Crimes and Cases That Shocked the Nation; Journalists, Child Killers, Pollies and a Daring Bali Escapee Faced Courts This Year

News Mail Bundaberg Qld., December 26, 2017 | Go to article overview

Crimes and Cases That Shocked the Nation; Journalists, Child Killers, Pollies and a Daring Bali Escapee Faced Courts This Year


Byline: John Weekes John.Weekes@newsregionalmedia.com.au

MEDIA is supposed to cover the news, not make it. But it was a nightmare year for some journalists whose actions landed them in court.

Reporter Krystal Johnson and her employer Yahoo7 were punished after publishing prejudicial information a murder trial jury never saw. The young reporter was handed a two-year good behaviour bond without conviction - but Yahoo7 was fined $300,000.

In September, magazine publisher Bauer Media lost a defamation suit to actress Rebel Wilson. Litigious celebrities are common as muck but this was no ordinary lawsuit and spawned a $4.5 million payout order, the biggest in Australian history. Bauer has appealed.

Meanwhile, Ben McCormack, former A Current Affair journalist, pleaded guilty to using a carriage service to transmit, publish or promote child pornography. He'd described himself lusting after young boys in vile messages on a social network. He was fined $1000 and placed on a three-year good behaviour bond.

But, of course, there was plenty of other crime that made us click this year - mostly the downright tragic but there were some fascinating insights into other people's lives.

Innocent lives

Strong emotions stirred in Queensland this year for children and young women taken too soon. The plight of Moranbah 18-month-old Hemi Burke and the prosecution of his killer Matthew James Ireland was one such case. Ireland faced a murder charge but against the wishes of Hemi's parents, that was downgraded to manslaughter. The babysitter was sentenced in June to eight years in jail but he could be released on parole in less than two years.

After being sentenced for his role in four-year-old Tyrell Cobb's death, a laughing Matthew Scown walked free in October. Child safety advocates Bravehearts dubbed the former Sunshine Coast and Gladstone man "a bloody monster". A prosecutor said Scown was at fault because he left it too late before seeking help for injured Tyrell. He was sentenced to four years behind bars but was released upon sentence, having served two years and eight months in custody. After a contested sentence for manslaughter, a justice found mother Heidi Strbak struck the fatal blow to her son. This month she was sentenced to nine years' jail.

Unknown and unfit

Gatton schoolgirl Jayde Kendall's killer Brenden Bennetts was given life imprisonment. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter but offered no explanation why he killed the teen. Jurors heard Bennetts enjoyed choking former partners during sex and searched online for "the best way to dispose of a body" the day before Jayde vanished.

Student Eunji Ban's family travelled from Korea hoping to see justice done nearly four years after Alex Reuben McEwan was arrested. But jurors heard of McEwan describing demons and hallucinations, and the 23-year-old former Ipswich man was deemed unfit to stand trial. The murder trial heard McEwan might have treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

Shandee Blackburn was fatally stabbed metres from her Mackay house in 2013. Police charged Shandee's ex-partner John Peros with murder but in April he was acquitted after a trial. "Tears and utter desolation are a mere thought or moment away," Shandee's mum Vicki said the following month.

Cast of high-profile characters

Cardinal George Pell became the most senior Catholic to be charged with sexual offences. The 76-year-old faced Melbourne Magistrates Court in July over historical allegations, returning to Australia from his senior leadership role at the Vatican. He has vowed to fight every charge and has proclaimed his innocence.

Charged Ipswich City Council alumni, staff and contractors became a frequent sight at Brisbane's arrest court after corruption-related allegations surfaced. Former mayor Paul Pisasale was arrested in June on charges including extortion. Contractor Wayne Francis Innes, chief operating officer Craig Maudsley, chief executive Jim Lindsay, former CEO Carl Wulff, Ipswich lawyer Cameron McKenzie and barrister Sam di Carlo also faced various charges. …

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