Man suing police for $21 million claiming 'stitch up'

Taking the stand, Wood denied having asked to see Byrne’s breasts as she lay in the morgue. Picture: Brianne Makin
Taking the stand, Wood denied having asked to see Byrne’s breasts as she lay in the morgue. Picture: Brianne Makin

Gordon Wood has denied he asked to see his girlfriend Caroline Byrne's "tits" as her body lay in Glebe morgue.
Going into the witness box for the first time in any civil or criminal proceedings, Mr Wood said Ms Byrne "was and is" the love of his life.

His voice breaking, Mr Wood, 55, told how he held his girlfriend's hand in the morgue after her body was found on the rocks at the bottom of The Gap on June 8, 1995.

"Did you ask to see any other part of her body?" his counsel Bruce McClintock SC asked him.

"No," Mr Wood said.

A statement by a morgue attendant that Mr Wood had asked to see her "tits" forms part of Mr Wood's case for malicious prosecution in the Supreme Court after he was convicted of Ms Byrne's murder and then in 2012 acquitted by the Court of Criminal Appeal after serving more than three years of a jail sentence.

Ms Byrne's ex-boyfriend, then a police officer who was at the morgue that morning on an unconnected case, also made a statement to police that the morgue attendant told him that Mr Wood had asked to see her breasts.

Caroline Byrne’s body was found at bottom of The Gap at Watsons Bay on June 8, 1995.
Caroline Byrne’s body was found at bottom of The Gap at Watsons Bay on June 8, 1995.

The police allegation was that he wanted to see if there were any bruises on the side of her chest where she had been picked up and thrown onto the rocks. Mr Wood has always denied killing her and claims she committed suicide.

The jury which convicted him in 2008 was never told of the "tits" allegation. Mr Wood is suing the State of NSW for almost $21 million in legal costs, damages and lost earnings and claims the police "stitched" him up.

Mr Wood exercised his right not to give evidence at his criminal trial. He told police in a statement after Ms Byrne died that when he woke after 11pm having fallen asleep watching television to find she had not returned to their apartment, he "had a feeling" and "there was some kind of spiritual communication" that led him to The Gap where he saw her body at the bottom of the cliff using a borrowed torch.

Today he told the Supreme Court that his mother and sister accompanied him to the morgue on the morning of June 8. He was told he would not be able to identify Ms Byrne because of her injuries.

"A lady counsellor invited me to in to a room to say goodbye to Caroline," Mr Wood said.

"There was a chair next to the table upon which she lay in a blue body bag and it had white trimming on it.

"She sat in a chair on the other side of me and she removed Caroline's hand from the bag and allowed me to hold her hand and say goodbye which I did my best to do. I didn't feel comfortable doing it in front of the other lady."

Cross-examined by Peter Neil SC, appearing for the State of NSW, Mr Wood said he had no tax returns to tender to the court to back his claim that he was earning between $400,000 to $800,000 a year at the time of his girlfriend's death.

He said he did not keep documents from so long ago and did not have tax returns from his work in the UK where he lived for years from mid-1998.

The hearing before Justice Elizabeth Fullerton continues.

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