Steve Fennell not a murderer – jury got it wrong

Andrew L. Urban.

The High Court in Canberra adjourned for just four minutes before resuming at 2.45pm on Wednesday, September 11, 2019, with a unanimous decision that Steven Fennell’s appeal against his murder conviction should be allowed. A verdict of acquittal was entered. “I was in my cell about to eat my yoghurt when prison officers came to the door and said, `you’re going’,” he told The Courier-Mail.

Steven Fennell, 60, returned home for the first time in more than six years on Thursday, following the ruling that a jury’s guilty verdict was unreasonable, as The Australian’s David Murray reported on September 12, 2019. Reasons will be delivered later.

Mr Fennell was given a life sentence in 2016 for the murder of 85-year-old Liselotte Watson on Macleay Island in Moreton Bay.

Steven Fennell with his wife Helen and son Adam

“I’ve said all along I don’t believe anybody intended to kill Mrs Watson, I believe it was a bungled burglary,” he said after rejoining his wife Helen and son Adam.

“I was an easy, simple target. I gambled – I know Mrs Watson – I must have done it.”

Ms Watson was bludgeoned to death in her home in November 2012 and Mr Fennell had been in custody since his arrest in March 2013.

Her granddaughter, Emma Watson, on Thursday thanked police “for their relentless effort and dedication”.

“We have felt nothing but unwavering support and compassion from the entire QPS team for years now and are forever grateful.”

Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said Mr Fennell could sue the state but his prospects of success were low as a jury had convicted him and the verdict was initially upheld by the Queensland Court of Appeal.

Mr Fennell’s barrister, Saul Holt QC, told the court there was a “genuine prospect that an innocent person has been convicted”.

Most of the strands of the prosecution case were “either gossamer thin or in truth non existent in terms of their evidential weight” or stemmed from Mr Fennell’s close association with Ms Watson.

In lengthy submissions, Mr Holt said the suggestion Mr Fennell stole $5,000 from Ms Watson by altering a number on a withdrawal slip, and then killed her because she was going to find out, was “not sustainable”.

Mr Fennell withdrew money on Ms Watson’s behalf on four previous occasions, and on two of those the bank called Ms Watson to confirm he was authorised to do so.

Ms Watson’s toiletries bag, containing her banking documents, and her TransLink wallet and purse were found near a hammer in a mangroves and tidal area.

An island resident gave evidence he had lent the distinctive hammer to Mr Fennell. Ms Watson’s injuries were consistent with being hit by a hammer.

But Mr Holt said there were “blindingly obvious” problems with the hammer’s identification and nothing else directly linked it to the crime.

“This is just a hammer. There is nothing special about it.”

An alternative scenario was someone else knew Ms Watson held large quantities of cash, was disturbed by her presence while attempting to steal from her, then killed her and left.

Mr Fennell had opportunity only in the sense he didn’t have an alibi at times during the 31 hours between Ms Watson being last seen alive and her body being discovered, he said.

“It is really no more than `he could have done it’.”

Mr Fennell delivered pamphlets in a ute and on a postie bike on Macleay and other islands. He visited Ms Watson up to twice a day to do her shopping, banking and assist around the house.

There was evidence Mr Fennell was on his home computer when prosecutors suggested he was at Ms Watson’s house cleaning up after the murder, he said.

“It was well known that she had told lots of people that she had cash in the house. Regrettably, she was a target.”

Queensland police said in a statement that “any matters relating to yesterday’s decision by the High Court should be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions”.

“Police encourage any person with new information to come forward. Any new information provided will be investigated thoroughly.” The DPP declined to comment.


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5 Responses to Steve Fennell not a murderer – jury got it wrong

  1. Gail Scott says:

    Rejected on legal grounds

  2. Father Ted Whalensky says:

    News Flash From The Murdock Media–No No Not about the Yoghurt ( fascinating as that subject is) The DDP has torn out his feathers– what was a ” Simple easy target” (Steve Fennell) has bit him on his FAT BUM — even a planted hammer was the wrong one–Scott Austic Screen Play–Police relentlessly enthusiastically Planted knife–“The Police-they do a fine job–some of them get over excited”- The call of the feather ?

  3. Father Ted Whalensky says:

    Thanked Police for ” Their Relentless Effort and Dedication”—“The Jury GOT it WRONG”–SAY NO MORE–THE
    WRONGFUL CONVICTION WAS THE JURIES FAULT ! NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE CLEVER VOMIT SCREEN PLAY ? The relentless effort put him in prison and the dedication kept him there– THE relentless dedicated Policeymens pursued-an obviously Innocent man koz they could se a clever screenplay would win a feather in the cao- as a matter of interest– are the little dedicated relentless ones now required to remove the feathers ?– No punishment for the wicked ? The relentless playwrites !

  4. Father Ted Whalensky says:

    WHY are we fed this stupid dogs vomit ? — dumbing us down with Codswallop about someone eating their yoghurt– what flavour ?–NEVER got yoghurt in mytime- just a bashing in the Chief Warders office—maybe the Criminal Queensland Police Commissioner Lewis got yoghurt in his holiday retreat ? ( low fat ?) We need more detail about the yoghurt–One should spend a little more reading time–Graham Stafford can give a disgusting description of the excreta ( faeces) added to his tuckeroo ! Did the screws add it to his yoghurt–oops he fell over ! ” The Jury GOT it wrong”- The Jury DIDN’T get it wrong ! The JURY was fed the usual lying -clever- twisting- screenplay garbage by professional LYING mongrels– the jury members are pure amateurs–except in Queensland maybe the prosecution appointed Professional Jury Foreman–By the way–DON’T bloody tell us what the jury thought ! It’s an overall vomit package screen play fed to them by professional Liars with NO MORAL COMPASS ! Was the actual guilty person a Police Friend–as in the Graham Stafford Case ?–Makes ya a proud Queenslander–Police pursue the innocent to protect the guilty MATE ! In the case of the young mother whose baby was eaten by a dog– the Policeymens were protecting the poor little doggy woggy ? In view of the FACT that it took the ILLUSTRIOUS Western Australian “JUSTICE SYSTEM” 45 YEARS to ADMIT that Darryl Beamish was innocent– done over by the Magnificent future WA Police Commissioner- was awarded $450,000.–Lewis’s yoghurt would cost more than that ! By Internationally Signed Agreement the Feds are required to provide Justice for Australian Citizens– $ 1million per year is an appropriate compensation for wrongful conviction– with further amounts when it can be shown that the DEAR POLICEYMENS planted evidence–concealed evidence- wrote a Complete Fictional Screenplay–( Worthy of HOLLYWOOD) then presented that Screenplay to a Jury of Amateurs ( except for the jury foreman of course ). That’s the amount that should be set–$ 1 million per year plus Yoghurt Allowance– not negotiable– SET IN LAW !

  5. John Day says:

    This is a clear case of police focusing on this man because he had criminal history. Not only does the prosecution evidence not come close to what should have been a conviction it is clear that the jury thought that because of his gambling that was a motive. It transpired that Mr Fennell was in fact a rare punter who was according to the forensic accountants records was ahead some $13,000 in the 2 years that it was reviewed by the police forensic accountant. Some one should assist this man to sue for wrongful imprisonment.

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