Victorian Nationals MP Tim McCurdy used false documents to facilitate the sale of two dairy farms that landed him more than a quarter of million dollars in commissions, a court has heard.
Prosecutors say Mr McCurdy used the letterhead of a real estate business he did not work for
Mr McCurdy is fighting the charges and says there was no dishonesty involved in the sales
If he is found guilty, he would be ineligible to sit in Victorian Parliament
Mr McCurdy has been charged with five fraud offences, including use of a false document and obtaining property by deception.
If he is found guilty, he will be ineligible to sit in the Victorian Parliament.
The alleged offending occurred in 2009, before Mr McCurdy was first elected in 2010.
He is fighting the charges.
In her opening remarks, prosecutor Susan Borg said that in 2009 Mr McCurdy facilitated the sale of two properties in northern Victoria using the letterhead of a business he did not work for.
Mr McCurdy had been involved in the attempted sale of the properties before the real estate business ceased operation in Victoria.
But the County Court of Victoria heard Mr McCurdy continued to facilitate the sale of the properties at Katamatite and Boosey using letterheads from Andrew Gilmour Real Estate.
The prosecution alleges that Mr Gilmour was unaware of the use of the letterheads, and that Mr McCurdy was not employed by his business.
Mr McCurdy’s defence, Ian Hill QC, argued that Mr Gilmour was aware of Mr McCurdy’s use of the letterheads but did not dispute Mr McCurdy had helped sell the farms.
“There was no dishonesty, there was no attempt at deception,” Mr Hill told the court.
The sale of Pinegrove Park in Katamatite included a $105,105 commission to Mr McCurdy, while the sale of the Malmo family farm included a $163,900 commission.
The trial is expected to last more than a week.
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The agency that runs the national disability insurance scheme has quietly established a new taskforce aimed at cutting growth in funding packages and participant numbers.
Guardian Australia has obtained an internal document, published below, that shows the National Disability Insurance Agency has created a new unit to make “short term, immediate changes” to the scheme, citing a forecast “cost overrun in 2021-22”.
“The actions of the [Sustainability Action Taskforce] will make immediate changes to slow growth in participant numbers, slow growth in spend per participant and strengthen operational discipline, in accordance with the requirements of the NDIS Act and Rules,” the three-page document, marked “sensitive”, says.
The establishment of a new unit aimed at slowing spending growth comes amid an already fierce fight between the government and disability groups over a planned overhaul of the NDIS Act and controversial introduction of independent assessments, both of which are viewed by advocates as attempts to gut the scheme.
The document claims the new taskforce is a separate to “scheme reform” initiatives such as moves to overhaul the NDIS Act and introduce independent assessments.
But it appears to consolidate increasingly alarmist warnings buried in the NDIA’s corporate plans about NDIS spending and will fuel concerns among the disability community about the agency’s plans.
Martin Hoffman, the NDIA’s chief executive, announced the establishment of the taskforce in an internal staff update last month, saying he had appointed a former McKinsey associate partner and existing NDIA general manager to lead the unit.
While Hoffman’s all staff update refers to a need to “moderate growth and spending” in the next six months, it’s not as explicit about the claimed need to slow “growth in spend per participant”. The internal document was designed for frontline planning staff and “strictly not for external distribution”.
Dated April 2021, it outlines “seven principles that should be applied every time staff create a participant’s plan”, and notes that these will “help ensure the scheme is financially sustainable”.
Notably, the first principle is “Fair for everyone, both today and for future generations”.
Others include “Fair funding to pursue your goals”, “Evidence-based best practice” and “Fair supports for your disability needs”.
The document includes talking points for staff, which include: “At the moment the costs of the scheme are increasing at a much higher rate than expected because we’ve been building budgets based on inconsistent information and decision-making.”
Labor’s NDIS spokesperson, Bill Shorten, said the “leaked secret plan” showed the “Morrison government is acting directly against the interests of Australians with disability”.
“It is a disgrace that they are instructing government staff to deliberately slow down getting people on the NDIS and reduce their funding,” he said.
“This is just the latest leak of a broader plan against the NDIS and participants that the government are hiding in the shadows because even they know it is shameful.”
