Law Lords to hear appeal on Wgtn murders

Last updated 07:51 23/07/2008
APPEAL: John Barlow who was convicted in a rare third trial, after two High Court juries were unable to reach a verdict, for the 1994 murders of father and son businessmen Eugene and Gene Thomas in their offices on The Terrace in Wellington.

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Convicted double murderer John Barlow has been given a final chance to clear his name after the Privy Council ruled to hear his appeal against conviction.

Barlow's wife Angela, who has proclaimed her husband's innocence for more than 14 years, was overjoyed when the news from London came through just before midnight last night.

But she would have to wait until today to let her husband know in Rimutaka Prison.

"Elated is an understatement. It's been a really long battle, it's taken years to get this far. There are more hurdles to go but this is the big one. John will be thrilled," she said.

Barlow was convicted in a rare third trial, after two High Court juries were unable to reach a verdict, for the 1994 murders of father and son businessmen Eugene and Gene Thomas in their offices on The Terrace in Wellington.

He was jailed for a minimum of 14 years and is due to be considered for parole for the first time in October this year.

The successful conviction hinged on an FBI ballistics expert's evidence - first introduced in the third trial - that bullets found in a cartridge box at the Happy Valley Landfill and linked to the antique dealer matched those used to kill Gene and Eugene Thomas.

The FBI has since stopped its bullet-testing practice after scientific criticism it might produce a high rate of false matches of bullets.

Two attempts to hear an appeal against Barlow's conviction in New Zealand had been declined and the appeal to the Privy Council was a last ditch effort to clear his name.

Barlow had been bankrupted by defending earlier court cases, he said previously.

Greg King said the hearing took over two hours and the Crown argued that the Privy Council didn't have jurisdiction to entertain the appeal because of decisions already made about the case by New Zealand's Governor General.

"It's a very complicated and complex point raised by the Crown involving unprecedented legal submission.

"So what the Privy Council have done is agreed to hear the full appeal, but they will also hear further argument on the jurisdiction issue."

Mr King said there was now a lot of work to be done in relation to the appeal, which was not likely to be heard until next year.

Barlow lost his first appeal in the Court of Appeal in 2006.

In March this year he was denied a second appeal despite forensic evidence used to convict him being called into doubt.

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Governor-General Anand Satyanand, on advice from the Justice Ministry and Justice Minister Annette King, refused Barlow's appeal to have his case heard again.

Only 10 New Zealand cases have ever been allowed to appeal to the Privy Council, including that of David Bain last year which resulted with his murder convictions being quashed and a retrial ordered.

Mrs Barlow hoped that her husband's conviction would be thrown out without the need for another trial.

"It's quite abusive to have three trials you know, John's been through enough," she said.

"I don't see how (the crown) can fight it. There's no murder weapon. The bullets and the gun don't match and there's no forensic evidence against John. There's no evidence against John whatsoever."

The Barlow case is the third double murder case Mr King has taken to the Privy Council following the Bruce Howse and Scott Watson cases.

Leave was granted for an appeal case to be heard against Howse, who was convicted of murdering his stepdaughters in Masterton in 2001, but a retrial was not granted.

In 2003 Mr King unsuccessfully applied to appeal the Scott Watson case.

Watson was convicted and jailed for the 1998 killings of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.

- with NZPA

- The Dominion Post

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