The latest murder case against notorious Victorian killer Peter Norris Dupas has been dropped.
The convicted triple murderer, who is already serving life behind bars, was due to stand trial later this month for the stabbing death of 95-year-old Kathleen Downes in a Melbourne aged care facility on December 31, 1997.
Prosecutors discontinued the case against Dupas on Tuesday due to health concerns of key witness Andrew Fraser.
Supreme Court Justice Peter Almond said the decision did not constitute an acquittal and noted Dupas could be re-indicted on the murder charge at any time.
But he scrapped suppression orders which had prevented reporting on the case.
Mr Fraser, a former lawyer who served time in prison alongside Dupas, is the key witness in the prosecution’s case but is too unwell to give evidence and withstand cross-examination.
Mrs Downes’ granddaughter Jodi Downes was in court for the decision.
“While the family are disappointed about the outcome, we completely understand under the circumstances and would like to thank police and prosecutors,” she said.
Dupas appeared by video link for the hearing but did not react.
Mrs Downes had lived at the Brunswick Lodge Nursing Home since 1989 and staff said at the time that despite a recent stroke she had been active for her age, was a loving woman and the matriarch of the nursing home.
She was found in a pool of blood beside her bed at 6.30am, six hours after she was last seen alive.
Mrs Downes had been assaulted and sustained a neck wound caused by a sharp object, and reportedly suffered subsequent heart failure.
Investigators found a bloodied glove print on the venetian blinds of a fire escape where the offender fled, and scuff marks on a neighbouring fence.
No weapon was found.
Dupas was charged with Mrs Downes’ murder in 2018, but had been a suspect as far back as 2001, when quizzed over several then-unsolved crimes.
Mr Fraser, a convicted drug trafficker, was Dupas’ jailmate at Port Phillip Prison in 2005. He told police about a conversation he had with Dupas behind bars about several killings.
His crucial testimony incriminated Dupas in the 1997 murder of Mersina Halvagis at Fawkner Cemetery.
During court proceedings in that case, Mr Fraser said Dupas also referred to “the old sheila down the road”, believed to be Mrs Downes.
Dupas lived in the Brunswick area at the time of her murder and had telephoned the home twice the previous month.
He is serving three life sentences, with no prospect of being released, for the murder of Ms Halvagis, and the mutilation murder of Nicole Patterson in April 1999 and Margaret Maher in October 1997.
Dupas has also been identified as a suspect in the murders of Helen McMahon at Rye in 1985, and the 1993 murder of Renita Brunton at Sunbury.
George Halvagis, who waited more than a decade to see Dupas convicted for his daughter’s killing, was also in court for the decision.
“I feel very sorry for the family that they’re waiting so long for justice and let Mrs Downes rest in peace, but unfortunately that’s what the court decided,” he said.
“I hope something in the future happens … for the sake of the family. I want to see every victim get justice.”