NSW judges overturn murder conviction of ‘rambling’ fantasist

Photo: AAP

A man who admitted slitting the throat of William Chaplin in 2010 has been acquitted of the crime after a court deemed his confession unreliable.

A panel of three NSW Court of Criminal Appeal judges overturned his murder conviction on Friday, calling the man most likely either a compulsive liar, a fantasist, or both.

Mr Chaplin’s body was found nine years after his death when another man, Paul Watson, admitted to a cellmate that he had killed him.

Watson had been serving a sentence for an unrelated crime. He has since been convicted of Mr Chaplin’s murder in Gerogery, near Albury.

The successful appellant, who cannot be identified because he was 16-years-old at the time of the murder, received a 12-year jail sentence.

Friday’s judgment said Watson’s wife Samone told police her husband had killed Mr Chaplin and that she and the then-teenager had helped move and burn the body.

She gave no evidence that implicated him of committing the actual murder.

He confessed to murdering Mr Chaplin in police interviews and phone calls to his parents that were intercepted by police.

Justice Jeremy Kirk noted in the judgment there was no actual witness testimony or forensic evidence implicating the appellant in the murder, and it was only his own confessions that did so.

“The police interviews were aptly described as ‘a series of rambling falsehoods’, that there may have been some truth woven into them, but on the whole they were totally unreliable unless corroborated by independent material’,” Justice Kirk said.

‘I cut his throat’

“The core question is whether the admissions are sufficiently reliable to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

“In my view, in the extraordinary circumstances of this case, they are not.”

During a phone call between the man and his mother in which she asked him about Mr Chaplin, he told her, “yeah I killed him…”.

“I took him out to the round yard and cut his throat and then we burnt the body”.

In another phone call with his father, the man told him, “I cut his throat”, to which the father replied, “Yeah, righto. You’re full of s***”.

Justice Desmond Fagan, who dissented from the decision to overturn the conviction, said the man’s admissions established beyond reasonable doubt that he had participated in the murder of Mr Chaplin.

“The jury were not bound to feel reasonable doubt about the whole of the applicant’s admissions … because of the inconsistencies in his statements about particulars of the commission of the crime,” he said.


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