Andrew L. Urban.
Gordon Wood’s appeal against his failed malicious prosecution bid last year begins in Sydney’s Supreme Court on Monday, November 18, 2019, in the shadow of a new book by former DPP Nicholas Cowdrey (Frank and Fearless, New South) in which Cowdrey refers to the Wood case and proposes that prosecutors are ‘supposed to push for convictions’.
Here in a nutshell, Cowdrey demonstrates a serious malaise in our legal system: prosecutors are NOT supposed to push for convictions. They are supposed to be officers of the court seeking the truth. That such a high profile former prosecutor has no insight into the error of this sentiment is disturbing.
Here is the context in which Cowdrey frames this sentiment, in his chapter on the Gordon Wood case, when he gets to the appeal against the murder conviction: “The Court of Criminal Appeal was convinced the prosecutor (Senior Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC) had pushed far too hard for a conviction. It was also convinced that Associate Professor Cross, the expert witness who claimed there was no way Caroline could have jumped or dived to the place she was thought to have landed, had fought inappropriately for a conviction–and expert witnesses are supposed to be impartial. That might sound like a strange complaint about the prosecutor. Aren’t prosecutors supposed to push for convictions?”
And a little later in the chapter, Cowdrey contradicts his earlier statement, saying: ” A prosecutor’s principal role is to assist the court to arrive at the truth. It is never about winning at all costs.”
When Wood took his malicious prosecution to court against the State of NSW and prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC, appeal court judge Elizabeth Fullerton also chided the prosecutor for “…his continuing inability or unwillingness to reflect upon the errors that have been revealed in his approach as a Crown Prosecutor and his continued failure to accept and acknowledge them, rather than impermissibly straining for a conviction” But she did not find it had been proven that the prosecution was malicious in the legal sense.
Wood’s appeal is scheduled to last three days.
* Gordon Wood was convicted in 2008 of the murder of Caroline Byrne, whose body was found early morning on June 8, 1995, on the rocks at The Gap, a notorious suicide spot on Sydney’s Eastern coast. In 2012 the Court of Criminal Appeal set aside his conviction and entered a verdict of acquittal. The Chief Justice made it clear in his judgement that even the most basic elements of the case had failed to be established. “I am not persuaded that Wood was at The Gap at the relevant time.” He concluded that the verdict of the jury could not be supported having regard to the evidence.
The main witnesses for the prosecution were the investigator, Detective Inspector Jacob, and the expert witness, Assoc. Professor Rod Cross. They had worked closely with each other, and, according to the Chief Justice, they had presented evidence which was either inadmissible or unreliable.
nomen nesco (aka Chris B),
I do believe that you have a higher degree in physics. However, all you have convinced me of via your posts here is that you didn’t rear Cross’ 2006 Forensic Science paper, in particular the section of that paper where he discusses forward rotation, long jumps by elite athletes, somersaults, feet first vs head first, etc. Surely, had you been an objective scientist who wanted to first understand Cross’ scientific reasoning before offering a critique on his experimental work, you would have done what any reasonable and PhD qualified scientist would do – study Cross’ per reviewed and published articles on the case and make sure that you understood it.
But this discussion of “feet first” or “head first” etc is irrelevant to the Wood case, because …..
We now know that Cross showed in his Six Reports (which were exhibits at Wood’s trial) that:
(1) Regardless of how Caroline jumped, Cross was able to replicate her successful suicide jump, and
(2) No person of similar strength to Gordon Wood, or of slightly greater strength than Gordon Wood, was able to spear throw at sufficient speed to kill Caroline and land her body where Cross (but most certainly NOT the late Lisa Camwell who retrieved Caroline’s body) thought Caroline landed.
Trent Southwell could do so, but the head policeman Jacob, Cross et al knew that Trent at the time of his spear throws was much much stronger than Wood was in 1995.
It is now known that the available run up was 7m or 8m at the top of the cliff where Mark Powderly thought Caroline departed from. Cross wrongly assumed it was more like 5m or 4.5m. If Cross’s incorrect assumption is corrected, Cross’s calculations show that Caroline’s suicide jump could comfortably overshoot either of the possible landing spots.
Do you disagree with any of these basic points? If so, please tell me which.
I totally disagree with every point in the following portion of your post:
But this discussion of “feet first” or “head first” etc is irrelevant to the Wood case, because …..
We now know that Cross showed in his Six Reports (which were exhibits at Wood’s trial) that:
(1) Regardless of how Caroline jumped, Cross was able to replicate her successful suicide jump, and
You seem to be resisting my suggestion to study Cross’ scientific reasoning and the physics of the whole problem that includes a requirement for sufficient forward rotation to explain the fact that Caroline didn’t have any injuries below the waist, her shoes didn’t have any damage; her head and a portion of her upper torso entered into a hole.
