Toowoomba businessman John Wagner.
Toowoomba businessman John Wagner. DAN PELED/AAP

John Wagner's emotional evidence to defamation hearing

"GUT wrenching" was how an emotional John Wagner described watching a 60 Minutes program which, in his view, inferred that he and three of his brothers were responsible for deaths of 12 people in the Grantham flood.

Mr Wagner was giving evidence before the Toowoomba Supreme Court which is hearing legal argument on the amount of damages owed to Mr Wagner and his brothers Denis, Neill and Joe.

The four brothers had sued Channel 9 and others for defamation arising from the May 2015 60 Minutes program which inferred that a collapsed wall from a quarry, owned by the Wagners, outside Grantham had led to the devastating flood waters which rushed through the town on January 10, 2011, leaving 12 people dead.

State government inquiries held into the floods at Grantham found the quarry played no significant role in the disaster which struck the town.

"They tried to destroy our reputation with a pack of lies," Mr Wagner said of the 60 Minutes report.

Segments of the 60 Minutes report were played to the court including a piece in which it was claimed the Wagners had declined to be interviewed for the program.

In fact, Mr Wagner said his brother Denis had been contacted for comment but they had at a board level decided to provide a statement to 60 Minutes rather than go on camera.

The statement was sent to 60 Minutes three days before the program aired but no mention of the statement was included in the program, he said.

Another segment of the program played to the court which showed a mother telling how her two-year-old daughter was wrenched from her arms by the flood waters had Mr Wagner in tears.

"My view is they deliberately used that little girl's death for the story," Mr Wagner said.

Earlier, Mr Wagner's brother Neill Wagner gave evidence and was shown footage of a truck swamped by flood water.

Neill Wagner said he had seen that footage and realised that it was actually vision from Withcott, 20km upstream from Grantham, describing the inclusion of that footage as "sensationalist journalism".

"Using footage 20km away is completely false, completely wrong," he told the court.

Neill Wagner said following the 60 Minutes program he had been approached numerous times by people asking about the accusations made in the program.

He said more than one million people had watched 60 Minutes that night.

"I can't physically go out to 1.1 million people to explain to them," he said.

"It's there for the rest of time, you can't set the record straight."

The hearing before Justice Peter Applegarth continues today.

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