News State NSW News Caroline Byrne saga: Court rules ‘no malice’ – and no payout – for Gordon Wood

Caroline Byrne saga: Court rules ‘no malice’ – and no payout – for Gordon Wood

Gordon Wood, acquitted after three years behind bars, will get no payout. Photo: AAP
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Gordon Wood will not receive any compensation from New South Wales after a judge ruled he was not maliciously prosecuted for the murder of his girlfriend Caroline Byrne.

Mr Wood, who had been seeking millions in damages, has been ordered to pay the costs of the state of NSW.

Ms Byrne’s body was discovered at the base of notorious Sydney suicide spot The Gap in June, 1995.

Mr Wood, the former chauffeur of flamboyant stockbroker Rene Rivkin, was found guilty of Ms Byrne’s murder, but later acquitted.

He was not in court today as Justice Elizabeth Fullerton dismissed his case.

However, Justice Fullerton was critical of the prosecution case against Wood, in particular the role of the state’s then most senior prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC.

Justice Fullerton found Mr Tedeschi had “an absence of reasonable and probable cause” in initiating the criminal proceedings against Mr Wood.

“I have concluded that Mr Tedeschi’s persisting lack of insight into the flawed approach he took to the prosecution of the plaintiff and his lack of insight into the fact that those flaws were ultimately productive of gross unfairness to the plaintiff at his trial,” she said.

Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC wascriticised by the bench but found not to have acted improperly. Photo: AAP

Justice Fullerton said Mr Tedeschi had a “continuing inability or unwillingness to reflect upon the errors that have been revealed in his approach … [or] to accept and acknowledge even now that he breached his obligations”.

She cleared Mr Tedeschi of acting maliciously as a prosecutor.

The long-running saga has captivated Sydneysiders for more than two decades and included two coronial inquests, an extradition, an aborted trial, a conviction and an appeal.

In 2008, a jury found Mr Wood guilty of murder. He was acquitted in 2012, serving just three years of his minimum 13-year sentence.

In quashing the conviction, the NSW Court of Appeal found there was insufficient evidence to provide beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Wood killed Ms Byrne.

Mr Wood has always maintained his innocence and that Ms Byrne had died by suicide.

The Crown case at trial was that Mr Wood was possessive and murdered the model when she wanted to end their relationship.

Evidence ‘fundamentally flawed’

In February last year, Mr Wood launched a civil case against the state of NSW, seeking millions of dollars plus costs, claiming he was the subject of malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment.

He claimed the case against him was “hopelessly corrupted” and “ridiculous”, and that it was fuelled by Ms Byrne’s jealous ex-boyfriend, Andrew Blanchette, who was a police officer at the time.

Mr Wood’s case also claimed that expert witness Associate Professor Rod Cross had a motive to see Mr Wood convicted because he was writing a book called Evidence for Murder: How Physics Convicted a Killer.

Associate Professor Cross gave evidence at Mr Wood’s trial that the only way the model could have landed where she did, was if she was thrown in a “spear-like way” from the top of The Gap.

Detectives and specialist search-and-rescue officers take measurements in 2008 at The Gap, where Caroline Byrne’s life ended. Photo: AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Justice Fullerton said the evidence of Associate Professor Cross had been “fundamental to the Crown being able to prove the precise manner of Ms Byrne’s death” but described the evidence as “fundamentally flawed”.

Mr Wood’s barrister Bruce McClintock SC said Associate Professor Cross had become a part of the investigation team and was not impartial, and that his background and experience was in “the behaviour of high temperature gases” and he had no relevant experience for the case.

In response to the judge’s remarks, Associate Professor Cross said he stood by his work “100 per cent”.

Mr Tedeschi also came under fire during the civil hearing, with Mr McClintock claiming he “deceived and misled” the jury and was motivated by malice.

Mr Tedeschi, who has since returned to practise as a private barrister, was accused of failing to call evidence in the trial that pointed to the possibility Ms Byrne died by suicide.

Caroline Byrne plunged to her death at The Gap. Photo: ABC

Brenda Lin, whose family was murdered by her uncle Robert Xie, was in court to support Mr Tedeschi, who prosecuted that case.

Victims’ advocate Howard Brown praised Mr Tedeschi’s professionalism, despite Justice Fullerton’s remarks.

“As victims we have a great deal of confidence in Mr Tedeschi,” he said.

“He is passionate about the law — that may be his Achilles heel.

“Maybe he was a little vigorous … but the bottom line is that he did not breach his duty of care to the law.”

Ms Byrne’s father, Tony Byrne, said he and his family were “very pleased with the judge’s decision”.

“The men and women attached to the homicide investigation were of the highest integrity and professionalism,” he said.