I don’t wish to have to write thousands of words that several sketches can help to explain why I disagree with your opinion. I offered you my email address. In case you haven’t seen it here it is:
As for Gordon Wood’s physical strength at the time of Caroline’s death: The only thing that can can say is that the evidence that the jury heard was that Wood was a gym instructor and was seen bench pressing 100 kg. My understanding is that it was the opinion of someone (probably by Cross) that a person who could bench press 100 kg would have had sufficient physical strength to throw Caroline at the required speed for her to land in hole A.
I disagree with your statement
“It is now known that the available run up was 7m or 8m at the top of the cliff where Mark Powderly thought Caroline departed from. Cross wrongly assumed it was more like 5m or 4.5m. If Cross’s incorrect assumption is corrected, Cross’s calculations show that Caroline’s suicide jump could comfortably overshoot either of the possible landing spots.”
You need to study the forensic drawing of the cliff edge and the fence area with respect to the distance and the angle towards hole A from each possible launching location. If you do that then you will discover that your opinion is very amateurish because it didn’t consider the distance nor the angle to hole A. I can explain this much better via a few sketches if you contact me via email. Again, the email address is:
Anyone who has the full understanding of the physics would conclude that Croos’ fastest female test subject wouldn’t have been able to reach hole A had she imparted sufficient forward rotation when launching herself into air such that her fall would have matched a head fall into hole A. Cross’ fastest female test subject was a previous high school hurdling champion.
The biomechanics expert who performed tests on behalf of Wood’s appeal would have been aware of the fastest run-up speed of Cross’ test subjects. He then chose two females whose running speed was higher. I can’t recall off-head but I think that the faster of the two would have reached the required speed had she been asked to generate forward rotation to simulate the dive. Analysis of her running speed was done by Cross. He concluded that her acceleration rate over the run-up distance was close to that of a 100m Olympic champion.
Keep in mind that when a forward rotation is generated that there will be a loss in horizontal speed.
If you contact me via email and sketch out for me the 7 – 8 metre run-up path that you are thinking of (for hole A) I will look into it and will provide you with my opinion.
I’m very busy this week.
I will get back to you when I have time.
Also, I should get legal advice about whether I can quote here from Cross’s 3rd Report which was an exhibit at trial. Also, I should find out if it’s legal for me to email you copies of Cross’s Reports. I don’t know.
Once you actually have the real material, you will be able to form an informed opinion. In the absence of the actual material, you are just speculating, making an assumption that the unreliable material you have seen is reliable.
The source data is worth a look. To give just one example, the subject who did the longest “fastest” successful jump was Subject 4. The former champion athlete was Subject 5. Cross seems to have simply muddled the two when he excluded that jump due to it being done by a former champion, when it was actually by one of the other jumpers. A lot of Cross’s data (eg jumps, dives and strength tests) is extrapolated rubbish. The Defence at the trial probably lacked people who both have the expertise you obviously have, and also have the time to wade through all Cross’s long Reports without adequate compensation. But it sure is interesting stuff.
I suggest that you study the photograph of the rocks where crevice A is located and look at the direction of the flight towards that crevice from the location that you think the launch was from. You will quickly learn that a body falling towards crevice A from that other location wouldn’t enter that crevice. No wonder Cross decided that the trajectory of the flight towards crevice A was from the ledge (the two trajectories differ by about 90 degrees).
About the Garbage in – Garbage out:
I put in a lot of effort in trying to understand the scientific evidence in this case. I then read various news articles and online opinions. My conclusion is that there are lawyers and some people who didn’t quite understand the scientific problem related to this case. In particular, people didn’t understand the scientific reasoning and the important experimental work that went into this case. I concluded that those who claim that Cross’ work on this case is junk science are themselves offering junk opinions.
The fact that a scientist tried a number of men doesn’t tell me that it was unscientific. Once the scientist found the guy that could throw a woman at the required launch speed it was then up to the cops to find out what they could about Gordon Wood’s physical strength and the training that he did. The question then becomes whether Gordon Wood’s physical strength would have been comparable to the physical strength of the person who managed to throw a woman at speed greater than 4.5 m/sec. That was the job of the police.
You need to learn how to think like a scientist!
A human eye can adjust to a very low level of lighting.
Try to understand science behind Cross’ work. Try to understand how the appeal court judges stuffed up in their understanding of the scientific evidence and the how they had no idea about the moon and the ability of a human eye to adjust (after a period of time) to a low level of lighting.
The moonset was a few hours after a woman’s scream was heard by fishermen who were nearby.
What time wa the moon set that night?
