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The Guilt or Innocence of Graham Stafford
Transcript of The Guilt or Innocence of Graham Stafford
It appeared in this appeal that the original jury had been misled.
However on the 23rd of September 1997, the Queensland court of appeal dismissed Grahams Stafford’s second appeal.
it was rejected on the basis that the evidence casting doubt was not strong enough.
The court accepted that the crown could not establish exactly how or when the murder occurred, but there was still the small amount of blood in the boot and the presence of the maggot and they believed a jury would still convict.
The Guilt or Innocence of Graham Stafford
23rd -28th September 1991
Trial of 1992
In November 1992, Grahams parents, Eric and Jean approached ex-cop turned private detective Graeme Crowley.
They offered to spend all their savings on Graeme’s fees if he would look over the circumstances of Grahams case and examine the forensic evidence.
The more Graeme dug, the more apparent it became to him that the evidence that had convicted Stafford hadn’t been checked or tested, it was just accepted.
He believed that the police targeted Graham from the start and that the evidence had not been presented truthfully to the jury.
Eventually Graham approached criminologist Paul Wilson, they both stayed on the case for free, and together they wrote the book “Who Killed Leanne Holland?” published in 2005. ( republished in 2007)
Unfortunately the miscarriage of justice to Graham Stafford is not alone. There are many other cases where a suspect seems incredibly guilty in the start and only later it is found that they are not. As unlikely as it may seem, Stafford was one of the lucky ones, he had parents that did not give up, and highly respected champions such as Graeme Crowley and Paul Wilson. It will most likely never be known if Graham Stafford actually killed Leanne Holland, however it can be definitively said that he did not receive a fair trial in 1992.
Who Killed Leanne Holland?
In September 1991 twelve year old Leanne Holland was brutally murdered and her body dumped in bushland 10 km from her home.
Over the ensuing years Graham Stafford endured what is now being called a momentous miscarriage of justice.
Stafford, a 28 year old sheet metal worker, lived with his girlfriend Mellissa Holland, her father Terry Holland and little sister Leanne Holland, at 70A Alice street, Goodna.
On Monday the 23rd of Sep 1991 Leanne did not come home.
Her half naked body was found on Thursday afternoon.
Stafford was arrested for her murder and found guilty.
a conviction obtained without witnesses, a murder weapon
or any apparent motive.
On Monday morning while Terry and Melissa went to work, Stafford and Leanne stayed home,
Many witnesses said they saw Leanne at various places around town.
Graham did some work on his car (hurting his arm in the process), went to the car wash, the doctor and then grocery shopping with Mellissa.
Neither Terry, Graham or Mellissa were worried that Leanne was not home when they went to bed that night.
On Tuesday morning Graham, Terry and Melissa went to work.
Melissa began to worry after calling home several times and receiving no answer.
When Leanne had still not returned home when they got home from work, they reported her missing. to the police.
Graham described her wearing a purple jumper and a black skirt.
In preparation for the police coming the next day, Terry cleaned the house well into the night.
On Wednesday morning, Melissa and Terry stayed home while Graham left for work.
Graham took a detour to a friends house, going to work when the friend was not home. A puzzled Melissa heard Grahams car 25 minutes after he had left for work. Graham came home early form work to be there for Melissa.
By lunch time the house was full of officers and forensic teams.
Graham was questioned, his clothes collected and impounded.
Graham was told he was a suspect.
At the Holland house Forensic officer Bill Crick performed blood screening tests using Sanger strips. When he tested Staffords car he got positive results from the gear lever, the door handles, the boot lid, a blanket and toolbox.
Mr Crick also allegedly discovered a maggot when he moved the toolbox in the boot.
On Thursday afternoon Leannes maggot infested body was found at the end of a dirt track running off Redbank Plains road.
Her hair appeared rich red, and her face had been smashed.
Her clothing confirmed her identity.
3 Cigarette buts and a lighter were noted near the body.
Photos of the tyre tracks and footprints were taken instead of plaster casts as the ground was too hard.
Later at the Holland house, Crick tested all three adults shoes for blood, using the Sanger strips, all returned positive results to blood, however none of the treads matched the prints at the dump site.
