Marco Rusterholz and the question of doubt

Andrew L. Urban

 A comment posted by reader Nick Albu (if that is his real name) raises a number of issues to challenge Marco Rusterholz’s claim of innocence, in the wake of his double 2015 murder conviction and failed appeal – even though the Tasmanian appeal judges agreed 3-0 that the circumstantial case did not prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The case is complex, involving feuding characters, drugs and conflicting testimony. Rusterholz, 51 at the time, pleaded not guilty to the murders of Angela Hallam and Joshua Newman in Ravenswood, Tasmania, in 2012. It took the Supreme Court jury in Launceston about 10 hours over three days to convict Rusterholz of murdering Hallam, 31, and Mr Newman, 21. The Crown’s case, entirely circumstantial, was that Rusterholz stabbed the couple and cut their throats before setting their bodies on fire. The state argued Rusterholz killed Hallam over a drug debt and because he believed her death would please his new girlfriend. Newman was described as being in the wrong place at the wrong time and was killed because he went to Hallam’s aid.

Over the course of the seven-week trial, jurors heard from more than 70 witnesses. Witness Matthew Coventry told the court he and Hallam trafficked drugs for Rusterholz and they had stolen a large amount of drugs from him. Both Coventry and Mayer said Rusterholz had admitted the murders to them. Those arguably self-serving, unreliable claims, played a key role in the rejection of his appeal.

Albu’s comments follow our report published in January 2023, which provides an overview of the case; in the public interest, we have asked Marco Rusterholz (via his good friends the Hoffmans) to respond to Albu’s claims and allegations. Rusterholz’s response is detailed, extensive and exhaustive. It is a valuable archival record, and we have explored it for a couple of relevant examples to publish here, rebutting Albu’s comments and we believe that these examples destroy the validity of those comments and Albu’s credibility.

Marco Rusterholz conveniently fails to address the fact that a strong scent of bleach was reported in the laundry of his residence by investigating officers and that his own wife admitted to burning the clothes he wore on the night of the murders that were covered in blood.

The police prosecutor provided information regarding the scent of bleach and that was testified to in court by detectives on the scene.

Marco & son Saxon, in 2012 before his arrest

At that time, I had eight children. The eldest was 12 years old. Eight children, 12 years old and younger. Yes, we had bleach in our laundry. Of course, we had bleach! There was a new-born in the house and with the two or three youngest; there were still bed wetting issues and the usual accidents, thus common-sense hygiene dictates that one has bleach to clean and sanitise one’s clothing for the family. Most of the police who searched the place said that the laundry smelled like a laundry and some said it had a bleachy smell. There was NEVER an issue of whether there was bleach in the house – well in this case – the laundry. Unless bleach was on the nose in every room – which it was not. Only in the laundry.

Police were actually looking for clothing that smelled of petrol – as lmlach had a tale that I had spread petrol all through the victim’s unit. Thus, logically – the clothing could contain petrol fumes. Page 1134 of Brett lmlach’s testimony, Line 28 to line 41 he claims that I poured fuel all through the victim’s unit – upstairs and down. Quite creative – but fortunately – this is all able to be verified, or dismissed, by scientific evidence.

There was NO scientific trial evidence from anyone re: clothes burning, hair burning, work boot burning or blood washing having taken place at the accused’s dwelling! Neither was any Police documentation or records, spoken of, or made available, or referred to, regarding such claims as made by Albu. This does not exist.

Furthermore; at the Rusterholz dwelling, the police went through the water of the washing machine and the ‘U’ section of all drains to strain the water for even the most minute concentrations of blood in the dwelling. There was not a single blood drop, or stain, or blood specimen or sample found on any door-handle, drain, fireplace, firebox, firebox handle, furniture, bedding, beds, sheets or clothing or even on ANY knife anywhere in the Rusterholz dwelling whatsoever … EXCEPT on a Brand-New looking fuel container, with price tag still attached, found just inside the door of the shed. This had victim’s blood on it pretty well wherever there was Morgan’s (co-accused, David Morgan) DNA and/or prints located. His DNA was found pretty well everywhere that one would carry, use, open or handle this can type!

After 36 separate swabs and 12 months of possession (that’s a whole year) inside forensic services – Rusterholz DNA was found on the back bottom edge of can. Police Prosecutor Ransom stated that they place no value on that DNA and he himself suggest it was probably transference.