Didn’t you say that you read Cross’ 2014 Forensic Science paper when it was free access? It was written in that article.
The first thing that Prof Cross did before any experiments was to check when the moon set. Don’t you think that this would have been a critical bit of evidence?
Do your research, Peter.
The following paragraph is from
[You can read the whole online writing by Cross. That is what a good researcher would do before offering online opinions.]
“Another physics mistake concerned the evidence that everyone gave that the night was pitch black. The judges said that in that case, nobody would run and throw a woman off the cliff because it would be too dangerous. I checked the weather records and found it was cloudless on the night and the moon set at 1 am. A scream was heard at 11:30 pm. People started arriving aftert 2 am. The judges either ignored that evidence or were unaware of it, and obviously didn’t bother to check themselves. It didn’t rate a mention in their 250 page report. That’s one of the first things I checked. There were two fisherman who arrived at about 10 pm and also said it was very dark. They were fishing near a street light about 200 m away. They were the ones who heard the scream. You can’t see the ground very well or even the stars if you are near a street light. If you move away from the light so it is hidden then the ground is easy to see if the moon is up and the eyes get accustomed to the dark.”
If one were to believe the Appeal Court decision where it says that it was pitch dark at the Gap when Byrne died how on earth would she have been able to navigate and run up and take a jump at the right location (at the edge of the cliff)?
What the heck were the Appeal Court judges thinking??
Eye accommodation played a significant role in this case.
I understand that one scientist (a physicist with a research background in visual perception) used the eye accommodation argument to explain why the homeless girl in another case couldn’t have seen any blood from the location where she allegedly stood given that the crime scene had very little blood.
Here is a sentence from the 2012 Appeal Court decision:
“The circumstances on the night of Ms Byrne’s death were quite different . It was a “pitch black” night, cold (it was the middle of winter) and, having regard to the evidence of Sgt Powderly, the surface areas were likely to have been moist from sea spray or mist.”
The Appeal Court judges were incorrect! It was not “pitch black night”! There was moonlight. The moon a few hours later. It was pitch black when Wood and Byrne’s brother went to the Gap to search for her.
My research indicates that you don’t have tertiary education in any field relevant to the problem. Furthermore, since you haven’t read Cross’ 2014 Forensic Paper and yet think you can prove something to me it only shows to me that you are an amateur.
Before my very first online comment about this case (back in 2019) I read the 2012 appeal court decision; I studied several of Prof Cross’ peer reviewed and published articles on the case. I haven’t read his book. I also researched the background of the defence expert witness (who is an expert in biomechanics but his choice of test subjects with superior athletic ability was irrelevant to the case; his tests were also irrelevant).
I did read Cross’s book.
I have also read Cross’s six Reports which were Exhibits at the trial. They are very interesting to read.
Yes. As I stated before, I am an amateur.
I studied physics at Sydney Uni, using textbooks such as Resnick and Halliday. Anyway, people surely don’t need a physics degree to be able to comment sensibly about these matters.
I think it’s great for intelligent people to be discussing these topics, so we can get closer to finding out the truth.
As I wrote previously, I did read the 2014 Forensics paper “Misinterpretation of Forensic Evidence in Wood …”, but I’m unwilling to pay US$58 to access it online again now. I’d like to access it again, but that fee is too much. Most professionals who are linked to an academic institution can get free access to it from tandfonline, but I can’t.
You said: “Conservation of Momentum is the law that applies.”
I don’t know why you keep referring to basic Newtonian mechanics, but since you do:
When we say momentum, we usually mean linear momentum. At least in classical mechanics. But conservation of the *angular* momentum is what matters here. It encompasses linear momentum and it’s the reason why a long jumper who decides not to fight his angular momentum will land head first.
“If a person starts the body rotation just prior to the take-off then the person will fall head first. But then the horizontal take-off speed will be reduced because part of the horizontal speed will go into the rotational momentum.”
Did you even listen to professional jumpers I gave you link to:
You *will* land head first unless countering the rotation.
Rotation is already there. Always. In any long jump. You might as well utilize it, instead of fighting it.
What is especially worrying is that prof. found appropriate and necessary to impose restrictions and handicaps on how you have to jump in order to land on your head. As if he is able to predict the rotational trajectory. And he did that by watching ppl jump into a pool(!)
Yet here we have something completely different – a 29m deep jump. We have no idea how many rotations your body might make during a 29m jump. As little as 1/4 rotation (90°) makes his experiment fall on his head, pun intended.
— He’s wrong with respect to a level jump:
1. you can land on your head in a distance optimized jump
2. somersaulting is a legit long jumping technique
— He’s STUNNINGLY wrong for 29m deep jump.
