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Friday, August 26, 2011

Rectal swab would show no trace of sperm

Sulaiman Kamal | 8:10 PM | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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KUALA LUMPUR : A consultant molecular geneticist said he would not expect to see sperm on the rectal swab stick sample taken from Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan as bacterial overgrowth would have destroyed it, the High Court here heard today.
Dr Brian Leslie McDonald (pix), 60, from Australia said this when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyer Ram Karpal Singh asked about the condition of the rectal swab stick taken on June 28, 2008.
Ram said the sample was taken from Saiful’s anus 56 hours after the alleged sodomy on June 26, sealed and kept by the investigating officer for two days (in a cabinet) in his office i.e. 48 hours at room temperature, before it was sent to the Chemistry Department for analysis.
“I personally would not see any evidence. Bacterial overgrowth would have destroyed it within 48 hours. I would not expect to see sperm,” McDonald said.

Asked what would be the condition of a sample taken from a victim that was not frozen but instead kept at room temperature, McDonald said “total overgrowth of bacteria and fungus”. He said moisture and warmth at room temperature could cause bacterial growth.
Asked about the condition of the swab sample if it were in an air tight and sealed container, McDonald said it could be in an even worse condition. “If I want to destroy what is in the sample, that is a good way to do it,” he said.
McDonald is the defence’s fourth witness in Anwar’s trial for sodomy. He is charged with committing carnal intercourse against the order of nature on Saiful, 26, his former aide, at a unit of the Desa Damansara Condominiums in Bukit Damansara between 3.10pm and 4.30pm on June 26, 2008.
McDonald also agreed with Ram when he said that there was no evidence of the quantity of sperm found in the sample, based on the testimony of the prosecution witness from the chemistry department.
Asked whether the quantity of sperm is important in the case, McDonald said “in this case, critical”, as amount of sperm relates to the time of ejaculation in the alleged incident. Within six to eight hours after ejaculation, a high quantity of sperm would be found, he said.
Asked about the sample taken 56 hours after the alleged incident and kept at room temperature for 48 hours -- amounting to a total of more than 100 hours -- McDonald said it would have a low sperm count.
He said that once a swab stick was used to take a sample from the victim’s anus, a slide should be made immediately. He said the swab stick needs to be air-dried and smeared on the slide, before it is inspected under a microscope for sperm.
McDonald said the swab stick should be frozen -- -20 C or lower-- as soon as possible to stop the growth of bacteria or any other micro-organism which could destroy cells. He agreed with Ram that DNA is likely to degrade if not properly frozen.
Ram had earlier referred McDonald to the testimony of chemist Dr Seah Lay Hong from the Chemistry Department in regard to a swab stick given for analysis which had the wrong date on the label. Ram said that despite the wrong date, Seah had assumed it was a mistake and gave (Kuala Lumpur Hospital) doctors (who took the sample) the benefit of the doubt.
“With regard to the sample, it is an offence -- not an option – upon receiving a sample apparently mislabelled, to assume what the label should be,” McDonald said.
He said that if it was a mistake, the chemist would need to correct it and document the change. “This is fundamental laboratory practice.”
McDonald also agreed with Ram’s suggestion that Seah and another chemist, Nor Aidora Saedon, from the same department, had followed different guidelines on the electropherogram analysis.
To a suggestion that the sample taken from Saiful may not be the same sample sent to the chemist for analysis, McDonald said he could not comment as he did not have documentation on this.
The hearing before judge Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah continues tomorrow.

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