Freed murder suspect Henry Keogh has defended his $2.57 million ex-gratia payment, telling a parliamentary inquiry “flawed and fabricated” evidence at his trial robbed him of 20 years of freedom.
But the family of his former fiancee, Anna-Jane Cheney, say they were never consulted about the payment and have reiterated calls for a retrial.
A South Australian parliamentary committee is investigating the state government’s payment to Mr Keogh, which came after his 1995 conviction for the murder of Ms Cheney was overturned.
He told the inquiry on Monday the payment was was a “measure of mercy” after he was failed by the justice system.
“You’ve called this inquiry to ask why I was given an ex-gratia payment. I ask, why not?
“What price would you put on 20 years of your life, if that had been stolen from you under these circumstances?”
The committee has already heard from Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, who indicated Mr Keogh remains a suspect in Ms Cheney’s death.
The 29-year-old lawyer was found drowned in the bathtub in the couple’s Adelaide home, weeks before the pair were due to wed.
Mr Keogh was convicted of her murder and jailed for life with a non-parole period of 25 years.
In 2015, an appeal court ruled that the jury in Mr Keogh’s second trial had been misled by pathologist Colin Manock and there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice.
A third trial was ordered, but prosecutors ultimately decided not to proceed.
Mr Keogh told the committee that Mr Manock’s “flawed and fabricated” evidence deprived him of 20 years of freedom.
“Can you even begin to imagine what imprisonment for that period of time was like?” he asked.
“More than 7000 sunrises and sunsets that I never saw.”
But Greg Griffin, the lawyer for Ms Cheney’s family, told the inquiry relatives were not consulted before the ex-gratia payment was made.
“The family were shocked and appalled that this government saw fit to pay any money … to the man that they regard as the person that murdered their daughter and their sibling,” he said.
Mr Griffin called on the government to publicly release the legal advice which led to Mr Keogh’s payment.
He said there was also “more than enough” evidence to run another circumstantial case against Mr Keogh, and urged the Director of Public Prosecutions to again take the case to trial.