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Murder of Leanne Sarah Holland

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Leanne Sarah Holland (born 1 October 1978) was an Australian girl from Goodna, Queensland, who was murdered in September 1991, when she was twelve years old. Her mutilated body was found in nearby Redbank Plains three days after she was reported missing. Graham Stafford, her sister's live-in boyfriend, was convicted of her murder. Stafford had his conviction quashed as a miscarriage of justice after serving 14 years in prison.


Holland was reported missing from her house in Goodna on 23 September 1991; she had been on her way to nearby shops. Three days later her partly unclothed body was found in nearby Redbank Plains.[1] She had been killed with at least ten blows to the head from a blunt instrument, and there were burn marks on her lower body, possibly from a cigarette.[2][3][4]

Conviction and release of Graham Stafford[edit]

Holland's sister's boyfriend, a 28-year-old British sheet-metal worker named Graham Stafford who moved to Australia with his family as a child and was living in the same house, was arrested and charged with her murder.[5] He was convicted in March 1992 of killing Holland with a hammer, and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Stafford's appeal to the Queensland Court of Appeal was dismissed by Davies and McPherson JJA and Thomas J.[6] His application for special leave to appeal to the High Court was refused on 4 March 1993.[7] Stafford sought a pardon and the Attorney-General referred the case to the Court of Appeal, to be determined as if it was an appeal by a person convicted. The majority of the court, Davies and McPherson JJA dismissed the appeal. Fitzgerald P dissented finding that the jury convicted Stafford on the basis of evidence which presented a significantly mistaken version of events and that a new trial was warranted.[8] Stafford's application for special leave to appeal to the High Court was refused on 17 April 1998.[7] After serving more than 14 years, he was released on parole in June 2006 and faced a deportation hearing soon after.[9]

Paul Wilson, chair of the Department of Criminology at Bond University, headed a pro bono team of lawyers making appeals on Stafford's behalf. Graeme Crowley, a private investigator and former police officer, led an investigation into the murder. Investigation revealed a possible sighting of Holland alive the day after Stafford said that he last saw her, other unsolved murders in the neighborhood, and two potential suspects not interviewed by police, one of them a mentally ill resident of a nearby caravan park who was found guilty of murdering another girl, Julie-Ann Lowe, a few weeks after Holland's killing.[3][10] The DNA expert who had testified at the trial, Angela van Daal, also provided a statement that she believed the blood evidence inadequate for a conviction.[11] With Wilson, Crowley published Who Killed Leanne? in 2005, and the investigation was featured on the ABC network series Australian Story in August 2007.[10][12]

In April 2008 Stafford again petitioned for a pardon and the Attorney-General again referred it to the Court of Appeal, making it the first case in which the court was to hear a third appeal.[13] On 24 December 2009, the Queensland Court of Appeal overturned his conviction and recommended that a new trial be held.[2][7] In separate decisions Keane, Holmes and Fraser JJA held that Stafford had been denied a fair trial. Keane and Fraser JJA ordered a retrial. Holmes JA dissented on the basis Stafford should have been acquitted.[7] On 26 March 2010 the Director of Public Prosecutions decided that a retrial would not be in the public interest.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Body identified". The Canberra Times. 28 September 1991. p. 4.
  2. ^ a b Tony Moore (25 December 2009). "Murder conviction quashed - what the appeal judges said". Brisbane Times.
  3. ^ a b Frank Robson (15 November 2010). "Rough justice". Brisbane Times.
  4. ^ Darren Cartwright (9 March 2017). "Leanne Holland: One of Queensland's enduring murder mysteries". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane. AAP.
  5. ^ "Man appears on murder charge". The Canberra Times. 1 October 1991. p. 4.
  6. ^ R v Stafford [1992] QCA 269 (25 August 1992), Court of Appeal (Qld, Australia).
  7. ^ a b c d R v Stafford [2009] QCA 407 (24 December 2009), Court of Appeal (Qld, Australia).
  8. ^ R v Stafford; ex parte A-G [1997] QCA 333 (23 September 1997), Court of Appeal (Qld, Australia).
  9. ^ Darrell Giles (11 November 2006). "Stafford faces deportation". The Sunday Mail. Brisbane. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011.
  10. ^ a b Darrell Giles (18 August 2007). "Leanne Holland murder clues ignored". The Courier-Mail. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010.
  11. ^ Darrell Giles (26 August 2007). "Review of Leanne killing". The Courier-Mail. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Body of Evidence, Part 1". ABC Television. 20 August 2007. "Body of Evidence, Part 2". ABC Television. 27 August 2007.
  13. ^ a b "Australian Story: The Night Before Christmas". ABC Television. 29 March 2010.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]