The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 43 : 43


a nagging doubt hurriedly wheeling suitcases (though here they wear barristers’ gowns, not pilots’ wings). The building – constructe­d in 1963, when the population of the ACT was under 70,000 – is no longer fit for purpose, and is being refurbishe­d. “You think cramped,” a sheriff tells the media gallery as we squeeze into our seats, “but try fitting 16 jurors into that jury room.” “Cosy?” the ABC reporter asks. “Oh yeah. There’s only one toilet for the lot of ’em. Imagine … It’d be so obvious whodunnit.” When he arrived there were upwards of 20 people milling around the driveway, and policemen leaving and entering Winchester’s property, walking across the lawn to question the neighbour and, before another line was secured, to use her telephone. (She’d neither seen nor heard anything before being woken by the sirens.) None of them wore protective clothing. News of the murder shocked the neighbourh­ood. Deakin is home to The Lodge, the Royal Australian Mint, several embassies, senior public servants and wealthy retirees. Many of its houses date from Canberra’s foundation, with large, establishe­d gardens fronted by oaks and conifers; at Deakin’s southern end, the leafy streets give way to the scrubby bushland of Red Hill Nature Reserve. On the night of the murder, the sun set over the Brindabell­a Range at 8.22. A military veteran was at his kitchen window diagonally opposite the Winchester­s’ around 9pm when he heard two gunshots, followed by a V8 engine start (also heard by two other witnesses) and climb through the gears as it drove away. A psychologi­st was in her home office, at a right angle to the Winchester­s’ backyard, anxiously checking the wall clock as she waited for her teenage son to return home. At 9.15, she heard someone “in heels” run into her driveway, run back to the street, utter something, and then enter a car and leave. When he was finally granted control of the crime scene at 11.40, Peter Nelipa looked for evidence of an assailant. Sometime after midnight, a spent .22 cartridge case glinted in his torchlight. A few minutes later he found a second shell, parallel with the first but a metre nearer to the back of the car. A picture began to emerge. Colin Winchester had been shot twice within seconds of parking. He was ducking to get out of the car when the first shot struck him in the back of the head. As he slumped, the killer took a step forward and shot Winchester again in the right temple. Nelipa wasn’t overly concerned at the large number of people who may have touched Winchester’s body, because it was unlikely the killer had either. However, he wrote in his occurrence sheet, such was the level of trampling on the grass and concrete where the shooter would’ve stood, it “underwent substantia­l alteration to such an extent that it may never be known if other evidence was available”. you’re of his life, Colin Winchester turned his Falcon down Lawley Street in the inner Canberra suburb of Deakin, slowed as he approached his driveway – then overshot it. A favour he liked to pay his elderly neighbour: it made her feel safe, she said, to have the assistant commission­er of the AFP park in front of her house. Winchester – 55 and stocky, with wavy brown hair and a distinct protruding jaw – was driving an unmarked vehicle; he wore jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt. He left Canberra City Police Station at 5pm and ate dinner with his wife, Gwen, at home before driving to the satellite town of Queanbeyan to see his brother Ken. The siblings drank a few beers and discussed an upcoming hunting trip to western New South Wales. Colin left before 9pm, telling Ken he had work to do that night: “A lot on my plate.” In Colin’s absence, Gwen retired to the lounge room to watch a video. She heard the sound of her husband’s car pulling into the neighbour’s driveway, followed by two sharp cracks she took to be kids mucking about. Five minutes passed, and Gwen wondered what was taking Colin so long to come inside. He wasn’t in the backyard turning off the hose, and when she walked to the driveway next door she found the Falcon’s driver-side door ajar and her husband still sitting behind the wheel, his right foot pressed to the concrete as if about to alight. The ambulance arrived at 9.26pm, followed by two members of the AFP’s Accident Investigat­ion Squad. Gwen heard a paramedic tell one of the policemen, “He was D.O.A.” As assistant commission­er, Colin Winchester was in charge of policing for the ACT: the territory’s top cop, the boss of those who attended his murder scene, and the mate of many. Two of them, commanders Lloyd Worthy and Ric Ninness, arrived at 9.50. They ducked under the police tape, assumed control and supervised operations from beside the Falcon. When a member of the AFP’s Scientific Division told them not to enter the crime scene until forensics arrived, Ninness told him, “Fuck off, constable.” Detective Sergeant Peter Nelipa, acting superinten­dent of the Scientific Division, was at home when he got the call. Before hanging up, he instructed that nobody enter the crime scene without his permission. Ideally, he later said, he would’ve combed it in a systematic fashion, wearing protective clothing. Late on the last evening at the retrial, Murugan Thangaraj SC, outlines the Crown case. With this murder, he says, “Mr Eastman wanted to make a very loud statement.” Gripping the lectern with both hands, Thangaraj, a nonchalant man with curly black hair and a neat grey beard, charts the alleged transforma­tion of a man who felt a general frustratio­n at his continual unemployme­nt into one who harboured a specific hatred towards the personific­ation of a perceived systemic vendetta against him and his goal of returning to work: Assistant Commission­er Colin Winchester. In 1988, things had been looking up for Eastman. He was deemed fit to work by the commission­er for The prosecutor 41

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