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Nappies OK'd by beaks in Nowak space loverat fracas

Lawyer offers pants explanation

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Statements made to police by former astronaut Lisa Nowak, accused of plotting to kidnap and mishandle a rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot, have been thrown out of court by appeal judges. However various items found in her possession and in her car - including used nappies allegedly worn by Nowak, a hunting knife, a mallet, a BB gun and rubbish bags - will be admitted as evidence.

Nowak, a US Navy aviator, was arrested by Florida cops in February last year after pepper-spraying air force captain Colleen Shipman in an airport car park. Shipman escaped the confrontation in good order, but after Nowak was arrested police said she had admitted driving for twelve hours without sleep or lavatory breaks (hence the nappies) in order to intercept her love rival.

Investigators said that Nowak - a mother of three - had disguised herself with a wig, trenchcoat and glasses before the attack, and was carrying the aforementioned disturbing arsenal of tools and weaponry with her.

Following the incident, NASA sacked the troubled astronaut and she is now in a holding assignment as a flight instructor with the Navy. Divorced space-shuttle pilot, naval officer and astro romanta-rat Bill Oefelein, who apparently enjoyed the affections of Nowak and Shipman concurrently while Nowak remained married to a brother Navy flier, was also drummed out of the astronaut corps.

The trial judge in the Nowak case, however, threw out almost all the prosecution evidence against her late last year, saying that police hadn't fully upheld her Miranda rights. This, in the view of the original judge, invalidated not only her statement after being arrested but most of the physical evidence too. Police had only found and searched Nowak's car after she told them where it was.

Prosecutors took this decision to appeal, however. Appeal beaks have this week ruled that indeed the interview statements aren't kosher and can't be used. However they say that the cops would have found her car anyway, did in fact have probable cause to search it, and so the physical exhibits - including maps showing how to get to Shipman's home - are admissible.

Nowak's legal representatives strongly dispute the prosecution's version of events.

"The police used coercive tactics, and her interview was not voluntary," her lawyer Donald Lykkebak told Florida Today. "Captain Nowak looks forward to returning to the circuit court and defending all charges."

Lykkebak has previously stated that the much-wrangled-over nappies found in Nowak's motor were actually her children's, used while evacuating in the face of Hurricane Rita in September 2005, fifteen months before the unpleasantness in the carpark. Nowak's youngest would then have been aged four, according to a speech she gave to a Catholic girls' school in 2006.

The date of the case's return to trial has yet to be set. ®

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