Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Hytch Fights to Clear Name

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Hytch Fights to Clear Name

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Kyriacou

A HEARING into a coroner's decision to name Robert Hytch as the man responsible for the death of Bowen schoolgirl Rachel Antonio began in the Supreme Court yesterday.

Rachel was 16 when she disappeared from her home town in North Queensland on Anzac Day, 1998.

Her mother had dropped her at a local cinema but she never made the movie. Her body has never been found.

In 2015, Hytch, a former lifesaving captain 10 years Rachel's senior, was called to give evidence at an inquest into her disappearance.

The court heard Hytch had been in a secret relationship with Rachel and it was submitted he had lashed out after discovering she had pretended to be pregnant. Blood belonging to Rachel was found on Hytch's sandals.

Following the inquest, Coroner David O'Connell found Hytch had had a violent altercation with the schoolgirl that resulted in her death. It was found that he then hid her body.

Mr O'Connell recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions consider charging Hytch with perjury for lying during the inquest.

Glen Rice QC, who is representing Hytch, said yesterday he would argue that the 2015 inquest was conducted using the wrong Coroner's Act. He said Mr O'Connell had made an error in holding proceedings under the 2003 Coroner's Act instead of the 1958 Act which was in use at the time of Rachel's disappearance.

Mr Rice argued Mr O'Connell drew conclusions that weren't there to be drawn on the evidence available. This included, he said, that Hytch and Rachel had an agreement to meet the night she disappeared.

He said there was evidence Rachel intended to see Hytch, but no evidence Hytch was aware of the plans. "You can't prove they met. You can't go that far," he said.

He said Mr O'Connell had also relied heavily on phone calls made from the local pool at a time when Rachel's mother Cheryl had left the house for about half an hour.

Mr O'Connell drew the conclusion that Rachel had likely gone to the pool after her mother left the house to secretly call Hytch at his home. …

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