DNA recovered from gun found at scene of double murder

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The DNA of a landscape gardener accused of killing two men at Beck Row was found on a shotgun with a sawn off barrell recovered near the scene, a court has heard.

Traces of DNA from Christopher Line were also detected on a spent shotgun cartridge discovered in a field beside the travellers site where the men died. Ipswich Crown Court heard that the chances of the DNA not having come directly from Line was one in a billion.

The gun - one of five discovered by police in a ditch beside Willow Park at Beck Row - is alleged to have used by Line to “execute” David Castell and Shane Hill on March 15 last year.

On June 20 forensic scientist Lee Shufflebottom that the ‘over and under’ double barrel shotgun found to be carrying Line’s DNA was also spattered with traces of blood from Mr Castell. Line, 29, of Willow Park, Beck Row, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Hill, 21, from Stromness Road, Southend, and Mr Castell, 29, from Southend but of no fixed address.

It is alleged that Mr Castell and Mr Hill had travelled to Willow Park with the intention of starting fires and had set light to a caravan and a toilet block when Line confronted them and shot both dead in what prosecutor Karim Khalil QC said amounted to an “execution” before slipping away from the site rather than alerting the emergency services.

A post mortem examination showed that Mr Hill had been shot at least six times and Mr Castell, who was found inside a car which by then was on fire, had been shot two or three times.

The background to the arson attack had been a long running dispute involving members of the family of Line’s associate Sam Vinden who lived on the same plot at the travellers site.

The jury heard a statement from US serviceman Eduardo Martin who discovered the body of Mr Hill after going to investigate the sound of gunshots and a fire near his home in Beck Row. Mr Martin said: “I thought this can’t be happening because this sort of thing doesn’t happen in England because they don’t carry firearms.”

Although he spotted a red Toyota car with smashed side windows parked nearby, Mr Martin said he was unaware that it contained the body of Mr Castell and returned to his home to dial 999.

On Monday the jury heard that Line had been given at least 10 separate warnings by police about potential threats to his life resulting from a long running dispute -The most recent had being just three days before Mr Castell and Mr Hill died.

Line is alleged to have told a police officer that the dispute would end with him and his associate Sam Vinden, who lived on the same site, being killed or both of them serving a life sentence for murder, said Mr Khalil.

The court also heard from a second forensic scientist, Karen Rose, who said she had examined a brown hessian bag, a horse blanket and a blue waterproof jacket which police had found with the cache of shotguns.

While the bag and the jacket were found to bear a high level of gunshot residue, the level found on the horse blanket was classed as very high indicating it may have been exposed to a gun being discharged.

Line told the jury that he had been watching TV in a stable block from where he was keeping an eye on the property while Mr Vinden was away.

He had heard a “whooshing” noise and other sound which he though was gunfire and telephoned Mr Vinden who advised him to remain at the scene until police arrived.

Line said that instead he had panicked and fled from the site, spending the night in the churchyard at St Johns in Beck Row.

Denying that he was responsible for killing either man, Line told the jury that he had stolen the gun in a burglary in Peterborough and claimed to have used and fired it while hunting for rabbits and hares.

Line also admitted he had been involved in other burglaries, including ones in which firearms had been taken accepting that he had handled and hidden four other shotguns found by police in a ditch at Willow Park.

He said he was worried out them being found by police as he was growing cannabis on the site.

Line told the jury he had worked for a man called Sam Vinden since the age of 16 and knew that Mr Vinden was involved in a number of disputes with others in the travelling community.

He said he had told officers that he was not concerned about the threats made against his life as he believed Mr Vinden would protect him.

Despite that, Line told the jury that Mr Vinden had “not always been nice to him” and inflicted beatings when he failed to carry out work in the way required.

Line alleged that Mr Vinden had told him which proprties to burgle using information gathered by Line as he worked power washing driveways, roofs and walls.

The trial continues on Monday when Line is due to be cross examined.