Gordon Wood acquitted of Byrne murder

Friday, February 24, 2012
Gordon Wood acquitted of Byrne murder
Carolyn Byrne with Gordon Wood.

Gordon Wood, the man accused of pushing model Caroline Byrne off a cliff almost 20 years ago, has been acquitted of her murder.

Wood has spent more than three years in jail after a jury found he had killed Caroline, his girlfriend, by throwing her off Sydney's notorious suicide spot, The Gap, in 1995.

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On Friday, a panel of judges from the NSW Supreme Court unanimously overturned the decision on appeal, saying they were not satisfied that suicide could be excluded. They acquitted Wood, and he will be released from prison.

"I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt," Justice Peter McClellan said.

During the original hearing in 2008, the jury did not accept the defence's claim that Ms Byrne had a history of depression and committed suicide, like her mother before her. Wood was sentenced to 13 years in jail.

However, Wood appealed the decision. During the appeal last year, the defence questioned nine aspects of the original trial, including expert evidence that Wood was strong enough to throw Caroline off the cliff.

That evidence was based on tests using a conscious and co-operative subject. Lawyers for Wood argued Caroline would have struggled.

Wood's family was in tears of relief at the outcome. His sister, Jackie Schmidt, has spent the past three years going through thousands of documents to help his appeal.

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Caroline's father Tony, who believes Wood killed his daughter and spent years fighting to bring the case to court, was ushered out of the courtroom by detectives.

Tony Byrne the victim’s father refused to comment as he left the Supreme Court building.

The Wood family were visibly moved by the verdict. Wood’s sister Jackie Schmidt, a long time campaigner for Wood’s freedom, told reporters they were expecting him to be released from Goulburn jail within the next few hours.

“We haven’t spoken to him yet, but he would be very relieved,” said Jackie. “It has been a long journey and there hasn’t been a lot of sleep over the last few days … relieved is an understatement.”

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