Saturday, May 1, 2010


"Bullock asked the judge, Des Derrington, to order that Stafford never be released for the killing of "utmost evil", adding that her body had been treated "abominably in a child murder of the worst kind".

Tony Koch: The Australian;


BACKGROUND: Graham Stuart Stafford was a sheet metal worker from Goodna, near Ipswich, Queensland who was convicted in 1992 of the murder of twelve-year-old Leanne Sarah Holland. Leanne Holland, the younger sister of Stafford's former partner, Melissa Holland, was murdered in September 1991. Her viciously mutilated body was found three days after she was reported missing in nearby Redbank Plains. It is possible she was also sexually interfered with and tortured with a cigarette lighter. Stafford appealed to the Queensland Court of Appeal, but this appeal was rejected on 25 August 1992. In 1997, the Queensland Court of Appeal re-examined the case after Stafford lodged an application for pardon with the State Governor on the basis of evidence gathered by private detective, Graeme Crowley. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal again by a two-to-one majority on the grounds that there was still enough evidence to convict. Two applications for special leave to the High Court of Australia subsequently failed. Stafford was released in June 2006 after serving over 14 years in prison. Stafford, who was born in England and does not have Australian citizenship despite having migrated to Australia in 1969, faced deportation in November 2006. Some people, including Professor Paul Wilson of Bond University believe that Stafford is a victim of a miscarriage of justice. The Queensland Attorney-General, Kerry Shine, has agreed to closely consider any request on Stafford's behalf concerning a petition to clear him of the murder conviction. In April 2008, the Queensland Attorney-General referred the case to the Court of Appeal for a very rare second appeal for pardon. On December 24, 2009 the Court of Appeal overturned Graham Stafford's conviction and ordered a retrial by a 2-1 majority. The dissenting judge wanted an immediate acquittal...WIKIPEDIA informs us that: "A Brisbane Sunday Mail examination of the police investigation revealed that an Ipswich computer store worker provided information to the police about a man who had entered the store on the same day as Leanne's body was dumped in nearby bushland. The worker claimed that the man had been behaving in a peculiar manner and had blood stains on his hands and trousers when he entered the store. Furthermore, reports of Leanne having been seen alive on the day after the police allege she was murdered were ignored. A report of a vehicle other than Stafford's being sighted near the body was also ignored. Forensic scientist, Angela van Daal, gave evidence at trial that helped convict Stafford of the murder. She has since stated that the blood identified as Leanne's could have come from another family member. Although the frequency of the blood type matching anyone in the general population was only about one percent, the frequency among relatives is as high as 25 percent. Around the time of the murder, Leanne's brother Craig had slashed his hand in a pub fight and had bled freely in the family home. It has also been revealed that another twelve-year-old girl was murdered less than one kilometre away from where Leanne Holland lived within thirteen days of Leanne's murder. The man who was charged with the second murder had been known to Leanne. Furthermore, daughters of a police informant in the Leanne Holland case have come forward claiming their father sexually abused them at the murder site, burnt them with cigarette lighters and showed them crime scene photographs of Leanne's body."


"LATE on the night of March 25, 1992, when after just three hours of consideration a Brisbane jury returned a guilty verdict, Graham Stuart Stafford, then 28, was branded for life as the perpetrator of a heinous crime," the Story, published in the Australian on April 27, 2010, under the heading, "When the prosecution can't rest," begins.

"The 11-man and one-woman panel was convinced beyond reasonable doubt of the allegations put by crown prosecutor David Bullock that Stafford had tortured, sexually abused and murdered 12-year-old Goodna schoolgirl Leanne Holland, the young sister of his partner, Melissa," the story continues.

"Bullock asked the judge, Des Derrington, to order that Stafford never be released for the killing of "utmost evil", adding that her body had been treated "abominably in a child murder of the worst kind".

The child had been struck on the head more than 10 times with a blunt, heavy object.

A hammer allegedly belonging to Stafford went missing soon after Leanne vanished from the family home where he had been alone with her on the day she was killed.

Her body was found three days later in bushland 9km from the family home.

Blood matching Leanne's rare type and hair matching hers were found in the boot of Stafford's car. The Crown alleged he probably murdered her on the morning she disappeared and kept the body in the boot of his car until he disposed of it three days later.

Spots of blood similar to Leanne's were found in the bathroom of the house and on the front steps. More were found on a blanket, tool bag and cloth in the boot of his car. A maggot was also found in the boot.

Tyre impressions where the body was found were similar to tyres on his car, and witnesses said they saw his car in the scrubland the day before the body was discovered.

There were inconsistent versions of his movements on the day Leanne was killed, and he had an injury to his arm about which he gave conflicting stories.

After Stafford was arrested and charged with the murder, the brief to prosecute was given to crown prosecutor Vishal Lakshman, a lawyer with vast experience in handling crimes of violence.

He had prosecuted in many high-profile murder cases including: the rape/murder by Bevan Meninga, the brother of rugby league great Mal Meninga; Barry Watts, the killer of Sian Kingi; notorious repeat child murderer Barry Hadlow; and Ernest Knibb, who murdered ABC scriptwriter Miranda Downes on a beach near Cairns in 1985.

Many of the cases Lakshman prosecuted depended to some degree on circumstantial evidence.

Stafford's committal was straightforward. But then came the serious part: tying up all the loose ends of the evidence and exhibits to be presented at the Supreme Court trial.

