Searching for answers to murder mystery
Lloyd Rayney. Picture: Lee Griffith/The West Australian

On the day of the discovery, earth covered her body but her soul was long gone.

Mid-winter rain pelted down on the vast tracts of dirt that make up our city's centrepiece, Kings Park - a large tract of bush that has covered many a crime.

A trail of gearbox oil led police from her abandoned car in Subiaco to the place where someone had dumped her in a hole.

The waterproof trail of dark fluid directing detectives, like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs, to the crime scene was an act of God, according to her father, whose Christian faith leads him to believe resolutely that his cherished daughter did not die in vain.

If she had lived, Corryn Rayney would be turning 49 on Monday.

She was never meant to have met this end. She was not a drug user or a risk taker. She was the most unlikely of victims.

On the morning of August 8, 2007, a leather-bound chair behind a jurists' bench in the Supreme Court of WA sat empty, awaiting her presence to adjudicate and mediate on some complex case of law.

Registrar Corryn Rayney - one step below a Supreme Court judge - had not turned up to work to take her place in the courtroom's seat of power.

This was not some errant truant. Something was seriously amiss.

Registrar Rayney had an associate, an office, the respect of the State's chief justice. She had two high-achieving daughters at an exclusive college. She had a sister, a father, a host of friends from school and work.

She had a meticulously renovated home, investment properties, a reputation at work for remembering everyone's birthday and admiration from other school mums for her handsewn costumes at the annual Book Week dress-up days.

Suddenly, she vanished.

One week later, the shocking discovery.

What is left now is for the justice system to provide some answers to how WA suddenly lost one of its senior court officials, and to provide a fair trial for the man who stands accused of taking her life.

This is an unusual case that has been as drawn out as it has been frustrating and mired in conflict.

The average time between being charged and coming to trial in the Supreme Court is 25 weeks. For barrister Lloyd Rayney, it will be 83 weeks since being charged with wilful murder.

There is a saying that justice delayed is justice denied.

The case has been complicated by the fact that police, in laying a charge against Mr Rayney, her husband of 17 years, for allegedly tapping his wife's telephone just before her death, also controversially labelled him the "prime" and "only" suspect for murder.

That was on September 20, 2007, just over a month after the discovery of Mrs Rayney's body and three years before the wilful murder charge was laid.

Since that time, the court system has been tied up in knots trying to deal concurrently with a defamation action by Mr Rayney against police, the preliminary procedures in the wilful murder and telephone tapping charges, which are both denied by Mr Rayney and yet to be resolved, and a claim of legal professional privilege over the contents of Mr Rayney's office by Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting company.

Hancock Prospecting was a key client of Mr Rayney, whose connection with the Rinehart name went back to his role of counsel assisting the coroner in the 2001 inquest into the death of Lang Hancock.

Little is known about the privilege argument, which has been fought all the way from the Magistrate's Court to the full bench of the Supreme Court, because courtrooms have been closed and evidence suppressed.

Despite arguments by the lawyer for Seven West Media and others, journalists have been prevented from reporting hearings and judgments.

The orders that have been made have been justified on the basis that they have been needed to ensure Mr Rayney obtains fair trials.

The wilful murder trial is being heard alone by Justice Brian Martin, who has been brought from interstate, and prosecuted by veteran silk John Agius, who is being briefed by an east coast prosecution service.

The cost of avoiding conflict of interests and ensuring a fair trial are high - the trial budget will be blown out by about $900,000 for the judicial arrangement and $1.8m for the interstate prosecution - but unavoidable.

The Perth legal community is in conflict and divided over the case, which has seen the involvement of high-profile players from both the prosecution and defence legal worlds.

The extraordinary expense and glittering cast bely what is at the heart of this case: a story of falling in and out of love, of doting parents clinging to the custody of their children, of alleged infidelities and other human weaknesses.

It's the stuff that so many failed marriages are made of, in Perth, Australia and all over the world.

The police and prosecution, backed by Mrs Rayney's closest relatives and some of her friends, will say that the toxic marital breakdown and its potential fallout was enough to drive Mr Rayney to murder.

Claims of divorce lawyers being hired, a phone being tapped, affairs on both sides, gambling, financial obfuscation, wrangling over the family home and fighting over two precious daughters will be made.

Emails back and forth between Mr Rayney and his wife, who was increasingly angry that he had not left the family home and settled custody and financial matters on her terms, are expected to be tendered.

Forensic clues that police claim to demonstrate that Mrs Rayney was killed on the couple's Como property will be presented to the court but Mr Rayney's backers believe that someone else must have been responsible.

They believe the fact of the marital difficulties led police to become tunnel-visioned and ignore the potential for others to have committed the crime.

Mr Rayney has strong support among lawyers who have known him for decades and cannot believe he could have killed his wife. There was no history of domestic violence and Mr Rayney has an impeccable record. The couple's two teenage daughters, who were home on the night of the alleged murder, stand strongly behind their father.

The girls are not alone. They have the support of parents and families who have watched a dedicated dad turn up to school dates and weekend sports with an unmistakable devotion to his daughters in the most trying of circumstances.

On Monday week, the case that has proved an unparalleled test of WA's criminal justice system is scheduled to be presented in open court.

Finally, the taxpayer may get a glimpse into what all these arguments have been about and why it has taken so long to get to a resolution.

And finally, we may learn how the most unlikely of victims came to meet her fate.

Corryn Rayney was never meant to have met this end. She was the most unlikely of victims.

Corryn Rayney.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West