‘Cousin’: Camper’s lie to wife about mistress

74-year-old Drouin man Russell Hill was allegedly murdered on March 20, 2020, by former Jetstar Pilot Greg Lynn. Picture: Supplied.
74-year-old Drouin man Russell Hill was allegedly murdered on March 20, 2020, by former Jetstar Pilot Greg Lynn. Picture: Supplied.

The wife of slain camper Russell Hill has told a jury she was made aware of his affair with Carol Clay after a neighbor issued an ultimatum for him to come clean, and revealed the shocking lies he had told her before.

Gregory Stuart Lynn, 57, returned before the Victorian Supreme Court on Tuesday as the prosecution continues to call witnesses at the estimated four to six week trial.

The former Jetstar pilot is facing trial after pleading not guilty to the murders of Russell Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73 in March 2020.

Prosecutor Kathryn Hamill told the jury they would hear from six witnesses on Tuesday, including Mr Hill’s wife, Robyn, and daughter, Debbie.

The elderly couple vanished while camping in the remote Wonnangatta Valley, with burnt partial remains discovered in November the following year in bushland off a dirt track near Dargo.

Prosecutors allege Mrs Clay and Mr Hill were killed after a dispute with Mr Lynn. Picture: Supplied.
Prosecutors allege Mrs Clay and Mr Hill were killed after a dispute with Mr Lynn. Picture: Supplied.

Robyn Hill knew Carol Clay was previously involved with Russell Hill

Mr Hill’s wife, Robyn, told the jury her husband appeared happy as he left home on the morning of March 19.

“He said was going on his own up to Wonnangatta,” she told the jury.

“He was happy, he liked going up there.”

She said she would regularly listen in to the high-frequency radio Mr Hill used to contact his radio club every night at 6pm – he did so on March 20.

Mrs Hill became emotional as she told the jury tuned in on March 21 but didn’t hear his voice.

Several days passed and she rang a friend’s husband who was part of the group to ask if he’d heard from Mr Hill.

“He said to call the police,” Mrs Hill said, her voice breaking.

Robyn Hill told the jury she was made aware her husband was having an affair in the 2000s. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

She told the jury she’d first met Carol Clay in about 1970 and her husband had spent decades claiming she was his “first cousin”.

Mrs Hill said she learnt they weren't related in the early 2000s after a neighbour gave Mr Hill an ultimatum to come clean of the affair.

She said Mr Hill did and told her he had ended it — she believed this until he vanished on March 20.

The jury was told the pair went on a few holidays in the early 2000s with Carol Clay and her husband, Lynton, including a trip to Cowes on Phillip Island.

In her police statement, Mrs Hill said she felt something was “strange” when Mr Hill and Mrs Clay went off on a walk together.

Under questioning from Mr Lynn’s barrister, Dermot Dann KC, Mrs Hill confirmed her late husband had been gifted two firearms after his father retired, saying she’d later handed them into police under a gun amnesty program.

She confirmed a relative of Mr Hill, Gary Hill, had been accidentally killed in the Wonnangatta Valley in 1994 by his nephew who mistook him for a deer.

Mrs Hill told the jury her husband had been on anti-depressants since an incident in the 1970s where he spent “a couple of weeks” in hospital very depressed.

“I think something must have happened when he was logging,” she said.

She said she did not know the specifics of his condition, but one reason he was taken to hospital was a “very enlarged penis”.

“It wouldn’t go down, and that was part of the depression, actually,” Mrs Hill said.

Daughter recounts ‘shotgun’ memory

Mr Hill’s daughter, Deborah Hill, recounted a memory from when she was a teenager in the mid-1980s of her dad shooting a duck on their rural property.

She told the jury it was the sole time she’d seen her father with a firearm, saying his attitude towards them was that they “were unsafe”.

Ms Hill said she became aware in the mid-2000s of her father’s affair with Mrs Clay, but believed he’d made a commitment to no longer see her.

The jury was told Ms Hill received a call from her mother on March 25 who expressed concern after not hearing from Mr Hill for several days.

