‘Hopeless mess’: Pilot’s lawyer unleashes

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Greg Lynn is facing trial over the alleged murder of Russell Hill and Carol Clay. Picture: Supplied

The lawyer of a murder-accused pilot has taken aim against prosecutors, saying the case against his client is a “hopeless mess”.

Gregory Stuart Lynn, 57, is facing trial after pleading not guilty to murdering Russell Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73, in the Wonnangatta Valley on March 20, 2020.

The former Jetstar captain has asked the jury to accept his account that the couple died in tragic accidents, set in motion after Mr Hill swiped his shotgun. 

On Thursday, jurors returned before the Supreme Court of Victoria as both the prosecution and defence began delivering his closing remarks.

Prosecution case a “hopeless mess”: defence

Beginning his address on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Lynn’s barrister, Dermot Dann KC, told the jury over the past month the prosecution has “bumbled and stumbled” its way into hopelessness.

“As we predicted the prosecution has not gotten remotely close (to disproving Mr Lynn’s account), in fact they’re worse now than when they started,” he said.

“We call out this prosecution case for what it is – it’s descended into a hopeless mess.”

Greg Lynn has argued that the pair died accidentally and he covered it up. Picture: Supplied
Greg Lynn has argued that the pair died accidentally and he covered it up. Picture: Supplied

He told the jury Mr Lynn had provided 1057 “pieces of information” during his two-day interview with police, with the prosecution now unable to prove any of them was a lie.

“The prosecution had two and a half years to test Mr Lynn’s account,” he said.

“We predicted for you that Mr Lynn’s account of two accidental deaths would be supported … we say with every passing day the defence case has gotten stronger.”

Mr Dann labelled crown prosecutor Daniel Porceddu “Old Clouseau” – a reference to the clumsy fictional detective in the Pink Panther series — accusing him of making “increasingly desperate”efforts to build the case against Mr Lynn.

He suggested the jury should have “zero confidence” in any submission made by the prosecution, claiming he wouldn’t have the faith to buy a used car from them.

The couple vanished while on a camping trip. Picture: Supplied.
The couple vanished while on a camping trip. Picture: Supplied.

‘Half-baked theories’ presented in attempt to make case stick: defence

Mr Dann told the jury he would take them through 17 “low-lights” of the prosecution case, including failures to present evidence relevant to the case and “half-baked” theories.

The first of these he mentioned was a question Mr Porceddu asked Mr Lynn last week about whether, on his account, the shot would have struck the A-frame of Mr Hill’s car. “He put that to a man in a murder trial, it’s not based on anything,” he said. “It was garbage served up by a desperate prosecution team.”

He told the jury the prosecution had failed to adduce evidence of Mr Hill’s mental health, his knowledge of firearms, his attitude towards the Wonnangatta Valley and the death of a family member in a hunting accident 16 years earlier.

Mr Dann said it had fallen on the defence to broach these topics in cross-examination.

The defence barrister also suggested the prosecution had attempted to muddy the waters of the trial, including a witness raising the “vacuum theory” with no notice to Mr Lynn’s defence.

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Mr Lynn’s barrister, Dermot Dann KC, has suggested the prosecution had “bumbled and stumbled” its way through the case. Picture: NewsWire / Diego Fedele

He told the jury forensic blood splatter expert Mark Gellatly gave evidence about the theory for the first time in the witness box, suggesting he should be called gelati as he “melted on the stand”.

During the trial, Mr Gellatley explained he had tested for blood on the inside of Mr Lynn’s shotgun, suggesting there was a theory that blood could be sucked back into a firearm when shot at close range.

No blood was detected, the jury previously heard.

“The man has zero expertise .... someone on the prosecution team has had the bright idea to bring up the vacuum theory three weeks into a murder trial,” Mr Dann said.

“This was truly a distasteful spectacle.”

Earlier, Mr Porceddu asked the jury to reject Mr Lynn’s account of the deaths from the witness box last week as a “carefully constructed fiction created over one year and eight months”.

He suggested the only reasonable explanation for Mr Lynn’s actions, in burning the campsite and hiding their bodies only to return eight months later and incinerate them, was because he knew the forensic evidence would reveal that the pair were murdered.

“The accused’s story is indeed a series of very unfortunate events,” he said.

“Like the book series it is also a complete fiction, you can and should reject it readily beyond all reasonable doubt.”

The prosecution case

In front of a packed courtroom, Mr Porceddu told jurors the evidence proved that three people were present at Bucks Camp on the evening of March 20.

“From all the evidence you can conclude … the accused man was the last person left alive at Bucks Camp,” he said.

He said others camping in the area testified that Mr Hill and Mrs Clay arrived on March 19, while Mr Lynn had already set up camp the day prior.

The jury was told the last confirmed contact the couple had with the outside world was between 6pm and about 6.40pm when Mr Hill spoke over high frequency radio to other members in his amateur radio club.

“None of the radio friends describe anything unusual about Mr Hill in that chat,” Mr Porceddu said.

“Mr Ashlin (a friend) said he was as happy as a pig in sh-t … he could not have been happier.”

Mr Porceddu said Mr Hill’s phone reconnected to the network on the morning of March 21 and travelled at a path consistent with a vehicle along the Dargo High Plains Rd before turning onto the Great Alpine Rd.

He said it was alleged this was “consistent” with a photo taken of Mr Lynn’s Nissan Patrol at 9.48am along the Great Alpine Rd.

“You see the front of the vehicle, there’s only one person and it is the accused,” he said.

