Was the death of Jeffrey Brooks really an accident?
JEFFREY BROOKS WAS AN experienced shooter – he’d been around guns all of his life. That’s important to know. On March 13, 1996, Brooks, 24, was found slumped over in the front seat of his car, a bullet wound in his chest, at a farm south of Brisbane. At the time, police said Brooks accidentally shot himself, but for more than 22 years his parents have maintained his death was no accident. It was murder, they say.
“Jeffrey’s killer should have been got within a couple of hours,” Brooks’ mother, Wendy Brooks, told Seven Network’s Sunday Night.
Now there are fresh hopes the truth of Brooks’ death will be revealed. Evidence, including revelations he feared he was about to be killed, have prompted the Queensland Attorney- General Yvette D’ath to direct the
state coroner to reopen the inquest into Jeffrey Brooks’ death.
“In 1998, a coroner handed down an ‘open finding’, meaning that doubts remained about the exact circumstances of Mr Brooks’ death,” D’ath said in a statement on Nov. 2. “My decision to reopen the coronial inquiry is based on new credible and independent evidence that was not available during the 1998 inquest into Mr Brooks’ death.”
High-profile Queensland criminal lawyer Peter Boyce, who represented the family in the Daniel Morcombe murder case and now represents the Brooks family, believes the new evidence is “crucial” to the case. “All my clients want is for no stone to be left unturned,” Boyce tells WHO. Investigations by The Courier-mail newspaper’s Dead Wrong podcast series and Sunday Night have shone a light on the case, and both reveal apparent flaws in the original police investigation.
So what really happened to Brooks? The Beenleigh Crayfish Farm was haemorrhaging cash when Brooks, a married marine biologist from Lismore on the NSW north coast, fresh out of university, was employed to figure out what was going on. He discovered crayfish from the farm were being sold “out the back door” for cash sales, Brooks’ father, Lawrie Brooks, told Sunday Night.
Paul Stewart, co-owner of the farm, hired a private investigator who discovered farm worker Regine Geiger was selling boxes of crayfish to hotels and restaurants. Geiger was sacked, along with her husband, Hans Geiger, and another farm worker, Graham Lloyd.
Now Brooks was worried his colleagues were going to kill him and it would be made to look like an accident. “In actual fact, he said, ‘I’m frightened I’m going to cop a bullet,’ ” family friend Bob Martin told Sunday Night Brooks said to him. “He felt that he would wear a bullet and it would be made to look like an accident.”
On the day he died, farm workers reported hearing two gunshots at around 1.30pm. But Stewart claims Brooks made a phone call to him at 1.51pm, telling him he’d found a record of the farm’s cash sales. Then, he told Stewart, “I can hear someone coming … curiosity killed the cat.” Less than two hours later, Brooks was found dead. How does a dead man make a phone call?
A ballistics expert who re-created the conditions – including the angle and distance of the gun from the body – told Sunday Night he did not believe it would be possible to accidentally shoot yourself.
No fingerprints were ever taken from the gun, nor were Brooks or the farm workers checked for gunshot residue. And the shotgun itself was accidentally destroyed. Dennis Walker, a former Workcover Queensland investigator who looked into Brooks’ death, thought the case “may involve murder”. But he was under pressure to agree with police.
Boyce says the family wants police to reinvestigate the case with “an open mind”. “It’s been a long journey for the family, waiting for someone to listen to them,” Boyce says. “They’re pretty clear on what they believe the result should be – and they don’t feel that’s been achieved to date.”
After graduating from university with a degree in marine biology, Jeffrey Brooks started work at The Beenleigh Crayfish Farm.
Jeffrey Brooks’ parents, Lawrie and Wendy, have always maintained their son’s death was not accidental.
In re-creating the conditions for the shooting, Sunday Night used FBIgrade ballistics gel and pig skin.
Brooks was found dead near a dam on The Beenleigh Crayfish Farm, south of Brisbane.