Leanne had been bashed at least ten times around the head with a hammer or similar instrument.
Her inner thighs where burnt with cigarettes.
Her anus was slit and enlarged.
Her arms and hands were cut and bruised, indicating that she faught her attacker.
The pathologist described it as a ‘sado-masochistic’ murder that caused the victim great agony.
Her stomach was empty, indicating that she had died at least three hours after eating (no one could remember if Leanne had breakfast of lunch that day)
No sperm of foreign DNA was collected
The doctor concluded that Leanne probably died sometime after 10am on Monday.
Blood had been found on several items in Grahams car boot, in the house, and especially the bathroom.
They’d found a maggot in his boot, the same type and age found on Leanne’s body.
Police said that the tyres tracks by the body matched the tyres fitted to Grahams car.
By Saturday Stafford was the only suspect, he was arrested and charged with murder.
Police estimated that Stafford had bashed Leanne with his hammer in the bathroom, between 10am and 4pm on Monday. He'd then cleaned up the blood, stored the body in his boot for two days, and dumped her body in the bushland Wednesday morning.
Initial inconsistencies of the 1991 investigation.
Graham admitted to having a hammer and that he had kept on his bed side table recently because he was hanging pictures.
The jury was told that the hammer, assumed to be the murder weapon, was missing and that Graham had gotten rid of it.
Grahams Gemini sedan had the fairly unusual feature of having different sized Bridgestone tyres fitted to the front and back of the car.
Police reported that the tracks found near the body matched those of Grahams Gemini.
Mr Crick showed the jury blown up photos of the tyre prints and overlayed those of Grahams car to show that they matched.
No experts were called in to analyse the similarities and variations of Bridgestone patterns.
Grahams Very Busy Schedule.
There was very limited opportunity on Monday afternoon in which Graham could have killed Leanne in such a brutal way and cleaned up the blood.
The morning was spent working on his car and changing the shock absorbers.
He visited a friend for a while, went to the supermarket, the car wash, and the doctor, then went grocery shopping with Melissa when she got home (in the same car he allegedly had leanness body in the boot).
The Jury of Grahams initial trial was not made aware of his busy schedule.2
On Wednesday Crick discovered the lone, live maggot on the boot carpet.
However he did not tell any of the other police, he did not add it to his notes nor was it photographed or videotaped.
Crick did not collect the maggot; instead he impounded the car and decided to retrieve the maggot at police headquarters.
One of the most important procedures in preserving a crime scene is to videotape or photograph any exhibits before they are seized
During Grahams exhaustive interviewing on Thursday morning, the maggot found in his car was not mentioned, however it was later produced as evidence.
The Maggot discovery and processing
The Sanger Test strips.
Sanger test strips are not 100% accurate as there are substances that interfere with the results, particularly oxidising chemicals and metals (eg. copper and iron).
Almost everything in the house reacted to the Sanger strips, it appeared as if a blood bath had taken place.
When Crick examined the boot of the car, he could find no trace of blood but the Sanger strip tested positive, he suggested that the interior of the boot must have been wiped out.
During none of the investigation was it suggested that the Sanger tests might have been giving false positives.
Stafford was a non-smoker, Leanne’s inner thighs had cigarette burns. There were also cigarette butts and a lighter found near the body.
Graham and Melissa went grocery shopping, supposedly with Leannes body in the boot. Seems incredibly risky.
13 days after Leanne was murdered, another young girl, Sharron Phillips was murdered in the same area as Leanne, Stafford was already in custody.
Police found no blood on the clothes Graham had been wearing on Monday.
When searching the Holland home, police wore no protective clothing or gloves.
Stafford became confused during interviews, considered to be lying. However transcripts of interviews show the police interviewers making more mistakes than Stafford.
Police believed graham bashed Leanne to death sometime between 8am and 4:30pm on Monday the 23rd of September 1991 in the bathroom of 70A Alice street.
He then placed her body in the boot of his car, where it remained until the early morning of Wednesday the 25th of September 1991, when he dumped it at Redbank Plains.
