Death of Corryn Rayney

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Corryn Veronica Ann Rayney, née Da Silva, (born 1963) migrated to Australia with her Indian family in 1973 as refugees from Idi Amin's Uganda.[1][2][3] Her death occurred on or about 7 August 2007, her body being discovered a week later in a clandestine grave in Kings Park, Perth, with no clearly established cause of death.[4] Her husband Lloyd Rayney, a prominent barrister specialising in criminal prosecution, was charged with her murder but found not guilty after a trial before a judge only.[5] The acquittal was unanimously upheld by a court of appeal in August 2013. The state's police commissioner and attorney general declined to acknowledge documented procedural mistakes, and refused to instigate a fresh search for the killers, leading to calls for a federal investigation into the matter.

The Rayneys had two daughters[6] and lived in the Perth suburb of Como. At the time, Lloyd Rayney was involved in a Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry into the misconduct of police officers in a murder investigation.[6] Corryn Rayney was employed as a registrar at the Supreme Court of Western Australia. She was last seen alive at 9.30 p.m. on 7 August 2007 at a bootscooting class.[6][7] A week later, police discovered her abandoned car and followed a trail of oil from it to the grave in Kings Park.[8]

Investigation and trial[edit]

Although Lloyd Rayney was controversially[9][10] described by the chief police investigator Senior Sergeant Jack Lee as the "only suspect" at a police press conference in September 2007,[11] he was not charged with the murder until December 2010, more than three years after the event.[12][13]

An affidavit filed by the prosecutors indicated that the case was circumstantial.[14] The prosecutor's opening address to the trial said that the state's case was circumstantial but the evidence of motive was compelling.[15]

At the request of the defendant in October 2011,[14] the trial was heard by a judge only, with no jury. The reasons for the application were suppressed at the time, but later published in March 2012.[14] Lloyd Rayney wanted a trial without a jury, because he claimed that the extensive publicity would make a fair jury trial impossible to achieve. The decision to conduct the trial without a jury was a subject of debate in Australian legal circles.[16][17]

Former Northern Territory Chief Justice Brian Ross Martin was appointed as an Acting Justice of the Western Australia Supreme Court in February 2012 to preside over the trial;[18] a judge from outside Western Australia was used to ensure impartiality, given that both the victim and accused had held senior legal positions.[19]

The trial began on 16 July 2012,[20] and ran until 19 October 2012 when final submissions were presented by prosecutor John Agius SC, QC[21] and defence counsel David Edwardson QC.[22] On 1 November, Justice Martin acquitted Lloyd Rayney when he handed down a judgment of "not guilty", saying that the "case by the State is beset by improbabilities and uncertainties".[5] The full reasons for the verdict were published, a requirement which would not have applied to a jury verdict.[23]

The trial judge closely examined evidence on the conduct of Lloyd Rayney and reportedly described him as a barrister who had engaged in "disreputable conduct"[24] in comments which were redacted from the final official judgment (para 1594), and Justice Martin noted that "The accused has engaged in discreditable conduct including knowingly arranging for illegal telephone interception, making a false declaration and giving deliberately false evidence to a court while on oath. The evidence raises suspicion; in some instances quite strong suspicion. But discreditable conduct does not prove guilt, and suspicion, even strong suspicion, falls well short of proof beyond reasonable doubt."[20] The Judgment Summary further explained: "Evidence concerning such conduct was not admitted to show that the accused is a person of bad character. The fact that the accused engaged in discreditable conduct and could, therefore, be viewed as a person of bad character, cannot be used to reason that the accused is the type of person who might kill his wife, or that by reason of his bad character he is likely to have killed her. Such reasoning would be unfair and is prohibited."[25]

Appeal dismissed[edit]

An appeal by prosecutors against the verdict was held in the Supreme Court of Western Australia in August 2013, before three judges brought in from other states.[26] The prosecution, if granted leave to appeal, proposed to rely on the grounds that the trial judge's findings in relation to motive were not supported by the facts his Honour found in relation to the respective attitudes of the respondent and the deceased.[27] The judges unanimously dismissed the appeal, and upheld the trial judge's verdict.[28][29][30][31] The office of the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, which ran the case, announced on 18 October 2013 that it would not be seeking a further appeal to the High Court.[32] [33]


Mr Rayney indicated interest[citation needed] in whether there would be consequences for "police who the trial judge said gave misleading evidence, pressured a forensic pathologist to change his report, abused their position of authority and behaved reprehensibly".

