By Jamelle Wells
Former chauffer Gordon Wood is suing the state of New South Wales for malicious prosecution after he was acquitted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Sydney model Caroline Byrne 22 years ago.
This is a timeline of events.
Caroline Byrne’s body found
June 8, 1995
Ms Byrne’s body is found at the base of The Gap — a notorious suicide spot at Watsons Bay in Sydney’s east.
Suicide ruled out
May 29, 1996
Detectives renew their investigations into the 24-year-old’s death after the NSW Coroner says he is not satisfied it was suicide.
Coroner makes open finding into death
February 11, 1998
Coroner John Abernethy makes an open finding, saying, although there is not enough evidence to find Ms Byrne committed suicide, he suspects “a known person was involved in the death”.
Infamous TV interview
Channel 7 airs what would become an infamous paid interview where at the end, while the cameras are still rolling, Mr Wood asks reporter Paul Barry: “So do you think I did it?”
The interview was not played at Mr Wood’s trial because of fears it would be prejudicial.
Oct 22, 1998
The inquiry into Ms Byrne’s death is officially reopened.
New investigation completed
March 9, 2004
Police complete a five-year investigation into Ms Byrne’s death and send a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Rene Rivkin death
May 1, 2005
Mr Wood’s employer, stockbroker Rene Rivkin, 66, takes his own life in his mother’s Sydney unit.
Wood extradited from UK
April 4, 2006
Weeks after the DPP agree there is enough evidence to charge Mr Wood with murder, he is extradited from London where he had gone to live after the inquest. He arrives in Sydney on May 3.
Wood on bail after murder charge
May 4, 2006
Mr Wood appears in Sydney’s Central Local Court and is granted bail after being charged with murder.
He is committed to stand trial on July 6.
First trial begins
July 28, 2008
Mr Wood’s murder trial begins in the historic NSW Supreme Court building at Darlinghurst.
The Crown would argue Mr Wood killed his girlfriend because she knew too much about the business dealings of his boss, Mr Rivkin.
The jurors also hear there were rumours Mr Wood was having an affair with Mr Rivkin, but friends of Mr Wood reject the claim.
August 6, 2008
The trial is aborted after “misconduct” by jurors who planned a trip to The Gap where Ms Byrne’s body was found to conduct their own inquiries.
Second trial begins
August 25, 2008
The jury of 15 members is empanelled for Mr Wood’s new trial.
The Crown would argue the 45-year-old threw the model to her death, but the defence says she was at high risk of suicide.
The jury retires to consider its verdict on November 13. A ballot reduces their number to 12.
Wood found guilty
November 21, 2008
The jury reaches a unanimous guilty verdict.
As the verdict is read out, Mr Wood sits quietly and takes a sip of water.
Ms Byrne’s father Tony and her younger sister Deanna hug and cry in the court.
“I’ll never forget the foreman when he said guilty,” Mr Byrne says.
“It was wonderful to be there surrounded by the Irondale detectives. They were with us all the time. A remarkable group of people.”
Wood wins appeal
February 23, 2012
In the Criminal Court of Appeal, three judges are unanimous in finding insufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Wood killed Ms Byrne.
He walks free form Goulburn jail after serving three and a half years of a minimum 13-year sentence.
A three-judge panel handed down its decision in Sydney six months after the appeal was heard.
Mr Wood always maintained his innocence and said Ms Byrne committed suicide.
The appeal court found suicide could not be ruled out as the cause of her death.
“I don’t think anybody can really appreciate what it would be like to be an innocent person and have your freedom taken away from you with no hope, or very little hope,” Mr Wood’s sister Jacqueline Schmidt says.
February 20, 2017
Mr Wood’s malicious prosecution civil case against the state of NSW begins before Justice Elizabeth Fullerton.
He is suing for millions of dollars plus costs for malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment, based on a number of grounds including a “hopelessly corrupted” and “ridiculous” police case against him.
The claim alleges the case was fuelled by Ms Byrne’s jealous ex-boyfriend Andrew Blanchette, who was a police officer at the time.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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