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Chat: Michael Bowe

Monday, April 30, 2012

Interviewer: Good evening Michael, and welcome to our chatroom

Michael Bowe: I thought it was a great program and hopefully it will go a long way to again confirming Gordon's innocence and the reason for his acquittal.

Interviewer: Lets kick off with our first question ...

asilkicmada asks: Having questioned Gordon's guilt all along, and by the way Gordon spoke tonite of his respect for Tony Byrne, has Gordon considered answering Tony Byrnes's 12 questions? Could and or would this help give Tony closure?

Michael Bowe: Gordon of course doesn't have to answer any questions, but I can tell you Gordon answered 2500 questions in police interviews. Most people will be familiar with the concept of maintaining their silence. But Gordon was very happy to assist the police in their interviews, to the point that he answered so many questions. Therefore it was needed to give evidence in the trial.

JohnDodd asks: Much of the focus of tonight’s story was on the questioned biomechanical evidence that she could not have jumped. There were a number of other matters that the jury had to consider including the potential sighting of Wood earlier in the night. What was the defences position in relation to that?

Michael Bowe: The defence's position was that he wasn't there, either earlier on the night or on the cliff itself. The court of appeal found there was no identification evidence for earlier in the night and there wasn't any evidence of him being anywhere near the gap at the time of Caroline's death.

WATCH: The Trials of Gordon Wood

Lisa.Pittori asks: If Gordon Wood's defence had first mentioned that his girlfriend was suffering with depression with medical evidence to support that, then surely that would be the obvious reason for her suicide?

Michael Bowe: That was mentioned very early in the piece, we brought to the trial associate Professor Goldney, one of the top experts of suicide in the world, to give evidence in relation to suicide. the correlation to someone's mother who had committed suicide and Caroline having attempted suicide 3 years earlier before her death. The police were aware that Caroline was depressed 3 days before she died, because she went to her GP and said she was very very depressed and she felt like she did 3 years earlier, which unknown to her doctor was when she attempted suicide. The doctor referred her to a psychiatrist and she was to go there on the days he died. The defence was the only party that provided any expert evidence in relation to suicide at the trial.

mghpah asks: Was the family history of suicide brought up in the first case?

Michael Bowe: Yes, and in fact Mr Byrne was questioned at some lengths about the reasons for his wife's death and suicide.

Disappointed asks: Hi. I was wondering why Gordon Wood lied about his alibi, and did he subsequently claim to be?

Michael Bowe: He didn't lie about his alibi

the_foreman asks: Mr Bowe, why didn't you have more witnesses for the defence case? After the trial it seemed like there were quite a few facts which could have helped your case.

Michael Bowe: We provided two experts in biomechanics, two expert pathologist, an expert in sprinting from the Australian Institute of Sport, an expert in suicide, and expert who was a stuntman called Dick Wilson who had done many high dives and was able to demonstrate over a 10 metre board and show the results of that, that it was quite simple and easy to run and jump that distance.

TheBoss asks: do you believe that he is innocent or guilty? Because quiet frankly I believe that lawyers tend to avoid personal opinions in cases

Michael Bowe: That could be right, but I definitely believe that he is innocent and have done so from the outset because I never understood the motives for Gordon to murder his girlfriend. The motive brought up by the police and prosecution was ridiculous, there were two motives, both of which were in conflict of each other. This was obvious from the outset, so it was easy to come to a quick view on Gordon's innocence.

ZoukQueen asks: Isn't Gordon entitled to compensation for being wrongly imprisoned? I think it is very important - just.

Michael Bowe: Yep, that is a very complicated area of law. There are a number of ways Gordon could seek compensation through various systems and we will look at that. I agree that Gordon having spent 3 years and 3 months in jail (maximum security prison where he spent 18 hours a day in his cell) should be compensated in some way. Particularly when the court of appeal decision was so overwhelming. Certain evidence that came out after the trial and the behaviour in my view of Associate Professor Cross was not correct. Evidence which was highlighted in his book that he wrote after the trial. Experts are suppose to be unbiased, we submitted to the court of appeal that what Cross had demonstrated was biased and just wasn't impartial.

Brad asks: can you tell me what made Gordon mentally strong during his trial?

Michael Bowe: He believed in his own innocence. And I think that is something that he could stand by. He was absolutely stunned when he was convicted. Because when you haven't done something it seems so cruelly unfair to have someone say you did and convict you for it and ultimately send you to jail for a while.

motabika asks: What was the main evidence submitted for the defence that proved the innocence of Gordon Wood?

Michael Bowe: There was no evidence that he was at the gap on the night that Caroline Byrne died. Then there is a lot of technical evidence concerning encountering the prosecution's evidence from Cross establishing that it was nonsense that Gordon Wood could spear throw someone from the Gap when any number of women could run and jump the distance to the point where the body was found. Where the body was found became a whole issue on itself, because the prosecution moved the body in 2004 to a new location. The defence was already suspicious of the body ebbing moved because prior to it being moved, the prosecution case was that Caroline could be run and jumped to her death in the first location. It seemed amazingly suspicious that after Cross handed down his first report saying that was the case that the body would get moved to a new location where they said she couldn't have run and jumped. One has to remember that in relation to the first hole, bearing in mind Caroline died in 1995, there was an re-enactment done by the police in 1996 where the officer who retrieved her body identified the location by saying in a video, "this is the exact location where Caroline Byrne was retrieved".

