Island postie’s murder conviction ‘unreasonable’
THE junk-mail delivery man convicted of murdering Macleay Island grandmother Liselotte Watson in 2012 has been given the chance to have his conviction overturned by the nation's highest court.
In 2016, a Brisbane Supreme Court jury found Steven Mark John Fennell guilty of the brutal murder of Ms Watson.
The jury found Fennell killed the defenceless 85-year-old in her own bedroom with several blows to the back of her head with a hammer or blunt object.
Fennell's trial was told he had gained Watson's trust after an injury left her virtually housebound, but the friendship turned deadly when she was on the verge of discovering discrepancies in her finances.
Fennell had known Watson about a year, and had been using her money to fund his gambling habit.
The jury found he killed her to avoid his misdeeds being discovered.
Fennell was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime, described by Supreme Court Justice Martin Daubney as "cruel and callous".
In sentencing Fennell, he said the killing "bespeaks a base wickedness" which fully deserved a sentence of life behind bars.
Fennell in 2017 appealed his conviction, arguing the verdict was unreasonable because jurors could not exclude the proposition another person killed the 85-year-old, but the Queensland Court of Appeal dismissed the application.
Today he took the matter all the way to the High Court of Australia, seeking special leave to appeal the conviction.
Leave was this morning granted by Australia's highest court on the basis the 2016 verdict was unreasonable.
During today's hearing, defence barrister Saul Holt QC argued the case brought against Fennell three years ago had been inadequate and relied on conjecture and speculation.
He said it fell below the line of an acceptable verdict, and the verdict the jury reached was "not rational" and should lead to special leave to appeal the matter being granted.
Mr Holt said the identification of a hammer as the murder weapon was so "profoundly inadequate" that the object should have never been admitted into evidence at trial.
He said the star witness who identified the hammer as belonging to Fennell, had only seen the weapon on a news bulletin.
Mr Holt also argued there was no forensic evidence presented at the trial to link Fennell to the crime scene or the murder, including an absence of blood on the convicted killer's clothing.
He said the evidence of motive and opportunity was also "extra weak".
The matter will be mentioned again in the High Court of Australia on April 9 and will be listed for a one-day hearing.