Jill Meagher murder trial to begin in September
THE trial of the man accused of the rape and murder of Irish woman Jill Meagher will start a week after the first anniversary of her death.
In the Supreme Court of Victoria today a judge set a trial date of September 30 after a prosecution request to avoid the aniversary and Jill's birthday.
Justice Geoff Nettle said it was in the interests of justice and the community that the trial be held as quickly as possible.
Jill, from Drogheda, was last seen walking home from an inner city bar in Melbourne in the early hours of September 22 last year.
Her body was found in a shallow roadside grave at Gisborne South, 50km north west of Melbourne six days later.
Justice Nettle heard a major issue in the trial of Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41, will be whether he intended to kill her.
Defence barrister Saul Holt SC told the Court that accused Bayley had not changed his intention to plead guilty to one charge of raping Jill but not guilty to a count of murder and two further counts of rape.
Justice Nettle asked "it is a question of intent?" as to what was in Bayley's mind when he dragged Jill into a laneway.
"That is correct," Mr Holt replied.
Bayley, 41, from the Melbourne suburb of Coburg, made his first appearance in the Supreme Court following a decision of a magistrate two weeks ago to commit him for trial.
Bayley was not in court for the procedural hearing but appeared by video link to the Melbourne Assessment Prison.
Wearing a dark coloured shirt Bayley stared straight ahead, occasionally dropping his head as the barristers discussed how the trial will be run.
At the committal hearing prosecutor Gavin Silbert SC said that after he was arrested Bayley confessed to police that he raped and strangled Jill and then buried her.
Justice Nettle asked Mr Holt today if there had been any discussions between defence and prosecution about resolving a plea prior to a trial.
Mr Holt said he had only been Bayley's lawyer for a few days and hinted there was a chance of a resolution of the case.
"At the moment I'm giving advice and taking instructions" Mr Holt said.
Mr Silbert told the court the prosecution wishes to introduce evidence that might be controversial in the trial and it would require the judge to decide if it could go before a jury.
Justice Nettle said the parties can argue the point at a special hearing on April 29.
Mr Silbert said the prosecution intends to call 20 to 25 witnesses with the evidence of a pathologist being pre-recorded.
Documents released by the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after Bayley was committed to stand trial revealed he warned his girlfriend about walking alone at night.
In a police witness statement the woman said she and Bayley discussed Jill’s disappearance after watching a report on the TV news.
They talked about the fact that Hope St, where Jill was last seen, was close to their home.
“He goes, that's why I'm saying this place is not safe,” she said.
“Like because the gym is just not far from our place so sometimes I don't mind walking to the gym, but he goes don't walk alone at night, go to the gym or anything like that. No don't walk to the gym.
So just, he goes because you have to be safe and all that you know”
Bayley's girlfriend also revealed to police that she had found Jill’s broken mobile phone Sim card in a washing basket.
The witness statements of friends and releatives, which are not covered by any suppression orders, also revealed that Jill said she wanted to start a family.
They revealed that Jill and husband Tom had a short separation but they quickly got back together and at the time of her death they had never been happier.
"After this incident Gillian had told me that this short separation was the best thing that happened and they were getting along better than ever," Mr McKeon said in his statement.
"They were even talking about buying a house and having kids."
Tom and Jill met while they were studying at Dublin's University College and married in Ireland in July 2008.
They had visited Melbourne for a holiday and moved permenantly in 2009.
Jill had lived in Australia for a number of years as a child and had Australian citizenship.
In his police interview Bayley said he hoped the death penalty would be re-introduced before he was sentenced.
Bayley admitted he raped and strangled Jill and said he couldn’t face the prospect of 20 to 25 years in jail.
“I have no life left,” Bayley told homicide detectives. “I’m 41 years old. It’s no life man.
“I hope they bring back the death penalty before I get sentenced.