A lawyer friend of Lloyd Rayney who helped arrange “surveillance” of his wife recalled yesterday how days before Corryn Rayney’s body was found he had tearfully asked how he should tell his children their mother was dead.
Clare O’Brien, a former prosecutor colleague of Mr Rayney, told his Supreme Court wilful murder trial yesterday she suggested to the distraught father of two that his wife could still be alive but having an affair.
“I said to him ... that might not be the case that she’s dead ... she might be missing,” Ms O’Brien said via video link from Queensland.
Ms O’Brien also told of an earlier conversation with Mr Rayney at a coffee shop, in which he said he “hated” his wife.
“I asked him how the situation was at home and if he thought the marriage could be salvaged,” she said.
“Lloyd said that he had been making a great deal of effort over a long period of time, which I think also included marriage counselling, but that his efforts weren’t working and it looked like it was over.
“He said that he hated Corryn. He just said the words, there wasn’t any particular emotion.”
The lawyer’s evidence came on the fifth anniversary of Mrs Rayney’s death on August 7, 2007. Her estranged husband is fighting an allegation he murdered her after a bitter marriage split and buried her in Kings Park where her body was found eight days later on August 15, 2007.
Yesterday, Ms O’Brien recalled how she had visited Mr Rayney after his wife’s disappearance but before her body was found.
“He was on the point of tears and he looked at me and asked me how was he going to be able to tell his girls that their mother was dead,” she said, describing the barrister as “completely shattered”.
“It was just one of the saddest moments I can recall,” she said.
“I said, ‘Have you thought about the fact that she might be having an affair’.”
She told the judge-alone trial she rattled off a list of things he should check, for example if her passport was missing or if anything was gone from a safety deposit box.
Ms O’Brien said Mr Rayney “didn’t have a chance” to respond to her suggestions but seemed better after her bid to give him some “hope”.
Ms O’Brien said that in a phone call she had with Mr Rayney after his wife’s disappearance but before the visit he had told her his wife would never leave the girls and that “he thought it was bad in terms of Corryn being missing”.
She also testified how she originally believed the Rayneys had a happy marriage but was later asked by Mr Rayney to help find out what his wife was up to in the lead- up to a family court battle.
She said that in mid-2007 Mr Rayney had made a “courtesy call” to her office at Legal Aid in Bunbury and revealed the marriage was crumbling.
“He said that Corryn had been sending him emails ... to his work and in the emails she was writing things that weren’t true in the sense that Lloyd was sleeping in the girls’ beds at night and he asked me what did I make of that,” she said.
“I said that it looked as though she was setting up an email trail indicating things had occurred when they hadn’t in order… to be able to apply pressure to Lloyd ... in relation to the divorce proceedings.”
Ms O’Brien said she had coffee with Mr Rayney about two weeks later during which he told her he “hated” his wife and wanted to know her strategy regarding their divorce proceedings.
“(He said) he would really like to know what’s going on in relation to Corryn’s plans,” she said.
“Lloyd asked me if I knew anyone that knew anything about home security or home surveillance.”
Prosecutor John Agius claims Mr Rayney was using an intercept to secretly listen to his wife’s phone calls.
Ms O’Brien said she contacted her brother’s friend, who installed cameras in nightclubs, and would not have helped Mr Rayney if she thought he wanted to do something illegal.
Ms O’Brien said Mr Rayney did not usually use the term “hate” loosely and gave the impression he was frustrated and sad when he applied it to his wife.
The trial has heard Mrs Rayney referred to her husband as a “snake” and a “wicked” man during communications with her friends.