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Monday, June 25, 2012

Jeffrey Gilham guilty or innocent?

On the 3rd December 2011, Jeffrey Gilham walked out of prison into the arms of his wife after serving three years for the murder of his family.  She never doubted his innocence for a minute and has been relentless in telling anyone who would listen, that it was his brother Christopher, and not her husband, who murdered their parents in 1993.

In a packed courtroom, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal quashed Gilham's murder convictions and ordered a retrial.  An expert witness in the 2008 trial has conceded that he was not fully qualified to give evidence about levels of carbon monoxide in the blood - an area that was crucial to Gilham's defence.

But Gilham's Uncle Tony thinks he's guilty and has gone to great lengths to prove it.  One of Uncle Tony's brothers told him to forget about it and stop wasting his money but another brother living in the US, now deceased, sent him money to finance his quest to put Jeffrey behind bars.  

At first it seemed like an open and shut case.  According to Jeffrey, when he entered the house he saw his brother Christopher standing over their mother's body with a lit match in his hand and said "I've killed mum and dad" before setting his mother's body alight.  Outraged, Jeffrey says he then killed him.  He pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of grave provocation and he was sentenced to a five year good behaviour bond.

It was all done and dusted until "Mad Uncle Tony", as he likes to describe himself, decided the evidence didn't stack up, he believed Jeffrey fooled everyone and that people should remember that there was a $900,000 inheritance involved.

He went to Sixty Minutes who highlighted several inconsistencies in the forensic evidence and after fresh information came to light in February 2006, thirteen years later, Gilham was charged with the murder of his parents.  The jury couldn't agree and he walked free but at his second trial, the jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison. Uncle Tony said "I'm so pleased the jury worked it out, they worked out fact from fiction."  Judge Roderick Howie gave Gilham two life sentences and described him as "a consummate liar and brilliant actor."

Then last December, Uncle Tony was devastated when his nephew's convictions were quashed and he walked free.  Today we find out if the judge and Uncle Tony were right about Gilham.  He will either face another retrial or be acquitted and walk from the court a free man once and for all.

Update:   The three judge appeal panel was not unanimous in its decision, divided 2-1 in favour of acquittal.  Chief judge Justice Peter McClellan wanted a re-trial but Justice Elizabeth Fullerton and Justice Peter Garling voted to acquit.

Update 16/7/2012:  Tony Gilham died this morning of a suspected heart attack.  A police spokesman confirmed that emergency services were called to a home in the Sydney suburb of Panania at 4.45 am today, where the 60 year old civil engineer was found dead.  His life-long companion Jenny Robb's son said "We are still waiting on the Coroner's report, but we think more than likely, it had something to do with his heart, he was all burnt out from the fight."  Mr Gilham was working on a High Court appeal against the quashing of his nephew's convictions.