There were no witnesses to the murder, no apparent motive and no confession was obtained.
Police found the fold up chair Graham usually kept in the car to watch Melissa at netball; they described how Graham had removed it so he could hide Leanne’s body.
Graham Claimed that he’d moved it to the spare room after cleaning his car, because the netball season was over and the chair rattled.
The Jury was told that Graham had cleaned the bathroom, but when tested, there appeared to be large amounts of blood.
Blood was found in the boot of Grahams car.
The DNA of the blood was tested by Professor Angela van Daal, who gave evidence that there was 98.9% likelihood that the blood was leanness.
No evidence was given as to the state of the boot, i.e. body fluids and smell, or the amount of blood present
A single, live maggot was found in the boot of Graham’s car.
It was described as 15mm long and dark in colour.
David Bennet described all the maggots belonging to a species called Lucilia cuprina
Beryl Morris told the court that the lone maggot was larger than the other samples, and had a full crop of food. It was not as Mr Bennet had described it, shrivelled and desiccated.
She also pointed out that he had made a mistake as to the species, they were in fact Calliphora stygia, or the common brown fly.
It was not possible to give evidence as to the location of the maggot in the boot as there were no notes, photos or video to show when it first appeared.
Mr Crick was asked to present his notes of discovery, he admitted to the oversight and said “I took that entry into my memory”.
David Bennet used the rate of development of the maggot samples from Leanne’s body and the lone maggot to calculate time of death between mid-afternoon and midnight on the 23rd of September.
Beryl Morris reported the latest Leanne could have died was 5:30 on the Tuesday morning, but that it was more likely the Monday.
The court was made aware that the information used was based on the Ipswich temperatures, not Goodna’s. Even though this could have caused significant variation, the time of death estimation was not challenged by the defence.
Two witnesses reported to have seen Grahams Shiny red Gemini sedan on Wednesday morning in the area where the body was found.
The judges summing up took 3 hours and he mentioned the tyre track evidence 17 times.
The jury retired at 2:45pm and returned at 6pm.
They pronounced that Graham Stafford was found guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Grahams Parents immediately initiated an appeal, heard 5 months after the conviction.
It was argued that the judge had allowed certain things into evidence that should never have been heard by the jury.
This first appeal was rejected on the 25th of august 1992.
Through legal aid, Graham obtained the services of highly respected criminal barrister Adrian Gundelach.
The Trial was scheduled to last eight days, however Mr Gundelach had a previous commitment to another trial at the time.
Legal aid allocated Stafford a new Barrister, Mr Charles Clark, on the Friday, before commencement of trial the following Monday.
Graham waived his lawyers right to sum up for the jury, instead electing to give evidence on his own behalf.
Polices version of events.
The fold up chair
The blood in the Bathroom.
The Blood in the Boot.
Time of Death.
Car seen On Redbank Plains road.
The tyre tracks.
The lone Maggot.
Outcome of the trial.
In September 1997 Graham Stafford was the first person in Australian history to have a second chance at having an appeal heard.Crowley provided all the information from his investigation to Stafford’s lawyers
Appeal of 1997
During the initial trial the judges summary stated that there were large quantities of blood found in unusual places throughout the house.
Leo Freeny, the crowns leading forensic scientist disagreed, stating that there was not nearly sufficient blood to constitute a murder, that there were in fact small amounts, consistent with ordinary doings of a household.
There was no sign of blood clean up in the bathroom that Leanne had allegedly been killed in.
He concluded that Leanne Holland had not been killed in that bathroom.
Freeny also examined the blood evidence of the car boot, and said that there was not enough blood to account for a body being left there for 2 days.
There also should have been a strong odour of decomposing flesh, which was not present.
He concluded that Leanne Holland’s body had never been in the boot of Stafford’s car.
Crowley discovered that the forensic entomologist, Beryl Morris had been given the wrong information from which to determine time of death.
The temperature varied by approximately 2 degrees, and at Crowleys insistence, the TOD was recalculated.
The new time of death was ~10:30 on Tuesday the 24th of September 1991, a time Stafford was confirmed to be at work
Forensic entomologist Russel Luke expressed doubts concerning the recovery of the single live maggot.
