14 May, 2010

All for a mango... Part II

The jury returned a verdict of guilty. They were satisfied that it was Tang who had inflicted all the stab wounds.

The sentencing Judge felt that Tang's attack on David was a spontaneous reaction to protect his younger friends, and while that explained his actions, it certainly did not justify them. His Honour felt that Tang had not intended to kill David, but had nevertheless intended to cause him very serious harm. David Laxale was an unarmed member of the public who was merely protecting his property. Despite his use of a weapon, Tang's youth and good references were taken into account, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 11 years.

David's family reacted strongly. His brother Jean-Pierre said "11 years is not enough for murder. He'll be out when he's 29 - my brother died when he was 29 - he'll still be a young man... If someone's convicted of murder and found guilty, beyond reasonable doubt, the law should be that you serve 25 years, and that's it. People will then think about the consequences before they commit the crime."

Tang appealed his conviction. His defence argued that Jason, Andrew and Luke were accomplices in the stabbing, and all had motives to minimise their own participation in the events. They pointed to the post-mortem evidence of the possibility that more than one knife was used, and the evidence that at least one other of the boys was carrying a knife.

Another major appeal point concerned Tang's first interview with police, where he had replied "no comment" to their questions. Although he had not made any confession, his denials were seen as "significant admissions", particularly in relation to the knives. When compared with the police interviews conducted with Andrew, Jason and Luke, Tang's responses cast a poor light on his credibility, and it was inevitable that he was judged unfairly.

This became a major problem when it was revealed that Tang had not given correct information about his age. Although he admitted lying at first, he subsequently told police his real name, and gave them what he believed was his real date of birth, in January 1979. His mother also gave his date of birth, but in February 1979. In any event, it appeared to police that Tang was 18 years old at the time of the attack, and therefore he was treated like an adult.

As it turned out, once birth records were obtained from Cambodia, he was actually born in September 1979, making him only 17 at the time of the attack, and therefore a juvenile. When juveniles are interviewed by police, there must be an adult present at all times, and they must receive advice from a legal representative about the right not to answer questions and make admissions. The defence argued that the interview was therefore illegally obtained, and should not have been played at Tang's trial.

The Crown argued that the police had no way of knowing Tang's date of birth was incorrect, and therefore they had not done anything wrong. It also argued that in any case, the interview had not really affected the outcome of the trial.

The Appeal Court rejected the Crown's argument, stating that the interview, and the cross-examination of Tang about his responses, was "devastating in its effect", and that had the jury only seen his oral evidence at trial, they may well have acquitted him. Also, despite the police not deliberately doing anything wrong, it didn't change the fact that there was a real chance Tang would not have answered the questions the way he did, if he had been given some proper legal advice, and had an adult present.

The Appeal Court ordered that a new trial be held.

This time around, the Crown case rested on the evidence of Jason - that he saw Tang with a bloody knife and heard him admit to stabbing Laxale three times. Jason admitted being in possession of a knife himself, as he had at the first trial, but despite extensive cross-examination, denied he had inflicted any of the other four stab wounds on Laxale. In any case, Jason had been granted an immunity from prosecution when he decided to admit having a knife.

Tang gave new, different evidence at his second trial. He admitted going to the park with the others, and then deciding to go and steal some fruit. They stole a mango from a house in Berala (not Mrs Laxale's yard) which Jason then cut up with a knife. Tang said he also saw Andrew with a butterfly knife earlier that evening, but he was not sure if the two were the same.

He admitted that when they got to the Laxale's mango tree, he was the one who jumped over the fence and started throwing the fruit back over to the other boys. He saw a barely dressed man run out of the house yelling, and grab his friend Andrew. Tang said he jumped into the attack to help Andrew, but was then punched by David himself. He said he fell to the ground, dazed, and when he looked up he saw Jason stabbing David with the knife in his right hand. He was a few metres away at that point, and entered the fight again to help his friends. That was how he came to have blood on his pants. He saw David get up and then fall back down again, and they all fled the scene together.

