Scott free

Andrew L. Urban

After 13 years in jail, 45 year old Scott Austic has finally regained his freedom and his official innocence last week, when a WA jury acquitted him after two hours of deliberations. As we reported in May this year, Austic had lost his first appeal against his conviction for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, Stacey Thorne, 35, who was 22 weeks pregnant when she was stabbed 21 times at her Boddington home, about 120 kilometres south-east of Perth.

However at the retrial, unlike the initial case, the defence was based on allegations “a small but corrupt” group of police officers, who had decided early on that Austic was the culprit, planted crucial evidence against him.

David Edwardson QC said that included the Jim Beam can and the knife that was alleged to be the murder weapon.

The defence called an expert, who testified the knife “miraculously” found by detectives in a paddock that already been thoroughly searched by State Emergency Service volunteers, was not long enough to have inflicted the deep wounds suffered by Thorne.

Trying to protect the conviction, prosecutor Justin Whalley SC outlined “11 strands of circumstantial evidence” that he claimed proved Austic was Thorne’s killer, including:

*Mr Austic “lying” to police in an interview about what he was wearing on the night of the stabbing, because CCTV from the local hotel showed him in different clothing

*the discovery of a Jim Beam can with Mr Austic’s DNA on a verge outside Ms Thorne’s home

*the discovery of a knife with Ms Thorne’s blood on it in a paddock near Mr Austic’s home

*the finding of a bloodstained cigarette packet on a table at Mr Austic’s house; and importantly

*a motive, because Mr Austic did not want Ms Thorne to have his child

FOOTNOTE:

As for what happens to the “small but corrupt” group of police officers … probably nothing.

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7 Responses to Scott free

  1. Garry Stannus says:

    It is, for me personally, difficult to accept that police do lie, and cheat … just like some of the general population do lie and cheat. And yet I know it happens. My instinct towards our police is one of trust, and yet I know that some police officers do the wrong thing. When a police officer wilfully breaks the law, or attempts to pervert justice, then that’s what I call corruption.

    When you or I do it, it’s an offence or a crime. When any public officer does it, it’s corruption. I know that it happens… Back in the 70s, I used to play chess with a postie mate, after work. I’d go back to his home after the delivery round was done, and Barb would cut us a plate of sandwiches for lunch, and we’d play chess. Charlie was a tricky player, into all the off-the-board (psychological) strategies designed to keep me floundering. One such strategy that I cottoned onto, was that when he would make a major move – likely to bring him victory – he’d do it quietly, but would at the same time ask me if I’d like another coffee. Then he’d probably have asked if I wanted sugar, milk, how much and whatever else. I guess he was ‘changing the subject’ – distracting his opponent.

    From Charlie, I learnt the finer rules of chess. He’d only tell me about such things as pawn ‘en passant‘ after he’d removed my pawn from the board, my having moved its initial two squares allowable to up alongside one of his own which had advanced down to my fourth row. Okay, I learnt the hard way. Charlie wouldn’t tell me the rule in advance … he’d tell me about it after he used it to his advantage.

    Sound a bit like the way our Australian law is often practised, n’est-ce pas?

    Charlie had a mate, a copper. Let’s call him ‘John’. I only met him a few times. He too called in to the home. Back in the day, we’d be sitting in the tiny lounge-room, the kitchen just beyond. We smoked freely during our games – that was normal in houses, then. ‘John’ came in one day, while we were playing. He had a bag of dope. He was a policeman, attached to a police station out of the area. He’d busted someone for the dope – as he told us – and brought it along with him, to share. Can’t remember if we actually gave it a go or not… probably did … in those days, why wouldn’t we?

    So I know that police can be corrupt. I know too that police are honest and believe in justice. We need to be able to trust in our governments, our soldiers, our police forces and in our judges and lawyers. When these people are seen to fail us, it’s like a licence (excuse) has been given to our wider society to break the law, to lie, to cheat and so on.

    In my opinion, we should judge such officials more harshly than we ourselves are judged. Consider the following case:

    Shocking news that Jason Robert’s conviction was gained by the fabrication of a document [https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-10/jason-roberts-appeal-over-silk-and-miller-murders/12865566]:

    “A key piece of evidence used to convict the men was statements from police officers on the scene who heard Senior Constable Miller declare that two men were responsible for the shooting.

    “But in 2019, Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission uncovered that one of those statements, prepared by Senior Constable Glenn Pullin, was made months and not hours after the shooting.

    “The statement was backdated, and did not explain that Senior Constable Pullin was not listening carefully to what has become known as the ‘dying declarations’ of Senior Constable Miller, but was instead comforting him.

    “The discovery was significant because prosecutors relied on Senior Constable Pullin’s evidence to back the suggestion there were two offenders, and corroborate other police accounts”.

    I’m not seeking to suggest that Jason Roberts is innocent (or even guilty). Rather, I’m highlighting the difficulty that is encountered when truth/evidence is twisted/distorted.

    In my view, such malfeasance is synonymous with ‘corruption’. Andrew’s article ‘Scott Free’ and the ‘Jason Roberts’ case that I’ve mentioned are examples of corruption. I also suggest that public officers in Tasmania – through their conduct of the Susan Neill-Fraser case – have shown themselves to be corrupt.

