The RMIT University Innocence Initiative has called for an urgent review into the Keli Lane murder case, following evidence that has cast doubt over the adequacy of the police investigation and the fairness of her trial.
Lane was convicted of murdering her new born baby Tegan in 2011 and sentenced to 18 years in prison. She is eligible for parole in 2023.
According to the Innocence Initiative, Lane’s conviction was based on circumstantial evidence, with no evidence of a body, death, cause of death or motive, and no witnesses, confession or forensic evidence linking Lane with a homicide.
In a three-part documentary series, Exposed: the Case of Keli Lane, the ABC revealed a potentially flawed police investigation that was not ready to go to trial.
Former NSW Unsolved Homicide Detective Sharon Rhodes said police “didn’t have anything”.
“We weren’t ready…It was massive, it was mammoth,” she said.
With police searching for a man named Andrew Norris or Andrew Morris, it was suggested that police failed to take into account that this person may not have been using a real name during his relationship with Lane.
The Innocence Initiative said this meant the police investigation could have been seriously flawed because they were focused on the wrong man.
Lane admitted she was not 100 per cent certain of Andrew Norris’ name and that he may not have been telling the truth, or she may have made a mistake.
The police investigation continued throughout the long trial, swamping the defence.
“This was a case that was being prepared on the run. There’s no doubt about that,” Anthony Whealy QC, the Judge who presided over Lane’s trial said.
Whealy disclosed his reservations about whether the prosecution met the standard of proof required – beyond reasonable doubt.
After an initial prosecution theory that Lane disposed of her baby’s body at an Olympic Park site, the prosecution later withdrew the statement because there was no evidence to support the theory.
By the time the statement was withdrawn, the theory had already received significant media coverage which had the potential to impact the jury.
Lane’s water polo coaches and friend also contradicted the prosecution’s argument that her motive for killing her daughter was to enable her to focus on her Olympic ambitions.
When asked if he ever heard Keli Lane speak about wanting to go to the Olympics, Lane’s water polo coach Les Kay said “no. Simple as that. No way breathing”.
The jury also failed to hear from two crucial witnesses who would have supported Lane’s version of events.
These witnesses were either overlooked or deliberately omitted, according to the Innocence Initiative.
Darryl Henson, a tenant in the apartment block where Lane claimed to have met ‘Norris’ on multiple occasions, told Exposed that he had clear memories of seeing her leave the premises numerous times.
Exposed also highlighted that the evidence of Natalie McCauley, the only person who could support Lane’s claim about Norris’ existence, was ‘traded out’ for a prosecution witness named Andrew Morris.
McCauley was not called on to give evidence because of an agreement reached between the prosecution and defence.
Morris was supposed to have testified: “I’m the Andrew Morris. I remember having sex with her, and [I] didn’t have the baby.”
He informed Exposed that he was told “we’ve done a deal that you don’t have to give evidence but neither does one of Keli’s witnesses”.
“I wonder how important their story was then?” he asked.
Director of the RMIT Innocence Initiative and Associate Dean of Criminology and Justice Studies, Dr Michele Ruyters, said suggestions about witness coaching raised in the final episode of Exposed also warranted further investigation.
“Rhodes confirmed the possibility that Morris was led to believe the person he had slept with was Keli Lane,” she said.
Ruyters also said there was a possibility that the police and prosecution had not disclosed an estimated 2,000 recordings of intercepted conversations obtained from Lane’s mobile and home phones and a listening device placed in her home.
The Innocence Initiative at RMIT has applied for access to any undisclosed recordings through a freedom of information (FOI) application which is currently under external review.
Professor of Forensic Psychiatry, Anne Buist, also weighed in when she examined Lane over two days.
She described the narrative of Keli Lane as a child killer as not fitting the profile of women who kill their infants.
When asked whether Tegan could be alive, Buist said “yes”.
The final episode of Exposed also raised questions about the use of slut-shaming as a strategic device in the prosecution of criminal trials.
In the words of former Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC, Lane’s case was prosecuted because “it raised all sorts of values”.
“The relationship between a new mother and child, the idea of child-killing, which is so abhorrent to the community generally, the nature of the accused and her conduct over a period of time. That made it important,” he said.
Cowdery went on to say that he didn’t think Lane was a risk to the community, in that she would “go around killing other people’s babies”.
“She seemed to be a bit of a risk to the virile young male portion of the community,” he said.
Exposed highlighted the fact that the prosecution failed to present any evidence to support their case which was based entirely on circumstantial evidence.
“There was no evidence of death, no evidence of a body, no evidence of murder, no evidence of motive, no evidence of any foul play and no confession,” Ruyters said.
“And yet Keli Lane was convicted. Why? This conviction must be reviewed.”
While the RMIT Innocence Initiative is supporting a petition for a review into Lane’s conviction, what is needed urgently – according to the Initiative – is an investigation into the policing and prosecutorial practices that led to Lane’s trial in the first place.