When they stopped at the tap, Tang said to Jason "you stabbed him, didn't you?" and Jason replied "yeah". They all stopped and washed blood from themselves. Tang said he heard Luke say to Jason "you're fucked". He looked at Jason and saw the knife in his hand, so he took the knife from him and washed it under the tap, before handing it back again. At this point, he realised it was the same butterfly knife he saw Andrew with earlier.

He said he couldn't remember if he phoned Manu that night, but might have done so, to see if Manu was home, so that he could go and stay there. Then he went home and got his sister's car and drove to Manu's place, where he stayed until he was found by police.

Tang said he had not told anyone about this before because he wanted to protect his younger friends, and he was also fearful of the consequences. He said he was particularly afraid of Jason and Andrew. He again denied going to Andrew house the next morning to get the punching bag, or threatening him while he was there.

The Crown submitted to the jury that they should reject Tang's evidence, and find that he had inflicted at least two of three stab wounds upon David, and even if Jason had also stabbed him, Tang was still guilty of murder and should be convicted.

The jury agreed, and once again returned a verdict of guilty. Clearly, they rejected Tang's new version of events - even though they did not know about his police interview. Jason had far greater credibility in front of the jury - his surprise evidence about the mobile phone call (which was immediately confirmed by the telephone records) gave his version of events a lot of weight, and the fact that he had freely admitted that he was also carrying a knife, gave his story a "ring of truth".

As before, the Judge approached the sentence on the basis that Tang had not intended to kill David Laxale, but had nevertheless intended to inflict grievous bodily harm. It was another case of the dangers of carrying knives, and their potential to be used with fatal consequences. Applying the principles of double jeopardy, the Judge did not impose a greater sentence than he had received the first time around (although his Honour felt a bigger sentence was justified), and sentenced him to 15 years in prison once more, with the same non-parole period of 11 years.

Jean-Pierre Laxale was again outraged, stating that Judges gave no consideration to victims or their families when making decisions: "A maximum sentence of 15 years is so frequently reduced to 11 years... If it happened to one of their sons I guarantee they would change the law. You can serve more time in prison for fraud than for murder - that doesn't add up."

David's sister-in-law Lana told supporters outside court that "I'd like to saw how proud I am of the Crown Prosecutor [Barry Newport QC]. It was a very difficult trial because of the way the jury was kept blind about the previous trial."

Tang appealed his conviction once more. This time, his appeal concerned the fact that Manu and his father Joe were not called as witnesses, as it seemed they may have been able to provide crucial evidence. They may have been able to confirm whether Tang did in fact stay at their house on the night of he 23rd, whether Manu's mother served him breakfast the next morning, and whether he worked for Manu's father Joe on Monday 24th, as he claimed. Manu may also have been able to give evidence about the contents of the phone call that the records showed Tang made to his house from his mobile phone on the night of the 23rd - in particular, whether Tang had made any reference to "trouble" or "stabbing", or whether he was just finding out if he could stay over that night.

Lastly, Manu may have been able to confirm or deny Tang's claim that he collected the punching bag from Andrew one month beforehand, when Manu and Lee were there, as opposed to the morning after the stabbing, as Andrew claimed.

At the conclusion of the trial, the Judge gave the jury what is known as a Jones v Dunkel direction. They were told that they should not speculate about what a witness, who was not called to give evidence, might or might not have said. More importantly, they were told that since Tang did not call Manu or his father to give evidence, the jury must conclude that they would not have said anything to support his case.

However, the Judge made a crucial error. The Jones v Dunkel direction cannot be given against an accused person, because it basically reverses the onus of proof (the Crown must prove every element of the charge against the accused - the accused has the presumption of innocence on his side, and does not have to prove anything). The direction can only be given against the Crown. The Judge should have told the jury that they must conclude that Manu and his father would not have said anything to assist the Crown case.

As a result, the Appeal Court overturned Tang's conviction once more, and again, a new trial was ordered.

The third trial for the murder of David Laxale began in 2004. By this stage, Tang had been in jail for over seven years. He was suffering from depression and had been attacked in jail by other prisoners, and was generally in poor health. The trial proceeded as before, although Luke was now living overseas and could not be located. Tang chose not to give evidence this time around.