He was puzzeled how a single maggot could have survived in the very hot boot interior, without any food or moisture.
The crown did not give any evidence to corroborate the finding of the maggot.
In 1992 the jury was told that two witnesses saw Grahams shiny red Gemini sedan specifically on the Wednesday morning.
When Graeme reviewed the original witness statements, one of the witnesses did not remember the exact day while the other described the car as either a hatch or wagon.
When Crowley interviewed one of the witnesses in 1994, she said that the car she saw wasn’t such a bright red, but was instead a darker colour.
The original comparison of the tyre tracks was done by enlarged photographs, which are easily manipulated.
Crowley along with an expert from Bridgestone investigated the tyre prints.
Graeme borrowed the Gemini from Staffords parents, put new tyres on it and drove the same distance the original tyres had travelled at the time (450km).
They then tried to duplicate the prints on the ground found near the body, the tyre tracks were not the same.
The hammer was assumed to be the murder weapon, and the original jury was told by the police that Graham had gotten rid of it.
However when examining the original exhibit list and the committal transcripts it appears the hammer was actually in police custody before going missing before the trial.
During the trial, two officers claimed that they had never seen the hammer.
The Blood in the Bathroom and Boot.
The Tyre Tracks.
Time of death.
The lone Maggot.
Car seen on Redbank Plains road.
Outcome of the 1997 Appeal
In 2008, Stafford, with the help of several champions including Graeme Crowley, Paul Wilson,
Robin Bowles and Robert Napper, set out to clear his name.
In 2009 the case of Leanne Holland was again heard by the Queensland court of Appeal.
December 24th 2009, Graham Stafford’s murder conviction was overturned by the court of Appeal.
Judge Pat Keane ruled that after the extensive evidence there were many new time scenarios possible, Keane accepted that Leanne most likely died on the Tuesday morning.
Judgle Fraiser Believed Stafford should be allowed an appeal.
Both Keane and Fraiser ordered for a new trial.
Judge Catharine Holmes agreed that Stafford had not received a fair trial, and suggested he should be acquitted as a jury would now find reasonable doubt as to Stafford’s guilt.
In the 2-1 decision the court ruled for a retrial.
However it fell to Director of Public Prosecutions Tony Maynihan to decide.
In March 2010 the DoPP decided it was not in the public interest to retrial Graham Stafford.
In 2006, the now 42 year old Graham Stafford was released on parole after 15 years in prison. He was to be a parole for life and as a condition was not allowed to talk to the media.
Appeal of 2009
Professor Angela van Daal gave evidence that the blood discovered in the boot matched Leanne’s, however she also said that there was a 25% chance of the DNA matching a close relative.
The obvious alternative source being Leanne’s brother Craig, who had told the court that he had cut his hand quite badly and left a lot of blood around the house.
Miss de Vaal received no samples from any of Leanne’s relatives, or that of the defendant, an oversight considering police had taken samples from them all.
She also mentioned in the appeal that even though the DNA of the blood matched Leanne’s, the evidence was not compelling as there was so little blood present in the boot. (a few drops on a tool bag and a blanket).
Especially given that it was known that Leanne had cut her foot a few weeks before.
Russel Luke stated that it was impossible that the maggot would survive in the boot and have no change in appearance, no shrinkage or dehydration.
In the Affidavit written by Robert Napper he mentions several breaks in the chain of evidence and continuity surrounding the maggots
The blood in the car boot.
The lone Maggot.
Outcome of 2009 Appeal
In December 2012 police officially closed the Holland murder case.
The reason stated was that new forensic evidence identified during the investigation was strongly consistent with the initial police investigation of 1991.
Police commissioner Ian Stewart said that unless new admissible evidence came to light, there were no additional persons of.
In other words they had found no new suspects in the murder of Leanne Holland.
The police reported their investigation to be extensive and far reaching, and included issues raised in Crowley’s book.
However in response, Graeme Crowley stated that the case should not be closed, that there should be a judicial review and that the police report should be released.
What happened Next.