Caution: this article contains disturbing content.
Three forensic scientists who examined the wooden crate containing Samantha Collins’ remains have yet to conclusively pin their findings on her accused killer.
All three experts, who are from the Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS), had personally examined the wooden crate containing the four plastic pails where Collins’ dismembered remains were discovered on July 8, 2010. The crate was found by the owner of a Wood Lake cottage in a storage area where Collins’ former partner – Ian Charles Borbely – was contracted to install insulation and mesh.
Borbely, an Orillia man, was arrested and charged with her murder a year later.
Christine McCarthy, a CFS hair and fiber expert, testified that she found a black synthetic fiber and some hair from the crate.
“The fiber itself was identified as being polypropylene,” she said.
McCarthy said that type of fiber is typically found in upholstery, rope or carpeting. She said she compared the fiber from the crate to a number of samples gathered by police, including upholstery from a now scrapped 1993 Ford Escort that Borbely once owned.
The fiber was also compared with upholstery from a GMC Jimmy that an investigator’s reports say was owned by a “person of interest.”
The fiber from the crate, McCarthy said, proved to be “unlike any of the sources I was provided.”
From an autopsy, McCarthy said she also obtained a number of hairs from Collins’ remains, along with a yellowish-reddish polyester fiber and some dark-coloured yarn. Another white polyester fiber and hairs were found by police in one of the pails that contained Collins’ remains.
Though McCarthy said the yarn was likely from a garment, she said the yellowish-reddish fiber she found didn’t match samples she was provided by police. She said the origin of the white polyester fiber was also extremely difficult to pinpoint.
“They were plain, white, polyester fibers that could be found in any number of areas,” she said.
Of all the hair collected, only about four hairs were deemed suitable for DNA analysis. Those DNA tests, McCarthy said, were done by another expert.
Carpet fiber samples also found on Collins’ body also did not match another sample of a carpet found at a Bracebridge landfill.
The court heard that police originally believed the carpet was installed at a residence where Collins once lived.
Garry Lawrence, a CFS firearms and tool markings expert, read from an investigator’s report that suggested the wooden crate “could have been built with surplus materials from where the suspect worked.”
Lawrence said he was tasked with comparing nails and screws from the crate with items collected by police from Borbely’s various job sites.
Nails from the crate, he found, came from an automatic nail gun. But he said impact markings on nails from the crate weren’t clear enough to be conclusively traced to a nail gun that police had seized in their investigation. The nail gun found by officers, Lawrence said, was not in working order and required repairs before tests could be done.
“I cannot say it was used, I cannot say it was not used,” Lawrence said.
Other screws and nails that police collected were also dismissed in the course of his investigating.
CFS forensic chemistry expert Gavin Edmondstone said an epoxy substance found at the bottom of the crate was compared to two vehicles connected to the case, and that neither proved to be a match.
He also said the transparent plastic material that was wrapped around the pails couldn’t be definitely linked to similar materials at the Vadas cottage.
Polyurethane foam found in one of the pails, he said, was found to be of a different colour than foam used in the Vadas cottage.
Edmondstone also said each of the pails also contained different mixtures of liquids. In the first pail he examined, he found it contained mostly a mineral oil substance like motor oil, along with a trace amount of petroleum distillate. He told the court petroleum distillate products could include things like mineral spirits, barbeque lighter fluids and wood preservatives.
Liquid in the second pail was mostly water and a trace of petroleum distillate.
“Its PH is slightly basic,” he said. “There’s nothing very corrosive about it.”
The third pail was found to contain mineral or motor oil and traces of gasoline and polyurethane foam. The fourth pail contained water and a “biological” substance that Edmondstone said could be byproducts of Collins’ body. Again, a trace of petroleum distillate was found, along with 1-Proponol, which he said is similar to rubbing alcohol.
Last week the court had heard that Borbely was hired by cottage owner Dr. Peter Vadas to take over from a previous contractor who had moved to southern Ontario, leaving a number of tasks incomplete.
In a string of emails beginning on March 8, 2010, Vadas gave Borbely a list of odd jobs he wanted done, including trimming the grass, fixing the plumbing and repairing a chimney on a Bunkie.
Borbely, who was told by Vadas that Merrick Drive is a private road, asked Vadas in an April 25 email whether the path was open and ready to drive on yet.
“I need to get in there and get some measurements,” Borbely wrote.
Vadas said he then sent an email to a neighbour, who advised him the road was indeed drivable. He relayed that information to Borbely on May 2.
“Got a few things to finish up, then I’ll head out there,” Borbely wrote back.
Vadas replied by asking Borbely if he needed help setting up the cottage’s dock, and volunteered to help him by coming up to the cottage for a day.
“All good Peter, I got someone to help already,” Borbely wrote on May 3.
At this point, Borbely had already been given a key to the cottage, but didn’t get a key to unlock a chain blocking the driveway until at least May 18.
Vadas then gave Borbely the go-ahead to begin doing insulation work on the bottom floor of the cottage in June. Vadas told the court that that area was a storage area for various “odds and ends,” and that he last ventured down there in 2009 before police began investigating.
“It’s somewhat dark and there’s lots of mosquitoes,” said Vadas. “I prefer not to stay there for long.”
But in June 2010, Vadas said he needed to retrieve the key from Borbely to pass on to two other contractors hired to build a wood fire brick oven, and noticed Borbely sounded apprehensive.
“He seemed to express some concern,” said Vadas of Borbely’s demeanor.
He later met up with Borbely and his brother to receive the key.
The crate containing the pails with Collins’ remains discovered by police the following month, after a groundskeeper was instructed to see what was in it. It wasn’t until a police officer kicked over one of the buckets that Collins’ remains were discovered.
The trial continues this week. For continuing updates, please check this newspaper and cottagecountrynow.ca.