true crime

Andrew Mallard was jailed for 12 years for a crime he didn't commit. This week, he was left to die.

With AAP.

In 1994, Andrew Mallard stood in his police holding cell, as detectives pored over the details of the apparent murder of local jeweller Pamela Lawrence. Rattled, confused, the Western Australian man repeated the same words over and over to the guards: “I’m innocent. I’m innocent. I didn’t kill that woman. I’m innocent.” Their response was a predictable scoff: “Sure, mate. That’s what they all say.”

Only, this time, it was the truth.

Andrew spent more than a decade repeating that phrase; throughout his trial and conviction for killing the 45-year-old mother, during his sentencing and the 12 years he spent behind bars – “I’m innocent,” he said. “I’m innocent”. But it was only after the tireless work of investigative journalist, Colleen Egan, and barristers John Quigley MLA (the current WA Attorney-General) and Malcolm McCusker QC, that the justice system finally agreed. His murder conviction was quashed by the High Court and he was released in 2006.

But this week, having been free for just a year longer than he was imprisoned, Andrew Mallard was killed.

Los Angeles Police Department on Friday confirmed the 56-year-old had died in a hit-and-run accident on the famous Sunset Boulevard. Andrew, who was in the city visiting his fiancee, was crossing the road when he was struck at around 1:30am Thursday. The LAPD are investigating the crime and have offered a reward of up to $US25,000 ($A35,000) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the driver.

Andrew’s sister, Jacqui Mallard, told The Australian she and her family are “devastated” after learning the news.

“He suffered injustice and spent almost 12 years in prison for something he didn’t do,” she said. “Those years were taken from him and now his life has been taken.”

The murder of Pamela Lawrence.

A storm had struck Perth on the afternoon of May 23, 1994. The sky was dark, branches littered the road, torn down by the strong winds. Katie Kingdon was driving home from university when she decided to stop in at her parent’s jewellery store, Flora Mettalica, in the suburb of Mosman Park. It was after 6pm, but they often worked late.

As Katie crested the hill on Glyde Street, she saw the ambulance.

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“I parked out the front of the shop and went to the doorway,” she told ABC’s Australian Story in 2010. “Dad saw me and sort of blocked the doorway. And with his body language, backed me out of the door so I couldn’t see what was happening in there, and told me that Mum had been attacked. Dad looked like he’d seen a ghost.”

Concerned his wife hadn’t come home more than hour after her scheduled 5pm finish time, Peter Lawrence went to check on her. When he entered the shop, he found her savagely beaten and barely alive.

Pamela died from her severe head wounds while en route to hospital.

Pamela Lawrence. Image: ABC.

Shortly before 5pm, a homeless man named Andrew Mallard arrived at a block of flats in Mosman Park by taxi. He'd been released from police custody an hour earlier, after being arrested and charged with break and enter and theft. Andrew had been crashing on a woman's couch in the area and, in an effort to impress her, broke into her ex-boyfriend's apartment and stole several items.

Having suffered recurrent mental health problems and in the midst of a 'breakdown' at the time, Andrew was admitted to Graylands Psychiatric Hospital after his release. It was during his stay that detectives approached him in relation to Pamela Lawrence's murder. Despite having no history of violence, despite no physical evidence placing him at Flora Mettalica, nor having any blood on his clothing, he was taken in for questioning.

Andrew was considered a suspect largely due to his resemblance to witness' description of a man spotted at the shop around the time of the murder.

The daughter of Pamela's colleague, who happened to have passed Flora Mettalica around 5pm on the day of the murder, reported seeing a strange man standing near the counter. She described him as Caucasian, medium build, with a bandanna on his head and a ginger beard.

"I kept staring, and I felt the moment that he saw me or we made eye contact he bobbed down," the school girl said, according to court documents. "I kept looking for another 30 seconds and he didn't reappear. In those 30 seconds the [traffic] lights changed to green and the car moved off. I didn't see Mrs Lawrence."

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Saving Andrew Mallard from Artemis International on Vimeo.

Andrew went straight from the psychiatric hospital into an interrogation room, where he was questioned for eight hours without a guardian or lawyer, Colleen Egan told the ABC. It was the first in a series of questionable practices employed by the investigating officers.

Police claim Andrew confessed during that interview, though he never signed police notes and video only captured him speculating - in third person - about how the murderer might have killed Pamela: for example, "If Pamela Lawrence was locking the store up, maybe she came in through the back way and the front door was already locked and she left the key in the back door, and that's why he had easy access and that's why she didn't hear him until...," he told police, according to court records.

Andrew was ultimately convicted by a jury and sentenced to 20 years behind bars in December 1995. A 1996 appeal, pointing to the holes in the prosecution's case, was dismissed by the Western Australia Supreme Court. Two years later, his family enlisted the help of Egan who in turn brought Quigley and McCusker on board.

"I did something I hadn't done with a client before."

After reviewing the evidence in 2002, Quigley - then in his first term in state parliament - was convinced of Andrew's innocence. He also uncovered that prosecutors had not disclosed crucial evidence during the trial, including a report that conflicted with their conclusions about the murder weapon. Buoyed by what he'd found, Quigley went to visit Andrew in prison.

"I did something I hadn't done with a client before. I got him to stand up and I hugged him," Quigley told Australian Story. "And I hugged him as hard as I could and I said... 'Now look into my eyes and tell me you understand what I'm saying. I will never leave you no matter how long it takes you, for the rest of your life, I will never leave you."'

Another appeal failed, before the High Court ultimately quashed the conviction in 2005. A review into the investigation followed and new technology matched fingerprint evidence found at the scene to convicted killer, Simon Rochford. Rochford had murdered his girlfriend seven weeks after Pamela was killed, and both women had suffered similar injuries to the head.

Rochford was questioned in Albany Prison, but days later was found dead inside his cell. He'd taken his own life.

A Corruption and Crime Commission investigation recommended disciplinary action against the senior DPP lawyer involved in Andrew's case, as well as two officers, but the latter resigned before they could be stood down. Andrew ultimately received $3.25 million compensation from the Western Australian Government in 2009, and went on to study a fine arts degree at Curtin University.

"I have enormous regrets at how long it took me to realise that Andrew was innocent," Pamela's daughter, Katie, told the ABC in 2010. "I really want people to know that my family believe Andrew's innocent - 100 per cent - and we have nothing but regret for what he's been put through and what his family and his supporters have gone through, and if it wasn't for them, I don't think we'd have ever of known the truth."

Lifeline - 24-hour crisis Support: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue - Depression and anxiety support: 1300 22 46 36

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