Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Parkside Body in the Freezer Case: Incompetent Coroner? (part 4)

The Parkside Body in the Freezer Case: 

Incompetent Coroner? (part 4)


Was the case against David Szach, convicted of murdering his older lover, Derrance Stevenson, flawed because of an incompetent South Australian Coroner?

This is the question being posed by several individuals interested in the case known as “The Body in the Freezer Case” that thrust Adelaide into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in 1979/ 1980.

Police removing the freezer in which the body of
Derrance Stevenson had been found in his home.
 Questions have been raised about the procedures used by Coroner Dr Colin Manock. It would seem in recent years a number of high profile cases that saw convictions against suspected murderers, have recently been overturned due to the improper procedures applied by Dr Manock.
Dr Colin Manock worked as South Australia’s Chief Forensic Pathologist between 1968 and 1995, he conducted more than 9000 autopsies and gave evidence in just about every major case in the State in that time.
Dr Colin Manock was SA's chief forensic pathologist for almost 30 years. Between 1968 and 1995, he conducted more than 9,000 autopsies and gave evidence in almost every major case.

Perhaps the highest profile overturned conviction which goes against evidence supplied by Dr Manock is that of the death of popular Adelaide lawyer Anna-Jane Cheney, who was found dead in her bathtub.
 Henry Keogh, a recently separated man with children, who began to date Ms Cheney, was accused of her murder, on the grounds he was trying to cash in her 1-million-dollar insurance policy.
The case seemed to rest on evidence supplied by Dr Manock, which pointed at Ms Cheney being drowned (Mr Keogh’s supports have always claimed Ms Cheney had a seizure in the bath and drowned accidentally).
In 1995, Keogh faced a trial, which ended up with a hung jury, triggering a retrial. The second trial later that year found Keogh guilty of murder. He was sentenced to life in gaol with a non-prole period of 25 years.
A campaign began almost immediately to free Keogh that lasted almost 20 years. Eventually after endless appeals, The Full Court of the Criminal Court of Criminal Appeal’s ruled there had been a “substantial miscarriage of justice” and a retrial was set for Keogh.
Keogh was able to make bail and released after 20 years in gaol while the third trial, brought about by the appeal, was heard. Keogh endured 10 months of uncertainty as Director of Public Prosecutions, Adam Kimber, SC, re-laid the murder charge before issuing a nolle prosequi[1] in November 2015 allowing Keogh to walk a free man.

Former South Australian Chief Forensic Investigator
Dr Manock
The reason for the nolle prosequi come back to Dr Manock’s assessments of the body of Ms Cheney, that the full court agreed were “unreliable”, stating that his conclusions “not properly explored” and his autopsy “inadequate”. Summarised as “unwarranted speculation”
The case rested on a number of bruises on Ms Cheney’s leg that Dr Manock speculated were made by the hand grip of a man.

So where does this tie in with the case against David Szach?
Dr Manock was the forensic coroner on the Derrance Stevenson case. 

Time Line:

17:30 June 5th 1979: Dr Manock enters the Stevenson residence in Parkside where he is met by police officers. He waits for police to dust the freezer (which is switched off) for fingerprints and for photos of the object to be taken.

18:00: the freezer lid is opened and Dr Manock sees the body of Stevenson for the first time.
From the Coroner Report 
I was able to see the body of a male adult in a head down position. A basket of frozen food was above the head and two plastic bags of frozen food were over the buttocks and lower back. Hypostatic staining was visible on the back of the body and I pronounced life extinct at that time. I noted that the freezer was switched off at the mains power point.”

 Frozen food also in the freezer is removed. The body is removed from the freezer and placed on a plastic sheet, further photographs are taken.
The body is then transported to the Forensic Science Centre at Divett Place, Adelaide.

20:00: The body temperature is taken via a needle probe inserted into the liver. A constant temperature is recorded, with the maximum temperature being +7.2 C
An examination of the bullet wound takes place via X-rays.
Further examination does not continue as Dr Manock states that the skin and organs were still deep frozen and unconducive to examination.

8:20 June 6th 1979: Dr Manock continues his examination of the body.

At 0820 hours on 6 June 1979:  I recommenced the examination. 

 The freezer was also tested for its normal running temperatures, this was to help establish a time of death. (read the entire Coronial report here: http://netk.net.au/Szach/AutopsyReport.asp)

This is where the opinion of today’s forensic specialists criticise Dr Manock’s methodology in the case. Considering the time of the death that Dr Manock implied was the basis for putting Szach in the house at time of death, and implicating him for the murder, it is an important piece of evidence to have correct.
They point out that the method used by Dr Manock to calculate the time of death is based on a formula initially proposed by Fiddes and Patten work published in the Journal of Forensic Medicine in 1958. The experiments undertaken for this journal involved bodies having their temperature measured after they had been frozen laid out flat, not in the foetal position as was Mr Stevenson.
Dr Manock adjusted his formula by 40% to compensate for Stevenson’s body being in the foetal position, Dr Manock does not give any scientific reason for his adjustment of 40%, and this is where his argument about the correct time of death falls flat on its face with today’s forensic testers.
A few years after the trial another forensic pathologist looked at Dr Manock’s results and stated in a review why it was not appropriate for Dr Manock to use the formula he did, or substitute important key data, like a liver temperature reading for an anal temperature reading, without a scientific reason for doing so.

