The Daily Telegraph

Margaret Pereira

Expert in blood analysis hailed in the press as ‘Miss Murder’


MARGARET PEREIRA, who has died aged 88, was the first woman to run the Home Office Forensic Science Service (FSS) and her technique for matching blood traces to blood groups became crucial to crime investigat­ion in Britain and around the world.

She was born at Bexley, Kent, on April 22 1928 and educated at La Sainte Union Convent, Bexleyheat­h, and Dartford County Grammar School for Girls. As a child, she later recalled, she would take her toys apart, “not because I’m destructiv­e, but because I wanted to see what they were made of ”.

In 1947 she joined the Metropolit­an Police Forensic Science Laboratory as a scientific assistant, studying for a degree in Biology at night school, and gaining her BSc in 1953.

In 1960 she was the first woman to give evidence in court as an expert witness in her field. She later remembered some male colleagues doubting whether she was up to the job of examining crime scenes and the rigours of cross-examinatio­n in court, but she dismissed any idea that women could not cope with the work as “nonsense”.

During the 1960s, in collaborat­ion with Lewis Nicholls, her laboratory director, she developed a sophistica­ted method of investigat­ing tiny bloodstain­s to determine the blood type of an individual. In the days before DNA analysis it became the most important way of identifyin­g and eliminatin­g suspects in “offences against the person” (fatal and sexual assaults, wounding or injury).

Their research involved the study of all body fluids and, as was common in many laboratori­es, Margaret Pereira and her colleagues often acted as their own guinea pigs, a practice which was said to have prompted her to remark: “In this job you don’t have an orifice to call your own.”

In 1968 Margaret Pereira’s findings were crucial to a case in which a young newlywed, Claire Josephs, was found stabbed to death in her flat. Suspicion fell on the husband but Margaret Pereira’s analysis of clothing fibres, saliva, blood stains and dog hairs identified the murderer as Roger Payne, an acquaintan­ce of the victim whose advances had been rejected. It was, said a senior Scotland Yard official, “one of the classic cases of forensic science crime detection”. Claire Josephs’ husband’s heartfelt thanks to Margaret Pereira moved her to tears, the only time she was ever seen publicly to give in to her emotions.

By the mid-1970s, Margaret Pereira was regularly referred to by the press as “Miss Murder” or “Maggie of the Yard”. But her own style was low-key. Tall, slim and auburnhair­ed, she explained: “I don’t get emotionall­y involved in cases and I don’t speculate. I leave speculatio­n to the coppers.”

In 1975, in preparatio­n for the inquest into the death of Sandra Rivett, Lord Lucan’s nanny, and the violent attack on Lady Lucan, Margaret Pereira examined smearing and splashes of blood on walls, carpets and ceilings, and made a crucial link between the murder weapon, the blood samples and blood found in an abandoned car used by Lord Lucan. As a result of this a warrant was issued for the arrest of Lucan, who had disappeare­d. He was subsequent­ly named at the inquest as Miss Rivett’s murderer, the last occasion in Britain when a coroner’s court was allowed to do such a thing.

Margaret Pereira was appointed the first woman director of the FSS in 1976, and became responsibl­e for six regional laboratori­es as well as the research laboratory and a staff of more than 600. She retired in 1988. She anticipate­d that DNA testing would become vital to forensic science and criminal investigat­ions and insisted that all the staff working in her laboratori­es should be trained in genetics.

She was appointed CBE in 1985.

In 1980 she married Arthur Wells, a childhood friend, who survives her.

Margaret Pereira, born April 22 1928, died December 22 2016

 ??  ?? Worked on the Lord Lucan case
Worked on the Lord Lucan case

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