Advertisement

David Eastman: guilty until proven innocent

By 27 May 2014 25

police-generic-a

It is now more than 25 years since Australian Federal Police Commissioner Colin Stanley Winchester was shot and killed as he arrived home from work at 9.15 pm on Tuesday 10 January 1989.

After a protracted police investigation and a trial that lasted 85 days, David Harold Eastman (now aged 69), was convicted of the murder in 1995.

The body of evidence was significant. Amongst it, revelations that ammunition residue found in the boot of Eastman’s car was indistinguishable from that found at the murder scene.

But the circumstantial evidence was also compelling. Several prominent people had come forward after the killing saying Eastman had told them he was going to kill Winchester (as well as a threat to kill the Commonwealth Ombudsman).

Eastman reportedly told Winchester this to his face because he would not withdraw an assault charge against him. A witness saw him staking out Winchester’s Deakin home in days prior to the shooting. The witness recalled the make and colour of car, but had the last digit wrong [the rest correct] from the number plate.

The jury was unanimous in finding him guilty and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole by ACT Supreme Court Justice Ken Carruthers. This by and large should have been the end of the matter and the last we see of Eastman.

The exhaustive trial had given plenty of opportunity for the evidence to be publicly reported and room for speculation. Almost from the time of the investigation and arrest it was clear Eastman was a serial nuisance, a dangerous public pest and a combative and violent individual.

He regularly had blow-ups with various government agency staff members (gathering more than 200 alleged assault reports). He fought with his lawyers and sacked his defence team on any number of occasions.

Eastman, who is occasionally painted as ‘highly intelligent’ by the Fairfax media, simply had no other case to make – or surely he would have done so. He would not or could not say where he was on the night of the murder. And he could not – or would not – explain other evidence presented to the court.

Possibly out of this genesis grew a thread of doubt that he might be a victim of a miss-trial. Police pressure could have sent him over the top and prevented him from presenting a rational defence.

These arguments gained some credence as the years passed and as the murder event recedes from memory and as police and key players age and move on in their lives.

A small group of anonymous supporters has spent the years arguing Eastman’s cause from behind the scenes. It has brought forward doubts that evidence might be flawed (or even fabricated) and/or given undue (or unfair) weight. The Fairfax media in particular has given a mostly sympathetic voice for the Eastman cause, and it has nurtured the idea that he may well (despite everything) be an innocent man.

On 3 September 2012 this background chorus of support paid off for Eastman when the Hon Justice Shane Marshall ordered an Inquiry into the conviction. The inquiry has now completed its hearings (on 15 May 2014).  The inquiry has its own Eastman Inquiry website.

Many readers of Fairfax newspapers were not born when Winchester was gunned down 25 years ago. They can be forgiven for giving credence to the long-running counter-argument that a Mafia hit man gunned the commissioner down as pay-back for a bungled marijuana deal.

It is difficult to imagine what this process has cost the public purse.  The investigation and court case alone lasted around five years. Since then his cause has re-emerged time and again, driven by a handful of well-meaning but more possibly misguided supporters.

Postscript: To obtain further insights read Justice Michael Adams sues over evidence claim (The Australian 7 June 2013). Justice Adam’s claim has not been reported in the Fairfax media.

Please login to post your comments
25 Responses to David Eastman: guilty until proven innocent
#1
Kim F2:22 pm, 28 May 14

That’s is a good summary. Wasn’t there also a witness saying they saw someone matching Eastman’s description buying the weapon?

#2
dungfungus3:55 pm, 28 May 14

“gunned down” is not accurate but if it sells a story, why not?.
The victim was sitting in the driver’s seat of his parked, private plated police car, actually.
(for the benefit of Fairfax readers who were not born when it happened)

#3
bundah4:43 pm, 28 May 14

dungfungus said :

“gunned down” is not accurate but if it sells a story, why not?.
The victim was sitting in the driver’s seat of his parked, private plated police car, actually.
(for the benefit of Fairfax readers who were not born when it happened)

Well strictly speaking he was assassinated by Eastman or for those who believe in the conspiracy theories the ‘ndrangheta.

#4
dungfungus6:00 pm, 28 May 14

bundah said :

dungfungus said :

“gunned down” is not accurate but if it sells a story, why not?.
The victim was sitting in the driver’s seat of his parked, private plated police car, actually.
(for the benefit of Fairfax readers who were not born when it happened)

Well strictly speaking he was assassinated by Eastman or for those who believe in the conspiracy theories the ‘ndrangheta.

If it was Eastman it would be “assassination” but if was the ‘ndrangheta it would be “whacked”.
Whatever it was, he wasn’t “gunned down”.

