The immediate release of a jailed former cafe worker has been ordered by a NSW court after it emerged police may have accidentally put his DNA on illegal weapons.
Part-time kofta chef Mounir Seifeddine and his boss, Tim Abraham, were arrested in 2017 after police found three unregistered firearms hidden in a large container previously used for pickles in Mr Abraham's cafe.
A crime scene officer collected DNA samples from a number of items seized by police, with analysis finding matches to Mr Seifeddine's DNA.
One of those places was the trigger area of a Smith and Wesson revolver.
Evidence presented at the men's joint trial also showed the day before the guns were found, Mr Seifeddine had entered a storeroom and accessed a wall cavity in which the pickles bucket was found.
But there was no direct image or other evidence showing him handling the bucket or anything inside at any time.
The accused said he'd been hunting for an extension cord, which was normally kept in a pickle bucket in the wall cavity area.
He denied seeing or handling weapons, saying "I don't use those things".
His innocent explanations were rejected by a jury in 2019, leading to a five-and-a-half-year jail term. But the Court of Criminal Appeal heard his appeal in April and quickly ordered his immediate release, having served 486 days.
Explaining its decision on Monday, the court said there was a "reasonable possibility" police transferred Mr Seifeddine's DNA while searching the storage area and finding the guns.
A police officer had agreed that between putting on gloves and handling the guns in the bucket, he'd touched his phone, a cardboard box, the wall cavity door handle, the handle of the pickle bucket and a sock tightly covering the revolver.
While he said he was careful to not touch the trigger, the officer admitted he didn't change his gloves between handling the sock and proceeding to safely unload the revolver.
Police footage also showed a detective touch the middle of the sock and then the revolver.
A DNA expert told the trial it was likely that the sock rubbed on the surface of the revolver and estimated up to 76 per cent of the sock's DNA could have transferred onto the revolver.
No DNA samples were taken of the sock.
The Crown's circumstantial case also relied on other elements, including Mr Seifeddine's access to the storeroom, his regular shifts at the cafe, and the lack of anyone but the accused men going to the wall cavity in the week before the weapons were found.
If satisfied Mr Seifeddine touched the bucket, jurors were told they could infer he exercised control over the firearms, satisfying elements of his prohibited firearms possession charge.
But the Crown failed to eliminate Mr Seifeddine's suggestions that his DNA on the trigger could have come from the sock, or have innocently ended up on the pickle bucket or on a towel inside.
"Given the significant manipulation which was required to remove the revolver ... it is reasonably possible that any DNA was transferred to the revolver in that process," the court said.