In a recent development that has rekindled the investigation into an unsolved murder case from 1976, a bloody handprint found at the scene of the crime has provided significant clues, though other crucial DNA evidence remains lost. The victim, Ernest Allan Head, a quiet and well-regarded gay man, was brutally stabbed 35 times in his Summer Hill apartment in Sydney’s inner west.
The bloody handprint, originally tested in 2005 with no matches found, was re-examined this year as part of an inquiry into suspected gay hate crimes in New South Wales between 1970 and 2010. Astonishingly, the print matched Engin Simsek, a man born in Turkey who emigrated to Australia in 1972. This revelation has raised questions about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Head’s tragic demise.
Mr. Simsek had relatives residing in the same street as Mr. Head in the early 1970s, suggesting a possible connection between the two. Despite Mr. Simsek’s criminal history, which included convictions and imprisonment, he left Australia in 1994 and tragically ended his life in Turkey in 1999.
While this discovery “powerfully indicates” Mr. Simsek’s involvement in the events leading to Mr. Head’s death, it remains uncertain whether the murder was committed by more than one person. The original police investigation, which was deemed thorough, collected over 50 exhibits and interviewed around 100 individuals.
The case highlights the significance of re-evaluating old prints when technological upgrades occur. A 2015 upgrade to the fingerprint algorithm could have led to a more accurate identification of Mr. Simsek’s prints. However, the national database does not automatically re-scan latent, unidentified prints unless initiated manually.
Crucially, other exhibits containing “high-yield DNA sources” such as semen, saliva, and human hair have been lost, potentially holding key information about the circumstances of the crime. While DNA testing wasn’t foreseeable in 1976, the loss of these exhibits has raised concerns about proper police practices and the prospects of a successful prosecution had Mr. Simsek been alive today.
As the inquiry continues its examination into this unsolved gay hate crime and others like it, the need for improved evidence preservation and review processes is apparent. The revelation of the bloody handprint serves as a significant step toward achieving justice for victims like Ernest Allan Head, who tragically lost their lives to senseless violence.