“I could tell she was very worried,” she said.

The wife of Russell Hill, Robyn Hill, arrives at the court with her daughter Debbie Hill. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Camper led police to burnt site

Also on Tuesday, a statement by camper Colin Boyd was read to the jury by Ms Hamill describing how he came across Mr Hill’s 70 series LandCruiser on March 27.

He said he’d been stopped by two officers as he entered the Wonnangatta Valley, who told him they were looking for a missing “elderly gent”.

A short time later, the jury heard, Mr Boyd came across the charred remains of Mr Hill and Mrs Clay’s campsite and vehicle, providing police with the GPS coordinates.

“I could see things didn’t look right, so I contacted the police,” he said.

“I've camped in the bush my whole life and drive thousands of kilometers throughout the alpine region ... there was a couple of things that didn’t sit right.”

Mr Boyd said the camp didn’t look “lived in” and it appeared camping equipment had been thrown inside of the tent before it was set on fire.

Russell Hill and Carol Clay campsite was found days after the couple disappeared on March 20, 2020. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.
Russell Hill and Carol Clay campsite was found days after the couple disappeared on March 20, 2020. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.

Former police officer describes missing campers search

Former Maffra police officer Madeline Rachford was called to give evidence about the actions she took after locating the missing couple’s camp.

Ms Rachford told the jury she arrived shortly after 12pm on March 28, and set about taking photos of the scene.

Inside Mr Hill’s LandCruiser, she said she found wallets belonging to the pair in each footwell with cards strewn about.

The jury was told she, and fellow officer Christopher Skiba, conducted a search within 300m of the camp but came up empty handed.

“I recall separating while still in line of sight... conducting a short search not to far from the vehicle,” she said.

They left after detectives arrived on scene.

Ms Radford was one of the first police officers to arrive at the camp. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Gas bottles created “extreme heat” inside tent

Crime scene investigator Sergeant Matthew Tanner told the jury he arrived with another officer on March 28.

Drawing on photos he took at the scene, Sergeant Tanner said he identified a number of unusual items inside the burnt tent including a solar panel, gas stove, two gas cylinders and a tablet.

The damage was significant, he said, forming the view there was “extreme heat from the gas bottles inside the fire”.

Sergeant Tanner said as he left the scene he put police tape across the car and left the spare key so if the missing couple returned they’d know police had been there.

“If they were lost in the bush we didn’t want to have taken the spare key with us,” he said.

Mr Lynn has argued both died accidental deaths. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Prosecutors allege Mr Lynn murdered the pair in the evening of March 20, likely after a dispute with Hill over his drone, while his lawyers have argued the couple’s deaths were a tragic accident after Mr Hill confronted Mr Lynn over his deer hunting.

The court heard Mr Hill and Mrs Clay’s campsite were torched by Mr Lynn who removed their bodies from the valley, dumping them “hours away” on his return home.

The jury heard he returned nine months later and attempted to “destroy” the remains.

Last week, crown prosecutor Daniel Porceddu argued Mr Lynn’s conduct after the deaths was an “implied admission” of guilt, while barrister Dermot Dann KC said his client feared he would be wrongly blamed and panicked.

“You will hear this from his own mouth – in the face of that disaster, he made a series of terrible choices,” Mr Dann said.

On Mr Lynn’s account, Mr Hill confronted him for hunting too close to camp, with Mrs Clay accidentally shot as the pair wrestled over a gun Mr Hill had snatched.

The elderly man then came at Mr Lynn with a knife, and died after falling on it as Mr Lynn struggled for his life, the jury was told.

Mr Lynn’s wife, Melanie Lynn, has sat through her husband’s trial. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Also on Tuesday, one member of the 15-person jury was discharged by Justice Michael Croucher after contacting the court to say she was unwell.

“The state of play is; I’ve formed the view its better to carry on with 14 of you, rather than to wait to see what happens with her health,” Justice Croucher said.

“That juror has been discharged.”

The trial continues.