Catherine McAlpine, chief executive of Inclusion Australia, said the organisation was “greatly concerned that a model of short-term cost-cutting will not make the investment needed for the social and economic participation of people with intellectual disability”.
“It’s a false economy to penny pinch, when it is investment that will keep costs down in the long term.
“The NDIS has told us for months that the proposed changes to the scheme are about fairness and consistency. The disability sector has expressed consistent concern that the real issue is cost-cutting. It seems that our concerns have been justified.”
The NDIA document says that the total budget for participant and scheme expenditure grew at 23% on average between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 financial years.
“This is almost six times the capped 4% per annum rate,” the document says.
“The Sustainability Action Taskforce (SAT) has been set up to identify and deliver the immediate actions we need to take to avoid this forecast overrun for the 2021-22 financial year.”
The NDIA’s corporate plan has previously identified supported independent living – where participants receive round-the-clock support to live in shared accommodation – as a driver of the growth in spending.
But the plan noted the agency would target “both SIL and non-SIL services” in reforms to drive “better outcomes for participants while ensuring financial sustainability”.
Advocates have argued that one of the reasons for the growth in spending is that participants are increasingly being empowered to utilise their plans. They say the scheme was never intended to place a cap on supports and have repeatedly criticised the agency’s focus on “sustainability”.
The NDIA’s last annual report, meanwhile, notes that there have “continued to be more children approaching the Scheme than expected”.
There are about 430,000 participants in the scheme, a figure expected to increase to 532,000 participants by 30 June 2023.
The 2019 budget revealed a $1.6bn underspend in the NDIS, which prompted an unlikely joint statement from the NSW Coalition and Victorian Labor governments accusing the government of short-changing people with a disability.
A spokesperson for the NDIS minister, Linda Reynolds, said the minister was “committed to working collaboratively with states and territories and the sector to ensure the NDIS achieves the coverage intended and supports quality outcomes for all NDIS participants in a way that is fair, equitable, consistent and affordable”.
“The government also acknowledges its responsibility to ensure that participants continue to receive the reasonable and necessary supports they need, and to ensure the long-term financial endurance of the scheme,” they said.
“She is currently receiving comprehensive briefings and is consulting with all state and territory disability ministers, the disability sector and NDIS participants.”
A spokesperson for the NDIA said funding for the NDIS continued to grow, with the original budget allocation for 2021-22 increasing from $21.7bn to $23.8bn.
“That said, the agency is bound by the NDIS Act and that means we need to ensure we stay within our allocated budget consistent with the agreements between the Commonwealth and states and territories, so we need to assess the support we provide through a sustainability lens as well,” the spokesperson said.
“To ensure we abide by our obligation to follow the Act, the agency set up an internal team to identify, design and deliver the actions we need to take to improve how we operate the scheme to make sure the NDIS is sustainable.
“The team’s early focus has been developing clearer information about creating and using NDIS plans, including enhancing the principles we follow to create NDIS plans – which are founded on existing information in the NDIS Act rules which instruct the CEO and agency to establish operating guidelines to ensure appropriate operation of the scheme.”
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There is a “red alert” calling for an 800km stretch of coastline south of Carnarvon to Lancelin.
Communities included in this zone are Geraldton, the shires of Carnamah, Coorow, Chapman Valley, Dandaragan, Irwin, Mingenew, Morawa, Northampton, Perenjori, Shark Bay and Three Springs.
“You are in danger and need to act immediately,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said on Sunday afternoon.
“This is a very large storm that is posing a very serious threat. Lives and homes are under threat.”
People in red-alert areas must stay at home or inside an evacuation centre.
Evacuation centres are open in Port Denison, Carnarvon and Denham.
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan.
Tropical Cyclone Seroja will continue to impact the area until midnight, with each community expected to experience the worst of the weather for about three hours, the weather bureau’s James Ashby said earlier on Sunday.
Residents of Denham and Kalbarri are likely to experience gales and destructive winds and, if Seroja tracks south, Geraldton may also be impacted.
Abnormally high tides, heavy to intense rainfall, flash flooding, dangerous surf and beach erosion are among the dangers.
Wind gusts and heavy rainfall could be seen as far south east as Esperance, Mr Ashby said.
The WA Country Health Service said Geraldton Hospital will continue to treat emergency patients during the cyclone, but all other appointments have been or will be cancelled.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a flood watch for the Wooramel, Murchison, Greenough,Yarra Yarra Lakes, Moore, Hill and parts of the Salt Lake District and Avon River catchments.
A severe weather warning has also been issued for Monday for parts of the Greater Perth, Goldfields-Midlands, Great Southern, and Midwest-Gascoyne regions.
“If you live in South East Coastal and parts of Goldfields, Eucla, Great Southern and Central Wheat Belt districts you need to get ready now for the severe weather coming tomorrow,” emergency warnings said.
“This is a rare weather event for people in southern and eastern parts of Western Australia.”
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She was warned the then naval officer was “entirely the wrong person to choose” and made “gaffes”, he said.
Speaking at Cheltenham Literary Festival in 2016, Wilson, who has written a biography on the monarch, said: “When she made it quite clear from the age of about 14 that she was in love with Prince Philip, who was a beautiful German Prince with blond hair, all the courtiers said he was entirely the wrong person to choose.
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In one instance, the family of an 89-year-old Brisbane woman who has severe dementia and cannot walk is now planning to take her to a community GP for vaccination despite her extreme anxiety at any small change.
According to industry data, there are about 2,350 privately-operated retirement living facilities across Australia, with about 190,000 residents.
Many retirement village residents live in independent units but need high levels of care and support, and the average age of residents in Australia’s retirement villages is 81.
The federal government’s Phase 1A vaccine rollout aims to vaccinate 190,000 aged and disability care residents in federally funded aged care facilities, and more than 318,000 aged care staff, but has fallen well short of its targets.
Most recently, 85 residents of an aged care home in Laidley, west of Brisbane, were told they would be vaccinated this week, but the vaccine never arrived.
But retirement village residents in privately-funded facilities are not eligible for on-site vaccination under the first phase of the rollout, instead falling under Phase 1B.
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The United Kingdom is mourning the death of Prince Philip but people have been asked not to gather in crowds or to lay flowers at royal palaces due to distancing guidelines imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband who helped modernise the monarchy and steer the British royal family through repeated crises during seven decades of service, died on Friday at Windsor Castle.
He was 99.
“It’s just a really sad moment,” London resident Victoria Hasler told Reuters.
“We’d known he’d been ill for quite a long time and it’s just really sad. And we’re just really sorry to the royal family for their sad news.”
As news broke of Philip’s death, radio and television broadcasts were interrupted with the national anthem God Save The Queen.
Union flags were half-masted at all royal residences and UK government buildings.
Tributes to Philip were flashed up at Piccadilly Circus and poured in from across the world for the World War II navy veteran.
“Very sad news. He’s a lovely guy and very sad for the monarchy,” Adam Carr, a London resident, told Reuters.
Philip’s sharp wit and dedication to his duty earned him widespread popularity in the UK but he was also criticised for off-the-cuff racist and sexist remarks.
Some people laid flowers beside a UK flag outside Buckingham Palace and at the ancient walls of Windsor Castle, though the government urged people not to bring flowers to royal residences.
“With the safety and wellbeing of the public in mind, and in accordance with government guidelines, members of the public are asked not to gather in crowds,” Buckingham Palace said.
“Those wishing to express their condolences are asked to do so in the safest way possible, and not to gather at Royal Residences.”
A cabinet office spokesman requested that “floral tributes should not be laid at Royal Residences at this time”.
The funeral arrangements for Philip, who always dismissed unnecessary pomp during his lifetime, are yet to be confirmed by the Queen who remains at Windsor Castle.
“Modified funeral and ceremonial arrangements for His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh are being considered by Her Majesty The Queen,” the Palace said.
“Details will be confirmed in due course.”
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Josh McGuire has been told he can speak to rivals as the Cowboys aim to get their roster in shape, while Craig Bellamy’s future could play a key role in a Broncos star’s contract talks.
