Sensible: Judge backs canned murder case

Karen Sweeney
·3-min read

A woman facing a fifth trial for murdering a lonely Melbourne widower - despite another woman confessing three times - has had the case against her dropped.

Katia Pyliotis was convicted of bludgeoning Elia Abdelmessih to death in his Kew home in 2005, but was acquitted on appeal last year.

Three previous trials failed to reach a verdict and prosecutors were pushing for a fifth trial this year.

But they were forced to drop key evidence in November after Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said it would take some convincing to persuade her the officer behind the evidence was not an "outright liar".

Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd formally pulled the pin on proceedings on Monday, with prosecutor Angela Ellis telling Victoria's Supreme Court the case would be discontinued.

Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth supported the decision.

"If I may say so it's a very sensible suggestion given the way the evidence has been coming out," she said.

Ms Pyliotis knew Mr Abdelmessih from the McDonalds she worked at in the mid-2000s. The lonely 69-year-old would visit multiple times a day.

He was found dead in the front of his home beside suspected murder weapons including a tin of mangoes and a Virgin Mary statue.

Susan Reddie - a woman who was being paid for sex by Mr Abdelmessih - was initially identified as a suspect and police notes record that she confessed three times to the crime.

She was never charged and has since died.

Former detective Warren Ryan, now a Queensland police officer, claimed in earlier trials that Ms Reddie had recanted a confession she made to a careworker.

He said notes in a then-missing police diary would corroborate his story, but when it was uncovered last year it revealed another confession by Ms Reddie.

Justice Hollingworth was unimpressed with Mr Ryan's evidence.

"I have serious issues about Ryan's credibility and I might well find he's an outright liar," she said.

Shortly after the comments prosecutors withdrew all evidence about Ms Reddie recanting.

The notes also recorded a claim Ms Reddie had admitted repeatedly hitting Mr Abdelmessih with a statue of Jesus while drunk and angry.

Another officer, Wayne Walsh, suggested Ms Reddie - a cognitively impaired alcoholic - might have concluded from questions in a police interview that Mr Abdelmessih had been killed with a religious object and that's why she made the claim.

That prompted a telling off from Justice Hollingworth, who declared she was "fed up" with police speculating and "making things up" in the case.

"I think a judge would have no trouble dismissing most of this evidence - it's so selective and so convenient," she said.

She also questioned the fairness of a trial if defence lawyers were forced to "bore the jury rigid" in order to get a straight answer from police, who are persuasive professional witnesses.

She described another officer as the "smirking superintendent" who "did not cover himself in glory".

Ms Pyliotis, who has been on bail since the acquittal, is now free.