The jury took only one hour and 20 minutes to acquit Tang of all charges. He walked free from custody, to the joy of his vocal support group "Friends of Choi Tang" who had been protesting his innocence outside the court every day. They emphasised David's dying statement that he'd been stabbed by "a Lebanese" and the fact that the mangoes Tang had removed from the tree were twisted off by hand, not cut with a knife. "Choi was [previously] convicted simply on the stories of three people who were originally accused and charged with a crime and committed for trial. They did a deal with the public prosecutor and got off scot-free."

Not so happy, were David's family. His brother Jean-Pierre said "I feel more hurt actually to know that David has been killed and someone has served seven years for it and that's all. It hurts more now than before, to know the others are out as well... Its pretty bad because the jury doesn't know much about the accused and his background, and what he's done before and after the crime, which I think is wrong... What about him lying under oath in at least one trial? How fair is that?"

Brother Daniel Laxale found the result "pretty shocking... The audacity of the thing is that they all admitted being there, either punching or kicking my brother, I learnt that as a school student, if someone mucked up in class and didn't own up, the whole class went down. For my liking, even if one did the stabbing, all of them contributed. They didn't hold him back, they all contributed with their silence. They were all in it together."

Jean-Pierre added "the jury were not aware of what happened at the last trial. The day after my brother was murdered, the accused was arrested for robbing someone and holding a knife at someone's throat. Why shouldn't this be raised in court? The jury took less than 90 minutes to decide whether he was guilty or not. And to me, that is just not good enough."

11 May, 2010

All for a mango... Part I

David Laxale's family came to Australia from Mauritius, but he was born here - the youngest of seven children, with five brothers and a sister. "He was the only one born in Australia out of the seven of us... We doted on him because he was our kid brother" said his brother Jean-Pierre, "we thought this was the great land of opportunity and freedom". 29-year-old David had been living at his mother's house in Berala for a few months in 1997, as he was having some difficulties in his marriage to his wife Suzie. She was pregnant with their second child, and they had a three-year-old son.

Choi Ka Tang was born in Cambodia, the youngest of eight children. He moved to Australia when he was six years old with his mother, who spoke no English. His father stayed behind in Cambodia. He attended Uniting Church camps from when he was 12 years old, and was generally considered to be a good boy. However, his mother, who spoke no English, found living in Australia without her husband stressful, and by the time Tang was 18 years old, they were estranged.

On the evening of Sunday 23 February 1997, Tang and three young friends, Luke (a Greek boy), Andrew and Jason (Lebanese boys), met in a park in Berala. Luke and Andrew had been at Jason's house earlier in the evening, and they met Tang at the park. While they were there, Jason said that Tang showed the boys his new mobile phone, and also a long knife he was carrying. The boys began walking to Andrew's house. On the way, Jason said Andrew gave him a long thin knife, known as a 'butterfly' knife.

As they went past David Laxale's mother's house, Tang spotted a mango tree. He jumped over the fence and started throwing mangoes over to the boys. This was not the first time Mrs Laxale's mangoes had been stolen, and David, who was resting in a room at the back of the house, heard the noise and ran out to see what was going on. He yelled out, and even though he was dressed only in his underwear, he chased the boys into the street, and managed to grab Andrew by the shirt. Andrew hit him back, and Jason and Luke went to help.

Jason saw Tang behind David, wrestling. David managed to grab a hold of Tang and punched him once in the head. Tang responded by punching him back, at which point David fell to the ground. All of them kicked David a few times to the head and body. David tried to get up but fell back down again. Jason said he and Luke ran off first, and Andrew and Tang joined them eventually.

Jason said he saw Tang with a knife in his hand, and blood on his shirt. One of the boys said "did you stab him?" and Jason heard Tang say "yeah, three times". Jason saw Tang wash the blood off himself, then threw his shirt into a wheelie bin. Jason also had blood on his clothing, and Tang told him to take his shirt off and throw it in the bin as well. Jason told police the butterfly knife remained in his pocket the entire time.

