Former Brisbane real estate agent Gerard Baden-Clay’s murder conviction for killing his wife Allison has been downgraded to manslaughter.
The Court of Appeal set aside the murder finding, saying there was not enough evidence to prove he intended to kill her.
During Baden-Clay’s appeal four months ago, his lawyers argued it was possible he could have unintentionally killed the mother-of-three during an argument at their home in Brookfield, in Brisbane’s west.
His lawyers then suggested a hypothesis that he covered up the death out of “panic”.
During the 2014 trial, Baden-Clay denied killing Allison and said scratches on his face were caused by shaving.
In the judgement handed down on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal said while Baden-Clay lied about the cause of scratches on his face and tried to hide his wife’s body, there was a reasonable hypothesis he was innocent of murder.
It could not be ruled out that there was a physical confrontation in which Allison fell and hit her head, the ruling by Chief Justice Catherine Holmes, Justice Hugh Fraser and Justice Robert Gotterson found.
“Smothering, the crown’s thesis, was a reasonable possibility, but while there was also another reasonable possibility available on the evidence, the jury could not properly have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the element of intent to kill or do grievous bodily harm had been proved,” Justice Fraser wrote in Tuesday’s findings.
Baden-Clay, 45, reported his wife missing in April 2012 and her body was found 10 days later beside a creek.
He was convicted last year and jailed for life, with a non-parole period of 15 years.
New sentencing submissions for the manslaughter conviction will be heard in January.
‘Read findings before judging court’s decision’
Baden-Clay’s lawyer Peter Shields said there was immense public interest in the case, and urged the public to read the findings before they criticised the decision.
“They were very considered reasons of a very experienced court,” he said.
“I do think the public understand that it is open justice.
“They can make their own view, based on the facts.”
Allison’s parents and extended family looked shattered as they left the court.
Cousin Jodie Dann said they were hoping the matter would be finished on Tuesday.
“Obviously the family at this time are disappointed and saddened,” she said.
Allison’s parents Priscilla and Geoff Dickie made no comment as they left court.
In a statement they said they would let the legal process play out “in the hope that justice for Allison will be served”.
“As always, the efforts of the family remain centred around the wellbeing of Allison’s daughters, who now face a further period of uncertainty,” the statement said.