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The Case of Roger Kearney

By Jez Williams & Louise Shorter on 31/07/13

The Case of Roger Kearney

From Inside Time August 2013

Since Inside Justice was set up we have been asked to investigate 600 cases. We have always believed that collaboration with carefully chosen external agencies, whether that’s lawyers, experts or students will allow us to help the most innocent prisoners that we possibly can. We are delighted to announce that we have just forged links with Portsmouth University and are working with them specifically on one murder case which is local to their area; the case of Roger Kearney. Portsmouth University has impressive state-oftheart equipment used in forensic investigations. Their tutors make it their business to know the most up to date techniques and we very much hope this new working relationship will be beneficial to all. As usual, we would be pleased to hear from readers, particularly if they have any knowledge of the crime written about this month or any suggestions to new lines of enquiry we might pursue. Louise Shorter, Inside Justice

The Case of Roger Kearney

On the evening of the 17th October 2008, Roger Kearney had dinner and watched television with his partner before heading to the Royal Mail Depot in Southampton to start his night-shift. On the same night, Paula Poolton, Roger Kearney's secret lover, went missing. Eleven days later her body was discovered in the boot of her car. She had been stabbed. Police enquiries soon exposed the nature of Roger Kearney's and Paula Poolton's relationship which became the focus of their investigation. Roger Kearney was charged and later convicted of a murder he proclaims he had no part in.

Roger Kearney and Paula Poolton had been having an affair since early July 2008. They 34 Insidetime August 2013 www.insidetime.org Insidejustice investigating alleged miscarriages of justice met at Southampton Football Club while working as Stewards and had become members of the same gym. As the relationship developed it was said that Paula Poolton wanted a future with Roger Kearney, as she started looking for somewhere to live together. At the trial, the prosecution claimed Roger Kearney had no intention of leaving the woman he'd lived with for many years and that he had too much to lose if Paula told her about their affair. The prosecution speculated that a phone call between the lovers ended angrily only hours before the victim went missing but Roger Kearney rejected these claims saying the call ended on good terms. According to Roger Kearney, the affair was continuing at the time of Paula Poolton's death; they were intimate two days before she disappeared and met at the gym a day before.
Roger Kearney's defence was one of alibi. At the trial, he claimed that he left home just after 10 o'clock in the evening for work. His partner confirmed this as she remembered watching the TV show Little Britain with him until 10pm, after which he got ready to go to work. The prosecution's case was that Roger Kearney left home at 9:30pm, giving him the opportunity to murder Paula Poolton in the critical period between 9:40pm and 10:26pm in her car parked on a road leading to a busy commuter train station. Louisa Wigginton, Roger Kearney's daughter told Inside Time the defence argued at trial that "timings of people caught on CCTV around the station meant there were only two periods of three minutes each when no-one would have been passing the deposition site" where the victim's body was found.

Though this use of CCTV could have been important for the defence, it was the prosecution's use of other CCTV which became the single most important plank of evidence; a string of indistinct CCTV images which experts disagreed over. It was clear to all the images were of exceptionally poor quality; often showing only headlights or hazy side views of a vehicle in the dark. Yet the prosecution expert relied on a number of images from the night of the murder that showed a vehicle, which he said could be the same make and model as Roger Kearney's vehicle, at several locations close to the area where Paula Poolton's body was found. The defence accepted one image was of Roger Kearney's vehicle en route to work and this was entirely consistent with his arrival time at work if he left after watching Little Britain, as claimed from the start. Significantly, the defence found an image not mentioned by the prosecution which showed a vehicle leaving Roger Kearney's street which could have been his car leaving soon after the TV show ended. If this is his car, he could not have murdered Paula Poolton.

Alongside the CCTV evidence, the prosecution said Paula Poolton was attacked in her vehicle and the attack continued outside the car before being placed in the boot of her vehicle. Yet, a trickle of blood on Paula Poolton's face was inconsistent with the position the body was found, indicating her body would have been in a different position long enough for the blood to dry. The defence reminded the jury that even on the prosecution theory that Roger Kearney left home earlier than he'd said, he still only had a brief window of 46 minutes in which to commit the murder, dispose of the body and cover his tracks. During the trial, expert evidence revealed it was not possible scientifically to exclude the hypothesis that Paula Poolton may have been killed at some other unknown location.

During the police investigation, Roger Kearney's vehicle, clothes and house were searched with many exhibits seized. Given the nature of the attack, it was suggested by two pathologists and an experienced forensic scientist that the likelihood of DNA transfer between Paula Poolton and her attacker was strong. Moreover, it was said that she was placed in the boot of her vehicle by her attacker; this would increase the possibility of transfer. Upon examination, no blood attributable to Paula Poolton was detected on the vehicle and items belonging to Roger Kearney.

A carrier bag, with the items she had purchased before she went missing, was also recovered from Paula Poolton's vehicle. A partial finger mark in blood in the knot of the carrier bag handles was obtained and subjected to fingerprint comparison analysis. After fingerprint treatment, it was accepted that the fingerprint did not match the victim's or Roger Kearney's, however, in relation to another significant suspect, the result of the analysis was inconclusive; he could not be ruled out.

From the moment he was first questioned, Roger Kearney has always protested his innocence. His daughter Louisa Wigginton said "it is heartbreaking and so wrong. We shall never give up."

Inside Justice would like to hear from CCTV experts and academics who believe it may be possible to enhance the poor images captured in 2008. 

Please write to the usual mailbag address and mark your letter for Inside Justice.

Unanswered questions
1. Can the CCTV evidence be improved?

2. Were any other 4x4 vehicles such as a Mitsubishi Shogun Sport or Range Rover Sport driving around the Park Gate area of Fareham, Southampton on the night of October 17th 2008. Please contact us if so.

3. What happened to the victim's mobile phone, car keys and the murder weapon?

4. If Paula Poolton was killed at the deposition site (a busy train station) why were there no witnesses and why did it take 11 days to find her car?

5. Fibre examination would have indicated who placed the body in the boot; samples were taken but were they tested?

6. Would enhancement finally solve the issue of the finger mark in blood? This crucial piece of evidence has already pointed away from Roger Kearney.