‘Butt naked’: Lynn’s secret car tapes revealed

Greg Lynn had pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, arguing the couple died accidental deaths. Picture: NewsWire / Paul Tyquin
Greg Lynn had pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, arguing the couple died accidental deaths. Picture: NewsWire / Paul Tyquin

Nearly a year before former Jetstar pilot Greg Lynn was arrested over the deaths of Russell Hill and Carol Clay, police had begun listening to him through covert recording devices.

Police had placed a tracker and listening devices on his Nissan Patrol, and bugged his home in Caroline Springs, while they drip fed details on Mr Hill and Ms Clay’s disappearance to the media, hoping to catch him speaking about the case.

Following extensive pre-trial hearings, Justice Michael Croucher barred significant portions of evidence, including these recordings, from being put to the jury, finding it had been obtained through “reprehensible” conduct of some officers.

“In my view, these failures are inconsistent with the minimum standards which a society such as ours should expect and require of those entrusted with powers of law enforcement,” he wrote in a scathing judgement three days before Christmas.

Following the jury’s verdict on Tuesday, where Mr Lynn was found not guilty of the murder of Russell Hill and guilty of the murder of Carol Clay, his utterances can now be revealed.

Mr Lynn was found not guilty of the murder of Russell Hill, but guilty of the murder of Carol Clay. Picture: Supplied
Mr Lynn was found not guilty of the murder of Russell Hill, but guilty of the murder of Carol Clay. Picture: Supplied

Secret car recordings

Driving alone on May 4 2021, after a radio story about the couple’s disappearance, Mr Lynn said to himself; “They’re sitting on a beach in f--king Queensland. Nudist beach. Butt naked. Playing on his f--king drone.

“Running up and down the beach. Taking pictures of the young people. Who’s got the biggest d**k?”

Another story about the couple had played on the radio earlier that day as he was driving. The court had heard Mr Lynn then turned up the volume on his radio and said: “I put a f***ing trigger lock on it. You’ve gotta get a second set of trigger lock f***ing keys and stick them in there. ... They’ve just got to keep pushing all the time, don’t they?”

The police had scoured through hours of recordings to find instances where they believed he was talking about Mr Hill and Mrs Clay.

Mr Lynn appeared to discuss the couple several times between December 15 and 16 2020, while on a solo camping trip near Howitt Plains.

Speaking to himself, he said the following things:

• “Let’s see if the cops turn up. If they do, we know that they can put a tracker on it.”

• “F***ing white people, that’s all it is who can we annoy now. Who can we annoy?”

• “Who decides what’s right and what’s wrong? That’s the thing, judgment, judge does, the law does, the community does.”

• “Ballistics, you’d think they would want samples of my ammo, you would. Until that.”

Justice Croucher said each of the Howitt Plains utterances and the recording about the trigger lock had not been proven relevant to the case.

“I consider it rationally impossible safely to construe any of these remarks as related to Mr Hill and Mrs Clay,” he said.

“The only way to do so is via speculation.”

He found Lynn’s comments about the nude beach could be rationally linked to the couple.

However the recording was ruled inadmissable because, as the prosecution case would be that he allegedly killed the pair 14 months earlier, it would force the jury to speculate on his sanity, and because the references to taking photos and anatomy “risks unfairly blackening Mr Lynn’s character for no rationally probative reason”.

How Mr Lynn was identified by missing persons detectives

The judge heard Mr Lynn had been first identified by Victoria Police’s missing person squad less than three months after Russell Hill and Carol Clay vanished in March 2020.

Four automatic licence plate recognition cameras, set up on either side of the Hotham Alpine resort to ensure visitors paid entry fees, had captured him leaving the valley.

When police swooped in November the following year, the avid camper had been the only suspect in the couple’s disappearance for about 16 months.

Aside from a short visit by detectives in July 2020, Lynn had no idea he was under surveillance.

