Steven Fennell on his postie bike on Macleay Island. File picture
Steven Fennell on his postie bike on Macleay Island. File picture

High Court quashes island murder conviction

A JUNK mail deliverer found guilty of murdering Macleay Island grandmother Liselotte Watson will be released from prison after the High Court quashed his conviction.

Steven Fennell will be released immediately, having spent nearly seven years in jail, after Australia's highest court found his conviction was unreasonable and unsupported by evidence.

Mrs Watson, 85, was murdered in her home in November 2012.

The killer bashed her across the back of the head with a blunt instrument causing "complex depressed fractures".

Her death shocked the tiny community and it was said to be the island's first recorded murder.

Mrs Watson's body was discovered after Mr Fennell asked a local police officer to check on her welfare. They discovered her body in her bedroom.

Macleay Island murder victim Liselotte Watson.
Macleay Island murder victim Liselotte Watson.

At his trial, the Supreme Court heard evidence that Mr Fennell had befriended Mrs Watson and often carried out chores for her.

The court heard evidence that Mrs Watson had become suspicious that Mr Fennell was stealing from her. A handwriting expert gave evidence that banking withdrawal slips had either been adjusted or filled out by Mr Fennell and that he had become "aggressive" when asking the bank about obtaining a "signing authority" for her account.

Mr Fennell took his case to the Court of Appeal in 2017, arguing the evidence against him was unsound, that jurors were made aware of prejudicial information and that Mrs Watson was actually killed in a burglary gone wrong.

She was well known on the island for keeping large amount of cash in her home.

The appeal was dismissed and solicitor Andrew Anderson, with barristers Kate Gover and Saul Holt QC, took the case to the High Court.

 

Among their arguments was that the identification of a hammer - said to be the murder weapon - was unreliable.

It was argued that a friend of Mr Fennell's, who claimed to have loaned the hammer to the junk mail deliverer, saw a photograph of it flash on the news and said it was his, despite it being a commonly sold item.

They also said evidence Mr Fennell was stealing from the grandmother was contradictory to her close monitoring of her bank account.

The High Court is yet to publish its reasons but yesterday took the extraordinary step to order Mr Fennell's acquittal so he could be immediately released from prison.

Mr Fennell's solicitor declined to comment when contacted by The Courier-Mail.



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