The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 46 : 46


44 Now Reid is breathing heavily into the mic: “Biggest mistake of me life.” “Well,” posits Georgiou, “it may not have been a mistake.” “Fucken was!” Reid had earlier told the court the seller wore glasses and “a large Akubra, big brim”. In that case, Georgiou asks, why did he tell neither of these details to Detective Tony Marmont in January 1989? And why did he tell Marmont the man had come in five before the murder? Reid can’t remember. What Reid can remember is that Marmont showed him a photo-board of men and asked him if he could recognise anyone “100 per cent”. Reid couldn’t. Marmont told him one of the men was David Eastman. Reid admits to Georgiou that he was a friend of both Tony Marmont and Ken Winchester. In 1990 the AFP showed Reid a second photo-board, again featuring a picture of Eastman. Still Reid didn’t say the seller wore glasses, but this time he had no choice: all of the men on the AFP photo-board, including Eastman, did. Reid was now 80 per cent sure it was Eastman he’d met. It reeks of old-school policing: the more informatio­n the police provide, the less doubtful the witness becomes. Georgiou reads from the transcript of that police interview. As Reid considered the photo of Eastman, he told the AFP “… now I can see this one here – I can see that it relates – I don’t know what it is but it just relates to that, bit of that, it just reminds me of possibly that, it could have been the bloke that was getting in the car …” Given Reid didn’t see the man’s car the day he came into the shop, Georgiou asks if he was referring to a widely distribute­d TV clip of Eastman getting into his car. (Despite today denying it, back then Reid admitted looking for Eastman in the media between the two police interviews “so I could see if it was the fella who come into the shop”.) What Georgiou is getting at is the phenomenon known as the displaceme­nt effect. Witnesses think they’ve seen someone, without realising it was in a different context. Because after the suppressio­n order on his identity was lifted in September 1989, David Eastman “couldn’t scratch himself without being on TV”, as the AFP’s then media liaison told the court. Georgiou asks if Reid ever saw a photo or footage of Eastman wearing an Akubra. Reid says though the hat on TV was different, its wide brim jogged his memory, “and I said to meself, ‘That’s him.’” When Reid leaves the witness stand, he walks to the dock, stops and stands over the accused. He then takes a few steps past Eastman – who has remained seated and passive – only to turn around for another look. A sheriff places an arm across Reid’s chest before he can reach the dock again and escorts him out the door, Reid yelling into the courtroom: “WHAT, SO HE’S ALLOWED TO EYEBALL ME BUT I’M NOT ALLOWED TO EYEBALL HIM? IS THAT THE GO ’ERE?!” During the adjournmen­t that follows I overhear Eastman ask a sheriff if the witness has left the building: “I don’t want to run into him in the gents.” August, September, then October. The country gets a new prime minister and the case gets a new courtroom. David Eastman turns 73 and starts to stir: one day the journalist next to me is told by an embarrasse­d solicitor that “David has requested you either blow your nose or stop sniffing”; another day a man in the public gallery is told by a sheriff that the accused wants him to sit further away. The court hears of Eastman requesting to view the supplement­ary electoral roll on several occasions in 1987 and 1988 (Winchester’s address wasn’t in the phone book, but it was on the roll); of Eastman telling a policeman outside Winchester’s station a few days before the murder that “the executive in this building is corrupt”; of Eastman buying a new muffler in April 1989. A Deakin resident says she saw a “faded” “aqua-turquoise” “Mazda or Datsun” parked near Winchester’s house two nights before his murder, and when she walked past it the driver tried to conceal himself. When the murder reminded her, “the number that came out of my head was YPQ 038”. She couldn’t later identify Eastman’s 1979 cobalt Mazda 626 on a police photo-board but, discountin­g the fact most registrati­on numbers in the ACT begin with Y, its rego was YMP 028. What are the chances of fluking such a likeness? But another “light aqua blue” car (“similar to a Capri”) was seen that night in the same spot by a different witness, driven by a man far too young to be Eastman. Under cross-examinatio­n, the woman who noted the numberplat­e now admits “all I can say is that it was definitely an ACT numberplat­e” and that after speaking to her husband – and after speaking to police – “we came to the conclusion that it was a medium-sized Japanese car”. How very helpful of them. The audio recordings of Eastman whispering to himself are played on headphones to the jury but not to the media. Under cross-examinatio­n, the prosecutio­n’s phonetics expert politely doubts the alleged line “he was the first man I ever killed” could be heard as “he was the first man I ever Weeks are spent establishi­ng – through comparison­s between cartridge cases it had previously fired with those from the crime scene – that the murder weapon was the never-found Ruger. But evidence that Eastman fired it fails to move beyond the circumstan­tial: a blue car was seen near the seller’s house on New Year’s Eve 1988; Eastman withdrew $200 from an ATM the next day; the seller’s wife said her husband lied about selling it to Eastman; one friend of Ken Winchester thinks he saw Eastman leaving the seller’s house on New Year’s Eve, and another person thinks Eastman tried to sell him a Ruger in the new year. Then, on September 4, some agreed facts between the parties are read to the court: June becomes July, weeks kissed”. the monthly — essay

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