Greg Lynn's Nissan Patrol and trailer were captured by an automatic number plate recognition camera. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria
Greg Lynn's Nissan Patrol and trailer were captured by an automatic number plate recognition camera. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria

Jurors urged to completely reject Mr Lynn’s account

Mr Porceddu argued that the jury could comfortably reject Mr Lynn’s account of the deaths, first given during his police interview in November 2021.

He argued the accused man had carefully sought to paint himself as a victim and Mr Hill as an aggressor, but suggested it should not stand up to scrutiny.

“We suggest it makes no sense,” the prosecutor said.

The jury was told Mr Lynn claimed Mr Hill’s demeanour had changed from their initially friendly interactions on the morning of March 20 after it became clear Mr Lynn was a hunter.

“Over the space of 24 hours, Mr Hill seemingly goes from cordial to homicidal rage,” he said.

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Crown prosecutor Daniel Porceddu urged the jury to reject Mr Lynn’s account as fanciful. Picture: NewsWire / Nicki Connolly

Mr Porceddu suggested the account of Mr Hill stealing Mr Lynn’s gun from his car after earlier accusing him of hunting too close to camp was “completely implausible”.

He said Mr Hill had taken the wrong gun, on Mr Lynn’s account, and questioned why he would load it if he was seeking to confiscate it for the police.

The prosecutor claimed on Mr Lynn’s version of events, after he confronted Mr Hill asking for it back, the elderly man suddenly changed to be “out for blood”.

In the interview, Mr Porceddu said, Mr Lynn was able to give a precise blow by blow of what he claimed happened and the following day his description was almost identical.

“You might think that’s because he’s reciting a script, a script he’s had one year and eight months to rehearse over and over again,” Mr Porceddu suggested.

Mr Lynn’s actions after deaths ‘so extreme’

The prosecutor told the jury it was the Crown’s case that Mr Hill was killed first likely after a dispute with Mr Lynn, and Mrs Clay was killed second as a witness.

He said he was not able to provide a motivation or mechanism for the deaths, other than forensic evidence that Mrs Clay was shot in the head because Mr Lynn had “immediately embarked on an elaborate plan to obliterate any evidence”.

Mr Porceddu suggested the only reasonable explanation for Mr Lynn burning the campsite and dumping the bodies was because he believed he had murdered the couple.

More than 2100 bone fragments were discovered in late 2021 at the base of a fallen tree off the Union Spur track near Dargo. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.
More than 2100 bone fragments were discovered in late 2021 at the base of a fallen tree off the Union Spur track near Dargo. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.

He told the jury that Mr Lynn’s decision to take the “extreme and extraordinary” step of returning eight months later to incinerate the remains was “so disproportionate” to any other explanation.

He suggested the reason Mr Lynn helped police locate the site where he burned the bodies was because he “knew there would be no forensic evidence”.

He pointed to several answers Mr Lynn gave in his police interview, including: “There’s nothing there, nothing will be found.”

Mr Lynn has confirmed he destroyed the couple’s campsite and dumped their bodies off a dirt track. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.
Mr Lynn has confirmed he destroyed the couple’s campsite and dumped their bodies off a dirt track. Picture: Supplied/ Supreme Court of Victoria.

Over the past month, the trial heard from almost 50 witnesses, including police, forensic experts, friends and family of the pair and Mr Lynn himself.

Mr Hill, 74, and Mrs Clay, 73, were childhood sweethearts who disappeared while camping in the remote Wonnangatta Valley in March 2020.

Despite extensive searches, no trace of the pair was located until Mr Lynn told police where he’d burned their bodies following his arrest in November 2021.

Last week, Jurors were told they would soon be asked to decide if the deaths of Mr Hill and Mrs Clay were murder or misfortune.

Justice Michael Croucher advised that closing arguments from both parties could take up to two days.

“So on those calculations it means the likelihood is … you’d be going out to consider your verdicts on at the earliest some time Thursday; more likely, I reckon, Friday,” he said.

“Now, the best-laid plans are apt to go astray. I may be wildly wrong with some of those estimates, but that’s just to give you an idea of the time frame that is expected.”

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Melanie Lynn has supported her husband in court. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicki Connolly

At the start of the trial, Mr Porceddu told the jury that Mr Lynn killed the pair on the evening of March 20, likely following a dispute with Mr Hill.

“The precise circumstances of the killings are not known. Nor is the motivation,” he said.

“The prosecution alleges that all of the relevant circumstances, including the violent deaths of two people in close proximity, point to Mr Hill and Mrs Clay each being killed deliberately and without lawful justification.”

Mr Porceddu said after the deaths, Mr Lynn took considerable steps to contaminate the crime scene and hide his involvement, including burning their camp and disposing of their bodies along a dirt track.

He argued the jury could use this conduct as an “implied admission” of guilt to prove each of the four elements of murder.

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Mr Lynn has pleaded not guilty, arguing he has done ‘despicable’ things but is innocent of murder. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Enrique Ascui

Through his barrister, Dermot Dann KC, Mr Lynn said he did not dispute taking these steps to distance himself from the deaths, but the jury should accept they were the “panicked” decisions of a man fearing he would be wrongly blamed and lose everything.

He claimed Mrs Clay was killed accidentally as the two men wrestled over Mr Lynn’s shotgun and the firearm discharged.

Mr Hill died after charging at Mr Lynn with a knife and falling on the blade as the former pilot defended himself, he said.

The jury was told Mr Lynn accepted his actions were “despicable” and he had earlier offered to plead guilty to the alternative offence of destruction of evidence.

The trial continues.