Seven years on, my  nightmare continues
Arrested: Police swop on Lloyd Rayney. Picture: Seven News

MADLY IN LOVE

"I was struck by her beauty and I remember, in fact, exactly what she said, the way she spoke, the way she wore her hair, I can even tell you exactly what she was wearing that day."

From the day Lloyd Rayney met Corryn De Silva, he was smitten. The pair worked together at the Australian Solicitor's Office. He recalls their courtship and the early years of their marriage with fondness, describing them as happy and "madly in love".

They married in 1990 and four years later had their first child Caitlyn. Sarah was born three years later. By 2007, they were a power couple of Perth's legal circles: Mr Rayney was a senior barrister and Mrs Rayney a registrar with the Supreme Court.

But Mr Rayney said after the birth of Sarah, their relationship hit problems.

TWO FELONS WORTHY OF A CLOSER LOOK | RAYNEY TELLS OF NIGHTMARE

"I couldn't put a finger on a precise date, there wasn't a specific occasion, there wasn't a specific event, but we drifted apart and Corryn had made it clear to me that she wanted a separation," he says.

As their marriage deteriorated, Mrs Rayney sent emails, threatening to ruin her husband's career. Mr Rayney allegedly installed a telephone tap at the family home in Como, leading to two charges that are yet to be dealt with by the District Court.

Despite the bitter breakdown of their marriage, Mr Rayney insists the couple agreed that their children would be their priority.

START OF A NIGHTMARE

"Three of us were standing in the hallway and I told them what had happened and I still remember Sarah looking up to me and saying to me: 'What's going to happen, Dad?' And I had no answer because I didn't know."

Tears come to Mr Rayney's eyes as he recalls the moment he had to break the news to his daughters that their mother had gone missing.

When he woke on Wednesday August 8, 2007, Mr Rayney says he was initially "quite annoyed" to find Corryn not in the house, assuming she had gone to work early and shirked her turn to take the girls to school.

The previous night, Corryn had gone to her regular bootscooting class in Bentley and Mr Rayney said he spent some of the evening reading with Sarah, then aged 10. After Caitlyn, then 13, arrived home from a concert about 10.45pm, he helped her with her homework. He said his estranged wife had not returned home when he went to bed.

Mr Rayney drove the girls to school in the morning and went on to a Corruption and Crime Commission hearing, where he had been representing a police officer involved in the wrongful murder conviction of Andrew Mallard. It was during a phone call that morning that he was told his wife had not shown up at work.

Alarm bells rang.

He met Supreme Court Chief Justice Wayne Martin to organise for police to be given access to his wife's emails. When he describes facing the task of telling his daughters about Corryn's disappearance, Mr Rayney's voice breaks with emotion.

"The three of us just hugged each other for a long, long time. Yeah, that was the start of this nightmare that's gone on for seven years and still hasn't finished," he says.

LIKE A GANGLAND KILLING

Nine days after Mrs Rayney vanished, police find her car parked 7km from her home and follow an oil trail to Kings Park. DNA samples from disturbed soil match Mrs Rayney's profile and a homicide investigation is launched.

Mr Rayney describes all hope vanishing with the delivery of the news by two detectives.

"I said, 'How is that, that doesn't happen . . . it's, who would bury Corryn in Kings Park . . . it's, treat her like a, like a dog, like some sort of a gang-land killing'," he recounts, his emotions again spilling over as he describes having to tell his daughters and the overwhelming feeling of the need to protect his children.

THE PRIME SUSPECT

"There's not one instance where I've even had to contemplate sitting down to tell the girls, 'Look, despite what's been said about me, I didn't have anything to do with Corryn's death, there's just no need to do that, because they know I wasn't involved in any way."

But police, who declined to take part in the documentary, had other ideas. Six weeks after the gruesome discovery in Kings Park, senior investigator Jack Lee calls a press conference.

Det-Sen. Sgt Lee announces Mr Rayney has been charged with bugging the family home, then goes on to point the finger directly at Mr Rayney for his wife's murder.

"He is our prime suspect because our evidence at this time leads us to believe that the offence occurred at the house," the experienced officer says.

It is a statement that would later become the basis of a potential multimillion-dollar defamation case brought by Mr Rayney, which is still before the courts.

"I was just gobsmacked," Mr Rayney says now. "Could not believe it. I still can't believe it.

"The impact of what he said was felt by me immediately in every different way imaginable, professionally, personally, every aspect of my family's life.

"Seven years on, the impact is still there."

He says his daughters, who were not interviewed for the documentary, were "intelligent, clear-headed" girls and have provided unwavering support which would have been impossible if they had thought their father was in any way involved in their mother's murder.

