starving itself of oxygen.
However, he agreed with the defence that a rag doused in petrol could have been thrown into the car and perished in the fire, leaving no trace.
u.tv © UTV News
SANDY CAMERON : A strange odour in McCanns rental car.
MARTIN GRIME: Told to 'play down' his dogs findings in McCann case.