David Laxale was stabbed seven times - twice in the chest, three times in the back, and twice in his left arm. He staggered back to the front door of his home and managed to call out to his mother before collapsing on the front door-step. He managed to tell her he had been stabbed, by "a Lebanese" before lapsing into unconsciousness. His mother did her best to help her dying son while the ambulance was on its way, and he was rushed to Westmead hospital. Unfortunately he never regained consciousness, dying the following morning from massive blood loss, as well as blunt force injuries to his head and chest. The post mortem showed that it was possible two knives had been used.

His widow Suzie lamented "my husband was a good, hardworking man. If they had asked, David would have given them four bags of mangoes each."

When questioned by police, Tang initially gave them a false name and date of birth, and gave rather vague, non-committal answers. He admitted meeting his friends, and wandering around looking for fruit. He said they ate a mango from one tree, just taking bites, then moved on to Mrs Laxale's house. He agreed he was the one who jumped over the fence and started throwing mangoes back to the others, but would only say "no comment" about what happened after that.

Several questions were put to him by police, but all he would say was that he had seen blood on David Laxale when he was about one to three metres away, but denied ever producing a knife, or seeing anyone else with one. He said all three boys had blood on them, and he told Jason to throw away his shirt because it was covered in blood. Tang said he threw his own shirt away because it was torn, and denied washing anything at the tap. Later, he admitted he did wash his face and have a drink. He denied owning or carrying a mobile phone, and repeated that he had never seen a knife that night.

Andrew was also interviewed by police, and said that he did not have a knife, and didn't specifically remember seeing anyone else with a knife, but said he thought "one of them was holding a knife" and believed it was Tang. He saw something glinting in the light and saw Tang bending over Laxale, and "he might have stabbed him in that place". He said Tang was "going crazy" and that he had seen blood on his pants when they were at the tap. He told police that the next morning Tang came to his house and said he heard David Laxale had died. Andrew claimed Tang said to him "if anyone says anything, they are going to get it". While he was there, Andrew said Tang borrowed a punching bag from him.

However, Tang said he never went to Andrew's place on the morning of Monday 24th. Although he was found to be in possession of the punching bag, he said he collected it from Andrew one month earlier, when he saw Andrew with some other friends, Manu and Lee. Tang said he had gone back to Manu's house after the stabbing, and stayed there the night. He said he was doing some unpaid work for Manu's father the next day, and that Manu's mother had made him breakfast. He said he stayed at Manu's until his arrest:
"...when we woke up the next morning, Manu's mum made breakfast for us to go to work, and then before we left I overheard them saying that someone got killed picking fruits, picking mangoes, and then I realised that, yeah, I was involved in that."

All four boys were charged with David Laxale's murder and committed for trial. However Andrew, Jason and Luke negotiated with the prosecutor to give evidence against Tang, and in return were only charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm. They received good behaviour bonds.

Tang went to trial alone, and was vigorously cross-examined. He was grilled about his repeated "no comment" during his police interview, particularly when questioned about his involvement in the attack on Laxale, whether he'd pulled out a knife, and told the other's he'd stabbed Laxale three times. He claimed he didn't understand the police's questions, and that he was not sure at the time what he had really done. He said his answers of "no comment" were meant to be a denial that he had been in possession of a knife, and a denial that he had stabbed Laxale. He also had no explanation for why he had immediately vacated his flat and tried to break his lease, which was seen as "consciousness of guilt".

Tang was also asked about his movements on Monday 24th, the morning after the stabbing:
"Q: On that Monday, did you drive during... did you drive you sister's hatchback?
A: No, I was in the truck all day.
Q: And who is able to confirm this? Joe - that is Manu's father - is one, yes?
A: (nod)
Q: And Joe?
A: Yes.
Q: Sorry, Manu? Yes?
A: Yeah.
Q: You were working with the both of them?
A: Yeah.
Q: On that Monday, you see, I suggest this to you, you were driving your sister's hatchback, and you drove to where Andrew lived. That is what you did, isn't it?
A: No."

Tang was also cross-examined about Andrew's statement to police that Tang had gone to his house the next morning and threatened him, and then collected the punching bag:
"Q: Did you have anyone with you when you went to get that punching bag from Andrew ?
Q: Who was with you?
A: My two friends, Manu...
Q: And the other? Who is that?
A: Lee."

