“I am an innocent man … you have not heard the last of this.”
With those words, a then 33-year-old Andrew Mark Mallard was led from the dock of the Supreme Court in Perth towards a life sentence for a murder he did not commit.
It was far from the last the WA legal system would hear from this vulnerable “drifter”, who suffered from mental illness, and who had been wrongly convicted of murdering Mosman Park jewellery store owner Pamela Lawrence.
In fact, it was just the beginning. More than 10 years of legal appeals — during which sensational claims of withheld evidence, police corruption and bias in the judicial system and the media were aired — would follow before Mr Mallard would walk out of Casuarina Prison, exonerated.
Mr Mallard’s 12-year fight to clear his name, aided by his family and a high-profile team including then Labor MLA John Quigley, Malcolm McCusker and journalist Colleen Egan, would rock WA’s justice system.
British-born Mr Mallard, who lived in Mosman Park, was a petty thief with a marijuana habit who was prone to telling far-fetched stories.
The day before Mrs Lawrence was found dead, Mr Mallard was charged over a burglary and impersonating a police officer, relating to a tale he spun in various forms which involved him being a police informant acting as an undercover drug agent.
Mr Mallard was also, according to a psychiatrist who later testified at his pre-trial hearing, in the manic stage of a bipolar mood disorder.
Pamela Lawrence, a wife and mother of two daughters, was a popular jeweller who established her business Flora Metallica on Glyde Street in 1973.
Her body was found by her husband Peter on May 23, 1994, in the midst of a huge storm which had swept across the western suburbs.
Police said Mrs Lawrence had been hit with an object at least 12 times. Their investigations led them to Graylands Hospital two days later, where Mr Mallard had been admitted after an unrelated minor court appearance.
Mr Mallard was interviewed a number of times, offering several different alibis. Later, he confessed to the killing and mentioned a potential murder weapon — a wrench — but then retracted it, claiming it was only his theory of what had happened.
Mr Mallard was charged with the wilful murder of Mrs Lawrence on July 19, 2004. He entered a plea of not guilty. In a Supreme Court trial which started on November 2, 1995, Mr Mallard was successfully prosecuted on the strength of his “confession” — unsigned, handwritten notes by police and a 20-minute videotaped interview on his theory as to what had happened.
During the trial he claimed detectives had fabricated parts of the interviews they related to the court, and had harassed, intimidated, beaten and threatened to shoot him as they interrogated him.
On November 15 a jury found Mr Mallard guilty. Five weeks later he was sentenced to life in jail, with a minimum of 20 years. In the moments after his son had proclaimed his innocence as he was led from the dock, Roy Mallard vowed outside court the family would not give up until their son and brother was exonerated.
“Andrew was convicted on unsigned and unseen statements written by the police,” he said. “There are so many holes in the case it’s not funny.”
So began the decade-long battle to free Mallard. His father would not live to see its conclusion, as he died from cancer in 1998, leaving his wife Grace and daughter Jacqui to continue the fight. They endured setback after setback, including an unsuccessful appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal in 1996 and a failed High Court bid the year after.
A breakthrough finally came in 2002 when a new team of volunteers — led by Mr Quigley, now WA’s Attorney-General, Mr McCusker and Egan — served a petition to then attorney-general Jim McGinty, asking that the case be again referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal.
The petition contained new forensic evidence which was not disclosed in the trial — testing done by a forensic pathologist which found it was not possible for Mrs Lawrence’s wounds to have been caused by the wrench Mr Mallard described as the murder weapon.
It was also found police had not disclosed all witness statements to the defence and had retyped some statements to exclude matters favourable to Mr Mallard.
Mr McGinty agreed, but the Mallards’ joy was short-lived. The Court of Criminal Appeal rejected the bid. The group persevered and lodged an appeal to the High Court in 2003. Almost two years later, Mr Mallard’s conviction was quashed in a 5-0 judgment. Three months later, on February 20, 2006, Mr Mallard, 43, finally walked free from prison after 12 years.
Accompanied by his mother and sister, Mr Mallard said he was looking forward to a good night’s sleep without the rattle of guards’ keys to keep him awake.
He still had the threat of a retrial hanging over him but that disappeared when a new suspect emerged in May of that year. It was revealed convicted murderer Simon Rochford’s palm print had been found in Mrs Lawrence’s store, but before any investigation could proceed Rochford was found dead, of apparent suicide, in Albany Prison the next day.
It would be another three years — during which a Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry delivered misconduct findings against two police assistant commissioners and a senior prosecutor — before the Mallard case drew to a close. A decade ago, on May 5, 2009, the State Government offered Mr Mallard a $3.25 million ex gratia payment.
He pledged to spend it on his mother and sister and rebuilding his life. “I want to be like everybody else. I want to have a wife and a family and to provide for my family through my own efforts,” he said.
On completing his fine arts degree at Curtin University, Mr Mallard left WA for Britain, where he planned to continue his studies, in August 2010. It appears he had finally found the happiness he sought when his life was tragically cut short this week.