ACT News

David Eastman inquiry: ACT Supreme Court decision on prison release

David Eastman.
David Eastman. Photo: Supplied

And that's where we will leave it. Thanks for joining us. It's been a pretty momentous day for Canberra. There are still a lot of questions to be answered. Will there be a new trial? If not, will we ever know who really killed Colin Winchester? How will Eastman adjust to life back on the outside? And many, many others.

We'll try to answer as many of those as we can over the coming days, weeks and months.

In the meantime, here's a link again to Christopher Knaus and Michael Inman's wrap of today's proceeeding and here are some of the other headlines so far.

And just as we wrap up our live coverage of today's events, here's a video of Eastman leaving prison.

 

David Eastman leaves prison after conviction quashed

David Eastman has been released on bail after a court ruled he did not get a fair trial on charges he murdered Police Commissioner Colin Winchester. He left court in a maroon sedan, with a blanket over his head.

Here's that recap again, for those just catching up.

  • The ACT Supreme Court has quashed David Eastman's conviction for the murder of Police Commissioner Colin Winchester.
  • It has also recommended he face a retrial. However, that will be up to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which has to decide if there is still a chance of conviction, given the amount of time since the crime (1989) and the fact that many pieces of evidence are gone, and some witnesses are now dead.
  • Eastman has been granted bail, but only after initially trying to argue against the conditions that were to be placed on him. He eventually agreed, but only after a judge suggested the application could be put over until Monday.
  • He did not attend court and spent the day in prison, at the Alexander Maconochie Centre on the edge of Canberra.
  • He left prison in a maroon sedan, with a blanket over him, heading for an unknown location.

And here's the full story on Simon Corbell's statement, from our Assembly team of Kirsten Lawson and Tom McIlroy.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell would not say on Friday whether or not freed prisoner David Eastman would be accommodated by the government while on bail.

And here's a clearer shot from Jay Cronan, although there's not much to see of Eastman.

David Eastman leaves the Alexander Maconochie Centre in Canberra.
David Eastman leaves the Alexander Maconochie Centre in Canberra. Photo: Jay Cronan
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We'll have some better photos in a moment, but here's the first shot of David Eastman leaving prison for the first time in almost 20 years.

 

Two cars, the second carrying David Eastman, leave the Alexander Maconochie Centre in Symonston.
Two cars, the second carrying David Eastman, leave the Alexander Maconochie Centre in Symonston. 

At least 20 members of the media were there. Eastman's car slowed briefly, but did not stop and he was not visible throughout.

Eastman left prison just about 5.55pm in a maroon sedan. He was in the back seat with a blanket over him.

He was part of a two car convey, in the second car. It is not known where Eastman is going.

David Eastman is out of jail.

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Just a correction on earlier, Simon Corbell did not say that Eastman would be accommodated by the government while on bail. He said Eastman would get all the normal support other prisoners received on their release.

He did not say whether Eastman would or would not be accommodated.

Chris Knaus, though, tells us that the earliest Eastman could face a re-trail is February 2015. So - if the trial goes ahead - there could be quite a while before this is finally over.

We mentioned earlier that the Victims of Crime Commissioner was in touch with Colin Winchester's family.

They have now said, through the commissioner, that they are "up for" another trial.

"The fact that this process has never closed meant that is has never brought finality to the Winchester family," Commissioner John Hinchey said.

"Every reconsideration by the courts has resulted in further days of mourning for the Winchester family."

You can read more here.

Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey.
Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Another person who is not so happy that Eastman will be getting out of jail is retired detective Richard Ninness.

He spent years chasing David Eastman over one of Australia's most notorious police assassinations and he fears he could become a target once the prisoner is set free.

Former detective commander Richard Ninness spoke of his lingering concerns about Eastman as his day of judgment finally comes to hand.

Mr Ninness and his team came under fire in the inquiry into Eastman's conviction, including for a surveillance campaign that sometimes "crossed the line" into the realm of the unfair and unlawful.

You can read more on that here.

Retired detective Richard Ninness.
Retired detective Richard Ninness. 
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Terry O'Donnell, former lawyer and long-time campaigner for Eastman, also spoke to media outside the ACT Supreme Court. 

“We’re back to where we were in December 1992, we’ve still got one more step to go," he said.

“I believe Mr Eastman has a strong defence case, that’s if the matter was ever to go to trial again.”

Mr O'Donnell said he believed there were significant difficulties in holding a re-trial, due to the deaths of witnesses, a lack of proper investigation into the possibility the Calabrian mafia were responsible, and the fact that there was no proper forensic analysis.

Asked what he would say to Colin Winchester's family, he replied:

“It’s not my business to say anything, but if someone else did do, the AFP haven’t been a friend of Colin Winchester’s family, because they’ve got the wrong man.”

Former Eastman lawyer, Terry O'Donnell, speaks with media outside the ACT Supreme Court.
Former Eastman lawyer, Terry O'Donnell, speaks with media outside the ACT Supreme Court. Photo: Graham Tidy

Mr Corbell said Eastman would have access to the ACT Corrective Services' Throughcare program to support his transition back into the community, while on bail.

"For detainees who have spent long periods in prison, the adjustment to life outside can be difficult," he statement reads.

"Living in the community is quite different to the regimented nature of prison life and society, technology and other things have changed significantly since that person was imprisoned."

He says it is now up to the DPP whether another trial goes ahead.

Mr Corbell says the Victims of Crime Assistance League has been in touch with Commissioner Winchester's family today, keeping them up to date with the latest developments in the case.

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