Cold Case Review Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts focusing on cold case investigations where there is no justice for the victims or their families.   There are many unsolved murder cases in Australia and many questionable convictions.  In most cases police revisit the files at different times, hoping to find new leads but in some cases where there is no new information – the case is closed and filed away in the too hard basket. Meanwhile the families of the victims are left wondering what happened to their loved ones and the perpetrators are carrying on living their lives.

My name is Robyn Cottman, I’m and ex police officer now private investigator in Perth Western Australia with a passion for solving crimes and getting justice.  I tend to get hired to investigate the difficult cases where either police or the system have failed or there is an injustice.  Probably as I am so passionate for finding the truth and getting answers. Stacey’s family have engaged my services to help find out what really happened and who was involved in Stacey’s murder. They want answers. The family want to know who killed Stacey.

Stacey Thorne

This series of posts will focus on some of the investigation strategies into trying to solve Stacey’s murder.  I will go through the ‘story’ behind the case and discuss the investigation process as well as the evidence at hand and being uncovered in the process.

The first post is based on the background behind the investigation into the murder of Stacey Thorne.  The investigation is ongoing and therefore this blog will be evolving as new evidence emerges. 

Currently I am reviewing thousands of pages of court transcripts, documents and evidence with fresh insights coming to light every day.

The Stacey Thorne murder is a very unique and complex case on so many different levels.

A small country town in country Western Australia, the murder of a pregnant women, a police investigation and an offender jailed. Should be end of the story – justice complete.

But no!

In comes a crack legal defence team after a ‘chance’ meeting at a convention, a world-renowned expert giving evidence on behalf of the accused then throw in the media and a sensational story was born. The media promotion started around the same time the defence were getting ready to lodge another appeal on behalf of the accused. The accused had served 13years of a 25year sentence and previous appeals had been dismissed. This appeal was however very different.

There were significant claims of police planting evidence, add a QC and Attorney General to the mix and the media frenzy went through the roof – before and during the Appeal hearing process – what clever play! There were a number of documentaries and news articles on the credibility of three key pieces of evidence, namely a cigarette packet which was pictured on the back verandah table of the accused’s residence which had traces of Stacey’s DNA in a ‘blood like substance’ on it, a knife located in a paddock between Stacey’s unit and the accused’s house and finally a white Jim Bean can with the accused’s DNA on it located on the road verge near the crime scene.

The media surrounding these three key pieces of evidence was all promoting the allegations by the defence that police had planted the items. If you promote something strongly enough for long enough it often is accepted as the truth. It is what psychologists call “illusory truth effect”: the more you hear something, the easier it is for your brain to process, which makes it feel true, regardless of its basis in fact. We are more likely to believe what we hear than to question it objectively, thanks to yet another psychological principle: confirmation bias.

Apart from a couple of photos taken by forensics investigators there was no other tangible evidence to support the defence claims. The lawyer concerned made startling accusations on national TV, that the evidence “was introduced”.

Screenshot from the Channel 7 Spotlight Documentary “Framed” 2019

Clint Hampson

We then have an overly confident prosecution, and next thing the Appeal court judges deem there was “credible, cogent and plausible evidence that the cigarette packet, knife and can where planted”.

To be continued…..