STORY: "Part 2: The Colin Winchester hitman theory founders," by Jack Waterford, published by the Canberra Times on June 5, 2013.  (Jack Waterford is Editor-at-large of the Canberra Times.)

SUB-HEADING: "In Part 1 of his special report, Canberra Times editor-at-large Jack Waterford discussed some of the many theories that ACT police chief Colin Winchester was shot by a professional hitman. In Part 2 he discusses why such theories foundered."
    GIST: "But the investigations continued and, as the secret reports prepared by organised crime intelligence operations indicate, those conducting the investigation were convinced of organised crime involvement and the need for redoubled efforts, even as they admitted that there was no "smoking gun" proving who actually did the hit, or how. There were a number of candidates, Italian-Australian and Italian, and some suspicious intelligence against all. There was even more information pointing at particular figures who had been involved in organising the hit. Some alibis did not fit; some movements, not least a return flight to Italy on the morning after the murder, seemed inherently suspicious. The case – such as it was – needed a good deal of resources and work. It never got it. Progressively the investigation was shut down, and at the insistence of ACT detectives investigating their theory that the murder was done by a former public servant with a history of mental problems, with an animus against Winchester because he had refused to shut down a prosecution.........Meanwhile, police were paying all too little attention to the safety of what they thought to be the central forensic evidence thought to prove Eastman's guilt – by showing that gunshot residue found in the boot of Eastman's car was the same as residue found at the murder scene. The work was being performed by a member of the Victorian Police forensic science unit, but with almost no supervision, and in a manner well outside the recognised protocols – about documentation, reasoning, reproducibility and so on – already developed in the wake of forensic scandals and miscarriages of justice such as the Splatt and Chamberlain cases. The scientist exaggerated his qualifications and had a well-developed tendency to adopt a case, becoming an advocate of one side or another. He was also a very difficult character (like Eastman), angry if his confident conclusions were questioned, deeply resistant to any form of peer review, or review by independent outsiders, and very slow to commit anything to paper. We now know he could not have performed some tests he said he did; he may have done others but there are no contemporaneous records. In some cases he seems to have mixed up exhibits from different scenes. Nor was the jury told that he had recently been dismissed from his job for professional and scientific misconduct. All of his evidence must now be thought discredited. Rejection of his theories as not being based on "facts" is not some mere technicality but the underlining of a fundamental flaw in the argument that Eastman was guilty. Because he was a difficult character, police were "managing'' this witness but not supervising him. He would fly into tempers and threaten to walk away from the case. He would damn the prosecutors to police, and play AFP internal politics with others. So busy were police in trying to keep him onside that they failed in their job of determining whether he was a reliable witness, or whether his conclusions were right. The prosecution was to claim that his conclusions had been checked by and approved by leading international experts, including from British, Israeli and FBI laboratories. In fact, these were asked to assume the expert's claims of the work he had done, and to assume his findings, and asked whether his conclusions were right.........To this day, no one can say that alternative hypotheses of guilt were eliminated by investigation. At least one, indeed, still exists, according to recent evidence given to acting Justice Martin. This evidence may (or may not) have come from an informant who spoke to Victoria Police some time ago. His information was passed on to the AFP, which ignored it because it did not conform to what they "knew" of the Winchester case. Only belatedly was it passed on to the inquiry as possibly relevant. The judge has given no detail but says that what he was told could have founded an alternative hypothesis consistent with Eastman's innocence. Whether anything is to be salvaged, 25 years on, is doubtful. Only a serious objective review, conducted by outsiders, could decide. But few who saw the system fail could be sure that all of the mistakes would not be repeated by a completely new generation of ACT police officers. Though it is perhaps significant that none of this new generation was invited into the strategy teams defending, to the last, the investigation fiascos."

    The entire commentary can be found at: