|Born||21 March 1975|
|Criminal charge||1996 murder of Tegan Lee
2003 lying under oath (charged in 2009)
|Criminal penalty||18 years' jail with a non-parole period of 13 years and five months|
|Children||Four (one deceased)|
|Parent(s)||Robert and Sandra Lane|
|Motive||Self-advancement, especially to increase her chances of representing Australia in water polo at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games|
Keli Lane (born 21 March 1975), a former Australian water polo player, was convicted of the 1996 murder of her newborn baby Tegan, and three counts of lying under oath. Lane is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence and will be eligible for parole on 12 May 2023, after serving a period of 13 years and five months in custody. On 18 April 2011, Lane's lawyers lodged an appeal against her conviction at the same time as a Sydney taxi driver made claim he allegedly saw Lane dispose of the child. Her final application for appeal was rejected by the High Court in August 2014.
Early years and background
Lane is the daughter of Sandra, a water polo team manager, and Robert Lane, a well known surfer, rugby player and retired police inspector. Educated at Mackellar Girls High School in Manly, Lane enrolled in an arts degree at the University of Newcastle and then went on to study at the Australian College of Physical Education while working part-time at Ravenswood School for Girls as a physical education teacher. Between 1994 and 1998, she was in a relationship with rugby league player, Duncan Gillies. An elite water polo player at national and international level, Lane was a member of the silver-medal winning Australian Junior Women's team at the 1995 World Championships in Quebec, Canada. It was Lane's ambition to represent Australia in water polo at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
On 12 September 1996, Lane, aged 21, gave birth to Tegan Lee Lane at Auburn Hospital. Two days after giving birth to the child, Lane and Gillies attended a friend's wedding and there was no sign of the baby. In 1999, Lane gave birth to another child and, after being refused an abortion in Queensland, she decided to put the child up for adoption. Lane advised a social worker that this was her first child and that Gillies was the father. Gillies denied the claims. The social worker, concerned for the health of the child, placed the baby in temporary foster care.
Department of Community Services investigations
Prior to finding a permanent home for this child, the Department of Community Services (DOCS) made further investigations that led to finding that the child born in 1999 was in fact not Lane's first child and that she had given birth to Tegan Lane in 1996 at Auburn Hospital. Further investigations resulted in findings that Lane had given birth on two prior occasions, on both occasions during her four-year relationship with Gillies. Gillies claimed he was completely unaware of Lane's pregnancies. When confronted with these allegations in October 1999, Lane initially denied the existence of the two earlier children. Several days later, she claimed that the middle child (Tegan) lives with a family in Perth. Concerned about the situation, the DOCS social worker alerted the local police who began investigations in late 1999.
Initial police investigations
After some initial tardiness, in February 2001 Lane, who by now had given birth to a fourth child, was interviewed by police. During the police interview, Lane claimed that she had given the child (Tegan) to the baby's father, a man called Andrew Morris, with whom she claimed to have had a brief affair. Lane was interviewed by police again in May 2003. This time she claimed the man's name was Andrew Norris; handing over the baby in Auburn Hospital carpark.
During police interviews, Lane claimed that she was forced to hide her pregnancies because of her fear of the reaction of her parents and friends. It was reported that during the police interviews Lane said several times she felt alone when she became pregnant and "I had no other choice." Manly police referred the matter to the New South Wales Coroner in 2005.
A coronial inquest into the disappearance of Tegan Lee Lane began in June 2005 and ran until February 2006. The inquest was presided over by John Abernethy QC, and heard that police had undertaken an extensive search for the child, including attempting to match DNA samples. The inquest resulted in the Coroner declaring that he was "... comfortably satisfied that Tegan Lane is in fact deceased..." and that he was disturbed that baby Tegan had met with foul play, although he also stated that there still existed a possibility that she was alive somewhere. The Coroner recommended that the brief of evidence and transcript of the coronial inquiry be forwarded to the New South Wales Homicide Squad for assessment and if necessary further investigation.
Subsequent police investigations
From 2006, Police investigations focused on locating Andrew Morris (or Andrew Norris), the man that Lane claimed was the father of Tegan. It was reported that police looked at birth registrations, official name changes, electoral rolls, recipients of Centrelink payments or other government payments for children, immigration records, police records, drivers licences and vehicle registration records, electricity connection records, Sydney's White Pages, and Australian Taxation Office Records. Police were unable to locate a man of that name(s) that matched the profile. Police also sought to locate Tegan Lane by searching the records of over 9,000 primary schools in Australia – a search process that lasted two years. Two girls named Tegan Lane were found in Queensland and another possibility was picked up on a Torres Strait island. Finally, police excluded all possible leads.
