The prosecution experts said the stab wounds of Christopher, Helen and Stephen were similar and this implied there was only one perpetrator. This information was wrong but the judge allowed it to be presented to the jury over objections by Jeff’s legal team.
The expert opinions presented to the jury included:
1. The number, location and pattern of wounds on each body was similar in all three victims
2. The location of the stab wounds on each victim’s body was unusual. In particular the concentration of wounds to the chest and the absence of wounds to the abdomen was said to be a key similarity
3. Such a high number of stab wounds is “rare”
4. There was a distinctive pattern of injury in each victim
In addition to the experts who gave evidence at Jeff’s trial, the prosecution also obtained an expert opinion from an internationally renowned forensic pathologist that disagreed with the other experts. The prosecution refused to bring this witness to give evidence at Jeff’s hearing claiming that he was “plainly unreliable”.
The prosecutor then presented the following conclusion to the jury:
“It’s an extraordinary coincidence, ladies and gentlemen, it couldn’t possibly, you couldn’t possibly accept that that happened just as a coincidence; it was the same person doing the same three stabbings..,” (T1444.50)
The judge stated that the Crown’s case would be weaker if the evidence about the similarities of the wounds wasn’t conclusive. In fact he said: “It might make the Crown’s case a lot weaker.” (Day 23, summing up of Jeff’s second trial)
The Jeff NEEDS Justice team reviewed over 70 scientific research papers on stab wounds. We discovered that the “expert opinions” presented at trial were not backed up by the published scientific research.
1. There is no pattern of stab wounds. The injuries received by Steve, Helen and Christopher are no more similar to each other than they are to the injuries sustained by victims of multiple stabbing in unrelated cases.
2. It is not rare for fatally wounded victims to have no injuries to the abdomen. The chest area is the most common site of stab wound injuries.
3. It is not rare for stab victims to have more than 10 stab wounds. Five separate studies, from Australia and overseas, showed that 16% to 29% of all homicide stabbings involved cases where the victim was stabbed more than 10 times.
4. Where a victim and perpetrator were in a close or family relationship, the number of cases with more than 10 stab wounds was even higher. One study showed that 40% of these cases involved more than 10 stab wounds to the victim.
5. There were some important differences in the injuries between Christopher and his parents, which were not presented to the jury. For example, both Helen and Steve sustained neck wounds and the injuries sustained by Christopher to his chest were aligned differently and were far more closely spaced.
That all three Gilhams died from multiple stab wounds is not an “extraordinary coincidence” and cannot be relied upon to argue that all three were killed by the same person.
The jury were misled by the evidence of the expert witnesses such that the only conclusion they could reach was that Jeff killed his parents as well as his brother. The stab wounds evidence presented to the jury is not supported by scientific observation or data.
- The scientific research available on stab wounds directly contradicts the evidence presented to the jury
- The jury was provided with evidence from three expert witnesses. Not one of these experts gave evidence that is supported by the scientific research
- Any similarities of the wounds across all three victims, for example the number and location of the wounds, do not assist in determining the ultimate question of Jeff’s guilt or innocence