In the second trial the Crown said that Jeff had attempted to dissuade a firefighter from entering the house to slow the fire fighting effort and ensure that incriminating evidence would be destroyed by the fire. The Crown did not address this in the first trial and gave no indication that they intended to rely upon this before their closing address in the second. As a result, the defence had no opportunity to adduce relevant evidence from witnesses, who had all been discharged by the time the Crown raised the issue.
Jeff NEEDS Justice Findings
The first firefighter to arrive at the scene with breathing apparatus was with the second fire crew. He made his first written statement in 2005 and gave evidence at trial that Jeff shouted a warning to him as he was preparing to enter the house. At trial he reported Jeff as saying:
“Don’t go down there, somebody’s got a knife“ (T2 273.25)
This evidence was substantially different from the statements of other witnesses from 1993. In fact, some of these made the point that out on the street, Jeff was incoherent.
The 1993 statements of a further two firefighters attending the scene identify two of the neighbours as being the people trying to warn the firefighters:
“…we were alerted by two male civilians who were extremely agitated and stating ‘that people have been killed and he’s waiting down there with a knife and will stab anyone who goes down there’…..” (1993 statement), and;
“On arrival two neighbours on footpath tell us that there is a man with a knife and he has killed people. They tell us that he is waiting down at the house and that he has a knife and is going to kill anyone who attempts to go down to the house.” (1993 statement)
In an interview with 60 Minutes in 1997, one of the neighbours on the scene describes himself as in a state of panic at the time, and how he had thought that there was ‘someone down there’.
- The words attributed to Jeff for the first time in 2005 were actually a panicked warning to firefighters by neighbours who attended the scene.
- The Crown did not identify that they intended to rely on this evidence, which meant that the defence had no opportunity to call witnesses with evidence to counter this. As a result, the jury was misled significantly on this point.