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Pfennig allowed to appeal Louise Bell conviction


The man found guilty of murdering Adelaide schoolgirl Louise Bell has been granted permission to appeal against his conviction after questioning the DNA evidence used in the case.

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Dieter Pfennig, 68, was last year convicted of abducting and killing 10-year-old Louise, more than 30 years after she was snatched from her bedroom window in Hackham West in 1983.

He was arrested in 2013 after DNA scientists in the Netherlands linked him to her pyjama top, which was found folded on a neighbour’s lawn.

Pfennif was sentenced to at least 35 years in prison for the killing after a judge-alone trial in the Supreme Court seemingly putting an end to the long-running case.

But the former science teacher questioned the validity of the DNA evidence and sought leave to appeal against the guilty verdict in the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The court delivered its decision on Tuesday, granting Pfennig permission to appeal against the conviction.

“The applicant contends that it is not possible to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that the applicant’s DNA was not transferred innocently by a secondary process,” Justice Malcolm Blue said in his judgment.

“I grant permission to the applicant to appeal on the ground that the verdict is unreasonable or incapable of being supported having regard to the evidence.”

Pfennig’s legal team claimed the prosecution evidence didn’t rule out the possibility that his DNA could have been innocently transferred to the pyjama top.

Defence lawyer Paul Chapman said this transfer could have been through Pfennig’s daughter, who went to school with Louise and played on the same basketball team.

But prosecutors discounted the involvement of the daughters, saying they were not close friends and the last known contact was before Louise’s parents bought her the pyjamas.

Louise’s disappearance in 1983 sparked a police search of unprecedented scale in suburban Adelaide. Her body has never been found.

In passing sentence on Pfennig over the murder in November last year, Justice Michael David described the killing of Louise as “a most evil crime”.

“The shock and anxiety that your crimes caused in the SA community cannot be compared to the distress that must have been suffered by the family of Louise Bell,” Justice David said.

When he was charged with Louise’s murder, Pfennig was already in prison for killing another child, 10-year-old Michael Black, in 1989.


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