Since he retired in 1992, Lakshman has been intermittently applying himself to writing his life story: the tale of a Fijian-born Indian migrant who came to Australia as a 19-year-old, studied law at the University of Queensland, and for the next 30 years, prosecuted criminals.

The book is a work-in-progress, but the Stafford case so intrigued him that he completed the chapter last year.

Stafford was released in 2006 after serving 15 years of his life sentence. An appeal against his conviction brought after years of investigation by former Brisbane policeman Graeme Crowley and criminologist Paul Wilson saw the Court of Appeal set aside the guilty verdict last year and order a retrial.

In doing so the judges commented that: "An order involving the entering of a verdict of acquittal would not recognise that in this case the miscarriage of justice was procedural. It would also not recognise that a jury could, acting reasonably, convict him of the murder of the deceased."

In the chapter Lakshman has written on Stafford, he quotes from the memo to his boss, director of prosecutions Royce Miller QC, on December 4, 1991.

He begins by saying: "There are features in this case that give rise to some doubt that Stafford is the offender in this crime", and then outlines the points of evidence about which he has concerns.

They align alarmingly with the points identified by the Appeal Court judges in their judgment of December 24, 2009, where the retrial was ordered.

The judgment, written by Pat Keane who has since been appointed Chief Justice of the Federal Court, says:

"Mr Leo Freney, a forensic scientist, gave evidence to the effect that the amount of blood actually found in the bathroom of the house was not identifiable as that of the deceased and in any event, there was far too little evidence of blood in the bathroom for it to have been the murder scene. This evidence was unchallenged.

"There was also new evidence from Ms Morris, the entomologist who gave evidence at trial which cast doubt on the evidentiary value of the maggot as evidence that the body of the deceased had been in the boot of the car between the Monday and the Wednesday.

"On the basis of this evidence, it was demonstrably unlikely that the deceased had been killed at her home and the bleeding body of the deceased put in the boot of the car as the Crown had suggested at the trial."

A few pages further into the judgment, Keane refers to a judge's comments at the earlier appeal: "It is difficult to think of a credible explanation for the presence of Leanne's blood in the boot of the appellant's car which is consistent with the appellant's innocence and none was advanced either below, or before this court."

Keane then quoted the views of Appeal Court President, Justice Tony Fitzgerald in the 1997 appeal where he said:

"I agree with his honour that, if accepted - and I can discern no reason not to do so - Mr Freney's evidence . . . makes it unlikely that the deceased was killed in the house and her body placed, and left for some days, in the boot of the appellant's car. I also agree with his honour that, if accepted, the evidence of Mr Freney and Professor Ansford make the scenario put to the jury by the prosecution unlikely to have been correct."

By comparison, Lakshman wrote in his 1991 memo: "The victim was subjected to a very violent attack with a blunt instrument in which she sustained head injuries. One would expect extensive bleeding at the scene of the crime.

"On all available evidence, if the accused is the perpetrator, the killing must have occurred in the dwelling house that he occupied with the deceased's family. There is no extensive evidence of bleeding in the house.

"There is blood in the boot of the car which belonged to the accused. It is a very small quantity and part of it is on a blanket which is normally kept in the back of the car. There is insufficient bleeding in the boot if the deceased was disposed of by being first placed in the boot of the car. This alone may not be of any significance.

"There is a maggot found in the boot of the car and there is no appropriate explanation for this.

"On all available information the accused must have disposed of the body long before the body would be in a necessary state of decay for maggots to form."

Lakshman concluded by warning that additional care had to be exercised in this instance because the prosecution of the highly controversial case against Lindy Chamberlain - wrongly accused of killing her baby daughter at Uluru by claiming a dingo took her - had shown the frailties of circumstantial evidence.

Lakshman elaborates on some of the case's main points in his book chapter.

"I had assumed or come to the conclusion on the evidence then available that the likely place the killing could have taken place was in the house, but the lack of evidence in support of that proposition was troubling.

"The problem in assuming something is that an assumption in such cases is provisional and is mostly guesswork, and not evidence. There was no other scenario on the table consistent with the rest of the evidence.

"'But in this case it was thought that if the accused was involved, the killing must have happened in the house or not at all. The time-frame or the window of opportunity did not allow for too many different scenarios. There was very little circumstantial evidence that the murder was committed in the house."

Lakshman, in concluding his memo to Miller, wrote: "I have done many circumstantial evidence cases over the years and this is one of the few in which I find myself having some reservations as to whether the accused is the perpetrator of this crime."

In explaining that yesterday he refers to the chapter in his book where he says: "In my career stretching over some three decades I had never declined to prosecute in cases perceived to be complex or difficult. Most cases have complications of some sort.

"The details in the case did fit in and the fitting of all the details in a precise way goes to the very foundation of circumstantial evidence cases. The problem here was that in some areas the evidence was vague and not precise.

"The case lacked 'critical mass' and to my mind it lacked the escape velocity to take it over the threshold described in legalise as 'proof beyond any reasonable doubt' unless there was more preciseness and more detail and more flesh to the case. I was not inclined to prosecute Stafford although I was obliged to take the case because I had not said that there was no prima facie case.

"If you take away the original murder scene namely that the killing happened in the house, the findings in relation to the evidence in the boot and include that the evidence regarding the maggot was unreliable and take away the reliability of the tyre-track marks, and put in that Stafford was of good background with no convictions, then there was no evidence left and no reasonable grounds for a new trial.""

Last month, the DPP decided not to proceed with a retrial.

The story can be found at: