Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Judges troubled by 'killer point' in Wood case

Louise Hall | SMH | 31 August 2011

TWO judges hearing Gordon Wood's appeal against his murder conviction say key parts of the prosecution case ''trouble'' them, including the so-called ''killer point'' - that Wood knew where Caroline Byrne's body would be found.

In November 2008, Wood was convicted of murdering Ms Byrne by spear-throwing her from The Gap, a notorious suicide spot, on June 7, 1995.

Wood, who was jailed for at least 13 years, has maintained Ms Byrne, his girlfriend of three years, committed suicide.

In the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday, the Crown prosecutor, Wendy Abraham, QC, said the couple's relationship was ''fracturing'' and Wood was concerned that Ms Byrne had knowledge of the serious illegal insider trading activity that Wood and his boss, the disgraced stockbroker Rene Rivkin, had allegedly engaged in over Offset Alpine shares.

Wood feared if their relationship ended, Ms Byrne may make the information public.

Justice Megan Latham said she found this motive, put forward by the Crown during the trial, troubling. ''I find the inference that she was killed because of some received knowledge she had of the inner workings of Rene Rivkin and his share trading to be based on almost no established evidence,'' Justice Latham said.

During the six-day hearing, Wood's barrister, Tim Game, SC, has criticised the scientific evidence of Associate Professor Rod Cross, a physicist who said Ms Byrne could not have run, jumped and landed head-first, some 11.8 metres out from the cliff face, and must have been thrown.

In her submissions yesterday, Ms Abraham said there was enough ''esoteric evidence'' to convict Wood, even if the expert evidence was dismissed.

''The 'killer point' was that the accused knew where the body was,'' Ms Abraham said.

The presiding judge, Peter McClellan, replied: ''The killer point troubles me greatly.'' He went on to say it would be ''pretty stupid'' for a murderer to lead police to his victim's body. Ms Abraham said that not only could Wood point out where Ms Byrne's body had landed, despite it being dark and the fact no one else could see anything, but he also knew what she was wearing and where to find her car.

''That doesn't make you a killer,'' Justice McClellan said.

He also questioned whether Wood and Ms Byrne were having anything more than the usual problems that occur in a relationship, as there was evidence of a ''strong attachment''.

Mr Game is asking for Wood's conviction to be quashed.

The hearing continues.

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