David Eastman has been found not guilty of the 1989 murder of Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Colin Winchester, despite spending 19 years behind bars accused of the horrendous crime.
According to multiple reports, a jury in the ACT Supreme Court ruled in Eastman’s favour, marking the end of a six-month trial and a week of deliberations. He was reportedly seen uttering the words “thank you” as he left the room.
Winchester was shot twice as he parked on the driveway next to his Canberra home on January 10, 1989. Former Treasury official Eastman, 73, was later charged with the murder in 1993 – something he denied from the very start.
Despite his not guilty plea, he was sentenced to life in jail in 1995.
In a dramatic U-turn, the conviction was quashed in a 2014 inquiry that found flaws in the original forensic evidence. A second trial was ordered at the time, and Eastman has been in limbo ever since – with this latest trial beginning in July this year.
Winchester’s family have now slammed the verdict, claiming there is compelling evidence still against Eastman.
“We believe the verdict is wrong and we are extremely disappointed given the significant volume of compelling evidence,” the family said, according to the Australian.
Spokesman for the family, John Hinchey, insisted the Australian Federal Police would agree with them and feel pain at the result.
“They would be heartbroken, I would believe, and grief stricken, again. It is another day of mourning for the AFP and the Winchesters,” he told reporters outside court.
Prosecutors argued that there were “too many coincidences” for anyone else to have been the killer, the ABC reports. They also claimed he had a motive, having blamed Winchester for refusing to help him out of career-damaging assault charges.
Part of the prosecution’s argument included tapes that were recorded in Eastman’s flat, which appeared to show him whispering to himself: “He was the first man, the first man I ever killed.”
However, the defence dismissed the claims and insisted in court the killing was a mafia hit. The defence team also claimed the tapes were too poor quality to be used as evidence.