A2. The murder

Late one night in 2005, an elderly man was found at his home in Sydney, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds. He died next day, and a murder investigation was opened.

After some time, suspicion fell on the man’s grandson.

the prisoner and the murdered grandfather
The father and the murdered grandfather, as pictured in the press at the time

Spoiler alert: if you want to listen to the audio in this case unprimed, you need to start at the beginning (it only takes a sec and makes a big difference to your experience!).

Following investigations lasting several months, the grandson was arrested and charged with murder. He eventually confessed, stood trial and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. That’s not the case we are discussing here.

Covert listening device

Before the grandson’s arrest, police planted covert listening devices in the family home, where he lived with family members including his father (son of the deceased). Many hours of conversation were recorded.

Police alleged one of these conversations supported their case that the father was an accessory before the fact i.e. though the son had pulled the trigger, the father had master-minded the crime. In legal terms, the murder was a ‘joint criminal enterprise’. That’s the case we are discussing here.

They pointed in particular to the words spoken by the father, and captured in the covert recording,  ‘at the start we made a pact’, which they interpreted as referring to a pact to commit murder.

Here is the audio again. Now you know the phrase the detective heard (at the start we made a pact), you might be able to pick it out. If you can, note down the time at which it occurs.

Are you feeling ‘I can almost hear this conversation. With a little bit of help I’m sure I could make it out’? That’s the feeling that makes listeners so susceptible to being ‘helped’ by inaccurate transcripts, or ineffective ‘enhancing’. Intrigued? You might like to look into Learn More when you have finished with the Case Study.

Different interpretations

The father admitted to being an accessory after the fact.

That means he admitted his son had confessed to him after the murder, but that he (the father) had not informed police, thus helping his son escape justice. Being an accessory after the fact is a crime, but not nearly as bad a crime as being an accessory before the fact.

Crucially, the father denied any prior knowledge of the murder, and any involvement in its planning.

He claimed the recording showed him advising his son to hand himself in to police, but reiterating an earlier agreement to stand by him no matter what he decided.

Prosecution were unimpressed by story, and pursued their charge that the father had masterminded the crime, encouraging his son do the dirty work at a time when he (the father) had an alibi.

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