Judges reveal why they quashed murder conviction
A ONE-TIME junk mail deliverer's conviction for bludgeoning to death a Queensland grandmother has been quashed because of "glaringly improbable" evidence about a hammer alleged to be the murder weapon.
Steven Mark John Fennell was found guilty and sentenced to life in jail in 2016 for the "cruel and callous" murder of Macleay Island local Liselotte Watson.
The High Court quashed the conviction in September but published its reasons on Wednesday.
It said evidence relating to the hammer found in mangroves after the murder was "glaringly improbable".
The hammer was found a short distance from banking documents and a shaving bag belonging to Mrs Watson.
A couple's identification of this tool as one they had lent Mr Fennell years before the murder "became essential evidence" for the jury to convict Mr Fennell, the court said.
"Their evidence should have been given so little weight that, at best, it was barely admissible," the High Court said.
Mrs Watson was found dead on the bedroom floor of her island home in November 2012.
She had been struck on the head with an object consistent with a hammer, the trial heard.
The High Court also said the prosecution case on opportunity and motive was weak.
It did not put Mr Fennell in a different position from the many other Macleay Island residents who knew Mrs Watson kept big sums of cash in her house, the High Court said.
Police had searched Mr Fennell and his home and found nothing linking him to the murder, the court said.
During sentencing in March 2016, Justice Martin Daubney said Mrs Watson had been killed in "a cruel and callous way".
Mr Fennel appealed his conviction in 2017 but the Queensland Court of Appeal rejected his argument that the jury's verdict was unreasonable.