WA Police had “every motive” to pursue Lloyd Rayney in a “biased, single-minded investigation” into his wife’s murder because they were under pressure to produce a result, the Perth barrister’s defence team told his Supreme Court trial today.
Defence lawyer David Edwardson painted a picture in which the combination of intense media interest in Corryn Rayney's death, concerns police were being soft on Mr Rayney because he was a former prosecutor and Corruption and Crime Commission hearings into the wrongful murder conviction of Andrew Mallard that had put the spotlight on WA police conduct created a backdrop to their investigation.
Mr Edwardson's claims about the police motive for pursuing Mr Rayney came after Justice Brian Martin queried him on his cross-examination of Senior Sergeant Jack Lee – the police officer who controversially named Mr Rayney as the “prime” and “only” suspect in his wife's murder more than three years before he was charged with the crime.
Snr Sgt Lee’s comments were made at a packed press conference on September 20, 2007 – the same day Mr Rayney’s home and office were searched and the day he was charged with a phone tapping-related charge.
Snr Sgt Lee's comments triggered a defamation lawsuit by Mr Rayney against WA Police, which has been postponed until after his murder trial.
Justice Martin described Snr Sgt Lee’s comments at that press conference as “highly undesirable” and indicative of the dangers of police investigators being involved in talking to the media. However, he queried what Mr Edwardson hoped to achieve from questioning Snr Sgt Lee.
“Our case has always been there has been a single focus on one person and one person alone and that is Lloyd Rayney,” Mr Edwardson said.
“Lloyd has been their target and they were put in a position against a background of all of that publicity to (produce) a result.
“Our case… is that they had every motive against this background to go down that path because they had to get a result… We say all of this goes to the motive on the part of the police to conduct a biased, single-minded investigation.”
The court also heard at least one member of the media had suggested police were being "soft" on Mr Rayney because he was a former prosecutor. Snr Sgt Lee said the claim was "untrue".
The speed with which the police investigation identified Mr Rayney as its prime suspect was outlined to the court, which heard that at an earlier press conference on August 29, 2007 Snr Sgt Lee described Mr Rayney as a "person of interest... as are many other people in this investigation".
Snr Sgt Lee went on to say that naming someone as a suspect implied there was evidence against them and there was no evidence against Mr Rayney.
Snr Sgt Lee said at the time he made those comments "it was the truth".
At the time of the investigation into Mrs Rayney's death Snr Sgt Lee was the officer in charge of the major crime squad. By the end of 2007 he was transferred to another police station and had nothing further to do with the investigation.
Mrs Rayney disappeared after a dance class on August 7, 2007 and her body was subsequently exhumed from a Kings Park grave on August 16, 2007. Mr Rayney has denied having anything to do with her death.
Earlier the court heard that blood spatter stains found in Mrs Rayney's car could have been caused by an assault inside the car or by her body being dragged into the backseat of the car.
Police blood spatter expert Sergeant Brett McCance gave evidence about a number of blood stains found on Mrs Rayney’s car, which was used to transport her body to her Kings Park grave and later abandoned in Subiaco. Blood was found on the plastic boot liner and on the back seat of the car.
Sgt McCance gave evidence about the difference between passive and projected blood stains, which are also known as drip stains or spatter stains under international terminology. Passive stains are caused by gravity alone while projected stains require an additional source.
Under cross examination Mr Edwardson asked Sgt McCance if one particular blood pattern could have resulted “from the deceased (being) assaulted inside the vehicle”.
“That is a possibility yes,” Sgt McCance said.
Asked by Justice Martin if the blood pattern could also have been caused by Mrs Rayney’s body being “dragged and lifted” into the back seat Sgt McCance said yes.
“If the blood would have been released from the nose and travelled through the air, yes, that is a possible mechanism,” he said.
Sgt McCance told the court it was not possible to tell how old the blood found on the boot liner, back seat and window sill was, or whether it had come from a person who was dead or alive.
It is the prosecution's case that the alleged attack that killed Mrs Rayney's would not have caused any bleeding from her injuries and the blood was likely the result of "purging" from her nose after death.
Sgt McCance gave evidence that the blood on the boot liner suggested either.
The liquidambar pods allegedly found in Mrs Rayney’s hair and body bag also returned to the spotlight as Sergeant Mark Harbridge, a police officer attached to the forensic training unit, took the stand.
Under cross-examination Mr Edwardson raised the subject of an email between Sgt Harbridge and the doctor who conducted Mrs Rayney’s post-mortem on November 19, 2009.
In that email Sgt Harbridge raised the subject of the doctor’s report, which stated that three pods were found in the hair. Sgt Harbridge said in his email that he understood two pods had been found in Mrs Rayney's hair during the post-mortem and a third later recovered from her body bag.
Mr Edwardson suggested to Sgt Harbridge he was asking the doctor to "change his report" to align with the police's view of the evidence.
Sgt Harbridge denied the suggestion, saying he was only "asking him to clarify" the facts.
However, he agreed with Justice Brian Martin’s assertion that the email read as though he was saying to Dr Cadden “you got it wrong”.
The court was told the post-mortem report was later amended to say only two pods were found in Mrs Rayney's hair.
The seed pods form a key plank of the prosecution's case against Mr Rayney because they say soil and brick particles found in the pods that closely match samples from the Rayneys' front yard prove Mrs Rayney was killed at home.
Liquidambar trees are common in Perth's older suburbs but there is only one tree in Kings Park, which is some distance from Mrs Rayney's grave. There is also a liquidambar tree outside the Rayney's home.
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