It appears the John and Frances got back together not long after the AVO was made, although its not clear exactly when. Frances told her friend Natasha Skiadopoulos she was seeing John again, and asked her to act as a go-between so they could made plans. She saw her doctor for the morning-after pill in December. Later she told Natasha that John was still grabbing her and hitting her, and that she wanted to break up with him but was finding it hard to do so.
John's workmates said Frances would phone him about once a day, but these calls stopped about two weeks before she died. Around this time Frances told Patricia she was thinking of ending the relationship because she just could not forget all the things that had happened in the past.
Frances received a call from John on the evening of 28 March. Her 15-year-old sister Antonella, who shared a room with Frances, overheard her saying “I don’t want to meet you… or else what? why are you speaking to me this way… OK I‘ll meet you tomorrow afternoon after Uni. I will meet you at the station. I will bring the card but make sure you bring the bag“. Antonella did not know at that stage that Frances was seeing John again, but said she sounded “sort of scared“ like she used to when talking to John. She said she told her mother she “thought she was speaking to John”.
The next day Frances went to Uni with Rima. Towards the end of the day Rima offered her a lift home, but she said she was going to visit a sick relative. There was no evidence of any sick relative, but Frances had not told Rima she and John were seeing each other again, as Rima had made her dislike of John very clear. Frances left around 4:10pm to catch the bus to Strathfield station. When her parents had not heard from her by 8pm, they went to the police and told them of their fears, but nothing about Frances' arrangement to meet John.
"Where have you been this afternoon?"
"I came home from work and have been here all the time".
"What time did you come home from work?"
"About five p.m."
Constable Hall was cross-examined about this at trial, and maintained John definitely said 5pm. Her notes confirmed this.
At about 10pm Patricia rang John and said “are you sure you haven‘t seen or heard from Frances all day?”, and he said No. He said the last time he had seen her was in December, except for once at a party.
She had also told police that she did not know how Frances was getting home, which seemed strange given the arrangement to pick her up at Strathfield station after she called. Patricia’s evidence was at odds with Santo’s statement - he said that Patricia told him she had rung Rima and been told she would be late, and be home around 7-7:30pm.
Police came to the Tizzone’s house later that night, and went to Macquarie Uni the next day to speak with her friends. Again no mention was made by the family of the arranged meeting. Later on the 30th police went to the Serratore house, but John wasn’t home. He was asked to contact police, and later that evening he took part in a recorded interview.
John said that on the 29th he left work at 4:50pm and went straight home, arriving at about 5:25pm, and did not go out again. He claimed he drove his Toyota Corolla that day and when he got home he parked it beside the Honda CRX. He had a shower and read the paper. His sister arrived home at about 5:45pm. He denied having telephoned Frances on the 28th and arranging to meet her.
His employer at John O’Donnell Customs Agency in East Botany said he had allowed John to leave early one day that week, at about 3:50-4pm, but could not remember which day. He recalled John coming to work upset on Friday 31st, saying his girlfriend had been kidnapped and the police thought he’d done it. John said he hadn’t spoken to Frances for a couple of days. He thought the police were following him. Mr O’Donnell sent him home that morning.
Another employee’s husband, Damien Bower, who was there to help with some furniture at the office, recalled that he went there around 3:15pm on Wednesday 29th March and saw John leave around 3:45-4pm. He was able to recall the specific day because he’d been to hospital (the pathology department at HMAS Penguin) earlier that day. He was seen by Dr Gray who took his blood, and specifically recalled Dr Gray was shaking. Dr Gray was later found slumped at his desk, having suffered a stroke, and died some weeks later.
Damien also remembered he and his wife Sally were annoyed that John left early that day, because that meant they could not leave early. He was vigorously cross-examined on the basis of conflicting medical records but did not vary his evidence.
Nurse Cavanagh, manager of the HMAS Penguin pathology department, was called to clarify whether Damien’s blood sample was taken on the 29th or the 30th, and also cross-examined extensively:
A: Yes, that’s true.
Q: Or, alternatively, and much more probably, the blood was drawn in pathology between 7:30 and 8:30am on 30 March. That’s right, is it not?
A: Yes, but you also have to take into account that that day was an abnormal day.
Q: Why are you insisting about the possibility or likelihood or whatever that this blood was drawn on 29 March? Have you spoken to police subsequently to giving your statement?
A: No, I’m not insisting that the blood was drawn on 29 March. I am saying that I do not know what day the blood was drawn because the person who took the blood did not write the date and time they took the blood. That is quite clear.
Q: So the overwhelming probability is that Mr Bower was at HMAS Penguin on 30 March, is that right?
A: Yes, he was.
Q: And the overwhelming probability is that he was not at HMAS Penguin on 29 March 1995, is it no?
Q: And that he had two days leave from 28 March to 30 March?
Q: And all the records indicate 30 March and 28 March, do they not?
A: That’s true.
Q: So why do you struggle with the proposition that the overwhelming probability from these records is that the blood was drawn in the Pathology Department on HMAS Penguin on 30 March 1995? What’s your problem with that proposition?
A: I don’t have a great problem with it except I do not have proof that it was drawn then.
Q: What more proof do you need? Every document you have seen refers to 28 March or 30 March. What more proof do you want?
A: I want the proof of someone having written on the form that they actually took the blood and what time and date they took it. Other than that we cannot say.
Q: I see, even though every piece of paper talks about 28 March and 30 March, you’re saying you need a document from somebody to say, ‘I drew blood from Mr Bower on 30 March at X time’, is that right?
A: Usually the collector would say, ‘Collected by so-and-so at 0800 on 30 March’.
Q: Presumably if the blood was drawn on 29 March, such a document would have been in existence, is that right?
A: Yes, they would have written it on the request form but not necessarily because people don’t conform to that requirement. That’s the problem. That’s the whole problem.”
Luke Yatris, a friend of John’s, said he phoned him at home at about 6:30pm on the 29th but Mrs Serratore said he was not home. John and his mother both gave evidence that he was in fact home when Luke called, but he did not want to speak to Luke, so he told his mother to tell him he was not home.
John denied leaving work early on the 29th. He said the day he left early was actually Thursday 30th, after his sister telephoned and said the police wanted to speak to him. He left about 4pm. His sister Barbara and his parents generally supported his evidence. He maintained that he arrived home about 5:30pm on the Wednesday, and that he had seen his neighbours Sam Vitaliti and Vince Mazzotta in the street as he pulled in. Rather suspiciously, Vitaliti and Mazzotta seemed to have separate but virtually identical conversations with him. They also gave almost identical evidence that they had watched the start of the 5pm news on Channel 10 and had both come outside after about 10-15 minutes to watch their respective children play. The Judge found this to be a “remarkable coincidence” and thought is smacked of collusion.