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Man free after decade in jail
By Amanda Banks and Alana Buckley-Carr

AFTER spending more than a decade behind bars for the murder of a Perth jeweller, Andrew Mallard last night walked from prison a free man.

The 42-year-old was released from maximum security Casuarina Prison after prosecutors withdrew a murder charge against him yesterday afternoon.

A calm, smiling and relieved Mr Mallard emerged from prison flanked by family and supporters, eager to head home in a limousine ordered for the occasion.

"I just want a good night's sleep, free from officers jeering in the port and keys jangling and all that sort of thing," he said.

"I have been preparing for this for some time - nearly 12 years actually."

Outraged at an assertion in the West Australian Supreme Court that he remained the prime suspect in the 1994 murder of Pamela Lawrence, Mr Mallard's sister Jackie accused police of conducting an inept investigation, claiming evidence was presented three years ago that should have set her brother free.

"The police should now do their job properly, as they should have in the first place, and find out who really did this," she said.

Two appeals failed before Mr Mallard's conviction was quashed by the High Court in November. He was due to face trial later this year, but at a hastily convened sitting of the Supreme Court yesterday, Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock QC withdrew the prosecution.

Lawrence, a 45-year-old mother of two, was found dying in a pool of blood in her jewellery shop in the western suburb of Mosman Park on May 23, 1994.

The High Court ruled Mr Mallard's conviction after a 10-day Supreme Court trial in 1995 was a miscarriage of justice because the prosecution failed to disclose, or had suppressed, important evidence.

Mr Cock said the reason for withdrawing the prosecution related to the admissibility of alleged confessions made by Mr Mallard during several interrogations - including an eight-hour unrecorded interview - in 1994. Mr Cock said because of retrospective 1996 laws at least some of the police interviews should have been recorded on video.

The court was told Mr Mallard - an itinerant suffering bipolar disease - alleged he had been induced to do one of the interviews, was assaulted, verbally intimidated and fed detailed information about the case; allegations denied by police.

Mr Cock said Mr Mallard's alleged confessions were complex and there were other obvious difficulties with the case, including no forensic evidence linking him to the murder. "It does not leave us with a case upon which there is a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction," he said.

He said Mr Mallard remained the prime suspect, promising the prosecution would be pursued if further evidence came to hand.

Deputy Police Commissioner Chris Dawson stood by the investigators. "There is no information which suggests that these officers acted corruptly or maliciously," he said. There were no plans to reopen the investigation.

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`I thought the system was out to get at me'

Innocent victims hit back
By JOHN FLINT - 26feb06

THE year Andrew Mallard was born, John Button was escorted in handcuffs to the hellhole that was Fremantle Jail to begin his stretch for killing his girlfriend.

He was innocent of the crime, but it took 40 tortured years to remove the stain.

On Friday, he was back at the old jail – he now has a lifetime free pass to the tourism attraction – to pose for today's front-page picture.

But there is more connecting the men in the picture than their notoriety as victims of miscarriages of justice who, between them, did 32 years' hard time.

Mr Button, 62, played an active part in Mr Mallard's campaign for innocence, even travelling to the UK, Mr Mallard's birthplace, to lobby British MPs.

He was in court on Monday to hear Department of Public Prosecutions head Robert Cock announce there would be no retrial for Mr Mallard, meaning he was a free man after nearly 12 years behind bars.

One of the first phone calls to congratulate Mr Mallard, 43, came from Peter Mickelberg, who with brother Ray knows a thing or two about fighting the system.

Led by Mr Button, all four men are keen to assist in the creation of WA's first Innocence Project.

Innocence projects exist in every state of the US and in other countries, and some Australian states, but not here. They are community groups made up of lawyers, journalists and other outraged citizens who provide assistance to prison inmates who have strong claims of wrongful conviction.

Mr Button has been burning the midnight oil to get the project off the ground. He has been working closely with award-winning journalist Estelle Blackburn, whose book Broken Lives played a major part in exposing the miscarriage of justice in his case and that of Darryl Beamish.

He said journalist Brett Christian, who revealed flaws in the Rory Christie case, and Robin Napper, of the University of WA's Centre for Forensic Science, had shown interest in getting on board.

Mr Button said: "I have got grandchildren and I want to make this world a better place for them. I spend my days now working on this (project) and going into schools on a regular basis talking to kids about the justice system.

"I have stressed the point that they are the up-and-coming generation. They are the ones who are going to fix it. We can't hold our breath waiting for the people in power now to do it."

Mr Button said the demand from schools was unbelievable.

"I have got bookings for the next few years, from Esperance to Karratha," he said.

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Released man vows to solve murder case
Amanda Banks - February 22, 2006

AN ocean dip ranks among Andrew Mallard's top priorities after 12 years behind bars for the murder of a Perth jeweller.

But in 40C heat in the coastal town of Mandurah yesterday, Mr Mallard was too busy to indulge in the simple pleasure and had to settle for dangling his feet in the river estuary south of Perth.

Unexpectedly released from maximum-security Casuarina jail on Monday after prosecutors withdrew a murder charge, Mr Mallard - who was awaiting a retrial after his conviction was quashed by the High Court in November - vowed he would not rest until the case was solved.

"The family of the victim need proper closure - they need to know that I am innocent and get this perpetrator behind bars," the 43-year-old said. "(But) I have learnt to be patient."

Mr Mallard told The Australian he was angry Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock QC had maintained he was still the prime suspect for the brutal bashing death of Pamela Lawrence in 1994. "I expected something like this and I expected them to try and still keep it pinned on me," he said.

But Mr Mallard's defence lawyer, Malcolm McCusker QC, was less diplomatic, labelling Mr Cock's statement "quite extraordinary" and beyond the proper function of the DPP. "It really was contemptuous disregard for the fundamental principle of justice, that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty after a fair trial," Mr McCusker said. "They have by this statement blackened this man's name."

Mr Cock yesterday said he was duty bound to disclose to the court and the accused the intention of the DPP to prosecute Mr Mallard in the future if additional evidence was available.

"I entirely agree that this is a most unsatisfactory set of events," Mr Cock said. "It is fully unacceptable that Mr Mallard has had to remain in custody for so long in circumstances under which he is now released."

State Attorney-General Jim McGinty yesterday conceded the case had revealed an "untidy and unfortunate" series of events, saying it was up to the state's corruption watchdog to continue its investigations into the handling of the police inquiries and prosecution.

"Nobody can feel satisfied with the way in which the Mallard case has unfolded," Mr McGinty said. "It was an horrendous murder. Nobody has been brought to justice for it and now we have got allegations of improper or corrupt behaviour by police and DPP prosecutors.

"I think there is no doubt that this particular case casts a shadow over the way in which the police conducted the investigation and perhaps the way in which the DPP prosecuted this case." Mr McGinty urged police to vigorously investigate any further information that became available.

Police Deputy Commissioner Chris Dawson was quick to defend his officers yesterday, saying it was important the case did not become a measure of police competence in homicide investigations. Contradicting his statement on Monday evening that police had no intention of re-opening the case, Mr Dawson said unsolved murder cases were never closed.

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