Police have admitted they used an incorrect DNA sample to rule out a pedophile priest in the brutal killing of Melbourne cold case murder victim Maria James, ABC News reports.
A bloodied pillow case, used to establish a DNA profile for the suspected killer of the Thornbury single mother, came from an unrelated crime scene.
Local priest Fr Anthony Bongiorno, as well as multiple other suspects in Maria James' 1980 murder, were cleared as a result of DNA testing against that incorrect sample.
James' two sons, Mark and Adam James, have now formally applied to the Victorian coroner to set aside the original finding and reopen the 37-year-old case. James was stabbed 68 times in her home behind her Thornbury bookshop.
The ABC's Trace podcast has been reinvestigating the murder for over a year, and recently became aware that an incorrect DNA sample had been used to rule out persons of interest in the case.
On presenting that information to authorities, the ABC was issued a statement by Victoria Police stating it had discovered "an error in the handling of an exhibit".
"The exhibit in question had been forensically tested and used to eliminate suspects. A recent review by the homicide squad however has shown that the exhibit was in fact unrelated to the Maria James case," the statement said.
"A small number of persons of interest who had previously been eliminated will now be re-assessed in accordance with normal investigation procedures."
For nearly four decades, police have failed to identify Maria James' killer.
In 2013, it was revealed Fr Bongiorno sexually abused her 11-year-old son Adam, who has cerebral palsy and Tourette syndrome. Now 48, Adam said he told his mum of the abuse and believed she planned to confront the priest.
Mark James said he believed police should reinvestigate Fr Bongiorno, who died in 2002, as a key suspect. He also called for an investigation into Fr Thomas O'Keeffe, who once abused Adam James on the same day as Fr Bongiorno.