The pony tail Rusterholz hacked from Miss Hallam’s head and presented to Imlach. Rusterholz presenting that same ponytail to Sally as her “birthday present” to which Sally of the multiple last names/aliases replied “I wanted her fkn head,not her hair”. For the record, the injuries to Miss Hallam were described as a partial decapitation.

Dr Donald Ritchey – forensic pathologist conducted the autopsy of the victims. He said … Page 333 Line 19-44 In terms of there being evidence of hair removal, or the removal of hair … the prospect of it being cut, scissored or removed … And that your answer .,. was that you did not notice anything like that – do you recall that answer? I do recall that. Page 334 line 4-5 … there was nothing that you saw that suggested that hair had been cut … There was nothing that I saw …

FORENSICALLY PROVEN FACT – There was no hair cut from the victim. Nor did the victim have blond hair. A scientific and forensic fact! On the stand Mayer testified to the prosecution that her birthday present was in fact a car.

Page 1093 lines 33-40 “Okay, thank you. You were asked by Mr Hughes about a motor vehicle being a birthday present? ….. Yes. And that motor vehicle was the one that was brought down was it on the night by Mr Rusterholz? …..Yes. A small Hyundai?    Yes.”

Lastly; no evidence whatsoever in Mayer’s trial transcripts – where she wants the victim’s head!

Nowhere in Dr. Ritchey’s (autopsy specialist) trial evidence does he even use the words “partial decapitation”. In fact that word isn’t said in the whole trial by anyone!

Remind Rusterholz about the violent threats he had made to Joshua Newman the week prior. Mr Newman had informed others about these threats, referring to Rusterholz by his first and last name.

There was no evidence given by any witness; police, phone technician or civilian, that Joshua Newman had any threats made to him by Rusterholz. Or vice versa! Nor was there any evidence whatsoever of Mr Newman informing anyone at all, that threats had been made to him by Rusterholz. There was no evidence, at all, of any phone text conversations, NOR phone calls, between the two! EVER!

The cruelty and abuse to his own children were also testified to.

Albu couldn’t have been in court during the trial; couldn’t have read the transcripts. Everything claimed (by him) does not have mention in the trial transcripts. No one gave any evidence of Rusterholz’s “cruelty and abuse to his own children”. There was no evidence of that nature even discussed by anyone at all in the court trial. Cove’s missus, Dana, did report that Mr Coventry was “a very violent man”. Coventry even admitted on the stand the following; Page 908 line 1: You becomequite nasty when you’re wild don’t you?  Correct.”


We can only speculate as to the motives behind Albu’s malicious imputations and allegations; they certainly can have no impact on any future appeal. Perhaps personal animosity is at play …

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8 Responses to Marco Rusterholz and the question of doubt

  1. Brian Johnston says:

    If not Rusterholz then who. The only way to help or save him is to solve the case.

    • BRIAN – Are you effing serious ? A crime is not solved by doing some poor innocent bastard over – then eventually getting a confession that can’t be ignored – even if Titus Oates wrote the screen play and his dear friend Judge Jeffreys was presiding – Mind You – in the Guvment Panzer Wagon – you are KING ! Look out for the boy on the bike – Crikey ! An inconvenient Corolla ! Ram IT – You are immune – just a bloody peasant ! Quickly- get Colin Mannock !

  2. Garry Stannus says:

    I once lived in an area like Ravenswood. It was called ‘Olympic Village’. As people do, we met a family couple, whose children/child went to the same primary school as ours’. Parents often meet other parents through the school that their kids go to.

    Dad was a nice bloke, gently spoken. He was a driver, had a flat-tray truck. Our contact ended when we moved out of the area, to start our ‘Ace Cafe’, in another suburb. They had visited us, there in the Olympic Village, at our little conjoined cottage which had been built in the 50s to house athletes of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics … in our house, the athletes had been Lithuanian, as I recall.

    When we left that – our first ‘own home’ … when we left that and moved out of the Village to rent/start up ‘The Ace’ closer into town, we were shocked to learn subsequently that our daughter’s former school friend and her mum had been murdered … had had their throats cut … over some drug debt.

    Whose debt was it, supposedly? The Dad’s? I don’t know. By the time I knew of the deaths, I was gone from that place. When we knew the family, we had lived in ‘Liberty Parade’, Olympic Village. We had bought the (Housing Commission) place for $26,000 … we had no money … had nothing for a deposit … Mum loaned me a bit for a deposit and the RESI gave us a ‘Low Start’ loan. We were there for a few years, till we moved on. We sold the place when we wanted to buy a place in the country, Liffey TAS, actually.

