Mr Ernest Edward Greig Criminal Proceedings

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SpeakersJobling The Hon John


The Hon. J. H. JOBLING [11.00]: I raise this evening what I believe is one of the saddest and most tragic cases that I have had the misfortune to deal with since becoming a member of this House over 11 years ago. I speak of the case of Mr Ernest Edward Greig, who is now under strict custody in the mental ward at Morisset Hospital. Mr Ernest Greig and his son, John Greig, are well known to me in my local area in the Hunter Valley. I have the full permission of the son, Mr John Greig, to make this statement.

Ernest Greig was born on 2 January 1914 in Paddington. His mother was Alfreda Fay Greig and, of great interest, his father's name was Norman Lindsay. I can provide a copy of his birth certificate which lists these facts and also that his father deserted the mother and child. He was surrendered for adoption and made a ward of the State until 14 April 1932. During this period, at age 10, Ernest Greig was sexually assaulted. Despite the difficulties of his early life Ernest married Vida Georgina Smith in 1938 in Scone. During the Second World War, like many members, he served with the Australian Army over a four-year period and fought in the Middle East and New Guinea.

After the war Mr Greig returned to Scone, worked as a builder and was recognised by everyone in the Upper Hunter as one of the finest builders in the trade. He became a highly respected member of his local community, was an active member of the Returned Services League and assisted in many of the community projects in Scone. He was a chartered member of Scone Lions Club and a justice of the peace. He and his wife successfully raised five children who are all respected members of the community. Unfortunately, as often happens - it may well happen to many of us - in later life Ernest developed dementia. He was referred to the aged care assessment team of the James Fletcher Hospital in Newcastle. His wife and children, sadly, were no longer able to take care of him.

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On 17 June 1994 he was transferred to Morisset hospital and placed in a locked ward whilst awaiting assessment. It is appalling to note that in this ward all patients were put to bed at night naked from the waist down in beds covered in plastic sheets. On the third night of his stay Ernest Greig was discovered at one o'clock in the morning standing by his bed in which another of the 16 patients was lying dead - the man had been strangled. The police were called and subsequently Mr Ernest Greig was charged with murder.

I raise a number of important questions in regard to the investigations carried out in this case. Honourable members would appreciate that there were no witnesses to the crime and limited evidence was forthcoming. However, a transcript of the subsequent trial indicates that the police carried out their duties in a manner which, if I were generous and kind, I would describe as totally incompetent. The police failed to send many items for laboratory examination, including a pair of shorts found near the deceased and a plastic mattress protector, which were not fingerprinted or examined for blood. Despite the degree of violent force used, which was revealed after an autopsy on the body of the deceased, and despite the general disarray of the bed in which he was discovered, Mr Greig did not have any traces of blood on his clothes or any apparent injury.

It is also apparent from the trial transcript that the officer in charge of the investigation did not ascertain who may have held keys to the ward on that night. It was many hours before other detectives spoke to each other or to the patients in this particular ward. The officer in charge was unable to state whether the other patients were examined to determine whether they were injured in any way. By the time the other patients were interviewed, they were showered, dressed and had had their breakfast, and the detectives did not view the clothing worn by the patients during the night. In this case the Director of Public Prosecutions utilised the provisions of the Mental Health Act to obtain a finding of not guilty on the grounds of mental illness, at a hearing in which limited evidence was brought forward.

Mr Greig is now back at Morisset Hospital under strict custody. Prior to the finding, his son John Greig obtained bail for his father, but since 12 October he has been unable to obtain approval for the appropriate care. At the hearing His Honour Justice Hunt encouraged the son John Greig to accompany his father from the court but insisted that they be transported by an official. Would the Attorney General please review the case and make an appeal under compassionate grounds? [Time expired.]