McGuire switched from the Broncos at the start of Anthony Seibold’s tenure, but has endured a difficult spell in Townsville.
He has failed to play finals with the club and after a third straight loss the Queensland Origin representative ripped into his teammates on Sunday Night with Matty Johns.
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“We just have a soft underbelly at the moment,” McGuire said.
“We just have no steel under tough circumstances. We just fold and it is becoming embarrassing mate it is. There is some glimpses of some attacking footy there, but then we just undo it all with just poor effort.
“We have been saying the same f***ing thing, sorry same stuff for three years. I’m over it and we have got to fix it mate. It is just not good enough.”
Mbye talking to rival clubs
Now, though, it appears McGuire has been told he is not wanted at the Cowboys with The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield revealing on NRL360 on Fox League that he was clear to explore his options.
“There was another little bit of mail I got from the Cowboys,” he said.
“Josh McGuire, he’s under contract until the end of next year.
“I’m told he’s welcome to go whenever he wants.
“He’s wearing jersey 15, he can’t get into the starting side even with Jason Taumalolo not there.”
Read on for all the latest NRL Transfer Whispers.
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BRONCOS GUN HOLDS FIRE ON EXTENSION OVER BELLAMY FUTURE
Broncos winger Xavier Coates will delay a decision on a contract extension offer from Brisbane while he awaits Storm coach Craig Bellamy’s call on his future.
NRL.com reported the Broncos are set to offer the 20-year-old an upgraded contract extension, but conjecture surrounding Bellamy’s plans beyond 2021 have thrown a spanner in the works.
The Storm are eyeing Coates as a potential replacement for Bulldogs-bound flyer Josh Addo-Carr, who has signed a four-year-deal at Belmore from next season.
According to NRL.com the Storm have offered Coates at least a two-year-deal, with the Broncos set to revise their two-year offer in a bid to keep Coates at Red Hill.
The Broncos are also locked in key negotiations with centre Kotoni Staggs and halfback Tom Dearden.
Mbye talking to rival clubs
Working with Bellamy would be a key driving force behind Coates’ potential defection to the Storm.
However, Bellamy is locked in his own contract negotiations with Melbourne, Brisbane and the Sharks with the possibility of moving from a head coach into a coaching director role.
It remains to be seen if Bellamy will coach one more year at the Storm before taking up a new role at either of the three clubs in contention, with the Storm in the box seat.
The Queensland winger may choose to wait until Bellamy makes a call before confirming his own future.
Coates has scored 11 tries in 18 games since his debut in 2019 and scored two tries in two games for the Maroons in his first Origin series last year.
REYNOLDS BREAKS SILENCE OVER BUNNIES CONTRACT
South Sydney have less than a week to put an offer to off-contract captain Adam Reynolds.
The playmaker’s manager has told Souths he will explore options if the Bunnies don’t budge on their offer of a one-year deal at $700,000.
Reynolds wants to stay but with the Rabbitohs only offering him a single year, offers such as the $3 million for three years reportedly being table by the Cowboys may be too good for the South Sydney junior to turn down.
Reynolds could be a Cowboy?
The 31-year-old confirmed he was open to leaving the Rabbitohs if they didn’t come to the table with an improved offer.
“Look, I’m there for the 12 months that my contract states now but hopefully we get things sorted over the next couple of weeks or months but at the moment I’m probably on Jobseeker next year,” he told Triple M.
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“You have to weigh up all options and see what comes but hopefully we get things sorted over the next couple of weeks. I think I’ve still got another three or four years of good, consistent, solid footy left in me
“I don’t fell like I’m slowing down at any stage of my career, the body’s actually feeling pretty good.
“Everyone keeps calling me old but I’m only 30 years of age.
“I’ve got a pretty handy bloke (Benji Marshall) I look across the changerooms at and he’s 36 and still going well so it gives me a bit of hope.”
LAM’S MESSAGE TO TIGERS OVER HASTINGS
Wigan coach Adrian Lam has issued a defiant hands-off message to the Wests Tigers over their bid to land Jackson Hastings.
The former Roosters and Manly halfback was linked to the Tigers last week, with the Concord club said to be considering a move for his services.