    Having made every payment on time to the RESI, we still owed $26,000 on the $26,000 loan that we’d taken out. Good thing was, that, at auction, the place got $46,000 and so we had $20,000 ‘collateral’ with which to use as a deposit for our Liffey place. Still had no money.

    There are other stories from that Olympic Village time. They are just-on 50 years in the past. We’ve ‘kicked on’ while some others, tragically, have not.

    I don’t know where the truth lies, in Marco Rusterholz’s claim of innocence, in the wake of his double 2015 murder conviction and failed appeal. That means, if I had been a juror, I would most likely have found him ‘not guilty’ (‘beyond reasonable doubt’).

    Yet in spite of these doubts of mine, I need to keep in mind the lives that were taken from innocent people … as well as keeping in mind to call for justice in our courts. Bob Chappell was such a person. The two from ‘Olympic Village’ were such people. There are many.

    • andrew says:

      What concerns me most in the Rusterholz case is the apparent failure of logic in the appeal court’s decision. The judges 3-0 upheld his appeal: the murders were not proved beyond reasonable doubt. How then could they refuse the appeal relying on the testimony of witnesses who may well harbour animosity (or have self preservation concerns) claiming Rusterholz made admissions of guilt? That is apart from the contradiction that the charges were not proved beyond reasonable doubt. Are the admissions not part of evidence on which a verdict is based?
      Another example of a circumstantial case falling off the legal system rails.

    • Garry Stannus says:

      Oops! My comment: “Dad was a nice bloke, gently spoken” was a reference to the father in the family that we had known, there in the Olympic Village. On re-reading my drafted comment, I realise that readers might think that it was my own ‘Dad’ to whom I had referred. Not so, though my own Dad had a warm tone of voice which I loved.

  3. Father Ted Whalensky says:

    The motive ? To convict Marco Rusterholz – To convict Sue Neill Fraser – Coincidental – the protection of those in the Tasmaniac drugs business ? A can of worms ! Are Tasmanian Judges Mentally Retarded ? Are all judges a bit thick ? Appeals Court results would make one think so ! A lengthy study – British Psychologists – found that persons with power ALWAYS abuse that power . (even if sometimes in a trivial manner) So there ya go – Let’s hope that’s the answer . The alternative explanation is NOT a prettier one – Straight out corruption or halfwittednessat the highest level ! Absolute swine with a motive or a Psychological reason to imprison the innocent – which is it ? Oh the power- let’s get a dingoe bite expert from Londinium- Let’s get a drug compromised witness to impress the halfwitted Jury. Let’s never overturn a juries verdict – except in the case of a convicted hot shot of course ! Every ambitious Policeyman knows how to get a confession from the innocent – moral decency- do you what ? Wrongful Aquittal – the policeymens privilege!

  4. Robert Greenshields says:

    Not unlike speculating about the motivations of some so called professionals, involved in probably the prime case, connected to this extensive website Andrew.
    I have long recognised the cringe worthy, self determining, supposed advanced skill set aspect, of those who embrace the need to align themselves with internally stratified promotional structures, ie, “yesterday I could not spell Sergeant, Captain, or Inspector, today I are one”; along with the grossly recognised and accepted pitfalls of in-house rank overriding credibility, legitimately earned qualifications, and professionalism. Sadly from my experiences and ongoing education, I believe that negative and regressive cultures infests every federal government, and state and territory administrations across Australia. Coroners inquiries along with active Royal Commissions confirms my point of view. (Interesting to me is the obvious need by some actively involved having to wear long sleeve shirts, with buttoned up necks. Now just what would be the true intention for that? Dress codes in higher temperatures? Not to cover up possible character defining tattoos surely)!
    Drongos in uniforms or suits, (badged up and including baubles), in court cases within the NSW Oxley Area Command of NSW that I have taken an interest in, have quite obviously carried out the process in efforts, I believe, to sway the appearance of policing and judicial proceedings as being conducted professionally and legitimately. The forementioned behaviour flies in the face of honesty and impartiality though, and the words of a then local solicitor stating to a
    citizen, “you will not win in Gunnedah, but you will win in Tamworth”, comes readily to mind.
    Australia is in a dire disposition judicially, and apart from venal legislators making news near daily in our courts, many others, after having sworn oaths and entrusted to be active police, are to be included as corrupted, deceitful, and totally untrustworthy.

  5. Steven Fennell says:

    Liar, liar pants on fire comes to mind here.

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