Gunshot residue found on hat discovered after Captain's Quarters killing

An expert from Ottawa testified he discovered gunshot residue on the outside of a hat that the Crown contends was worn by Brandon Phillips.

Brandon Phillips charged with 1st-degree murder in shooting death of Larry Wellman Oct. 3, 2015

An expert testified that gunshot residue was found on the outside of the front of a hat found not far from the Captain's Quarters Hotel, on Oct. 4, 2015. (RNC photograph)

An expert from Ottawa testified he discovered gunshot residue on the outside of a hat that the Crown contends was worn by Brandon Phillips the night of a fatal 2015 armed robbery at a St. John's hotel.

Nigel Hearns, a gunshot residue specialist from the RCMP's crime lab, told a Supreme Court jury Friday that the front of a hat sent from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary tested positive for gunshot residue.

Hearns explained to the 12-person jury that fibres in clothing will — in some cases — hold gunshot residue for years if it is handled properly.

"If you don't wash it, it stays," he said.

Nigel Hearns, an expert in gunshot residue, testified to testing a hat seized as part of the Captain's Quarters investigation. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

The court has heard that RNC Const. Lisa Anderson found the hat around 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2015. It was nearly 10 and a half hours after bar patron Larry Wellman was shot.

Anderson located the hat on Forest Avenue, which runs behind the Captain's Quarters Hotel, which faces King's Bridge Road. 

Defence raises questions on handling of hat

Members of the RNC's forensic identification unit collected the hat about an hour later. 

Larry Wellman, 63, was killed by a single gunshot wound to the groin after he intervened in an armed robbery at the Captain's Quarters Hotel on Oct. 3, 2015. (RNC photograph)

During cross-examination Thursday, defence lawyer Jeff Brace questioned it if was possible that one of the RNC officers who had been at the crime scene could have transferred gunshot residue to the hat.

Hearns told the jury Friday that scenario is unlikely if clean gloves were used to collect the evidence.

Phillips, 29, is charged in the shooting death of Wellman, 63, on Oct. 3, 2015 during an armed robbery at the Captain's Quarters.

The Crown alleges Phillips brought a sawed-off shotgun to the hotel in order to rob it.

Hearns will be cross-examined Friday afternoon. 

So far in the trial, the jury has:

Want to follow the latest from the trial? Check out our live blog.

About the Author

Ariana Kelland


Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.