Alitribe asks: Hi, I thought this was a great interview and in apart made up for 60 minutes last interview with Gordon, Can you tell me, was Carolines mental health history released during the trial.

Michael Bowe: Yes it was. Her GP gave evidence as to her mental state at the time, and evidence was revealed concerning her attempted suicide three years before her death as well as evidence relating to her mother's suicide a year before that attempted suicide.

julro asks: Hi Michael of course now that all the facts are out, and Mr Wood has talked about his matter, I am not at all surprised to find that the police investigation was poorly executed and virtually inconclusive. As a lawyer don't you find Ms Burn's 'jilted' ex having an axe to grind and being a police officer a serious conflict of interest by organising this so called investigation? I hope Mr Wood gets his compensation for the jail term he endured. I just feel sorry for the victims father, not knowing his daughter as well as he thought.

Michael Bowe: That's a very interesting question. The evidence in relation to the ex boyfriend is very interesting. His alibi on the night was seriously questioned by the defence in the trial. That was challenged by the defence as he went missing from Rose Bay which is not too far from the Gap on the night Caroline died. And he was quite contentious during the trial when giving his evidence, and his interaction with one of his alibi witness. However the court of appeal found that his alibi was probably satisfactory and did not have a finding in that regard. But it is interesting that he happen to turn up in the morgue alleged accidently on the morning Caroline's body was retrieved. He was quite a large man and very fit at the tip

alan1979 asks: What did the prosecution claim was Gordon's motive for killing her?

Michael Bowe: That Caroline knew something about the Alfred Alpine fire and therefore they had to get rid of her. And that was placing pressure on Gordon and his relationship with Rene Rivkin. But on the other hand, they were saying he didn't want to lose her and because he thought he might lose her, he would kill her rather than not have her. There was no evidence of either two sets of circumstances or motives.

JohnnieOaks asks: Do you think the trial in general is society's or the media's way for wanting to blame the incomprehensible, i.e. suicide, on someone? And shows a wilful ignorance of depression and suicide?

Michael Bowe: Yeah, that's a very complicated question and probably should be answered by someone who has a much better understanding of society than myself. However, being a lawyer and dealing with people who commit crimes and regular have depression, does create an environment where the committing of crime is misunderstood. In many cases this is why the community believes that sentences are handed down by judges are inadequate, but judged get to hear sometimes the horrific upbringing some people have. There lack of a "fair chance" in life for a range of reasons, their mental health, their family upbringing, surrounded in a drug environment, there are many reasons people commit crime. It's very complicated and difficult area to appreciate and deal with. One thing that should be done is that we need more assistance for people who commit crime so that they can be rehabilitated. Throwing them in jail indefinitely is not going to solve the problem. I do agree, that it does show a misunderstanding suicide and depression. It's easy for the media to sensationalise events, get more readers etc. I don't know how many good stories can be told out of the treatment of depression and the means of resolving suicide. Whereas sensationalising crime is a much better story to tell if you want it to sell.

Lucie asks: I do not come from a legal background at all so please forgive my ignorance. I can imagine the costs for proving one's innocence would be incredible. In a case such as this does Mr Wood have to pay for his own legal fees?

Michael Bowe: He paid for some of the legal fees to start with, that is to do with the committal. But then exhausted all his and his family's funds. After that the trial and the criminal court of appeal was done with legal aid. So that meant Sydney leading trial Winston Trracinise, his junior Shaun Huges at the trial, Tim Gimese, probably Australia's leading appeal lawyer Gaby Bashire, did the case with legal aid at a rate at a much less rate for doing commercial criminal matters that were paid at the commercial rate. Many long hours were put into the trial, in particular the Criminal Court of appeal submission, application, hearing. The trial itself ran for three months. The material for the trial was voluminous, all of this was done on legal aid. The criminal court of appear was the longest criminal appeal in recent memory. It's an exhaustive thorough, detailed and overwhelming enterprise.

asilkicmada asks: Will Gordon continue to stay in Australia? Especially when public opinion is still divided after being acquitted

Michael Bowe: Hopefully the 60 Minutes program will go some of the way to having the Australian community accept that he is innocent and that he has been acquitted. That for 15 years there has only been one side of the story told in the media and finally in the last month or so as a consequence of the court of appeal's judgement he is able to articulate and people are prepared to listen to the real story as opposed to the story from the police. Hopefully if climate is right and the mood is right, he can get on with his life, get a job and settle down in Australia and try and have a happy and peaceful life. But clearly the burden he has had to carry has been a great one.

tonileigh asks: I do agree Michael. And more needs to be done to help.. But how do we do that? People need to realise that if you are in that state of mind, then you are not thinking in a rational way, and that’s why its so hard for rational minded people to understand, don’t you agree?

Michael Bowe: Depression and mental health is a difficult problem, if you've never experienced it, then it's very easy to give a simple answer. Particularly when someone commits a terrible crime. But our lives are made up on complex circumstances and hopefully the media will try and give a more balanced view on what happens in court rooms and what judges are trying to do when they sentence somebody to what might seem to a lesser sentence than anger or revenge, or some sort of misguided view that if you put someone away for life, that will solve the crime.

Interviewer: Thanks for joining us tonight Michael, any final comments before we finish up?

Michael Bowe: I'd like to thank everyone for their questions, I thought they showed a good understanding of the program. And I hope I've been of some assistance in clarifying what unresolved issues everybody has concerning Gordon and I know he thanks you for your interest in his case.

Interviewer: This concludes our chat with Michael Bowe, Sunday April 29, 2012.

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