23 September 2019

Eastman found not guilty of Winchester murder in retrial

| Ian Bushnell
Start the conversation
David Harold Eastman pictured leaving court yesterday. Photo: George Tsotsos.

David Harold Eastman pictured leaving court on 20 November. Photo: George Tsotsos.

David Harold Eastman has been found not guilty by an ACT Supreme Court jury of the 1989 shooting murder of Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester.

The jury had been deliberating on a verdict since last Wednesday (14 November) in an almost six-month trial. It is the second time the 73-year-old former Canberra public servant has been tried for the killing of Mr Winchester, who was shot with a Ruger .22 rifle fitted with a silencer as he got out of his car in a neighbour’s driveway in Deakin.

Acting Justice Murray Kellam thanked the jury for their dedication and discharged Eastman without further ado.

In a statement released to the media, The Winchester family expressed their disappointment with the outcome.

“We believe the verdict is wrong and we are extremely disappointed given the significant volume of compelling evidence.

“We acknowledge the DPP and the AFP for their professionalism and determination, in particular Ric Ninness and his team.”

A representative of the Winchester family said he believes the family has experienced significant hardships throughout this trial.

“[30 years] is a long time to carry not only grief but two trials, a full commission of inquiry, an appeal to the Federal Court and an appeal to the High Court. They’ve been through hell and back, I’d imagine.”

He also acknowledged that this might be a difficult time for the AFP.

“[The AFP] has stood side-by-side with the Winchester family. They have been loyal supporters as a group of people and as a profession. They would be heart-broken, I believe, and grief-stricken again. It’s another day of mourning for the AFP and the Winchesters,” he said.

Eastman had originally been found guilty of the murder in 1995 after a lengthy police investigation that included the bugging of his flat, and a difficult trial marked by the accused’s erratic behaviour. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester. Photo: Supplied.

Slain Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester. Photo: Supplied.

But a dogged Eastman had always maintained his innocence and after years of appeals, a 2014 inquiry found there had been a miscarriage of justice.

The Supreme Court quashed the conviction, released Eastman from prison, and ordered a retrial, with Eastman going in vain to the High Court in a bid to stave off being tried again.

The new trial began on 18 June with the prosecution mounting a mainly circumstantial case, arguing that Eastman killed Mr Winchester because he would not help have assault charges dropped, threatening Eastman’s chances of rejoining the public service.

The court was told Eastman had made threats against police and had also been searching for a gun to buy.

The murder weapon was never found but police said it had been bought from a Queanbeyan gun dealer, who could not identify Eastman as the buyer, although witnesses suggested Eastman had been at the dealer’s house.

A blue car similar to Eastman’s had also been seen near Mr Winchester’s home in Deakin days before the murder.

Eastman’s defence rejected the alleged motive, cast doubts on the police tapes from the bugging operation, witness statements and proffered an alternative scenario that the murder was a Mafia hit related to Mr Winchester’s investigations into drug crops outside of Canberra.

The police said a hitman would hardly buy a gun from a dealer in Queanbeyan.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on the RiotACT.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.