A DRAMATIC ARREST

Mr Rayney splays his hands on the bonnet of his car, is pat-searched and handcuffed.

Remarkable, never-before-seen footage taken by police shows his arrest across the road from the Supreme Court where his murdered wife worked.

The show of force and exercise in humiliation, carried out three years after he was declared the prime suspect, would later be criticised by the judge in Mr Rayney's wilful murder trial.

"I knew that I would be taken away and put into custody and I don't know why but I had a thought flash through my head which was, is this my last moment of freedom?

"And I remember him standing very close to me and I could smell his breath and I could remember thinking is this the last smell of freedom that I have, this police officer breathing down my face, the last thing that I have, that I remember of my freedom?"

Mr Rayney says he was taken to the police lockup and strip searched as the officer-in-charge of the investigation Det. Sen-Sgt Carlos Correia watched on.

After two weeks behind bars, he was released on bail to care for his daughters and prepare for his trial.

TRIAL OF THE DECADE

"On the day of the trial, the girls were adamant that they were going to come to court and walk into court with me," Mr Rayney says.

"So that's what they did and I remember this sea of cameras.

"But we pushed past that and the trial began."

A spectacle that ran over 12 weeks, heard from more than 100 witnesses and involved more than 700 exhibits, the case was presided over by veteran judge Brian Martin.

Justice Martin and prosecutor John Agius were brought in from other States because of the Rayneys' close ties to WA's legal system.

The gallery was packed and there was unprecedented coverage, which Mr Rayney describes as "daunting".

Mr Agius alleged Mr Rayney murdered his wife when she returned home from her dance class and then hid her body and car while he waited for Caitlyn to return from the concert.

Later, while his daughters slept, Mr Rayney retrieved his wife's car, loaded her body into the rear seat and drove to Kings Park, where she was buried head-first in a bush grave, the court was told. He was accused of abandoning the car when it stopped because of a loss of oil in Kershaw Street, Subiaco - where he knew several lawyers - and making his way home on foot.

Key evidence included a dinner place card with his name on it found about 120m from the grave. But Justice Martin said the case could not succeed on this evidence alone and sometimes an apparently incriminating piece of evidence had an innocent explanation.

Three liquidambar seed pods, alleged to have come from a tree outside the Rayney home, were also crucial to the prosecution case. But they led to defence accusations that evidence was planted.

Justice Martin found two of the pods in Mrs Rayney's hair, which were not discovered during an initial inspection, had been missed during the first search.

But Justice Martin expressed a "distinct feeling of unease" about a third pod found months later in a body bag which had been used to transport Mrs Rayney and would not rely on that evidence.

Justice Martin also concluded that consistent with defence evidence of tests for pollen on nasal swabs, Mrs Rayney probably took her last breath at Kings Park.

Mr Rayney did not take the stand.

"Things were said which were unsupported by the evidence. Things were claimed which in fact were contrary to the evidence," he says.

"But I am an accused person, so I sat there and listened."

THE VERDICT

"Crucial evidence is lacking and the absence of evidence tells strongly against the State."

Of all the lines in Justice Martin's 369-page decision, delivered on November 1, 2012, this was among the most telling.

In finding Mr Rayney not guilty, Justice Martin said there was a "lack of logic" in several areas of the State case, which he described as beset by improbabilities and uncertainties.

He found Mrs Rayney had been attacked near her home, possibly the victim of a sexually motivated assault. But there was no evidence to implicate her husband in the attack.

Defence lawyer David Edwardson admits he was extremely nervous on verdict day but Mr Rayney says he was "completely confident" of being acquitted.

Later that afternoon, Mr Rayney invited his supporters to his family home.

"It wasn't a party. It was a thank you, a sincere thank you from the heart for those people who had been kind and generous to us in the hardest of times," he says.

FIND CORRYN'S KILLER

"I really do think it can be solved." Nearly two years after he was acquitted and after an unsuccessful appeal by prosecutors, Mr Rayney wants a cold case investigation into his wife's murder.

"The name doesn't matter, call it a cold case, call it whatever you want, but there needs to be an investigation conducted," he says.

"Not by the same investigators who stuffed this up. It needs to be new blood, new people with sufficient experience to get it right.

"The police had a chance to solve this crime and that was for everyone's benefit and for the benefit of Corryn. They owed it to her to get it right. They owed it to my children.

"They owed it to everybody that knew and loved Corryn and they didn't do it, and I find that really hard to forgive, all of the things that they should have done and didn't do."

Mr Rayney says despite their seven-year nightmare, his family remained unbroken.

"I do think that we're a strong family, we've held together for this long and we will continue to do so and against the most trying and awful conditions we have stood strong and we're still standing," he says.

The West Australian

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