    In other states (e.g. Victoria’s ‘Tenez le Droit’ … Uphold the Law) there are police mottoes. Tasmania lacks one. At best we see that a police officer is required to:

    swear that I will faithfully execute the office of police officer in Tasmania, and that to the best of my power, without favour or affection, malice or ill-will, will cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against persons and properties in Tasmania, and that to the best of my ability, skill and knowledge will discharge all the duties of a police officer according to law. So help me God.

    Here, in Tasmania, our state believes in fertility and faithfulness … “Ubertas et Fidelitas”. [No comment!] I’ve had a quick look through mottoes around the world, and must say that the only one that I find no problem with, is that of France: France: Liberté, égalité, fraternité (French: Liberty, equality, fraternity). I understand the last term to now include ‘sisterhood’.

    For police (or any other public officer) to fabricate evidence, is, in my view, a ‘crime against the state’.

  2. Peter Gill says:

    If anyone wants to know more about Scott Austic, here’s a link to the 21 page transcript of Sunday Night TV show’s coverage in 2018: http://netk.net.au/WA/WA22.pdf.

  3. Robin Napper says:

    I analysed the police investigation in both Rayney and recent Austic cases. I am an ex-Detective Superintendent from the UK experienced in investigations where serious police misconduct is alleged to have occurred. What I discovered in these cases was frightening. It was quite clear that forensic material had been planted by corrupt police to gain a wrongful conviction. What allows this to continue is a complete denial by senior police that this has ever happened which borders on a contempt for the whole judicial system (ie: The courts have got it wrong) This attitude is exacerbated by a refusal to allow anyone independent from outside to review failed prosecutions. The exhibits and papers are buried deep into the vaults of the WA police never to see the light of day again. Sadly nothing will change until some brave politicians shine a light into these dark corners, and the corrupt police are uncovered and dealt with.

  4. David Edwardson QC says:

    I was the barrister at trial. The conduct of a small but powerful group of police officers is frightening. It is terrifying to think that this man at trial was condemned by corruption of the highest order. The post trial commentary by many including The Commissioner Of Police completely ignores the findings of the Court of Appeal before trial. If There are no consequences from this trial then Western Australia will continue to be the epicentre for miscarriage’s of justice. Button, Beamish, Mallard, Rayney, Mickelberg and now Austic. Do you need more evidence for a royal commission. I don’t think so!
    David Edwardson QC counsel for Rayney and Austic.

  5. Peter Gill says:

    Reminds me a lot of the Andrew Mallard case, but one decade later.

    For those not familiar with Mallard, here’s a summary:
    1994 murder in WA …. police plant evidence to implicate Mallard
    1995 Mallard found guilty
    2006 High Court quashes conviction due (in part) to police framing Mallard
    2006 Cold case review by WA police conclusively identifies Simon Rockford as the murderer, clears Mallard completely.
    2007 WA Inquiry led by Justice Dunsford from NSW gives adverse findings against two top WA police – Assistant Commissioners Mal Shervill and Dave Caporn who quit the police, presumably to minimise the damage to them. Five other police stood down in 2006-2007 due to Mallard case. Ken Bates had adverse findings too – I’m not sure what that led to. Mallard got some compensation.
    2019 Sadly,nMallard dies in hit and run in USA, teenager charged.

    The Scott Austic case has a lot of similarities to Mallard.
    Planting of evidence being the most obvious one.

    Fortunately there are many good people in high places in WA (eg John Quigley) who stand up for what is right, and who help to rectify wrongs.

    Any insider in Tasmania who similarly stands up for what’s right in the Sue Neill Fraser case will gain respect, will be able to live with themselves, and will gain votes if (like Quigley) they are political.

  6. owen allen says:

    This upsets me. That Police behave like this.
    But I have absolute belief because I experienced it, some Police believe they are above the law, and can do whatever they want. This attitude is contributing to my ongoing mental illness of anxiety and depression.
    But I won’t let them beat me down as they like.
    Bring on Royal Commission Tasmania.
    Release Sue Neill-Fraser Now Tasmania Prison.

  7. Monique says:

    The Commissioner is going to launch a police investigation. Eh yeh! Right! They should be named and shamed. They should be charged for perjury and jailed.

    The news broke Friday afternoon, on Saturday morning I checked and screenshot all the WA online media and not one ran it as a lead story. Such a big story and basically ignored. What a joke.

    And what about the corrupt DPP pursuing this innocent man after all the proof he did not murder Ms Thorne. At the Appeal when being cross-examined, all the Police defaulted to “could not recall”. This reeks of collusion. So why go ahead with a trial? What a waste of taxpayers money.

    There is no call for an independent review. Where are the Defence lawyers making noise about this miscarriage of justice? Where are the good retired judges? I mean they have to be in Perth as COVID has stopped them sunning themselves on the Amalfi Coast or the South of France.

    Shame on you all.

    I hope Scott gets the best team from the east to win a major compensation claim.

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