At the trial, Jason surpised everyone when he gave new evidence, stating that Tang had made a phone call on the night of the 23rd, shortly after the stabbing, to his friend Manu. Jason said he heard Tang say the words "had trouble" and "stabbed someone" as well as saying the name "Manu". The Crown sought an adjournment while police urgently obtained Tang's mobile phone records. They showed that a call had been made on the night after the stabbing to the landline registered to Manu's mother. Tang maintained that he did not recall making such a phone call, but when faced with the phone records, he conceded that he did call Manu, and said he was looking for a lift home.

Jason admitted he had lied to police at first about having a knife, but claimed they never asked him. He also admitted attempting to give the police false information about the other boys. He was cross-examined about his own criminal record, which showed he had been convicted for assault occasioning actual bodily harm several times in the past, even though he was only 16.

Andrew gave reluctant evidence at trial, and the Crown ended up having to cross-examine him as a hostile witness. Eventually, his evidence was similar to Jason's although he did not recall Tang showing them the mobile phone or knife when they were at the park, and he denied giving Jason a butterfly knife, or any other kind of knife. He denied seeing Tang wash blood off himself at the tap. He repeated what he had told police - that Tang came to his house the next morning, told him about Laxale's death and threatened him. He again stated that Tang picked up the punching bag that morning.

Andrew was cross-examined about his earlier statement to police (that he thought Tang was holding a knife that night), and he admitted that he had talked to Luke about it, and it was actually Luke who told him that Tang had stabbed Laxale. Although he had initially said to police "the Chinese bloke did stab him as a matter of fact, cause he told me", he admitted that this was merely an assumption, based on what Luke had told him. He denied making up the story with Jason and Luke.

Luke was also very reluctant to give evidence, and like Andrew, had to be cross-examined as a hostile witness. At first, he denied seeing Tang's phone, but was then reminded of the statement he made to police. He then admitted he had seen the phone, but consistently denied ever seeing a knife. His rather vague description of the fight generally conformed to what the others had described - just punching and kicking, and then running away, although he minimised his own involvement, saying it was mainly Jason and Tang. He remembered being at the tap and someone saying "did you stab him?" and "yeah, three times" but could not say who it was. He was shown his earlier statement where he claimed he heard Tang say "yeah, three times", but at trial he said he could no longer recall, but he didn't think it was Andrew or Jason.

At the trial Luke said "I think I seen a knife" in Tang's hands, and thought he may have heard Tang say "I've got to wash the knife" when he was at the tap, but he didn't see what Tang actually did. He said there was "a bit" of blood on Tang's pants. Luke said he remembered seeing Jason wash blood off his hands and legs, and that Andrew also had some blood on him. However he was once again reminded of his earlier statement, in which he had said he remembered seeing a knife in Tang's hand as they ran away from Laxale. He also told police he saw Tang wash the knife at the tap, and said Tang had "heaps" of blood on his legs, rather than "a bit".

Luke categorically denied that Jason had stabbed Laxale, or had ever admitted to it. It was put to him in cross-examination that his story contained similar "lies" as Jason's version of events, but he replied that was merely a coincidence, and that they had not concocted it together.

The Crown also called evidence from Stephen Roy, a friend of Jason and Luke. He told the court of a conversation he heard between Jason and Luke, in which Jason had said "that dopey Nip shouldn't have stepped in and stabbed him". This was clearly a reference to Tang, being the only Asian in the group.

to be continued...

07 May, 2010


A group of Vietnamese and Indonesian friends had a big night out in the city, ending up at Cheers nightclub in George St, Sydney in the early hours of the morning. The group were quite drunk and their behaviour began to get disruptive, to the point where the bouncers were asked to remove at least one of them from the premises. Dang went up to the bouncer to try and stop his friend being taken outside, but was pushed away. Dang responded by pulling a knife out and stabbing Abboud Abboud, the bouncer, twice in quick succession.

One of the blows only caused a small cut on Abboud’s arm, but the other penetrated 18cm into his chest, and was fatal. Abboud was also stabbed in the shoulder by someone else in the group who was never identified. A witness with medical training said the blow was stuck with ‘moderate’ force.

