Claremont killer Bradley Edwards’s acquittal of the murder of Sarah Spiers will not be challenged by the state, prosecutors have revealed.
- The decision may mark the end of the legal road for the Spiers family
- Lawyer Linda Black says new evidence would be needed for a re-trial
- Edwards is due to be sentenced for two other killings in December
Edwards, a former Telstra technician, was last month found guilty of the wilful murders of Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon in the 1990s.
But he was found not guilty of the 1996 murder of 18-year-old Sarah Spiers, who also disappeared from the suburb of Claremont in similar circumstances, but whose body has never been found.
In his judgement, Justice Stephen Hall acknowledged the similarities between the three murders, but said there was not enough evidence for a third conviction.
“The propensity evidence makes it more likely that the accused was the killer of Sarah Spiers, but it cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt, in the absence of any other evidence, as to the identity of her killer,” Justice Hall ruled.
The prosecution had 21 days to appeal against that decision, but today confirmed it will not do so, marking the end of the line for the Spiers family who had hoped the long-running trial would deliver them justice.
Without an appeal, their only hope of a conviction over Ms Spiers’ murder is the discovery of new evidence that would prompt a fresh trial.
Retrial possible only if new evidence found
Senior criminal barrister Linda Black said if any new evidence pointed to Edwards as the killer, he could be retried after changes to WA’s “double jeopardy” laws in 2012.
“Double jeopardy is the common law notion that you can’t be tried twice for the same offence,” Ms Black said.
“That’s actually changed, so in very serious cases such as murder, where the evidence wasn’t available at the time and where it’s compelling, someone like the Attorney General John Quigley, or the Director of Public Prosecutions can go to the Court of Appeal and seek permission to try him again.
“So that is always a possibility.”
However, she said any new evidence would have to be particularly strong.
“I would have thought in this case the discovery of Sarah’s body, if there was then forensic findings that enabled to fill in the gap that his honour Justice Hall was not able to fill, that would meet the standard potentially,” Ms Black said.
Search for Sarah’s body goes on
When the verdicts were handed down, police commissioner Chris Dawson said police would never give up trying to locate Ms Spiers’ body.
“We will continue to investigate the murder of Sarah Spiers,” Commissioner Dawson said.
“We want to find Sarah, and we will.”
At the same time, Premier Mark McGowan also appealed to Edwards directly to reveal anything he might know about the location of her body.
“If you know where Sarah Spiers is, can you please tell us,” he said last month.
“Can you please provide some closure to the Spiers family to let them know where their daughter is. At times like this, it’s the time to do the right thing by the family,”
Edwards is due to be sentenced in December for the murders of Ms Rimmer and Ms Glennon, as well as violent, sexually motivated attacks on two other women.
He will then have 21 days to lodge his own appeal against the guilty verdicts. However, that window could be extended to allow for the Christmas and New Year break.