Murder trial: Clothes iron 'very good fit' with head wound

Louis James Mahony has pleaded not guilty to a charge or murder.
Louis James Mahony has pleaded not guilty to a charge or murder. Andrew Messenger

UPDATE 1:30pm: TWO expert forensic pathologists have told a Toowoomba Supreme Court murder trial that they believe Lainie Coldwell was more likely to have been struck to the back of the head with an object rather than have sustained her injuries in a fall from a tree as her de facto husband had claimed.

Sydney based specialist forensic pathologist Professor Johan Duflou and Victorian based Dr Shelley Robertson both cited lack of any other injuries to Ms Coldwell's body as having contributed to their respective views that it was unlikely the incident was attributable to fall from height from a tree.

Dr Robertson said had such a fall led to the head injury, she expected to see other injuries to Ms Coldwell's neck, trunk and limbs.

"I think it certainly unlikely to have occurred in that way," she said of a fall from a tree.

Both pathologists had made their findings through examining medical records, autopsy results, photographs from the post mortem examination and photographs from the scene.

Both found that an antique metal clothes iron pictured among bloody rocks at the scene fit the wound in Ms Coldwell's head.

Among the material the pathologists observed was a 3-D model of Ms Coldwell's skull made from scans taken at autopsy.

"If you placed the front tip of the iron into the skull fracture is formed a very good fit," Prof Duflou told the court.

"In my view it became entirely reasonably possible that object or one similar to that could have caused the fracture."

Dr Robertson also found the iron to possibly be the instrument which could have caused the head injury.

"If the iron is placed adjacent to the skull area it would correspond to the pointy end of the iron," she said.

However, under cross examination by defence barrister Phil Hardcastle, both pathologists conceded a fall from  a tree could not be ruled out completely.

"It's extremely unlikely but not impossible," Dr Robertson said.

The evidence came on the third day of the trial of Louis James Mahony, 44, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder arising from the death of his partner of 18 years, Ms Coldwell.

He claims to have found Ms Coldwell at the foot of the gum tree at their then-Charleville home about 2pm August 23, 2009.

He said she had fallen from  the tree while removing party lights.

However, the Crown accuses him of killing Ms Coldwell and staging the scene to look like she had fallen from the tree.

The trial before Justice James Douglas continues.

EARLIER: A FORENSIC pathologist who studied the material from the post mortem examination of Lainie Coldwell's body said he could not exclude the injuries she sustained could be from a fall from a tree.

However, Professor Peter Ellis told Toowoomba Supreme Court, in his opinion, he found it difficult to believe someone had fallen between 5m and 8m from a tree and yet had no other significant injuries.

"I find it difficult to believe she would fall out of that tree and not suffer any other injury to limb or torso," he said.

Dr Ellis had been asked to examine the forensic reports from the autopsy as the pathologist who had performed the post mortem examination had since died, the court heard.

Ms Coldwell's internal organs had been removed for organ donations, indicating she did not have internal injuries, the court heard.

Dr Ellis said the injury to the back of Ms Coldwell's head indicated her head coming into contact with an angulated object and not something of a flat surface.

The blow created a 5cm x 5cm wound and had pushed that section of the skull into the brain to the point of 14 to 20mm, he said.

He said it was reasonable to think that someone falling from a tree at that height would by reflex try to protect herself with her arms but there were no other injuries.

However, under cross examination by defence barrister Phil Hardcastle, Dr Ellis was shown a photograph of rocks surrounding the base of the tree, one of which appeared to have a sharp edge.

Asked by Mr Hardcastle could such a rock have caused the head injury to Ms Coldwell, Dr Ellis replied that it was "quite possible".

Asked if it was possible that she had struck the rock head first with the rest of her body falling flat on the ground beside the tree without further injury, Dr Ellis said: "I think it's unlikely but I can't exclude it".

The evidence came during the trial of Ms Coldwell's long term de facto husband Louis James Mahony, 44, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder arising from her death.

Mahony claims Ms Coldwell had been removing party lights from the gum tree in the yard of the couple's then Charleville home on August 23, 2009, when she fell.

He said he had been inside the house having an afternoon nap but woke to hear a thud prompting him to go outside where he found his then 36-year-old partner lying at the foot of the tree.

The Crown claims Mahony killed his wife and staged the scene to make it look as if she had fallen from the tree.

The trial before Justice James Douglas continues.

Topics:  editors picks lainie coldwell louis james mahony murder toowoomba court

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