Dang was arrested at the scene and taken to the police station where he made a video-recorded interview, admitting to deliberately stabbing Abboud twice. He made it clear he was angry about being pushed, although the attack was very sudden, and not planned. He claimed he found the knife on the street just before going into Cheers.
The interview included the following exchanges:
“Q: What happened then?
A: We went to Cheers. At first I thought there was nothing - no buzz, no fight, no excitement - we wanted to go home… security man, he got into a fight with my friends”
“Q: I’ve been told that after the stabbing you showed this knife to a number of people. What can you tell me about that?
A: I showing the knife?
Q: Yes.
A: No, I didn’t show no - I just pulled a knife like I stop and then I - I was - they - they - they - was scared and I go ‘well I was scared too’ and then - yeah, he goes, ‘let’s go’. So then I go, ‘I’m going to throw this knife away before I get caught’, so…”

He was charged with murder and pleaded not guilty. Although he had admitted the stabbing, at trial his defence was that he did not have the necessary level of intent, or ’state of mind’ that is required for the Crown to prove murder. Dang claimed he was too “drunk and stoned” when the incident happened, having been drinking all night, smoking pot, and had also apparently taken four Rohypnol tablets (strong sleeping pills). He relied on the fact that he was so “drunk and stoned” that he didn’t have time to form any real intent - it was just a reaction.

The Judge commented on Dang’s claim that he took four Rohypnol tablets:
“Either way it is a lot of Rohypnol. Was he shooting off his mouth? Was it a bit of bravado? ‘Look at me. I’m a tough little fellow. I am not out of it; and look how many I have taken’… Is he loading it on and had he loaded it on, this drug taking, to a point where its credibility goes?”

His Honour also commented on the issue of Dang’s intent:
“It would be pretty difficult to resist a conclusion that as he stabbed a man in the chest with a knife then went in 18cm… he would have realised that doing that, he was going to cause serious injury, and would have intended indeed to cause really serious injury to Mr Abboud… As to intent, you may well think that it ordinary circumstances the inference that you intend to cause somebody really serious bodily harm is inevitable if you take a knife out of your coat, stab him in the chest, with a wound that penetrates so deeply it enters the heart itself.”

The Judge commented in relation to Dang’s claim that he found the knife:
“He says he picks up a knife lying on the street, on the footpath. He finds it in the middle of the footpath just shortly before he goes down to Cheers. This is the city of Sydney, the main business area. Does it strike you as credible that he had the great fortune, or as it transpires misfortune, to see the knife lying conveniently on the footpath just before he completes that short walk down to Cheers? You may regard that as you will.”

Dang also called evidence as to his good character, to say that he was not the type of person who would have committed a murder. Character evidence is also relevant to the issue of credibility, i.e. whether to believe him or not.

However the jury believed that at the very least, Dang intended to inflict serious harm upon Abboud, and that was enough to find him guilty of murder.

He appealed his conviction on the grounds that the Judge’s comments to the jury had been inappropriate, and would have influenced the jury to convict Dang.

The Appeal Court looked at all of the Judge’s summing-up to the jury, and found that his Honour had not stepped outside the limits of what a Judge is entitled to say in respect of the evidence he has seen and heard. The Court found that the Judge had always made it clear that it was a matter for the jury to decide whether the circumstances of the case raise reasonable doubt.

The appeal was rejected, and Dang was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 10 years. Dang was released on 26 September 2003.

04 May, 2010

Baby Keiran

Nicole Wilkinson was 19 years old in 1996, an singe mother of two children. Her youngest son Keiran was born in January. His father Cory Campbell, who was 20 years old and unemployed, had lived with her and an on-and-off relationship for years. At best, she was described as an “inattentive and somewhat disinterested mother”. They seemed to have an arrangement where Cory was responsible for changing Keiran’s nappy and bathing him, while Nicole mainly looked after his older sister.