Pro Cross published his findings in an Applied Physics journal. His work was thus peer reviewed.
Prof Cross’ report was reviewed by another physicist before it was used in a court of law.
Had I believed that Assoc Prof Cross erred in his scientific work I would have written a paper and submitted it to Applied Physics journal for review.
Cross has a 2014 paper in a Forensic Science Journal where he discusses errors made by the Appeal Court judges and by the expert for defence. Had I believed that Cross erred in that paper I would have written an article and submitted it for review.
I looked at that journal paper a few years ago when there was free access. I didn’t keep a copy of it. I found so many mistakes in it that I couldn’t believe it.
Nowadays it would cost US$58 for an amateur like me to access the journal paper, ref
Carry C P – if you (being a physicist) can access the journal paper for free, could you send a copy of it to Andrew Urban please? Then if I can see the article, I will make a list of some of the many errors in the journal paper. Then you can see if you agree that they are errors.
There were two experts whose opinion the Appeal Court depended on.
Any physicist who studies this case from a scientific perspective would likely be interested in studying both the opinion of the prosecution expert witness and the opinion of the defence expert witness. That is what I did.
As for jumping versus diving etc: I jumped and dived off cliffs into a lake when I was a kid in Europe; I jumped and dived off several jetties in Australia (as a teenager and as an adult). My experience is that unless one starts the forward rotation prior to being airborne that one won’t fall head first.
nomen nesco, Peter Gill
Regarding forward rotation:
If you download Cross’ 2006 Forensic Science paper (Fatal Falls from a Height : Two Case Studies) you will see his explanation on Page 98 in section titled ‘Feet First vs Head First Jump Speeds’
Cross provided the link to that 2006 paper on this link
I read the 2006 Forensic Science paper in early 2019. I was thus well aware of his reasoning when you two interacted here with me. Neither of you has a thorough enough understanding of the physics problem to challenge him nor me.
Note that elite long jumpers apply breaking force as they propel themselves into air. This breaking force reduces their forward speed and imparts forward rotation.
I have described 3 different ways that Caroline could have jumped and landed head first and which never entered prof. Cross’ analysis:
1. an almost “normal” track and field long jump, but different in so much that you don’t bother to counter the forward rotation when taking off like professional long jumpers do.
2. summersault long jump
3. head first jump in which you use both hands to push yourself when diving pass the edge
A 3rd one is likely not be the best way to maximize your landing distance. But it’s a murder case – was it checked? No. Sloppy.
On the other hand, 1. and 2. are shown to be optimized for the maximum landing distance.
Peter, you mentioned not running in a straight line – good thinking.
Here is yet another way to maximize your jump distance in small space:
Five main phases of track and field long jump are: 1.the approach run, 2.the last two strides, 3.takeoff, 4.midair action, and 5.landing. This works fine if you have plenty of track available.
But if you have 7-8 meters, what you should do to maximize the take off speed is not to run normally. You can’t afford normal long steps, because you have only few steps before the edge. You lay low similar to 100m sprint start. But after a start, you spread your feet to your sides. You make your steps small with respect to frontally covered distance, but long with respect to sides (distance between your feet), therefore maximizing the number of possible strides.
Was this technique ever considered? No. Extremely sloppy!
I am glad to hear that your friend survived that jump.
The fact that Caroline landed head first DOES NOT mean she dived off.
“she didn’t jump feet first since that would result in a feet first landing at high jump speeds.”
A person jumping feet first will often jump with a certain amount of angular momentum, even if unintended. Which due to conservation of momentum (slight loss; air drag) makes head first landing possible. ESPECIALLY if the fall is 29m – you DON’T have to “adjusts their body for a dive after taking a run-up that there is a loss of about 0.5 m/s in horizontal take-off speed” as if diving into a pool from ground height. You have 29m to adjust your body to land head first.
This alone makes the entire analysis of prof. Cross completely invalid.
“However, it was also found that a strong man (someone who could bench-press at least 100 kg) could throw a woman of Caroline’s weight at the sufficient speed of 4.5 m/sec but only if he threw her in a particular way that resembled a spear-throw. The prosecution had a witness testify that Gordon had regular workouts at a gym and was bench-pressing 100 kg.
Caroline was a model not an athlete. There was no evidence to suggest that she would have had significantly above average athletic ability. ”
This is beyond cherry picking.
According to you a 25yr old, healthy, gym-going Carolin was NOT an athlete, but 9 years her senior who can bench-press measly 100kg IS an athlete capable of extreme feats of strength.
Pretty much any gym-going schmuck can bench-press 100kg. That does not mean that he is able to make a far more technically and physically demanding motion like lifting a 61 kg body above shoulder height.
