Documents that deepen Keli Lane mystery

 

Bit by bit, drip by drip, new evidence seems to float to the surface every year that suggests that Keli Lane - the former water polo player convicted for killing her two-day-old baby Tegan in 2010 - should not be in jail.

This week, the ABC's Caro Meldrum-Hanna and Jaya Balendra, the journalists behind the broadcaster's three-part TV series Exposed: The Case of Keli Lane, revealed the existence of previously unseen documents that cast doubts on one of the prosecution's key witnesses.

Internal police reports show those investigating Tegan's disappearance found that DOCS worker John Borovnik - who originally reported baby Tegan as a missing person - was "unreasonable" and "obsessive" about the Keli Lane case. These reports suggest that many of his theories about what happened to the child were baseless.

He had also made numerous complaints against the police force over the years, including making allegations of misconduct and corruption in relation to their work around the case.

This obsessiveness about Keli in general and about the police's handling of the investigation concerned some police officers.

And yet none of these concerns were brought up in Keli Lane's trial.

The credibility of DOCS worker John Borovnik (pictured) was constantly questioned by police throughtout the investigation but their concerns were never aired inside the courtroom. Picture: Supplied.
The credibility of DOCS worker John Borovnik (pictured) was constantly questioned by police throughtout the investigation but their concerns were never aired inside the courtroom. Picture: Supplied.

It's not the first time that doubts have been cast about the possibility that Keli Lane, 44, who came from a seemingly normal family based on Sydney's northern beaches, did not kill her daughter. Famously, Tegan's body was never found and no solid evidence was ever presented that explained how or where she was killed - if indeed she was.

The court did hear, however, that Tegan was Keli's second pregnancy and she went on to have a further three. She terminated two and placed two other children up for adoption, including one child in the year prior to Tegan's birth.

The court also heard that Keli hid all of her pregnancies and thought children would interfere with her chances at becoming a water polo champion and prevent her from having a rich social life.

Lane claimed that she gave Tegan to a man called "Andrew Norris" or "Andrew Morris" shortly after her birth at Auburn Hospital in Sydney's west, but no man by that name was ever found.

Keli Lane was convicted of murdering baby Tegan in 2010. Picture: Supplied
Keli Lane was convicted of murdering baby Tegan in 2010. Picture: Supplied

Keli's conviction largely rested on the fact that her story changed throughout the trial and that she had motive to get rid of Tegan.

Even the judge who presided over the case has since revealed that he had doubts about the strength of the case against her.

Since Keli Lane's conviction, the ABC has uncovered evidence that the DPP did not search the birth records of every girl born on the same day as Tegan. At the time of the trial, at least 150 children were unaccounted for and 8000 births went unregistered per year in the mid-1990s.

In other words, Tegan could be out there.

They also found that thousands of hours of police phone calls about the case were not put before from jurors in 2010.

All of this casts at least some doubt on Keli Lane's guilt.

Vision shows Detective Senior Constable Richard Gaut and colleague during a 2003 interview with Keli Lane.
Vision shows Detective Senior Constable Richard Gaut and colleague during a 2003 interview with Keli Lane.

But there has always been something else that stayed with me since I first wrote about Lane in 2010.

On one level, Keli Lane fits the profile of a woman who would commit neonaticide.

Dr Claudia Klier, the head of paediatrics at The Medical University of Vienna, Austria, who has studied the phenomenon of neonaticide for many years, explains that the most common characteristic of women who kill their babies shortly after birth is that they are young and hid their pregnancies.

"They hide them from friends and family and may not even acknowledge themselves that they are pregnant," she says.

Keli Lane was just 21 when she gave birth to baby Tegan. Picture: Supplied
Keli Lane was just 21 when she gave birth to baby Tegan. Picture: Supplied

Keli Lane was only 21 when she gave birth to Tegan in 1996. And there's no question that she concealed her pregnancies and wanted to be rid of them.

But on the other hand, Keli was also someone who knew how to get rid of unwanted pregnancies and babies in easier - and entirely legal - ways.

Keli had been pregnant before Tegan, and she had successfully put that baby up for adoption and carried on with her life, just as the court heard she wanted to.

She went on to get pregnant three more times, terminating two and putting another baby up for adoption.

She knew the methods that were available to her if she wanted to free herself of having a child. Methods that would be easier, much less serious and less risky than killing a baby.

It's not impossible to imagine that if this so-called Andrew Morris or Norris offered Lane an "out" with Tegan by taking the infant off her hands, that she took it without hesitation.

If that "out" hadn't been available, Keli could just as easily have left the child with authorities at the hospital to be adopted, just as she did with her first child. She knew the ropes.

These constant unwanted pregnancies don't paint a picture of Keli Lane as a particularly good, honourable or perhaps entirely stable person. But nor do they confirm that she was a murderer.

There are many high-profile murder cases in Australia and elsewhere that become the subject of innocence project-style investigations.

Podcasts are made, doubts are cast, new evidence is unearthed. Most of these crusaders are likely to be barking up the wrong tree and the prisoner's convictions will be sustained.

I've sat in judicial inquiries where convicted murderers have tried to re-plead their case and been horrified that public money is being used so fruitlessly. I imagine it can be draining for prosecutors and judges to have their work repeatedly questioned.

But Keli Lane's case feels different. Irrefutable evidence that she killed her baby has simply never been there.

The Tegan Lane case has haunted Australia for nearly 10 years. We can only hope that someone, some day, will find something that gives us irrefutable proof about what happened to that baby girl on that September day in 1996 so we can put this very sad and mysterious story behind us.

Alex Carlton is a freelance writer. Continue the conversation @Alex_Carlton



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