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The probe into the murder of 10-year-old Holly Jones took a new turn yesterday as police moved large items out of the accused's apartment in a bid to uncover new forensic evidence.

An elaborate system of tarpaulins was set up around a white cube van police parked in an alley behind Michael Briere's Bloor Street West apartment, shielding their work from the media.

Criminal-justice experts suggest that furniture, sinks, bathtubs, plumbing fixures, carpets and clothing would likely be of interest to investigators in the case. Police are also interested in the data on Mr. Briere's personal computer.

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The Globe and Mail has learned that Mr. Briere recently made a variety of on-line purchases including books, movies, and, on one occasion in May, more than $100 worth of pornography from a U.S. Web site.

Police expect to spend at least one more week going through Mr. Briere's apartment, seeking evidence to confirm their allegation that he is responsible for the premeditated murder of Holly Jones.

While police have made their version of events known -- they allege Mr. Briere killed Holly in his apartment and quickly dumped her body parts in Lake Ontario -- Mr. Briere has yet to reveal his version.

He is expected to choose a lawyer soon -- possibly criminal lawyer Leo Adler, who has expertise in defending suspects in cases in which DNA evidence figures prominently. Asked yesterday whether he would be representing Mr. Briere, Mr. Adler said he couldn't comment.

As far as the major players in the criminal-justice system are concerned, the Holly Jones case is shaping up to be much like one a decade earlier.

In 1990, a six-year-old named Andrea Atkinson told her mother she was going to visit a friend in her apartment building. She was discovered raped and strangled in a boiler room.

Julian Fantino, then a staff inspector with the homicide squad, announced the arrest of a maintenance worker. Crown attorney Paul Culver successfully prosecuted the case. Mr. Adler failed to convince a jury that DNA evidence was too speculative a science to convict his client.

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Last week, Chief Fantino announced that his detectives had arrested Mr. Briere for the Holly Jones murder. Mr. Culver has since signalled that he would like to prosecute the case.

In Montreal, a picture is emerging of Mr. Briere's tormented relationship with his mother, Marie-Ange.

She was an ailing and emotionally unstable woman who moved constantly with her son into a series of cheap apartments in working-class Montreal. She raised him alone, the boy's father having vanished from the scene before his son was born.

The mother-son relationship was a topsy-turvy one, according to an old classmate of Mr. Briere's. Because of the mother's fragile state, the young Michel played grownup to his childlike parent.

"It was a bit bizarre. He was the adult. He was the one who made the decisions, instead of her," recalled Daniel Crevier, a former high-school classmate and one of the rare friends of Michel's invited into the family home.

"I can't understand how she was allowed to have custody of him. Now that I'm an adult, I realize he shouldn't have been under her care."

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His mother's behaviour embarrassed the teenager, he said. A huge woman, she used to pedal around the neighborhood on a child's bicycle, while her son tried to pretend he didn't know her.

"He wouldn't tell anyone that it was his mother. He told me he was a bit ashamed of her," Mr. Crevier said. "I never saw him go out with her anywhere."

By the time Mr. Briere's mother died two years ago, her son had already moved to Toronto and transformed himself into Michael.

John Barber's column will return on Monday

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