Let alone throw the woman further than she can jump, as if she was a spear. Which, I would suggest, comes awfully close to World Strongest Man territory.
Are you aware that you can can increase your initial speed in a head first jump v(t=0) by just barely missing the edge and then using both hands to pull the edge propelling yourself forward. Has prof. even considered such technique? Apparently not.
To say that Cross’ experiments were “unsophisticated” is an understatement.
I suggest that you study the laws of motion.
Once a person take off a cliff that person won’t be able to rotate one’s body because the speed of the fall won’t be sufficient to generate enough wind resistance.
The only way that a person can end up landing head first if that person took off the cliff head first.
Carry, you might be glad to know that I have already been following your suggestion. For many years.
As for the rest, everything you wrote up there is wrong. Or even worse, because your 2nd sentence is an example of what we physicists like to call ‘not even wrong’ – Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!
Enough of that.
I am sure that you are aware that running is a series of controlled falls, ie. forward jumps. These jumps are caused by the rotational motion of the legs. Without the rotational component, a runner would simply be jumping in place.
Consider a track and field long jumper:
During an approach run phase, a long jumper’s forward leg counters forward rotation. It keeps him upright straight, and prevents him from falling on his face. By forward rotation I mean clockwise.
During a take-off phase, what counters forward rotation is so called hitch-kick or hang technique. He jumps up and gives a backward rotation kick (among other things). If he didn’t do anything to prevent forward rotation, he would fall on the ground face first.
A forward rotation is ever present.
“It was found that the test subjects were about 0.5 m/s slower in diving off after a run-up than jumping off after a run-up over the same run-up distance.”
Prof. got it completely wrong ^^ .
It’s the other way around: a track and field long jumper who wants to land feet first, is the one who slows down. He’s the one who chooses to counter forward rotation by using hang or hitch kick-technique, instead of simply continuing to run at maximum speed.
A diver continues running at maximum speed and lands head first.
The above is proved by the following phenomena:
Did you know that the banned somersault technique in long jump is known to be superior to classic long jump?
This is because you don’t slow down like in a classic long jump. You use the forward rotation instead of fighting it.
Good to know that you are a phycist. I am also a phycist. I posted some time ago under my second name. (Charles P). See my lengthy post under Charles P.
Do experiments and see what kind of an athlete can accelerate over that distance to reach the necessary take off speed such that the person ends falling head first.
If a person starts the body rotation just prior to the take-off then the person will fall head first. But then the horizontal take-off speed will be reduced because part of the horizontal speed will go into the rotational momentum.
If a person doesn’t start the rotation prior to the take-off then the person won’t be able to rotate after the take-off.
Conservation of Momentum is the law that applies.
“ Nomen Nesco” wrote that Cross’s idea that
“she didn’t jump feet first since that would result in a feet first landing at high jump speeds.” is incorrect.
Nomen Nesco is right. Cross was wrong. For example, my late friend Justin Lall jumped feet first and didn’t land feet first in his 2009 jump, ref https://justinlall.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/suicide-3-the-story/.
While we’re discussing this topic ….
Cross made the false assumption that Caroline had to run up to the cliff edge in a straight line. If one assumes that Caroline didn’t run up in a straight line (and there’s a very good reason to think that’s so), Caroline had an available run up of 7 or 8 metres at the cornerpost area, not the maximum of 5 metres that Cross wrongly assumed. If she had a 7 or 8 metre run up and we assume that Cross’s calculations are correct, then Caroline would have comfortably overshot both possible crevices where she may have landed, landing perhaps 15m or 16m from the cliff. I’m pretty sure that the reason she landed where she did is because she didn’t run up at full speed.
And the reason Caroline landed further out than most other suicide jumpers at The Gap is that they jumped from The Gap where the safety fence limits the run up to a maximum of 2 or 3 metres, whereas Caroline jumped from Gap Bluff with the 7m or 8m run up, ie from an entirely different location location a bit north east of The Gap.
It’s amazing how much of the trial was based on false assumptions and incorrect ideas.
It’s amazing that Cross’ male test subjects were able to launch a woman at a faster speed than any of the women could launch themselves even when taking a feet first Jump! How is that possible? There is something in that spear throw technique that assists the male when holding a woman at between her legs and pushing her forwards.
Not subjects (plural) with an s – only super strong Trent could do it repeatedly (three times). The other four throwers failed.
Link is to Rod Cross’s book – scroll to page 101.
The Associate Professor began the tests with a very strong man (Tony) doing the throwing. Ref page 101 of Cross’s book (link is below) … Tony had ten tries to achieve the required 4.37 m/s throw and got 3.30, 3.67, 4.37, 3.85, 3.82, 4.20, 4.01, 4.10, 4.18, 4.13. Ten failures. So, like many scientists would, Rod sent the police an encouraging email, suggesting they try again with some stronger throwers. That’s what he wrote on page 101.
