Cops to use case law to win balcony conviction
Australian police will turn to past cases in their efforts to prove a Wellington woman was murdered, even if she was not pushed to her death.
Warriena Tagpuno Wright, 26, known as Rrie, died in the early hours of August 8 after falling from a 14th-floor balcony in Surfers Paradise.
Gable Tostee, 28, who lives in the apartment from which she fell, was charged with murder on Friday and will appear before the Queensland Supreme Court this week to apply for bail.
Police arrested him after finding audio recordings of the pair at the apartment. It is alleged that Wright had been assaulted, was in fear of her life and was trying to escape when she fell.
It is understood witnesses told police they heard a male and female arguing and then a woman screaming "No, no, no," and "I just want to go home" shortly before she plunged from the balcony.
Detective Superintendent Dave Hutchinson said police would still pursue a murder prosecution, and pointed to previous case law.
In 1986, Kelly Healy fell to her death while climbing out of a sixth-floor window to flee her boyfriend, Kim William Royall.
She was showering when Royall smashed down the bathroom door, punched her and tried to strangle her. He was found guilty, even though he did not push her from the window, because she died trying to escape.
"We are not saying they are the same, but some of the circumstances are similar," Hutchinson said. "Case law shows this [not being pushed] can be murder. We are relying on precedence to justify the case."
Wright's sister and mother, who were in Australia, were still upset, but relieved by the arrest and would bring her body home this week for a funeral, he said.
Meanwhile, friends of Tostee have vowed to stand by him.
Tony Ongart took to Facebook, saying: "There is no physical evidence that accuses him of being guilty. So go hate as much as you want, we don't care, it won't change our decision.
"In all these years he's stuck by us, and has never been a violent person. So we will back him up the whole way."
Ongart's post received a mixed response and provoked much discussion about whether or not Tostee might be guilty. Some of his friends agreed and supported Tostee, while others questioned Ongart's loyalty.
- The Dominion Post