Miscarriages of Justice


Wayne Butler was convicted of the 1983 murder of Natasha Douty at Dingle Bay on Brampton Island. Natasha’s body was found under a red beach towel inside the bush line about 10 metres from the beach. Somebody (presumably the murderer) had masturbated on the towel. The semen when analysed in 1983 and also in 1984 showed that it came from a person with blood group "O". Butler is blood group "B+" and (on that basis) Butler was initially cleared of any involvement in the murder.

The year 1983 pre-dated DNA testing. However, in 1997, fourteen years later, scientists from the John Tonge Centre obtained the red towel and conducted a DNA test on the semen. The scientists claimed that the DNA extracted from the semen matched Butler’s DNA profile. On that basis, Butler was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. At Butler’s 2009 appeal, Professor Barry Boettcher pointed out that if the semen from the towel came from a group "O" person, then the semen could not belong to Butler. Despite this, Butler lost his appeal. Butler is still in jail and continues to maintain his innocence.

In November 2016 Butler applied to the Governor for a pardon. When no action was taken on this application by April 2017, Professor Barry Boettcher made a complaint of perjury against the scientists. Professor Boettcher has always maintained that the "match" between the DNA from the towel semen and Butler’s reference blood sample was due to a mislabelling of tubes of DNA inside the laboratory of the John Tonge Centre.

The stakes are now very high in this dispute. If Professor Boettcher is correct (and he was right in both the Chamberlain and Renton cases) the consequences will be widespread.

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