#5
banco6:14 pm, 28 May 14

Interesting how pathetically desperate the DPP was to stop the inquiry from proceeding.

#6
kean van choc7:08 pm, 28 May 14

dungfungus said :

“gunned down” is not accurate but if it sells a story, why not?.
The victim was sitting in the driver’s seat of his parked, private plated police car, actually.
(for the benefit of Fairfax readers who were not born when it happened)

‘Gunned down’ is perfectly acceptable in this context. It simply means to shoot and injure or kill.

#7
Lookout Smithers9:30 pm, 28 May 14

I hadn’t actually taken to much interest in reading the Eastman case while living in Canberra. After my experience with the AFP I read to no surprise that there was a looooooong period between the crime and charges laid. Years in fact. Those stubborn theories that just make to much sense eh. Now the scientific evidence has been discredited, all that is left is a circumstantial case. But if you take into consideration that one does move around over time, (years), then being sighted at a particular time and place isn’t really circumstantial because where else would you expect someone to be? Again, Im not privy to everything and by no means any kind of expert, faaaaaar from it. Just reading what is available, combined with personal experience lures one directly to the side of an Injustice. No question.

#8
cranky8:08 pm, 29 May 14

Would love to be a fly on the wall when Clack and Waterford sat down for a couple of beers.

I don’t believe Eastman is guilty.

#9
JessP10:37 am, 30 May 14

banco said :

Interesting how pathetically desperate the DPP was to stop the inquiry from proceeding.

That may well be because they did not want to again waste more time and resources on this case.

#10
Affirmative Action M4:23 pm, 30 May 14

JessP said :

banco said :

Interesting how pathetically desperate the DPP was to stop the inquiry from proceeding.

That may well be because they did not want to again waste more time and resources on this case.

That’s just ridiculous. In a fair system it is absurd that the DPP which had a vested interest in the whole process is able to appeal to close down an inquiry. Can you imagine police re investigating a case because new evidence has come to light and a defence lawyer appealing to close down their inquiries because they might be prejudicial against his client

#11
Masquara6:02 pm, 30 May 14

So will they give the poor bugger his guvvie flat back? What a frigging travesty. Compo time. Thanks for exposing us to a multimillion dollar payment to this guy, ACT Government, police and judiciary!

#12
cranky6:18 pm, 30 May 14
#13
Madmax6:22 pm, 30 May 14

Breaking news. Inquiry into Eastmans conviction is a substantial miscarriage of justice. He did not recieve a fair trial.

#14
dungfungus8:04 pm, 30 May 14

Now that the inquiry has deliberated that Eastman’s conviction should be quashed it seems incredible that Justice Martin has been reported (ABC 7.30) that he believes Eastman is still guilty.
There would appear to be no chance of a re-trial due to the apparent prejudgudical nature of such a declaration.

#15
Smithers10:01 pm, 30 May 14

JessP said :

banco said :

Interesting how pathetically desperate the DPP was to stop the inquiry from proceeding.

That may well be because they did not want to again waste more time and resources on this case.

Yes it maybe the reason. Or it could be because they didn’t want anything about them covering up that they didn’t conduct themselves professionally in not releasing to the defence, things which they were required to. These are two reasons we have theorised. But then the DPP worrying about the public purse doesn’t really make sense because that isn’t really up to them. Is it. Nooooooo.
More seriously though, the way in which the investigation was carried out. So shocking. How many other cases have been conducted in this fashion? That is perhaps a question needing consideration. Particularly where there are serious crimes cases that remain unsolved. There is more than enough taxes to go round in Canberra city. Its pretty important we know how public servants conduct themselves when it comes to things like wrongful convictions etc. And we owe it to victims, all victims, to make sure ethical issues and conduct are rock solid always so that in the event of inquiries like these, it has been taken out of the equation already. One wouldn’t want a guilty person getting off on such a bulls$#t reason. Just as we wouldn’t like to have innocent people wrongly convicted by a bulls$#t reason. Its not up to dips hit cops and others to just take short cuts because of their opinions if someone is guilty or not. The end does NOT justify the means. Everyone here has rights. And what is the point of having a right if you cannot exercise that right? Im sure you are already asleep. Cheers.

#16
banco10:11 pm, 30 May 14

Great to see the AFP failed to get the report suppressed.

#17
dungfungus8:51 am, 31 May 14

Masquara said :

So will they give the poor bugger his guvvie flat back? What a frigging travesty. Compo time. Thanks for exposing us to a multimillion dollar payment to this guy, ACT Government, police and judiciary!