In late July 1996 Nicole noticed Keiran had a bruise on his ear. She asked Cory if he knew anything about it, and he said he thought Keiran’s sister had probably accidentally kicked him. Not much more was said or thought about it until Saturday August 3rd, when Cory told Nicole he had fallen over in the shower while giving Keiran a bath. Nicole then noticed two other bruises on Keiran over the next few days, which Cory said were due to the fall in the shower, and other ‘accidents’ that were normal for a baby his age.

Again, Nicole didn’t think much of it until Wednesday August 7 when she noticed Keiran was pale and wasn’t behaving normally. She said she wanted to take him to a doctor but Cory told her not to. They argued about this for a while, and in the end she decided not to go. On the next day Keiran seemed fine, apart from being constipated. But when she came home on Thursday 8th, she saw that Keiran was really pale, and he was moaning and groaning. Cory once more told her not to worry about it. The next day Keiran was even worse, and was not eating or drinking - Nicole started to worry that something was seriously wrong.

Nevertheless Nicole and Cory decided to spend the day smoking pot, until about 4pm when Nicole noticed Keiran had actually stopped breathing. She tried to resuscitate him, and called ‘000’. While they were on their way, she told Cory to tell police that the fall in the shower had happened on Wednesday, rather than Saturday.

Keiran could not be resuscitated. The post-mortem revealed that Keiran died of multiple injuries. Apart from several cuts and bruises on his face, his skull was seriously fractured, he had haemorrhages and other serious internal injuries, including a tear in the liver. There were a number of different bruises on the front of his abdomen, and a spiral fracture to his shinbone, which the pathologist estimated to be about 2-3 weeks old.

Both Cory and Nicole were charged with the manslaughter of Kieran. The basis of the charge was criminal negligence, in that they had both failed properly to protect Keiran’s well-being. They both pleaded not guilty and were to be tried together, until Cory made an application for a separate trial, which was granted. He then pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Nicole maintained her innocence and after a lengthy trial she was found guilty of manslaughter. There was no evidence from Cory, so the Judge was left in a situation where he could only guess how Keiran’s injuries were caused, or by whom. Given that Cory appeared to be the primary care-giver, he came to the conclusion that the child was at risk while he was in Cory’s care. However, his Honour also felt that the signs that something was seriously wrong with Keiran must have been obvious to Nicole, by Thursday afternoon at the latest. She should have also realised it was dangerous to leave Keiran in Cory’s care.

The Judge found that a reasonable person would have taken the child to a hospital or a doctor, and the failure to do so constituted criminal negligence. This neglect was compounded by their choice the next day, to indulge in a substance (pot) that would have made their ability to care for Keiran, or make sensible decisions about his health, even worse.

The Judge felt that Nicole had deliberately ignored the signs and dangers that must have been obvious to her. His Honour concluded that she was worried that she or Cory would get into trouble if they took their son to a hospital, given the obvious cuts, bruises and signs of illness. Basically, she was more concerned with her own interests (and Cory’s) than those of her child.
There was evidence that she had shown some distress to police on the afternoon of her son’s death, however there had been little sign of remorse since then. Although Cory was considered the more guilty of the two, given that even if he had not caused the injuries himself (which was unlikely) he was in a better position to observe the poor state of Keiran‘s health, the Judge found there was a balance of sorts in their level of responsibility.

Ironically, Cory showed more remorse than Nicole at the death of his son, which was also demonstrated in his decision to plead guilty.

Cory was sentenced to six years and six months in jail, with a non-parole period of three years.
Nicole was sentenced to six years and six months, with a non-parole period of three years and six months. She appealed this sentence on the basis that it should have been the same, or less than, Cory’s sentence.

The Appeal Court, despite finding that Cory was likely the more guilty of the two, noted that he was entitled to certain discounts in his sentence, due to his plea of guilty (sparing the cost and time of a trial), expressions of remorse, and had better prospects upon his eventual release to society.

Nicole, on the other hand, had gone to a full trial, displayed little remorse, and had not only seen what a bad condition Keiran was in and done nothing about it, but had also continued to leave him in a situation where it was quite likely these injuries were being caused. Further, she had let herself be talked out of seeking any medical help for her child by Cory. At her trial the defence led evidence from Dr White that Nicole had a dependent personality disorder, leading her to prioritise Cory in fear that he would leave her, however this was rejected as an excuse for her actions.

