A young woman’s tragic death and her fa­ther’s quest for jus­tice are the foun­da­tion for a new tele­movie. Guy Davis spoke with Garry McDon­ald, star of A Model Daugh­ter: The Killing of Caro­line Byrne.

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - COVER STORY -

RATED M CAST Garry McDon­ald, Cariba Heine, David Lyons

FSUMMARY Af­ter Caro­line Byrne fell to her death from an ocean cliff in east­ern Syd­ney in 1995, it was her fa­ther’s ef­forts which, af­ter 13 years, ex­posed the truth and brought her killer to jus­tice.

or more than a decade, the death of Caro­line Byrne in­trigued and mys­ti­fied Syd­ney. In June 1995, the body of the 20-year-old model was found at the base of the cliffs at The Gap, an area no­to­ri­ous as a sui­cide spot.

Her boyfriend, Gor­don Wood, chauf­feur and per­sonal as­sis­tant to flam­boy­ant fi­nan­cial whiz Rene Rivkin, claimed that Caro­line took her own life, stat­ing that she was suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion.

But Byrne’s fa­ther Tony knew that it wasn’t the case. He was aware that his daugh­ter had strug­gled with de­pres­sion but he was con­vinced that her death was the re­sult of foul play … and that the am­bi­tious, amoral Wood was the man re­spon­si­ble.

With a lack of ev­i­dence and a lack of re­sources to prop­erly pur­sue the case, the po­lice were ini­tially will­ing to ac­cept that Caro­line Byrne took her own life. But they didn’t count on her fa­ther’s dili­gent ef­forts to see the truth un­cov­ered and jus­tice fi­nally served.

Eleven years af­ter Caro­line’s death, Gor­don Wood was charged with her mur­der. Two years later, he was con­victed of the crime and sen­tenced to a lengthy prison sen­tence.

Now the story has been drama­tised by the mak­ers of Un­der­belly in the Ten tele­movie A Model Daugh­ter: The Killing of Caro­line Byrne. Based on the book by Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald jour­nal­ist Robert Wain­wright, it fol­lows the case from Caro­line’s dis­ap­pear­ance through to the fi­nal ver­dict against her killer ( who has launched an ap­peal against his 17-year jail term).

More than sim­ply a crime tale, how­ever, A Model Daugh­ter is the story of Tony Byrne’s determination in the face of over­whelm­ing odds to see the stigma of sui­cide lifted from Caro­line’s death and the true cul­prit brought to jus­tice.

Head­ing the tele­movie’s cast, which in­cludes Sea Pa­trol’s David Lyons as Wood, Front­line’s Tiriel Mora as Rene Rivkin, Un­der­belly’s Gy­ton Grant­ley as Caro­line’s first love An­drew Blanchette, Cariba Heine ( from H2O: Just Add Wa­ter and soon to be seen in the epic minis­eries The Pa­cific) as Caro­line, and Garry McDon­ald as Tony Byrne.

McDon­ald is, of course, well-known for cre­at­ing the iconic comedic char­ac­ter of Nor­man Gun­ston and for his lead role in the much-loved sit­com Mother and Son but his cre­den­tials as a dra­matic ac­tor are rock-solid, earn­ing him a num­ber of awards for his stage and screen work.

He joined the cast of A Model Daugh­ter late in the game, do­ing a screen test on a Mon­day be­fore film­ing his first scenes a few days later.

In­deed, he had al­ready shot a few scenes be­fore he got his first chance to meet face-to-face the man he was por­tray­ing.

“ That was kind of strange,” McDon­ald said with a laugh. “ Luck­ily, I hadn’t done much.”

Upon meet­ing Byrne for cof­fee, McDon­ald says he was ini­tially amazed at how calm and dis­pas­sion­ate the man seemed to be. It wasn’t un­til later that he dis­cov­ered the tor­ment Byrne had been through dur­ing the 10 years in which he waged a cam­paign to un­cover the truth be­hind Caro­line’s death.

“ I didn’t find out un­til half­way through the shoot that he’d had two pretty bad years,” said McDon­ald. “ He kind of fell apart af­ter the mur­der, and we do al­lude to that a lit­tle bit in A Model Daugh­ter. He saw a psy­chi­a­trist and was pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion be­cause, as he said, he just couldn’t func­tion.”

It wasn’t un­til Byrne dis­cov­ered med­i­ta­tion, which McDon­ald also prac­tises, that he was able to find some peace of mind. “ He does that three times a day,” said the ac­tor.

McDon­ald de­scribes the process of play­ing a real-life fig­ure, par­tic­u­larly one who’s still alive, as chal­leng­ing and, in some ways, fright­en­ing.

“ There’s such a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity. What I gath­ered from read­ing Robert Wain­wright’s book and talk­ing to jour­nal­ists who’d got to know Tony very well was that he was a re­ally nice guy. So I had to be very care­ful that I wouldn’t fall back on what I would au­to­mat­i­cally do in such a sit­u­a­tion, which would be to rant and rave.”

Putting on a brave face: Garry McDon­ald and Cariba Heine por­tray Tony and Caro­line Byrne.

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