Police believe David Eastman is still a danger to the community, and say allowing him to walk free would be “the real miscarriage of justice”.
Canberra woke on Saturday to the fallout from the stunning recommendations of the Eastman inquiry’s final report.
The report recommended Eastman’s conviction be quashed, despite inquiry head Acting Justice Brian Martin being “fairly certain” of his guilt for one of Australia's most notorious crimes, the 1989 murder of ACT Assistant Commissioner Colin Stanley Winchester.
The inquiry’s report tore apart the reliability of gunshot residue analysis used to link Eastman to the crime scene near Mr Winchester's home, describing it as “deeply flawed”.
It found a “substantial miscarriage of justice” occurred in the convicted killer's 1995 trial, and that a retrial would now be next to impossible.
The possibility that Eastman would be freed after serving 19 years of a life sentence has rankled many inside the Australian Federal Police.
AFP Association chief executive Dennis Gellatly was a young constable when Mr Winchester was shot twice at close range.
Mr Gellatly, who keenly remembers his shock and disbelief following the assassination, said AFP members were outraged by the inquiry’s recommendations.
“I’ve had a number of phone calls from police who are absolutely livid,” he said.
“Livid at the amount of money the ACT government has put into this review, and livid at the outcome, particularly when the judge reviewing the matter said it’s most likely Eastman killed Colin Winchester.”
“The real miscarriage of justice will be if the ACT courts allow a [convicted] cop killer to walk free.”
Attorney-General Simon Corbell said it was unfair to attack the government, who were required to fund the inquiry when it was ordered by the courts in 2012.
Mr Corbell said he acknowledged the concerns of AFP members about the potential for Eastman to be released.
“But we live in a society that is governed by the rule of law, and I know that the police understand and respect, and are indeed sworn to uphold the rule of law.”
The head of the police team which investigated Mr Winchester’s death, Commander Richard Ninness, also voiced his fears over Eastman’s possible release.
He told News Corp Eastman was still a danger to the community.
Police were found by the inquiry to have “crossed the line” in their lengthy surveillance campaign against Eastman, with some of their actions labelled unfair and unlawful.
Mr Ninness was also criticised for not telling prosecutors when he learned their case’s key forensic expert, Robert Collins Barnes, was facing disciplinary charges at his lab in Victoria.
If prosecutors knew of those charges, they would have investigated further, and Barnes’s flawed work may have been revealed, the inquiry found.
But Mr Gellatly believes the inquiry has unfairly applied today’s standards to an investigation that took place 25 years ago.
“I think every police officer will be concerned about this,” he said.
“The concern is the absolute slap in the face to justice; it’s going to set the ACT forever in the books for being soft on criminals.”