Hastings has played in the halves and also at hooker in his time in the Super League.
But Lam said there was no chance his club would let Hastings leave before his contract expires.
‘Terrible’ Bulldogs under big pressure
“He’s contracted to the end of the 2021 season, he’s here, he’s training well, he’s loving it, we’re enjoying his company, he’s going to play a part in us being successful this year and as far as we’re concerned, nothing’s changed,” Lam told the Manchester Evening News.
“I don’t know when that report was quoted from. Was it actually last week or was it an old quote rehashed?
“Jackson Hastings is off-contract at the end of this year, so I guess him and his management group are going to speaking to whoever they want to.
“All we’re in control of as a club is having him this year.”
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Queenslanders who travelled down to Geelong to watch the Lions’ clash with the Cats on Friday night were told to leave the stadium after news of the latest Brisbane COVID case came through.
The instruction came after a Brisbane landscaper tested positive to coronavirus, with genomic testing linking his case to a previous cluster involving two overseas travellers and a doctor at the city’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Victoria’s Department of Health ordered anyone who had entered the state from the Brisbane or Moreton Bay areas to be tested and isolate until they received a negative result.
Anyone in Victoria who visited a list of high-risk locations in Queensland must contact the health department and follow instructions from Queensland Health.
The alert was issued less than an hour before Friday night’s AFL clash in Geelong.
At quarter-time, an alert flashed up on the scoreboard at Kardinia Park telling people who had travelled from Queensland to leave the ground and follow the health advice.
Supporters in the ground groaned as the notice was read out by the venue announcer.
Luke Hodge and Wayne Carey, who were commentating for the Seven Network, were asked to leave the venue and self-isolate.
The AFL released a statement on Friday evening saying Lions players had been given government approval to play the match in Geelong.
“The AFL confirms the Brisbane Lions players, coaches and officials obtained an exemption from the Victorian government from orange zone permit requirements as players, coaches and officials have all been living and abiding by approved AFL protocols,” the statement read.
“We encourage everyone in the community to follow the advice of the government that anyone who has entered Victoria from the City of Brisbane and Moreton Bay Region since 12 March must immediately self-isolate, get a coronavirus test within 72 hours, and stay isolated until they receive a negative result.”
The Lions players and staff have been tested in recent days.
The club arrived in Melbourne on Thursday in preparation for the round-two game against the Cats.
The Lions AFLW team are due to play Melbourne at Casey Fields on Saturday.
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“We will just be ready to do whatever we have to do.”
He refused to lay the blame of the one-point loss on the news supporters had to leave the ground if they had been in a hotspot, which was announced via the public address system, or on the decision not to award a free kick against Geelong defender Mark Blicavs, who disposed of the ball illegally in the dying seconds when Zac Bailey tackled him.
He said the looming COVID-19 issue was not mentioned and he took the fifth amendment when asked about the controversial decision.
“I can’t comment on umpiring decisions. I haven’t in the four years that I have coached and I am not going to start now. I don’t think it is constructive.,” Fagan said.
Blicavs told ABC Radio that he didn’t think he had prior opportunity, although he tried to evade the tackle and keep his arms free before losing possession.
The Lions kicked the first four goals of the final quarter to hit the lead and were only denied a dramatic win after Cats’ recruit Isaac Smith regained the lead with a stoppage goal. They were unlucky with their ruckman Oscar McInerney hobbling with an ankle injury for most of the game.
Geelong coach Chris Scott said he was relieved to get the win but the Cats remained a fair way off their best football. He praised the efforts of Charlie Constable and Mark O’Connor in the midfield, with a suspended Patrick Dangerfield and injuries to Sam Menegola and Mitch Duncan weakening that area of the ground.
The Cats coach defended his decision to become involved in a discussion at quarter time with Lachie Neale over an incident involving Gary Rohan after Rohan swung an arm at Neale.
“I was walking onto the ground and Lachie Neale just said to me something, I couldn’t understand exactly what he said, but something about Gary Rohan. And I said I’m happy to have the conversation with you if you like,” Scott said.
“I have seen the vision, and I am comfortable with it.
