Caroline Byrne Murder Investigation

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SpeakersNile Reverend The Hon Fred
Commentary Gordon Wood, Rene Rivkin, Offset Alpine

Page: 7551

    Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [5.24 p.m.]: I wish to speak about the allocation of resources to the investigation of the murder of Caroline Byrne on the night of 7 June 1995. Her photographs appear in this week's Bulletin magazine in an article about her death. Almost nine years ago Caroline's body was found at the foot of the Gap. Despite the controversial circumstances surrounding Caroline's death, the police investigation has been allocated very few resources. At the time of the coronial inquiry in 1998 only one detective, Detective Sergeant Brian Wyver, was put on the case. He was later transferred to Wollongong, and that hindered the investigation further. Detective Sergeant Wyver questioned the Coroner's open verdict, saying that he believed Caroline had been murdered. In June 1998, four months after Gordon Wood left Australia and four months after the Coroner's inquiry, Strike Force Irondale was established to continue the investigation into Caroline's death. Coroner John Abernethy recorded an open finding, concluding that Caroline jumped, accidentally fell or was pushed over the Gap. The Coroner was especially critical of Gordon Wood's evidence, citing "glaring inconsistencies", "inconsistent testimony" and "bizarre evidence".

    Caroline's murder again hit the headlines recently—with reports in the Daily Telegraph, the Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Bulletin—when Gordon Wood was located in France and the NSW Police brief was finalised that recommended he be charged with the murder of Caroline Byrne. This detailed brief is now with the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP]. Premier Bob Carr said that "there was a very good prima facie case" for extraditing Wood to Australia to face charges over the murder of Caroline Byrne. That again raises the issue of resources. After a nine-year delay, a police inquiry, a coronial inquiry and so on, I was shocked to read media reports that the DPP is very busy, short staffed and lacks resources and that it will take 12 months to study the brief. During that unnecessary delay evidence, witnesses and especially the chief suspect, Gordon Wood, may well be lost and will become impossible to locate. It is essential that the Government give the DPP additional resources for this important case. Justice delayed is justice denied.

    Other serious criminal matters are related to the case. If Gordon Wood and another man, believed to be a New Zealander who left Sydney shortly after Caroline's death, threw Caroline over the Gap, why was she murdered? Was it premeditated murder made to look like suicide? Scientific tests have now proved that Caroline was thrown over the Gap and did not jump. The timing of other events is relevant and related. Since 1995 the Australian Securities and Investments Commission [ASIC] has been conducting inquiries into the Offset Alpine printing plant fire in 1993 and the subsequent $53 million insurance pay-out by FAI. The sum was mysteriously paid after only a few weeks even though members know that such a large claim would usually require extensive investigations, arson inquiries and so on. ASIC's inquiries are attempting to establish who owned the other 38.5 per cent stake in the Offset Alpine plant. Swiss bank information published in the Australian Financial Review points in the direction of three people: Trevor Kennedy, Graham Richardson and Rene Rivkin. Gordon Wood has been reported as saying that the Offset Alpine fire was "a set-up". That suggests arson.

    Did Gordon Wood pass on confidential information about the Offset Alpine fire and the insurance pay-out to his then girlfriend, Caroline Byrne? Perhaps he boasted about the success of the conspirators. In May 1995, one month before Caroline's death, ASIC launched Federal Court action to determine who owned a 38.5 per cent stake in the Offset Alpine printing plant. Even former company secretary Rod Vincent said that he believed the cause of the fire was suspicious. I call on the Government to make resources available to the DPP so that this case can be pursued and Gordon Wood can be brought to justice. Perhaps he might be encouraged, with protection and assurances, to reveal what he knows about the Offset Alpine conspiracy and fire. Caroline's father, Tony Byrne, and her friends demand and deserve justice.