An investigation by the Western Australian Corruption and Crime Commission later cleared two police officers of "any serious misconduct" after their behaviour in threatening a female lawyer had been described as ranging from "inappropriate to reprehensible" by the trial judge. A second matter reviewed by the CCC related to "attempts by a third officer to encourage an independent pathologist involved in the case to change a report to better fit police evidence. That officer was found to have acted unreasonably."[34]

In May 2015, Rayney was acquitted of two charges of tapping his own residential telephone line.[35] He is pursuing a multimillion-dollar defamation action against the state over his having been publicly named as "the prime and only suspect".[36]

In July 2015, Rayney's licence was cancelled by the Legal Practice Board, stripping him of his right to practise law in WA. This action resulted from a finding by a magistrate that he had breached the Surveillance Devices Act by taping conversations with Corryn Rayney, then deliberately disposing of the recording devices when he knew the police had a warrant to search for them.[37] In February 2016, Rayney was cleared by the State Administrative Tribunal of the alleged "unlawful destruction of evidence and/or an attempt to pervert the course of justice" and his right to practise was reinstated.[38] He recommenced his career with the successful defence of an accused drug dealer. The trial was aborted when police evidence was shown to have been unlawfully "destroyed, missing and contradictory".[39]

Calls for new investigation[edit]

In his judgment summary, Justice Martin noted that police and forensic evidence was consistent with a sexual attack on Mrs Rayney,[40] while defence lawyers identified at least two possible criminals who "should have been investigated with as much rigour as Mr Rayney".[41] In a prime-time TV presentation on 21 August 2014 that was dismissed by Attorney General Michael Mischin as "infotainment that is one-sided", Rayney, backed by senior lawyers and a forensic scientist, spoke out for the first time and called for independent investigators to re-examine the unsolved case.[42] State Premier Colin Barnett did not see any need for a review but would await advice from his Attorney General.[43]