Greg Lynn's Nissan Patrol and trailer were captured by an automatic number plate recognition camera travelling along the Great Alpine Rd at 9.48am on March 21, 2020. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria
Greg Lynn's Nissan Patrol and trailer were captured by an automatic number plate recognition camera travelling along the Great Alpine Rd at 9.48am on March 21, 2020. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria

“Yeah, mate, you’re not in any strife or anything,” Detective Sergeant Brett Florence told him on July 14, explaining they were “chatting” with everyone in the region.

“We’ve sort of expanded our search zone for possible witnesses.

“So I just wanted to … just ask you a few questions to see … if you can help us.”

The then-Jetstar captain provided a statement about his trip, including the dates he’d been camping and the routes taken.

He claimed at the time not to have met Mr Hill and Mrs Clay during the trip.

But detectives believed he was not telling the full story about his movements, and noticed he had repainted his car – which Mr Lynn said was a “Covid project” with his children.

Greg Lynn was photographed by his wife, Melanie, repainting his car on June 4, 2020. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.
Greg Lynn was photographed by his wife, Melanie, repainting his car on June 4, 2020. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.

He would later tell police he may have “appeared calm”, but inside he was panicking during the exchange.

By the end of the year his phone, car and home were bugged as investigators collected thousands of recordings.

Heavily armed officers from the Special Operations Group arrived by helicopter and arrested Mr Lynn in the afternoon of November 22, 2021, at a campsite in Moroka Junction.

When detectives arrived on scene, he asked if the whole show was “really necessary”.

Last year, investigators from the Missing Persons Squad told the Victorian Supreme Court they had no plans to arrest him at the time, but his conduct on the drive up made them fear he planned to take his own life.

“I have a bad feeling about what I’ve just listened to,” former Detective Senior Constable Passingham said after he raised the alarm.

Police believed Lynn’s self-talk was “concerning” and it appeared he was crying, but would later tell Justice Croucher perhaps they misunderstood.

Much of what occurred as he was repeatedly questioned over the next four days, was kept from the jury after the judge found the investigators had at timesengaged in “reprehensible” oppressive conduct.

What happened in the interview room?

After a two-hour drive from the remote camping spot to Sale Police Station, Mr Lynn spent nine hours over the following four days sitting in an interview room with two detectives.

They repeatedly peppered him with questions about the deaths and pushed him to answer the questions.

After a phone call with a lawyer in the morning of November 23, he repeatedly declined to answer their questions but became increasingly desperate as time went on.

“My lawyer is telling me to say ‘no comment’ to every single (thing) that you ask me. And yet you come back and keep asking question after question after question,” he said.

“Can we please do it the way (the lawyer) recommended to me?

“She’s the cavalry and I’m in over my head.”

Both Sergeant Florence and Senior Constable Passingham were found by the court to have engaged in deliberate efforts to undermine his lawyer’s advice.

MISSING CAMPERS
Detective Brett Florence told the court he’d made mistakes during the interview. Picture: NewsWire / Diego Fedele

In one example, Senior Constable Passingham compared the lawyer to a “flight attendant”.

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t say she’s the expert. It’d be like — be like a flight attendant telling the captain something,” he said.

“The way I look at it, this is the rest of your life. So please help me help you.”

Each of the detectives would later tell Justice Croucher the arrest was “rushed” and they had not planned the interview, claiming they simply made bad choices in how they framed the questions.

“The questions are bad and I should have stopped and reassessed,” Sergeant Florence conceded.

Mr Lynn’s lawyer, Dermott Dann KC, argued the detectives had “flagrantly abused” his clients rights.

MISSING CAMPERS
Dermot Dann KC represented Mr Lynn at trial. Picture: NewsWire / Diego Fedele

After 45 hours in custody, over two and a half days, Mr Lynn broke, saying he was going to “ignore my solicitor’s advice and tell you what happened right from the start”.

He provided an account of how both Carol Clay and Russell Hill died – Mrs Clay accidentally shot in the head as the two men wrestled over a gun.

Mr Hill, he said, attacked him with a knife a short time later, leading to his accidental death as the two men fell to the ground.

Mr Lynn told police he feared he would be blamed for the deaths and “panicked”, torching the camp site and disposing of the bodies.

“Look, the assumption is that I’m the villain. In fact, ah, I think I’m the victim of all of this,” he said.