“I suspect he didn’t hear all of that. That is all that was said. I think a few of the Brisbane players – they were not paying me compliments but I didn’t say anything after that.”
He said he was hopeful Rohan would be available to play against Hawthorn and said Neale had instigated the scuffle.
“I think Neale strikes Gary on the chest and then Gary struck him on the chest,” Scott said.
“The vision is clear. I am certainly not saying he did the wrong thing, that’s footy, but I have had a pretty good look at what Gary did and I’m comfortable with it.”
Scott also confirmed that star forward Jeremy Cameron would miss the Easter Monday clash against Hawthorn.
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Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.
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A Gold Coast mother accused of killing two of her children for financial gain described her son as “a potato” with “no life” and said she “wanted to put something in his drink”, a committal hearing has heard.
Maree Crabtree is charged with the murders of her son Jonathan Crabtree, 26, in 2017, and her daughter Erin, 18, in 2012.
Both deaths were initially considered suicides.
Ms Crabtree is also charged with torturing and attempting to murder another woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, over a seven-year period, as well as charges of fraud and obtaining a financial benefit by deception.
Police have alleged Ms Crabtree forced all three to take prescription pain medication over a prolonged period, which caused them to suffer from health and developmental problems.
It has also been alleged Ms Crabtree used their disabilities, and her children’s deaths, to claim close to $1 million in insurance payouts.
Former neighbour Gemma Buchholz was cross-examined at the committal hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court over statements she had made to detectives investigating the deaths.
The court heard Ms Buchholz told police Ms Crabtree said to her: “Jonathan’s like a potato. He has no life. I just want to put something in his drink so he will just not be here.”
Jonathan Crabtree had been in a coma in 2015, following a serious car crash.
Defence barrister Angus Edwards told the court the alleged comment would have been made while Jonathan was in hospital, but suggested Ms Buchholz changed her statement to claim it was made closer to the time of Jonathan’s death.
“You said it closer to the time he died to make it seem like she had killed him,” Mr Edwards said.
Ms Buchholz replied: “I’ve made mistakes but I’m true to what she said to me.”
The court heard Ms Buchholz had also told police about a conversation at her child’s birthday party that Maree Crabtree attended.
Ms Buchholz told detectives Ms Crabtree insisted on being called “Nanna Marie”.
“Just her saying that and stating that, my hairs on the back of my neck raised up,” Ms Buchholz said.
But Mr Edwards again cast doubt on the witness’s recollection.
“You’re twisting my words,” Ms Buchholz said.
The defence barrister replied: “Your words change because you can’t keep your story straight”.
On Tuesday, the woman allegedly tortured by Ms Crabtree was ordered to hand over her phone, which was alleged to contain crucial evidence.
The charge of torture against Ms Crabtree related to allegations she forced the woman to take prescription medication for years.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, originally told police Jonathan Crabtree had committed suicide because he had received “bad news”, but two years later she wrote a letter claiming Ms Crabtree had killed him.
The woman told the court at the time of Jonathan’s death she was under a lot of stress and “couldn’t think straight” and decided to write down what had happened.
“I wanted to remember everything more clearly,” she said.
Under cross-examination, Mr Edwards suggested to the court that the woman had not remembered anything, and had instead made up the details.
“I did remember, but I decided not to talk to anyone until that time,” she said.
“I remembered, but not much, just like the small details … I didn’t remember them until I wrote all of them down.”
The court heard that in the letter the woman said she saw Ms Crabtree give her son a drink laced with an opioid drug called Oxynorm on the night he died.
“I remembered seeing her do it,” she said.
The court heard she told a friend what she had recalled and then spoke about it with her over social media, and also called another woman and told her over the phone.
The court was also told the woman was refusing to show police and prosecutors the social media messages between her and her friend.
“Everything was deleted before,” she said.
“I just don’t want anyone going through my phone — I own it.
“It’s private … it’s only for my eyes.”
Mr Edwards said the woman had “told lies”, and threatened to subpoena her phone.
“It’s a bit hard to accept what you say just on the basis that you say it — someone has to check it,” Mr Edwards said.
The woman is expected to continue giving evidence when the hearing resumes on Thursday.
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