Gerard Baden-Clay
Gerard Baden-Clay

OPINION: Baden-Clay is a killer, but his story never changed

MUCH has been said about Gerard Baden-Clay this week and much of it has been deserved.

But one thing must be made clear: Baden-Clay has never changed his story. He has barely moved an inch.

During the trial, everyone heard him tell the same version of Allison's "disappearance" no less than three times.

He told it to the cops first on the scene at their Brookfield house, he told it during a second chat to cops and he told it again in the witness box in court.

I know this because I covered the whole trial and I heard him refer repeatedly to his "shit-shower-shave" routine in the course of his account.

I generally avoid writing opinion pieces on something I've reported on because I worry about my objectivity being tainted.

But I write this now because I feel I must correct this misconception about Baden-Clay changing his story that I have seen repeated in opinion articles and social media this week since the Queensland Court of Appeal ruling.

Don't get me wrong, Baden-Clay is a liar who killed his wife and left three little girls enormously traumatised and essentially parentless.

But I'm getting tired of reading his murder charge was downgraded to manslaughter because he changed his story.

It is simply untrue.
 

Allison Baden-Clay
Allison Baden-Clay Contributed

During the trial last year, before the jury went out to consider its verdict, Baden-Clay's lawyers made a submission there was no case to answer on the murder charge.

In making that submission, they conceded there was enough evidence for a manslaughter conviction but there was no proof he intended to kill Allison.

To convict a person of murder, the jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt Baden-Clay intended to kill, rather unintentionally causing a death.

The trial justice disagreed with the submission and the decision went to the jury, which came back with a guilty verdict for murder.

During the appeal hearing in August, his lawyers again argued the Crown could only prove a case for manslaughter, not murder.

There was no evidence proving intent, such as injuries to the body or cause of death, and the Crown's suggested motives for murder - such as financial troubles and an extra-marital affair - were speculative when there was no history of violence between the couple, the defence said.

When lawyers make these arguments, they put forward other possible scenarios.

The Crown does the same thing to sell their version of events to a jury, especially when presenting a circumstantial case.

Baden-Clay's defence team told the appeal court the evidence could point to an "unintentional" killing, that an altercation had occurred - she fell and died.

They argued if that had happened, he might have dumped her body in a panic. They said dumping her body was not an act that on its own could prove intent to murder.

A memorial for Allison Baden-Clay at the site where her body was found at Kholo Creek.
A memorial for Allison Baden-Clay at the site where her body was found at Kholo Creek. David Nielsen

Unfortunately, some people took this hypothesis put to the court as gospel - that he had changed his story.

But the lawyers had simply put viable alternatives to the Crown scenarios and the appeal justices accepted the alternatives could not be ruled out.

That creates doubt, reasonable doubt.

I, though, have no doubt Baden-Clay lied on the stand, repeatedly.

And I understand why the community is both shocked and angered at the decision, even if sound legal reasoning is behind it.

But Gerard Baden-Clay is not off the hook yet - his re-sentencing is yet to come, and the way he conducted himself in the witness box may yet play a big part in the jail term handed down.

And his actions could be declared a serious violent offence which means he could be ordered to serve 80% of his sentence.

But he has not had his charge downgraded because he changed his story.

He has been unwavering the whole time.



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