Why WA murder case isn’t over yet

A man who wrongfully spent almost 13 years behind bars over the death of his pregnant lover may be eligible for compensation after a jury found him not guilty of murder following a retrial.

Stacey Thorne, 35, was stabbed 21 times at her Boddington home, about 120 kilometres southeast of Perth, in 2007.

At the time, she was 22 weeks pregnant with Scott Austic’s baby.

Mr Austic, 45, was found guilty of murder in 2009 and sentenced to life behind bars, with a minimum of 25 years to be served.

But his conviction was overturned this year after he took his case to the WA Court of Appeal, and he was granted bail pending a retrial.

On Friday, a jury found Mr Austic not guilty of the crime, leaving Ms Thorne’s murder a mystery.

media_cameraStacey Thorne was pregnant when she was stabbed 21 times at her home.

WA Premier Mark McGowan described it as a “very traumatic event”, and said he would consult Attorney-General John Quigley and Police Commissioner Chris Dawson about the case.

“I expect there will be further inquiries in relation to this matter,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“Clearly, it’s a very, very serious matter. It may involve the Corruption and Crime Commission.”

Asked about potential compensation for Mr Austic, the Premier said: “All of these things, we’ll examine. No doubt it has a long way to play out.”

Mr Quigley said in a statement that he expected Mr Austic would apply for compensation.

“I expect he may seek compensation from government for this injustice,” he said.

“We will consider any such request if and when we receive it.”

Mr Quigley said his thoughts were also with Ms Thorne’s family.

“They will no doubt be grieving and searching for answers,” he said.

“I extend my condolences to them for their loss.”

WA Police said it would conduct a review into the case in consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Scott Austic was found not guilty of murder on Friday following a retrial in the WA Supreme Court.
media_cameraScott Austic was found not guilty of murder on Friday following a retrial in the WA Supreme Court.

During Mr Austic’s trial, the defence team alleged some police officers had planted vital evidence against him.

That included a Jim Beam can with his DNA on it, which was found outside Ms Thorne’s home, and a knife with Ms Thorne’s blood on it, which was found near Mr Austic’s home.

After the verdict was handed down, Ms Thorne’s emotional family told reporters outside court that they wanted justice.

“My baby sister — she’s the one who’s not here with us,” Hayley Thorne said.

Andrew Mallard was also wrongfully imprisoned for a murder he did not commit.
media_cameraAndrew Mallard was also wrongfully imprisoned for a murder he did not commit.

The case is comparable to other innocent men — John Button, Darryl Beamish and Andrew Mallard — who each received significant payouts.

Mr Button had been convicted of manslaughter for the 1963 hit-and-run death of his 17-year-old girlfriend Rosemary Anderson. He served five years in prison and his conviction was overturned in 2002.

Mr Beamish was wrongfully jailed for 15 years over the wilful murder of socialite Jillian Brewer, 22, in 1959. His conviction was overturned in 2005.

Mr Mallard served 12 years in prison for the 1994 murder of Pamela Lawrence before his conviction was quashed. He died last year after he was struck by a car in the US.

Originally published as Why WA murder case isn’t over yet

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