Lloyd Rayney, barrister and former prosecutor, was taking part in a probe into one of the most infamous wrongful murder convictions in WA’s history when his wife Corryn went missing.
Representing one of the police officers at a Corruption and Crime Commission hearing into the State’s handling of the shocking Andrew Mallard case, the Perth counsel’s name was already appearing in the newspaper the week before his wife of 17 years disappeared from after a dance class.
Fast forward five years and Mr Rayney’s name would be hitting headlines again – but for a very different reason. He would be fighting to clear his own name.
It perhaps verges on a cliche to point out the tragic irony of a one-time favourite prosecutor ending up in a Supreme Court dock accused of murdering his estranged wife.
Born in Yemen and of Irish-Indian descent, Mr Rayney met Corryn Da Silva while working at the Australian Government Solicitor’s office where she was an articled clerk in the late 1980s.
Their relationship flourished as did their careers.
Mr Rayney established himself as a leading WA prosecutor, described by his then-boss, former director of public prosecutions Robert Cock, as “diligent, competent, meticulous, and cautious”.
Among those he helped send behind bars were sadistic killers Richard Leatch and Tammie Sherratt, who had tortured and strangled teenager Jamie Godden in 1997.
In 2001, Mr Rayney acted as counsel assisting the inquest into mining magnate Lang Hancock’s death.
Meanwhile, his wife was climbing her own way through the legal ranks, eventually becoming a Supreme Court registrar with duties similar to a judge.
The successful couple had two daughters, with family photographs showing them as a smiling, happy family.
By 2003, Mr Rayney was tipped as the next director of legal services with the DPP office before being narrowly beaten for the position.
That same year, he moved to Bermuda to work for a former WA prosecutor who had landed the job as the island’s DPP.
During his 18-month absence, Mrs Rayney looked after the couple’s daughters in Perth.
Mr Rayney resurrected his WA career on his return, this time turning his hand to defending those in the dock.
One of his most publicised cases was the 2004 gangland-style shooting of former Coffin Cheaters bikie Kevin “Mick” Woodhouse.
Mr Rayney defended Johnny Montani against a murder charge.
The jury in the 2006 trial, who heard the victim uttered the words “Johnny Montoyo” after being shot, could not reach a unanimous verdict. Mr Montani endured two retrials before being cleared.
Mr Rayney also built a profile in the commercial sector with Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, joining his client list via her flagship company Hancock Prospecting.
The Perth-based mining billionaire would later wrangle with police and claim legal professional privilege over items seized from Mr Rayney’s office following the discovery of his wife’s body.
But while Mr Rayney’s legal career was thriving, it appears his marriage was not as quick to recover from his absence in the Caribbean.
By the time of his wife’s death the couple were estranged despite living under the same Como roof.
The reasons and aftermath of their marriage breakdown are now set for scrutiny during Mr Rayney’s trial.
An intensely private man, the barrister’s name now yields thousands of hits when punched into Google, the vast majority centring on the murder allegation.
Mr Rayney is still based at the city’s prestigious Francis Burt Chambers.
But in the wake of the murder charge laid against him in December 2010 — more than three years after his wife’s death — his career has been stifled by a condition on his practising certificate that bars him from doing District and Supreme Court jury trials pending his own trial. He consented to the condition.
Even before the charge was laid, Mr Rayney felt he was the target of speculation and stigma.
The blame for this, according to a separate court stoush in which Mr Rayney is suing the State for defamation, was a packed press conference in 2007 where Det-Sen. Sgt Jack Lee labelled Mr Rayney the “prime” and “only” suspect.
In 2008, a lawyer for Mr Rayney suggested his legal career had been destroyed by the allegation, despite his presumed innocence.His funds were being depleted and the one-time legal eagle had shied away from going out in public, Mr Rayney’s lawyer had said.
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