Nicole’s appeal was dismissed.

Cory Campbell was released on 21 January 2001. Nicole Wilkinson was released on 8 October 2001.

02 May, 2010

Corrupt Kings Cross Coppers???

George Alexandroaia and Robert Rowe stood trial together, both charged with murder and kidnapping. The victims were Ronald Middleton and Sharon Martin, who were a defacto couple. Ronald was said to be a drug dealer in the Kings Cross area, and Sharon was a prostitute who was addicted to heroin.

The Crown case was that in June 1993 the two men abducted Sharon and detained her against her will. The following day they shot Ronald, then returned to where Sharon was being held and boasted of what they had done. She was eventually released about a week later, and went straight to the police. She was interviewed by Detective Inspector Davidson, and shortly after the police arrested Rowe and Alexandroaia. Rowe's house was searched, and Detective Constable McGrath found four photographs of an Uzi machine gun inside a filing cabinet.

The following day, Rowe made a call from custody, asking a couple that he knew, the Gusics, to destroy some items he had left with them for safekeeping. This included the Uzi and some other photographs of it. Before they managed to do this, police intervened. Ballistics testing conducted on the Uzi showed it was the weapon that had been used to kill Ronald Middleton.

At Alexandroaia and Rowe's trial, they denied any involvement in either Sharon Martin's kidnapping, or the murder of Ronald Middleton. The defence questioned the way Sharon's statement to D.I. Davidson was taken, and argued that it was unreliable. They also questioned the reliability of D.C. McGrath's evidence about finding the photos of the Uzi at Rowe's house. The two accused men stated that someone else killed Ronald, most likely someone in the Kings Cross drug scene, and that they had been set up to look like the killers.

The Crown case was that not only had Alexandroaia and Rowe killed Middleton, but they were also planning to kill Alex Mattar, another drug dealer who was know to provide Sharon with her heroin.

After two months, the jury were unable to reach a verdict and were discharged. Another trial was set.

In the intervening period Sharon Martin was found dead of a suspected drug overdose. D.C. McGrath, who found the Uzi photos in Rowe's house, fell to his death from the seventh floor of an inner city apartment block, apparently committing suicide.

At this time, the Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service was taking place, hearing evidence of police corruption involving the Kings Cross drug scene. A witness known only as 'KX11' gave evidence that Alex Mattar had been involved in a 'marketing dispute' about the 'right' to sell drugs at the Budget Hotel, and that he had the support of the Kings Cross Police. Needless to say, both D.I Davidson and D.C. McGrath were members of the Kings Cross Police. D.I. Davidson had been responsible for investigating the allegations about Mattar - unsurprisingly without a result.

Thus at the second trial of Alexandroaia and Rowe, the defence put forward the theory that Alex Mattar had in fact arranged the death of Ronald Middleton, and that Sharon Martin had also been involved. The theory was that police officers had helped Mattar to set up Alexandroaia and Rowe for Middleton's murder. Alexandroaia in particular was chosen because he used to pick up Sharon Martin as a prostitute regularly, and he and Rowe had been associates for some time.

According to this theory, it followed that Sharon Martin had been murdered with a 'hot shot' (forced to shoot up a lethal dose of heroin) to prevent her giving evidence which would have been embarrassing to both Alex Mattar and the police. It followed that D.C. McGrath had then committed suicide rather than face another cross-examination regarding his supposedly false evidence about finding the Uzi photos in Rowe's house, and also to avoid being forced to reveal the existence of police involvement in an illegal protection racket.

The defence tried unsuccessfully to adjourn the second trial until after the outcome of the Wood Royal Commission. The defence expected that the Justice Wood's report would show that Alexandroaia and Rowe had been set up by a conspiracy between Sharon Martin, D.I. Davidson, D.C. McGrath, Alex Mattar and others. Alexandroaia was convinced he knew the identity of 'KX11' but this could not be proven, as 'KX11' was being kept under wraps and could not be traced.

Eventually, as it turned out, Alexandroaia and Rowe were acquitted on all charges.