The police investigators, assessing that they had no conclusive evidence nor any physical evidence pointing to baby Tegan's death, decided not to charge Lane; however, they referred the matter to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Nicholas Cowdery. In what the National Times described as "an unusual step", on 17 November 2009, the DPP charged Lane with the murder of Tegan Lee Lane. Lane pleaded not guilty, and the matter went to trial by jury.
Trial process and criminal finding
The matter was heard in the Supreme Court; presided over by Justice Anthony Whealy; with Mark Tedeschi, QC as the Crown Prosecutor; and Keith Chapple, SC defending Lane under instruction from Legal Aid; and began on 9 August 2010. The Crown alleged that Lane fell pregnant five times over seven years during the 1990s; terminating the first two pregnancies, placing two babies up for adoption, and allegedly murdering her baby, Tegan, on 14 September 1996. The jury heard that Lane concealed her pregnancies from her family and friends in order to protect her personal image and reputation.
The evidence heard at the trial was similar to that presented at the inquest four years earlier. The major differences were the police searches that occurred in between, and the discovery that Lane had left Auburn Hospital not at 2 pm on the day Tegan disappeared, but several hours earlier. The Crown produced evidence that, as a motive for murder, Lane was prepared to abandon her children at birth to increase her chances of representing Australia in water polo at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. There was also evidence she believed children would interfere with her educational plans, her social life, and the regard in which she was held by parents and friends. It was also alleged that her friends' wedding on 14 September may have been a crucial factor; as Lane sought a permanent solution to a potential problem to hide evidence of the pregnancy and birth from family and friends.
At various stages during the trial, clashes over points of evidence occurred between the Crown and the presiding Judge. The Crown took one matter to the Court of Criminal Appeal. At the heart of the Crown's appeal was that Lane's lies – those concerning Andrew Morris, Andrew Norris, and the story that she gave Tegan to a "Perth couple" – were indicative of Lane's guilt. Justice Whealy had instructed the jury that Lane's lies did not equate to guilt, whereas the Crown claimed otherwise. The Crown won its case in the Appeal Court and, in summing up, Crown Prosecutor Tedeschi suggested to the jury that the three lies were evidence of consciousness of guilt.
Lane's defence rested on the lack of evidence about how or where Tegan might have been killed. The Defence claimed that even if Lane had killed Tegan, the Crown could not prove she had done so deliberately or with the intention to kill. In the absence of evidence, Chapple called on Justice Whealy to direct the jury to find Lane not guilty of murder. After hearing from the Crown Prosecution about similar cases involving circumstantial evidence (namely Kerry Whelan and Dorothy Davis) and considering the matter for a day, Justice Whealy rejected the defence application. Chapple announced that Lane would not be giving evidence; and that there would be no defence witnesses at all.
Summing up the cases lasted for over a week; Tedeschi taking two and a half days, Chapple taking four days. In directing the jury, Justice Whealy asked them to consider "not whether the accused is guilty, but whether the Crown has satisfied you beyond reasonable doubt that she is guilty".
In total, the trial lasted four months and, after deliberating for a week, on 13 December 2010 the jury found Lane guilty of lying under oath in relation to documents dealing with her adopting out two other babies. The jury was not able to come to a unanimous verdict on the murder charge. Under advice from Justice Whealy, the jury was given the option of returning a majority of 11 to one verdict. A little later on the same day, the jury found Lane guilty of murder of Tegan Lee Lane. Lane was refused bail.
Sentence procedures commenced on 11 March 2011, again in the Supreme Court before Justice Whealy, with the Crown calling for the Court to pay particular regard to general deterrence. It was reported that psychiatrist Michael Diamond, who appeared before the hearing on behalf of the Crown, found no evidence of a psychiatric disorder and that Lane's decisions appeared to be based on "problem solving". On 15 April 2011 Lane was sentenced to 18 years' jail with a non-parole period of 13 years and five months. She will be eligible for parole on 12 May 2023.
Lawyers acting for Lane lodged an appeal against her conviction on 18 April 2011. The same day, claims were aired in the media that a taxi driver saw Lane dump the baby in bushland, en route to Manly. According to lawyer, Chris Murphy, the taxi driver collected Lane from Auburn Hospital and stopped on River Road, at her request. Murphy claims that the driver believes that Lane left the baby in bushland and returned to the taxi, where they continued on to Manly. Murphy claims that the driver returned to the site where the baby was allegedly left and found a woman there. According to Murphy, the driver claims that the woman stated she would attend to the needs of the baby and the driver then left the scene. Police are investigating the claims made by the driver.
Some news reports allege that since being jailed, Lane has been bashed by other inmates, causing facial injuries. Lane has responded by denying such incidents.
An appeal was lodged and was heard in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal between July and December 2013. The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed the appeal. Lane made a further application for leave to appeal to the High Court and that application was rejected in August 2014.
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