Trent S was an ultra fit, very tall, huge guy who once was the fitness conditioner for one of Sydney’s top Rugby League clubs.
Trent threw the late Camille Alavoine into the pool, and, hey presto, if you get someone much stronger than Wood, it could be done. Trent was a lean athletic 103kg of pure muscle. IIRC, the throwers’ first names were Tony and Trent.
Go to page 102 of the linked book. Three other ultra strong guys had a go at throwing and failed. Super strong Trent succeeded three times. As Cross wrote in his book, if Trent couldn’t succeed, nobody could.
You’re a physicist. Don’t be shy – what do you think of that approach?
You do seem to be spotting some of the more interesting aspects of this particular case.
In passing ….
You mentioned above that the moon set that night at 1am. Close enough – it set that night at 12.59am.
Who are the people who made the claim of it being such a dark night? Answer: Associate Professor Rod Cross and Tony Byrne, for a start. Then the Appeals judges, who depending on context, might have been referring to that evening after 1am. We don’t know because you didn’t say which paragraph in their Appeal write-up you were quoting from.
Ref the top of page 7 of Cross’s book
where Cross wrote: “The night was so black” and
Tony Byrne claimed that he couldn’t even see his own feet.
Tony was at The Gap after 1am so his comment makes sense.
The moon was about a half moon that night, wasn’t it?
I’m pretty sure that a full moon provides about six times more illumination on the surface of the Earth that a half moon does.
This stuff about moonlight surely isn’t a very important point.
Sure, Cross might have made an error writing “so black” in his book but who cares?
There’s much more serious matters in this case such as the drug Caroline was prescribed in the month before she died, because that drug, with its possibly deadly effect on many young women, and despite bans overseas, is still being prescribed in Australia nowadays. So sad.
As for the amount of light on that night:
There are two different parts of the night:
1. When a woman’s scream was heard. That was about 11:30 pm (before the moon set).
2. When Wood and Peter Byrne went to the Gap to search for Carolyn. That was after the moon set. It was pitch dark then.
You will find the Appeal Court decision on Bob Moles’ website.
The trial transcript isn’t available online and hence I don’t know who said what but I think that at least one of the two fishermen would have been a witness at the trial. He most likely said it was pitch dark. But they were fishing next to a light and wouldn’t have been aware that had the light not been on that their eyes would have adopted to the lower level of light that was provided by the moonlight.
The jury at Gordon Wood’s trial heard the two sides of the case. The defence did argue that it was suicide. I think that any medication that she was prescribed would have been mentioned.
My interest is in the science of the case.
The Appeal Court judges used the argument that it was pitch dark at the time of Byrne’s death. They argued that under such circumstances it was too dangerous to lift and throw a woman without falling over yourself. But then they assumed that Byrne woukd have been able to navigate around the Gap in pitch dark and then select a location from which to take a run up, take the run and then launch herself right near the edge of the cliff!
There was a 50 minute interview with former DPP Nicholas Cowdrey ABC RN’s “Conversations” recently. The link is: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/nicholas-cowdery/11710532
Reply to comment of Insider. I suspect that you are looking at feet first jump speed results. They can be excluded since Caroline landed head first. Nevertheless, feet first jump speeds are of interest since they show how much dive speeds are reduced, and can be compared with measured jump speeds with a 5 m runup. The measured distance from the safety fence to the tip of the ledge was 5.0 m. (It is still 5.0m, as anyone can check. The appeal judges claimed it was 6 m, but they didn’t bother to check). However, a runner or jumper doesn’t normally start off with both feet together. One foot is usually well ahead of the other at the start of a sprint (as opposed to a marathon race). Also, it was a cold, dark night and there was no warm-up, whereas the dive and jump tests were conducted under ideal conditions at a swimming pool, with good athletes.
So you think all the police cadets in your tests were good athletes? Please provide evidence. To give one example, the young woman who belly flopped into the pool in the video of your tests looked decidedly uncomfortable in her diving and jumping, and did not look at all fit, especially compared to Caroline.
Compare with Caroline. She went to the gym regularly until a few weeks before her death when her physical problem began, she grew up with a swimming pool at home, she exercised regularly, used the treadmill regularly and had all the traits of a healthy reasonably fit young woman in her early twenties. In her job at the time of her death, she lugged quite a lot of equipment from her car to the markets at Parklea etc where she worked. She looked slim, fit and healthy. There’s no reason to diminish the memory of her by claiming anything else, is there?