If he gets a multi million dollar compo payment he won’t qualify for a guvvie or probably an old age pension. Then there will be the book royalties, countless interviews on ABC etc.

#18
dungfungus8:52 am, 31 May 14

kean van choc said :

dungfungus said :

“gunned down” is not accurate but if it sells a story, why not?.
The victim was sitting in the driver’s seat of his parked, private plated police car, actually.
(for the benefit of Fairfax readers who were not born when it happened)

‘Gunned down’ is perfectly acceptable in this context. It simply means to shoot and injure or kill.

I suppose we can now say his conviction has been “shot down”?

#19
HiddenDragon12:07 pm, 31 May 14

By a terrible coincidence, this crime was committed shortly before the beginning of self-government in the ACT – as time rolls on, the “Eastman Case” seems to be grimly emblematic, and perhaps symptomatic, of the worst features of the period of self-government.

#20
Roundhead893:01 pm, 31 May 14

HiddenDragon said :

By a terrible coincidence, this crime was committed shortly before the beginning of self-government in the ACT – as time rolls on, the “Eastman Case” seems to be grimly emblematic, and perhaps symptomatic, of the worst features of the period of self-government.

It was a very strange and confusing period for everybody. The people of the ACT were told by decree that self government was coming in despite the No vote in a referendum and two plebescites, and the election campaign was underway with Canberra being the butt of national ridicule thanks to the Sun Ripened Warm Tomato Party and the No Self Government Party. More significantly the AFP was also in disarray as no arrangements as to how the ACT would be policed under self-government had been made. One minute a separate ACT Police would be formed, the next minute the AFP would remain intact. There was also disquiet within the ACT Force about answering to two ministers – one federal, one ACT – if the AFP was to remain intact after self government. Overlayed onto all this was the biggest murder investigation the AFP had ever undertaken, with the accusation over the next few years that too many resources were being put into the murder while policing the ACT was being neglected. It is a period many of us who lived through would never like to see again.

#21
portal0001@lycos.com6:01 pm, 22 Aug 14

22.8.2014 It is interesting that many of the officials, e.g. a victims of crime spokesman, and police union spokesman, have been trotting out the usual nonsense, such as how upsetting this is for the WInchester family.

How wonderful to see what Humphries says on the net. I had assumed that he was like one of the other establishment stooges, but this is what he said recently (clipped from the net). Humphries was the ACT attorney general when Eastman went down in 1995.

GARY HUMPHRIES: It reflects very badly both on the police and on the judicial system. I mean, we’ve all heard of the Chamberlain case and various other miscarriages of justice, but the idea that a man has been rotting in jail for 19 years when there is no satisfactory proof of his guilt ought to cause a lot of concern I would think.

#22
dungfungus8:41 am, 23 Aug 14

dungfungus said :

kean van choc said :

dungfungus said :

“gunned down” is not accurate but if it sells a story, why not?.
The victim was sitting in the driver’s seat of his parked, private plated police car, actually.
(for the benefit of Fairfax readers who were not born when it happened)

‘Gunned down’ is perfectly acceptable in this context. It simply means to shoot and injure or kill.

I suppose we can now say his conviction has been “shot down”?

I note the ABC news today is still insisting the victim was “gunned down”. It is simply wrong to say this, especially as there is a possibility of a re-trial.

#23
portal0001@lycos.com3:05 pm, 23 Aug 14

I am a little concerned that some people are saying how distressing for the Winchester family that the matter is being looked again. I feel that such comments are spin-doctored. For what ulterior motive?

#24
astrojax3:05 pm, 23 Aug 14

so, if there’s no retrial, will the investigation be reopened on the premise that it might not have been eastman who gunned down the assistant commissioner?

#25
portal0001@lycos.com3:16 pm, 23 Aug 14

How wonderful to see what Humphries says on the net. I had seen him talking on the news yesterday but did not hear the sound.

This is what he said recently (clipped from the net). Humphries was the ACT attorney general when Eastman went down in 1995.

GARY HUMPHRIES: It reflects very badly both on the police and on the judicial system. I mean, we’ve all heard of the Chamberlain case and various other miscarriages of justice, but the idea that a man has been rotting in jail for 19 years when there is no satisfactory proof of his guilt ought to cause a lot of concern I would think.

I don’t think I am quoting Humphries out of context, in posting the above. I think Humphries is a hero for speaking up – he could easily have given a more equivocal statement which meant he would attract less flak for his comment.

Follow
Follow The RiotACT
Get Premium Membership
Advertisement
The-RiotACT.com Newsletter Sign Up

Images of Canberra

Advertisement
Sponsors
RiotACT Proudly Supports
Advertisement
Copyright © 2014 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.