In 2004, police re-investigating Helen and Stephen’s deaths unearthed some mini-cassette tapes from a police storage unit. From a recording on one of these, they became convinced that they had proof that Jeff hated his family. A copy of the recording was provided to Jeff only weeks before his trial. Jeff NEEDS Justice obtained this in 2010. Not only is there no evidence that directly links the tape to Jeff, the voice on the recording doesn’t even sound like him.
Mini Cassette Tapes
One of the pieces of so-called ‘new’ evidence that led to Jeff being charged with murder was a recording found on one of three mini-cassette tapes. The tapes, along with Christopher Gilham’s student diary, were found in a police storeroom more than a decade after the murders. There is no record that the cassette tapes were collected as part of the Gilham investigation and the police officers who were involved in the Gilham investigation in 1993 have stated that they do not recall these items.
One tape contained, among other things, a recording of a student’s review of T.A.G. Hungerford’s book Stories from Suburban Road. We have never been told what was contained on the other tapes.
The recording of the book review sounds like a typical teenage boy talking about family interactions, likening the characters in the book to his own situation and expressing a view that his older brother is the favourite.
It was clear that the police reinvestigating the matter in 2004 felt that somehow this recording was a breakthrough. Reporting in The Good Weekend by Shelley Gare in her article “In Cold Blood” (April 2009) provides us with this insight into the significance these tapes for the Police:
In early 2004, Detective Inspector Hans Rupp from NSW Homicide was given the task of finding new evidence. But even then, in spite of almost two years of rigorous sleuthing, not too much new was turned up… Rupp, who wore a Canadian Mounties pin to court, joking, “We always get our man”…found three micro-cassette tapes…The tapes were ruled inadmissible because they had been recorded five years before the deaths, but they made a big impact on Rupp, who says with sureness, “This was a hate crime, a very passionate crime, Jeffrey hated his family.”
The recording was considered critical ‘new evidence’ by the Police which in part led to charges being laid against Jeff. It was particularly important because from all accounts Jeff had a very close and happy relationship with both his parents, particularly his Dad. Christopher, on the other hand, had been in open conflict with his parents in the months before the tragedy. This remains a serious inconsistency as the Police argued that Jeff killed his parents.
Police duty books show that a voice recognition expert was contacted as part of their investigation. The Police have not disclosed whether or not they obtained an expert opinion about the recording. We look forward to a time when the Police choose to disclose the findings of their expert on this issue.
Ultimately the evidence the Police put forward was from a police officer untrained in voice recognition, making a comparison of the recording with Jeff’s record of interview.
Jeff NEEDS Justice Discovery
In April 2010, nearly two years after the trial, the Jeff NEEDS Justice team finally received copies of the recording and listened to it for the first time. The group that listened included people who had grown up with Jeff and who knew his voice well. The voice on the tape sounded nothing like Jeff Gilham. There is also a second male voice on the tape, who identifies himself by name as a road safety engineer and has recorded himself composing a letter on road safety. The team located and contacted this man, who has confirmed that it is indeed his voice. This engineer was not a friend or acquaintance of the Gilham family. The Police do not appear to have made any effort to confirm the identity of the second voice as being this man.
The Board of Studies records indicate that the book mentioned in the recording was on the reading list in NSW for the High School Certificate in both 1986 and 1987 for 2 Unit General English. The reading list however, allows for selection of texts by individual schools, therefore not every book on the reading list was studied compulsorily by all students in NSW.
While Christopher and Jeff completed the HSC in 1986 and 1987 respectively, Jeff has no memory of ever reading this book, or making a recording of a book review on tape. Additionally, other people who went to school with Jeff, and who were in the same English class, also have no memory of reading this book or having to complete such an assignment.
- There is no record of the tapes being found during the initial investigation in 1993, which suggests that the tape may not come from the Gilham household.
- The existence of a second voice on the tape indicates that this tape belonged to a particular road and vehicle safety engineer, who has had no known contact with the Gilham family.
- Jeff’s friends and family do not recognise the book reviewer’s voice as that of Jeff.
- The police say there were three tapes, but have discarded the other two. The content of the other two tapes may have given more information about the identity of the owner.
- This ‘new’ evidence was clearly not investigated properly by Police.
- It seems that the Police withheld giving copies of the audio recordings to the defence until just weeks before Jeff’s trial so he had no time to analyse or respond to the recordings.