In reply to your first line: “you suspect…” …. do you prefer not to look at the Report and instead rely on suspicion and innuendo? Why not simply look up the info? My copy of the Report is a printed copy in another country from where I am now, so I alas cannot look it up until my travels are over.
Who is Godon’s legal team?
Tom Molomby is the barrister at this appeal. Bruce McClintock from Melbourne was the barrister at the malicious prosecution suit. I don’t know who the other lawyers in his team are nowadays.
Way back at the appeal that freed him, Tim Game was the barrister and Michael Bowe was the hard-working solicitor. The key person for that appeal was Gordon’s sister Jackie Schmidt. Jackie did a great job in the key role that lawyers usually don’t have enough time for – gathering facts and data, combing through the evidence and fact-checking. Michael Bowe was the solicitor at the original two trials too, and Winston Terracini was Wood’s barrister. Terracini’s record against Tedeschi is not good. Admittedly, all barristers have bad records when taking on Tedeschi, except for Graham Turnbull. In my spare time a few years ago, I compiled all sorts of numerical data about how certain judges and barristers influence the outcome of appeals in NSW. The results were not what I expected.
I could never see the plausibility of someone “spear-throwing” a victim to their death as was claimed in the Wood case.
Such an achievement would need an incredible amount of strength, balance and control. And why resort to such a physically demanding (and dangerous) act when a mere push from the clifftop would give the same required result?
If a body was a significant distance away from the cliff side, I thought it would be more likely to be the result of the victim taking a run-up and launching themselves out than in an unlikely feat of strength by a murderer.
Unless Carlone Byrne had a well above average athletic ability to accelerate to a speed of 16 km/hour over a run-up distance of about 4.5 meters then she didn’t commit suicide. The physics of the problem is governed by Newton’s Laws of motion.
The following Forensic Science article from 2014 is worth a read as it states the errors made by the Appeal Court judges in the interpretation of the scientific evidence. It also states the errors made by the defence expert witness.
“Misinterpretation of expert evidence in Wood v R”
by Rod Cross
Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences
Volume 46, 2014 – Issue 4
But of course it’s rather irrelevant when there is no evidence that Gordon Wood or anyone else threw Caroline Byrne off the Gap. Prof Cross attempted to show that Wood COULD, but that is not the same thing.
Andrew. Caroline landed 11.8 m out. The evidence for that is fully discussed in several reports. Either she jumped or dived or she was thrown. She landed head first in a crevice with no injuries to her shoulders. So she didn’t jump feet first since that would result in a feet first landing at high jump speeds. None of the subjects tested could dive fast enough and all but one were well above average in athletic ability. That evidence has been largely ignored by everyone.
The point I make is not to dispute your conclusions about the physical possibilities but about failing to show the jury any evidence that Gordon Wood executed the act of throwing his girlfriend off the cliff that night.
Rod – you should read Professor Cross’s reports which were presented at the trial. One of the young women in Professor Cross’s experiments did succeed in committing suicide with the 5.5m run-up. Someone involved in the prosecution cherry picked, removing that result. The expert at the concurrent Gilham trial cherry picked his carbon monoxide data. William McBride cherry picked his Debendox data. If you wonder how common this cherry picking of data is among scientists, look at this transcript of Jason Chin from Sydney Uni giving a Raising The Bar talk a few weeks ago: https://sydney.edu.au/content/dam/corporate/documents/about-us/community-partnerships/raising-the-bar-transcripts/2019/jason_chin.pdf.
Look at the second half of page 4 of that link. This cherry picking style of data collection is common, incredibly common. Unbelievably common. The impact of this on criminal trials is yet another overlooked factor that can lead to miscarriages of justice.
Or look at the video of that talk:
My usage of the words “cherry picking” is not totally appropriate. I mean that the data presented in court is selected, not the total data.
Rod – if you can access it, please have a close look at the relevant Report by Professor Cross. Observe the number of the young woman who succeeded in committing suicide with the (unrealistically short, as it turns out, when the crime scene was independently examined) 4.5m run-up restriction. Check the number of the young woman in her early thirties, significantly older than Caroline, but who had been a champion hurdler in her high school days. See how the numbers are different? They are not the same young woman. Yet that piece of data was excluded from Gordon Wood’s trial on the assumption that they were the same woman. Please check if you can, and let us know if you agree.
And it is more plausible that someone could run an jump much further than someone could be thrown.
What you say is intuitive but is it supported by the relevant real-world experimental data?
As pointed out by Rod, Caroline landed head first. That means that either she dived off (possibly after a run-up) or she was thrown off such that her head was falling ahead of her torso. Rod also pointed out that “she didn’t jump feet first since that would result in a feet first landing at high jump speeds.” There was no injury to her legs or feet that would have resulted had she landed feet first. This is significant.
