Threats allegedly issued by David Eastman before the murder of assistant Australian Federal Police commissioner Colin Winchester were simply words of frustration, according to Mr Eastman’s defence team.
On day three of the trial of Mr Eastman over 1989 shooting, the jury has also been urged not to rule out alternative theories about who may have killed Mr Winchester, with defence lawyer George Georgiou questioning the prosecution’s dismissal of possible Mafia involvement.
“In this case there is evidence that points to a reasonable possibility that Mr Winchester was killed by someone who was associated with or involved with or recruited by the Mafia,” Mr Georgiou said.
He opened his case by reminding the jury Mr Eastman has pleaded not guilty.
Mr Georgiou told the jury he would refute the prosecution’s claim about a motive driven by Mr Eastman’s fear that pending assault charges would end his efforts to re-enter the public service.
He said there was no foundation in fears that the charges, which had not been heard in court, might stop his return to work in the public service.
“By the time of the murder, he had been declared fit to work, albeit with conditions,” Mr Georgiou said.
Alleged motive called into question
He conceded Mr Eastman did feel a strong sense of grievance over the charges, which related to an alleged assault against a neighbour, but said that did not indicate a murderous intent.
“Would the prospect of a minor charge provide him with a motive to kill?” he said.
“How would it be that the killing of Mr Winchester would make the charges go away?
“Of course it would not.
“We submit none of those matters provide motive.”
He also addressed threats said to have been made by Mr Eastman, including a letter where his client said he wanted to “kill … the bastard police”, saying the comments must be seen in context.
“To say it shows Eastman had an intention to kill is in dispute,” he said.
“These are simply expressions of frustration and it is in issue that he meant anything more by them.”
Threats and gun purchase to be challenged by defence
Mr Georgiou told the jury he would challenge some of the key evidence put forward by the prosecution, including that Mr Eastman told his solicitor he wanted to kill Mr Winchester and the ombudsman; that he had bought the gun identified as being used in the crime; and that he had tried to sell that gun before the killing.
The prosecution has signalled it will also rely on covert recordings, in which it said Mr Eastman made confessions.
Mr Georgiou told the jury the evidence must be approached with caution.
“The audio, we submit, is indistinct and contains whispered murmurings … the potential for error is high, when it comes to interpreting what’s in those tapes,” he said.
“You will hear that surveillance crossed the line and became harassment of Mr Eastman.”
The jury has already been told Mr Eastman was convicted of the crime, but is being retried because of flaws in the evidence.
The trial has now begun hearing the initial evidence about Mr Eastman’s public service career.