In May 2015, WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan ordered a cold case review of the matter[44] which had not resulted in any new charges by March 2017, when a court began hearing Rayney's defamation suit against the state.[45] Judgment was handed down on 15 December 2017 in favour of Rayney, with final damages to be assessed.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christiana Jones (13 July 2012). "The victim: Corryn Rayney". The West Australian. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  2. ^ Anne-Louise Brown (13 July 2012). "Who are The Rayneys?". WA Today (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  3. ^ Christiana Jones (25 July 2012). "Pain is clear as proud dad tells of memories". The West Australian. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  4. ^ Anne-Louise Brown (16 July 2012). "No cause of death revealed in Rayney case". WA Today (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Lloyd Rayney found not guilty of murder". ABC News. 1 November 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "Lawyer appeals for info on missing wife". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 August 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  7. ^ "Police concerned for missing mum". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 August 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Police scour Perth for missing mum". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 August 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  9. ^ Christiana Jones (13 July 2012). "The Jack Lee incident". The West Australian. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  10. ^ Wendy Cachetta (5 September 2012). "'Prime suspect' cop Sen Sgt Jack Lee takes Rayney witness stand". Perth Now (Sunday Times). Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  11. ^ Christiana Jones (5 September 2012). "Investigation: biased, single-minded". The West Australian. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  12. ^ "Rayney freed on bail to spend Christmas with daughters". WA Today (Fairfax Media). 23 December 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  13. ^ Aja Styles (8 December 2010). "Lloyd Rayney charged with wilful murder after inner-city arrest". WA Today (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  14. ^ a b c Katie Robertson (8 March 2012). "Court lifts suppression order on Rayney trial application". Perth Now (Sunday Times). Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  15. ^ Anne-Louise Brown (23 July 2012). "Rayney Trial: First witness called". WA Today (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  16. ^ Eric Fisher (1 August 2012). "Twelve good men (and women)? Lloyd Rayney and the problem with jury trials". The Conversation. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  17. ^ Leanne Mezrani (12 July 2012). "Juryless murder trial is offensive". Lawyers Weekly. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  18. ^ "Supreme Court judge appointed for Rayney trial". ABC News. 29 December 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  19. ^ Christiana Jones (13 July 2012). "The Judge: Brian Martin". The West Australian. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  20. ^ a b The State of Western Australia v Rayney Full Judgment, 369pp., 1 November 2012
  21. ^ Members of (Sir Lawrence Jackson) Chambers, Perth. Retrieved 20 October 2012
  22. ^ David Edwardson QC at Bar Chambers, Adelaide
  23. ^ Christiana Jones (20 October 2012). "Judge sets November 1 to deliver result of five-year case". The West Australian. p. 11.
  24. ^ Colleen Egan Pressure to find Rayney answers The West Australian, 18 November 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2014[dead link]
  25. ^ Judgment Summary: The State of Western Australia v Rayney [No 3] [2012] WASC 404 (INS 83 of 2011) Supreme Court of Western Australia
  26. ^ "Prosecutors appealing Lloyd Rayney's murder acquittal want a retrial". ABC News. 6 August 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  27. ^ [1] The State of Western Australia v Rayney [2013] WASCA 219, [7].
  28. ^ The State Of Western Australia -v- Rayney (2013) Wasca 219 (Appeal judgment) at Supreme Court of Western Australia, delivered 23 September 2013
  29. ^ Appeal Judgment Summary at Supreme Court of Western Australia, delivered 23 September 2013
  30. ^ Offer, Kaitlyn (23 September 2013). "Case dismissed: no retrial for Lloyd Rayney". Sunday Times. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  31. ^ "Court dismisses appeal against acquittal of Lloyd Rayney over murder of wife Corryn". ABC News. 23 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  32. ^ Christiana Jones (18 October 2013). "Case closed for Rayney over murder". The Weekend West. p. 15.
  33. ^ "Rayney murder case will not be appealed". SBS World News. Australian Associated Press. 19 October 2013.
  34. ^ "Watchdog clears Rayney cops", The West Australian, 1 April 2014.
  35. ^ Joanna Menagh. "Lloyd Rayney, former Perth barrister, cleared of phone tapping charges." ABC News, 7 May 2015
  36. ^ Tim Clarke. "Rayney back in court." The West Australian, 21 July 2015.
  37. ^ Tim Clarke. "Lloyd Rayney law licence cancelled". The West Australian, 5 August 2015
  38. ^ Kate Campbell. State Administrative Tribunal hands down decision on Lloyd Rayney's legal career Sunday Times, 10 February 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2016
  39. ^ Amanda Banks. "Rayney returns to win meth case" The West Australian, 18 March 2016, p. 5
  40. ^ E.g., see Full Judgment, paragraphs 1454–59,1580–81,1588–90.
  41. ^ P. Hickey; Emily Moulton. "New charges strengthen case for review", Sunday Times, 31 August 2014, p. 11
  42. ^ Emily Moulton. Lloyd Rayney breaks silence, calls for cold-case review of wife Corryn's murder PerthNow (Sunday Times), 21 August 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014
  43. ^ Amanda Banks. "Barnett cool on Rayney investigation", The West Australian, 22 August 2014
  44. ^ Graeme Powell; Courtney Bembridge (11 May 2015). "Corryn Rayney murder: Police Commissioner orders cold case review". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  45. ^ Bembridge, Courtney. Lloyd Rayney's reputation suffered after prime suspect comment, defamation trial hears. ABC News, 1 March 2017
  46. ^ Menagh, Joanna; Carmody, James. Lloyd Rayney wins epic defamation fight against WA Government over Corryn Rayney's death. ABC News, 15 December 2017

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