“I’m innocent of murder. I’ve — I haven’t behaved well, I’ve made some poor decisions. But murder, as I understand it, I’m innocent of.”

A hand drawn map detailing where Mr Lynn burnt the remains of Russell Hill and Carol Clay off the Union Spur track in November 2020. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.
A hand drawn map detailing where Mr Lynn burnt the remains of Russell Hill and Carol Clay off the Union Spur track in November 2020. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.

On the fourth day, he led the two detectives to where he had dumped and incinerated the bodies, with forensic officers later finding some personal items and more than 2,100 bone fragments.

Investigators believed his account, which amounted to accidental deaths and self-defence, was untrue and he was charged with two counts of murder.

“He gave that account, Your Honour, and there were some things within that account that I felt were incorrect,” Sergeant Florence said.

Judge finds some police conduct was oppressive and misleading

Ahead of Mr Lynn’s trial, Victoria’s Supreme Court held extensive pre-trial arguments over several months about the admissibility of much of the evidence prosecutors intended to rely on.

Ultimately, Justice Croucher ruled against police and barred significant portions of evidence from being put to the jury, finding it had been obtained improperly by their “oppressive” conduct.

He found Mr Lynn’s first statement to police on July 14, and a secret recording of the conversation, were inadmissable because any “competent rational detective” would have considered him a suspect at the time.

Police, therefore, should have cautioned and informed Mr Lynn of his rights but failed to do so.

Both detectives present at the time told the court they considered Lynn a person of interest, not a suspect, but Justice Croucher found this was “untruthful”.

“This evidence also adds to my grave concern about the approach of the Missing Persons Squad during this investigation to their obligations to caution and to advise suspects of their rights, and about their inaccurate and misleading note-taking vis-àvis suspects and persons of interest,” he wrote.

“If this approach has not ceased already, it should be stopped immediately.

“In my view, these failures are inconsistent with the minimum standards which a society such as ours should expect and require of those entrusted with powers of law enforcement.”

Mr Lynn argued at trial the coupled died tragic accidental deaths. Artist: Paul Tyquin
Mr Lynn argued at trial the coupled died tragic accidental deaths. Artist: Paul Tyquin

Similarly, Justice Croucher ruled prosecutors could not include the parts of Mr Lynn’s interview they hoped to rely on after Sergeant Florence and Senior Constable Passingham admitted they’d “ridden roughshod” over his rights.

Senior Constable Passingham, the judge heard, quit the force soon after he was grilled during the pre-trial hearings.

Justice Croucher found the two detectives had deliberately and egregiously undermined the solicitor’s advice through a “ withering barrage of oppressive and improper inducements” to influence Mr Lynn’s decision to make admissions and reveal the location of the remains.

“I have no doubt that Detective Florence and Detective Passingham are decent, capable and hard-working members of Victoria Police who were under great pressure to give some comfort to the families of Mr Hill and Mrs Clay,” he said.

“The difficulty, however, is that the manner in which they pursued those aims must have significant consequences.”

Forensic officers excavate the Union Spur track where the remains of Russell Hill and Carol Clay were located in December 2021. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court Victoria.
Forensic officers excavate the Union Spur track where the remains of Russell Hill and Carol Clay were located in December 2021. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court Victoria.

The ruling also barred prosecutors from using portions of evidence that flowed from the interview as fruit of the poisonous tree, including the discovery of the remains and forensic testing.

Ultimately parts of the case were allowed back in after Mr Lynn decided he wanted his account of the deaths to go before the jury.

Hours of the interview were cut from the record, including Mr Lynn’s claim to not have seen the campers, and an almost four-hour video was played to his jury in early June.

Justice Croucher also barred any material from the listening devices from going before the jury, finding each failed “the test of relevance” and posed a danger of unfair prejudice.

“I consider it rationally impossible safely to construe any of these remarks as related to Mr Hill and Mrs Clay,” he wrote.

“For example, if the references to cops, trackers, judges, ammo and little old people are considered together, a juror might be able to speculate that this all has something to do with the present case, but speculation is all it could be.”