Prof Cross’ eperiments with female police officers, all of whom were well above average athletic ability, have shown that none of them could dive off after a run-up at the required speed of 4.5 m/s (16.2 km/hr). It was found that the test subjects were about 0.5 m/s slower in diving off after a run-up than jumping off after a run-up over the same run-up distance.
However, it was also found that a strong man (someone who could bench-press at least 100 kg) could throw a woman of Caroline’s weight at the sufficient speed of 4.5 m/sec but only if he threw her in a particular way that resembled a spear-throw. The prosecution had a witness testify that Gordon had regular workouts at a gym and was bench-pressing 100 kg.
Caroline was a model not an athlete. There was no evidence to suggest that she would have had significantly above average athletic ability. It is thus highly unlikely that she would have had the necessary athletic ability to reach the necessary take-off dive speed of 4.5 m/sec (16.2 km/hr) to land head first about 11.8 m away from the base of the cliff.
The expert defence witness at the appeal used two test subjects whose athletic ability was superior to that of Prof Cross’ test subjects. Prof Cross determined that the acceleration rate of one of these test subjects was comparable to that of a former Olympic 100 m sprint champion (Flo-Jo). The defence expert also had his subjects take a jump with feet-first rather than take a dive after the run-up. This was an incorrect test. Had he asked them to take a dive after a run-up then neither would have reached the necessary take-off speed of 4.5 m/sec. Experiments conducted by Prof Cross have shown that when a runner adjusts their body for a dive after taking a run-up that there is a loss of about 0.5 m/s in horizontal take-off speed.
The above mentioned experimental work by Prof Cross provided conclusive experimental data that Caroline couldn’t have dived off at the required take-off speed to reach 11.8 meters away from the base of the cliff, but that a man who could bench-press at least 100 kg could have thrown Caroline in a spear-throw manner at or above the required speed of 16.2 km/hr. This scientific expert evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that Caroline didn’t commit suicide.
Charles P – you have assumed – wrongly – that Caroline had a run up of at most 4.5 metres or 5 metres. Caroline actually had an available run up of 7m or 8m. This false assumption by you invalidates your hypothesis.
I can prove that she had an available run up of 7m or 8m, if you want me to.
In 1991 when freeing Tim Anderson, Justice Murray Gleeson described Mark Tedeschi’s prosecutory style: “there was an inappropriate and unfair attempt to persuade the jury to draw inferences of fact, and accept argumentative suggestions, that were not open on the evidence, and in some contrary to the evidence.”
Nicholas Cowdrey, the man who made a public fool of himself by making sleazy comments about Keli Lane in a recent ABC series about the Lane case.
The fact that Tedeschi was involved in both the Wood and Lane cases should give cause for concern. In both cases Tedeschi introduced imaginative, spurious scenarios as “evidence” and got away with it.
The NSW Prosecution Guidelines can be found at
Sections 2 and 3 are the relevant ones.
If anyone wants to go to the appeal, it’s scheduled to be in Court 12A on the 12th floor of the Queens Square building in Sydney at 10:15am on Monday 18 November, continuing on Tuesday 19 November at 10:15am. The third day might not take place. The Judges are Justice Fabian Gleeson, Justice Anthony Payne and Acting Justice Carolyn Simpson.
Brian – the overturned Tedeschi prosecutions so far include Tim Anderson (Hilton bombing), Gordon Wood and to some extent Jeff Gilham (Tedeschi prosecuted only the first trial). The Tedeschi prosecutions that in my opinion should be overturned include Keli Lane, Kathleen Folbigg, Simon Gittany, Robert Xie, Manju Sam and Phuong Ngo. I might have missed a few others. Ivan Milat is not one of the ones I missed, in my opinion.
Mmmm. I believe there is more to the Gordon Wood case than has been published. I spent many hours with Caroline’s family, friends and employers, with the plan to write a book. I abandoned that plan when Caroline’s father, who had promised me full access to all his journals from when her body was found, withdrew his co-operation. Maybe he now wishes he hadn’t! Also interviewed Rene Rivkin, for whom Wood drove and did other odd jobs. Sometimes these cases are not all they seem.
Gordon Wood’s lawyer pushing for malicious prosecution was an idiotic move. To win the case he had to prove malicious. No easy task. A simple wrongful prosecution would have been hard enough and makes more sense.
Tedeschi has to be taken down.
I believe Ivan Milat to be innocent. Simple to work out. Tedeschi again.
There are many others which are questionable
Tedeschi no longer works for the NSWODPP, so your comment about “taken down” no longer applies. His “stepping down” was announced on 20 Dec 2017.
Here’s two articles which tell part of the story of what happened in mid Dec 2017 at the NSW ODPP: