Gerard Baden-Clay found guilty of murder

MARISSA CALLIGEROS
Last updated 16:16 15/07/2014
gerard baden-clay
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BEFORE: Allison and Gerard Baden-Clay with their three children.

gerard baden-clay
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GUILTY: Gerard Baden-Clay.
gerard baden-clay
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EVIDENCE: Scratches left on Gerard Baden-Clay's face by his wife, Allison.

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Former prestige Brisbane real estate agent Gerard Baden-Clay has been found guilty of murdering his wife Allison two years ago.

A jury, comprising seven men and five women, found the 43-year-old guilty of killing his wife at their home in the leafy Brisbane suburb of Brookfield on April 19, 2012, and dumping her body in nearby Kholo Creek at Anstead.

Baden-Clay was embroiled in an affair with his long-time mistress and former employee Toni McHugh, while under extreme financial pressure owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to friends, family and former business partners at the time of his wife's disappearance.

The father-of-three, who has been jailed since his arrest in June 2012, will be sentenced to life imprisonment, marking a dramatic fall from grace for the man who prided himself on his lineage as the great-grandson of famed Scout movement founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell.

A kayaker found Mrs Baden-Clay's badly swollen and decomposing body on the muddy banks of Kholo Creek on April 30, 2012 - 10 days after her husband reported her missing.

The cause of her death has never been determined, but the Crown alleged Baden-Clay smothered his wife to death, while their three young daughters slept soundly in their beds.

Baden-Clay has maintained his innocence. While testifying under oath during the trial, he repeatedly denied killing his wife or knowing anything about her death.

However, most incriminating in the circumstantial case against the father-of-three was scratches on his right cheek.

Baden-Clay dismissed the injuries as shaving cuts, but four forensic experts told the court the abrasions were more consistent with fingernail scratches.

Six different types of leaves found entwined in Mrs Baden-Clay's hair and clothing matched six species of plants growing around the Baden-Clays' Brookfield Road home. Only two of the plant species identified on Mrs Baden-Clay's body were found around Kholo Creek.

Crown prosecutor Todd Fuller, QC, said Baden-Clay was confronted with a potentially "catastrophic convergence of events" on the night he killed his wife of 15 years.

His mistress Ms McHugh was due to come face-to-face for the first time with Mrs Baden-Clay at a real estate conference the following day.

Baden-Clay risked having his "double life" exposed at the impending run-in.

The court heard Baden-Clay had promised to be with Ms McHugh "unconditionally'' from July 1, 2012. The date coincided with Mrs Baden-Clay's birthday.

In an email to Ms McHugh in early April, Baden-Clay wrote: "Leave things to me now."

Baden-Clay told the court he went to bed about 10pm on April 19, 2012, leaving his wife watching television on the couch in their living room.

His iPhone, however, was connected to his bedside charger at 1.48am the following day.

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The court also heard Baden-Clay owed his three friends, Stuart Christ, Peter Cranna and Robert Chessman, AU$270,000 (NZ$287,000) for loans to his business.

The real estate agent also owed his ex-business partners Phil Broome and Jocelyn Frost AU$300,000 for the purchase of the company's rent roll.

The prosecution case highlighted Baden-Clay's behaviour in the days and weeks after his wife's disappearance, particularly in the hours after his wife's body was discovered.

Baden-Clay phoned his then-lawyer Darren Mahony upon hearing the news a body had been found on the banks of Kholo Creek. He then travelled to the chambers of defence barrister Peter Davis.

The following day, he made inquiries about accessing Mrs Baden-Clay's AU$400,000 life insurance policies.

Mrs Baden-Clay was suburban mum, running her three young girls to ballet classes, working behind the tuckshop counter on the first Tuesday of every month and planning her own business ventures when her life was cut short at the hands of the man she loved.

Her funeral on May 11, 2012 heard of a successful human resources executive, with a passion for ballet, who stepped out of the workforce to raise her children.

The Baden-Clays' three young daughters remain in the primary care of their maternal grandparents, Priscilla and Geoff Dickie.

At the start of the trial, the Dickies made a single request of the media: "We hope you can imagine the ongoing impact of these events on our granddaughters - it has been devastating and will be long lasting.''

"Our primary concern remains their emotional and physical wellbeing. We are trying to help them rebuild their lives and ask for your support and cooperation in this."

The key points of the prosecution and defence cases in the trial of Gerard Baden-Clay:

PROSECUTION

The affair

The prosecution alleged Gerard Baden-Clay was motivated by his desire to start a new life with his long-time mistress Toni McHugh when he killed his wife Allison. Ms McHugh and Mrs Baden-Clay were due to come face-to-face for the first time at a real estate conference on the same day Mr Baden-Clay reported his wife missing.

The financial stress

Mr Baden-Clay had business-related debts amounting to more than $500,000 at the time of his wife's disappearance.

The pressure

The Crown said Mr Baden-Clay risked having his "double life" exposed at the impending run-in between his wife and mistress, which may have resulted in the breakdown of his marriage and the loss of his already flagging real estate business.

The scratches

Mr Baden-Clay appeared with three scratches on his right cheek on the morning he reported his wife missing. He maintained the injuries were shaving cuts, but four forensic experts told the trial the abrasions were more consistent with fingernail scratches.

DNA, possibly "belonging to someone else", was found under the fingernails of Mrs Baden-Clay's left hand. The Crown alleged Mrs Baden-Clay used her left hand to scratch her husband's right cheek as she was "fighting for her life".

The leaves

Leaves from six different species of plants were found entwined in Mrs Baden-Clay's hair and tangled in the sleeves of her jumper. The same six plant species were found growing around the Baden-Clays' home, particularly their back patio, carport and driveway.

Only two species of plants were found growing in the vicinity of Kholo Creek where Mrs Baden-Clay's body was found.

The blood

DNA obtained from a blood stain found in the boot of the Baden-Clays' Holden Captiva matched Mrs Baden-Clay's DNA.

The mobile phone

Mr Baden-Clay claimed he went to bed at 10pm on the night his wife disappeared, April 19, 2012. His mobile phone was connected to his bedside charger at 1.48am on April 20, 2012.

The behaviour

Mr Baden-Clay engaged a criminal defence lawyer on the morning he reported his wife missing.

He visited the chambers of a high-profile criminal defence barrister on the day his wife's body was discovered under the Kholo Creek bridge.

DEFENCE

The depression

The defence pointed to Allison Baden-Clay's history with depression to suggest she took her own life in the early hours of April 20, 2012.

The medication

The defence suggested Mrs Baden-Clay may have died from misadventure or accident, as a result of the adverse affects of her antidepressant medication Zoloft.

The forensic evidence

Forensic pathologists said there was no evidence to link Mr Baden-Clay to the crime scene at Kholo Creek. There was also no blood found in the Baden-Clays' house or carport, and there was no evidence to suggest there was a struggle inside the house.

The man

The defence pointed to the good character of Mr Baden-Clay, who was considered a business and community leader, noting a police officer once described him as "one of the nicest guys in the world". The defence said there was no evidence to suggest Mr Baden-Clay was a person to explode in anger, or lash out physically at his wife.

The infidelity

Mr Baden-Clay admitted to having multiple affairs with different women throughout his 15 year marriage. The defence said Mr Baden-Clay's infidelity could not be used as evidence against him, adding the real estate agent's "despicable morals" did not make him a murderer.

- Brisbane Times

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