True Crime podcast gets cold case reopened
THE Attorney-General has ordered a new inquest into the suspected murder of scientist Jeffrey Brooks after compelling new evidence was uncovered by a Courier-Mail podcast investigation.
Making legal history, Yvette D'Ath has ordered the case be brought before the coroner's court based solely on new information uncovered by journalists.
A seven-part podcast series titled Dead Wrong, released earlier this year, re-examined the 1996 shooting death of the 24-year-old at a crayfish farm on the outskirts of Brisbane.
Jeffrey, an aquaculturist, was found dead in a vehicle beside one of the farm's ponds, a shotgun wound to his chest.
Police, within minutes of arriving, determined the popular young newlywed shot himself by accident while pulling a loaded gun from the car towards his body.
But an investigation by The Courier-Mail journalists - which included the commissioning of ballistic tests, consultation with international forensic experts and tracking down and interviewing key witnesses - shed grave doubt on the police determination.
Ms D'Ath said that after legal advice, she had directed the state coroner to reopen the inquest.
"My decision to reopen the coronial inquiry is based on new credible and independent evidence that was not available during the 1998 inquest into Mr Brooks' death,'' she said.
"This new evidence would not have come to light without the determination of Mr Brooks' parents and solid investigative journalism.''
In a letter to high profile Queensland solicitor Peter Boyce - who petitioned the Attorney-General on behalf of the Brooks family - she wrote: " Your clients will now have the opportunity to adduce the further evidence and information they have obtained concerning their son's death, for consideration by a coroner."
Jeffrey's parents, Lawrie and Wendy Brooks, last night said they had always believed their son's shooting could not have been an accident and welcomed the new development.
"Justice has never been done," Mrs Brooks said.
"We have been denied justice the whole way through. And Jeffrey deserves better.
"Now it's time to uncover the truth and right the wrong."
The Courier-Mail investigation also uncovered a raft of evidence that Jeffrey was in fear for his life in the weeks and months leading up to his death.
He had been given a six-month contract at the farm to examine why it was losing so much money but soon uncovered evidence of large-scale cash sales of crayfish.
Jeffrey told friends and family he had been threatened and that he feared he would be shot and his death made to look like an accident.
He told a friend he believed a "warning shot" had been fired in his direction as he worked by a pond and even asked his brother to lend him a gun "for protection".
Prominent US forensic pathologist Dr Judy Melinek reviewed the case for the newspaper, and found the angle of shot proposed by police did not fit the evidence on the body.
And a major insurance investigation, commissioned and accepted by WorkCover, concluded the death was "not an accident'' and police had made a series of basic errors.
Three sets of range-of-shot ballistics tests, including one commissioned by The Courier-Mail with a leading firm that works with the Australian Defence Force, concluded that the 3cm wound on Jeffrey could only be replicated from 1.1m to 1.25m - well beyond his reach of 65cm.
The newspaper also tracked down top cop turned private investigator Warren Smithers who, while working for the farm owners, uncovered large scale unauthorised sales of crayfish at the property.
Mr and Mrs Brooks said their family had been "in great pain'' since the loss of Jeffrey almost 23 years ago.
"We have tried to get on with our lives, pick up the pieces, but it has been impossible with this thundercloud hanging over us," Mrs Brooks said.
"We have been sustained by our faith and the desire to see justice prevail."
The couple said they had been overwhelmed by the hard work, dogged determination and professionalism of The Courier-Mail and its journalists who had given the voiceless a voice.
They said the response from the public to the Dead Wrong podcast series had been overwhelming.
They said they were also blessed to have the support and expertise of Mr Boyce, the same lawyer who assisted Bruce and Denise Morcombe for many years.
Jeffrey's death will also be the subject of this week's Sunday Night program on Channel 7, with reporter Denham Hitchcock examining the case for the entirety of the hour-long program.