The West

Teenage sisters testify at father s trial
On the stand: Caitlyn and Sarah Rayney outside court. Picture: Nic Ellis

Lloyd and Corryn Rayney's teenage daughters testified yesterday in their father's wilful murder trial, saying they heard nothing the night their mother was allegedly murdered by him at the family's Como home.

Caitlyn and Sarah Rayney were 13 and 10 when their 44-year-old mother disappeared after a dance class on the night of August 7, 2007.

Mr Rayney is fighting an allegation he murdered his estranged wife while their younger daughter slept upstairs and his elder child was at a rock concert.

Yesterday, the sisters each took the witness stand in a packed courtroom to describe what they witnessed at the home that night, with the State losing a bid to declare 18-year-old Caitlyn a hostile witness.

Caitlyn, who is expected to fly out to a prestigious overseas university within days, described her father as a non-violent man who would calm situations while her mother was more prone to being "anim- ated" during disagreements.

"Occasionally Mum and Dad might have some argument about something but it was never aggressive," she said. "It was never particularly spiteful."

She said her mother told her they were separating but assured her the split would be comfortable and they would not be denied time with either parent.

Prosecutors claim Mr Rayney killed his wife during a one-hour window of opportunity after she returned from a bootscooting class about 9.45pm and before Caitlyn returned from the concert.

They have suggested the presence of a daughter asleep upstairs provided a useful alibi and that he hid his wife's body and work car nearby before driving her to Kings Park and burying her once Caitlyn was home and asleep.

Caitlyn said yesterday she noticed nothing unusual about her father when she came home from the concert between 10.45pm and 11pm that night.

She had noticed her mother was still not home from her dance class.

It was unusual but she had suspected her mother might have seen a friend and been "caught up", Caitlyn said.

"I just assumed that … she had seen some friend or maybe she was still sort of caught up," she said.

The teenager said she did some homework before her father suggested it was time for bed and he mentioned he had some things to talk about with her mother when she came home.

"I was reading for quite a while and it would have been the early hours of the morning by the time I fell asleep," Caitlyn said. "But it wasn't a deep, restful sleep.

"I was still anxious because I knew that Mum still had not come home and I was still trying to wait for her."

Caitlyn said nothing had woken her as she slept in her upstairs room that night.

"If anyone approaches the driveway in a car and shuts a door or even just drives up, I can hear that straight away and I didn't hear anything like that at all that night," she said, telling the court even shoes on the wooden floor downstairs were sometimes enough to wake her.

Sarah, whose bedroom was closest to the road, testified she slept that night and heard no argument or conversation.

Asked by Justice Brian Martin whether she raised her concerns with her father that night, Caitlyn said she hoped her mother was still coming home.

"My Mum didn't carry a mobile . . . there wasn't a way of contacting her anyway and I didn't really want to think anything was wrong," she said. "I was just sort of hoping that she would come home."

In the morning, she noticed shoes and a phone she left in her mother's ensuite as "bait" to check if she came home were still where she left them.

Her mother usually tidied her things away before going to bed, Caitlyn said.

She also noticed a black coat on her mother's made bed, which she believed was there the previous night.

Caitlyn told the judge she had been "anxious" but thought the "most likely thing" was that her mother had come home late and left for work early, though she had never done this before without warning.

"I know it sounds a bit funny but as soon as you admit she hasn't come home, then it is like something is wrong," she said.

Sarah, now 15, testified the siblings discussed their mother's absence in the morning and decided "her going into work was the easiest explanation".

He father had agreed, she said.

The State claimed in its opening address that the sisters asked Mr Rayney to call police that morning but he refused.

Yesterday, Caitlyn rejected suggestions they discussed calling police. "I was a bit anxious but I didn't really express that because I was hoping that nothing was wrong and that there was no need to take that action," she said.

The claim sparked a prosecution bid to declare her a hostile witness.

The West Australian

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