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.
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 become … quite 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 …