 He also pointed out factors such as not knowing the room temperature when Mr Stevenson died, or how long there was between being shot, and being put into the freezer. He made no accommodation for the freezer being put into “superchill” mode, which would have added another negative 8 degrees to the cooling temperature.

Derrance Stevenson's odd, iconic house on Greenhill Road, Parkside, circa 1979
In 1978. Dr Manock was the at centre of a controversial autopsy that he did in the open, in front of the public, in a small South Australian town. The story didn’t become public until a recent court case.


Another high-profile case that Dr Manock work has been criticised in, is in regards to the 1971 murder of teenager Deborah Leach on a beach at Taperoo. The crime saw Frits Van Beelan convicted and serving 17 years in gaol. He is now appealing his conviction based on wrongful evidence supplied by Dr Manock.

It would seem there are many issues with evidence provided by Dr Manock, across many cases, and judging by the video above, perhaps there is something more sinister behind his position and personality. If one places a puppet in control of evidence in cases, one can pervert the course of justice to one’s own end….a conspiracy perhaps?

Read more about cases where Dr Manock’s evidence is being questioned: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/sa-murderers-to-appeal-amid-challenges-to-evidence-by-former-pathologist-colin-manock/news-story/aee2d4b0da09205c323f031ef370dea1

Next Week: The Parkside Body in the Freezer Case: The Appeal (part 5)

(Bibliography in the final blog post of this series)

[1] “nolle prosequi” a formal notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Parkside Body in the Freezer Case:Gino "Luigi" Gambardella (part 3)

The Parkside Body in the Freezer Case:

 Gino "Luigi" Gambardella 


Gino “Luigi” Gambardella was a well-known, chiropractor who ran his practice from a business premises on Prospect Road, Prospect in the 1970’s.
 “Luigi” as he was known, was very well known in Adelaide’s 70’s gay sex scene, often seen frequenting Adelaide’s gay strips looking for young men.

Gambardella was a close friend of Derrance Stevenson, and Bevan Spencer Von Einem, and connected with a number of Von Eminem’s associates.

Downtown - Hindley Street, Adelaide
One of the places Gambardella would pick up
young men for his clients
Gambardella was present at the house of Derrance Stevenson on the night of his murder, his distinctive green and white Ford Falcon as seen parked in the driveway of the distinctive house in Parkside.
 David Szach’s, who convicted for the murder of Stevenson, also speculated that Gambardella was the person behind a number of threatening phone calls that were received at Stevenson’s house after Stevenson had decided to try and leave a secret group of men involved in drugging and filming young men in the late 1970’s.

Gambardella was charged in 1979 as an accessory to murder in the Stevenson case, but his charges were later dropped. It was during the case that it was revealed that Gambardella was known scout for the secretive group, frequenting Adelaide’s gay hotspots, during his lunch breaks, and after work, recruiting young men for sex with a client list of Adelaide’s wealthy and elite.
Gambardella fled South Australia after his brush with the law in 1980. It is believed he went into hiding in Italy. It was during an inquest into “The Family” murders, surrounding the case of Bevan Spencer Von Einem, that Gambardella’s identity and paedophilic past was presented into the public arena.

Gambardella was known to police, he had had several young men place reports against him in the 1970’s, but the reports were ignored by police. A young man reported that Gambardella had picked him up in 1997. Gambardella had first taken him to Stevenson’s Parkside home, only to find the lawyer not home, so he drove the young man to his Prospect business premises.
Once inside, he showed the young man an amateur pornographic movie and then sexually assaulted him.

Gambardella was also known to be a drug dealer, and it is thought this is how he lured young men into his seedy world. It is alleged, that once the men were high, Gambardella could do whatever he wanted, and often he would film them for his network, sometimes he would take photos of the young boys with objects firmly pushed into their backsides – nothing was out of the question for
Gambardella’s depraved network of buyers.

Gambardella was also known for picking up hitchhikers and sexually assaulting them. It was alleged during the “Family Murders” investigation, that Gambardella would take the hitchhikers up to Stevenson’s home and the two men would sexually assault them together.
 It was Gambardella who introduced the 16-year-old Szach’s to Stevenson, Gambardella had promised the teenager a successful career in modelling, and had insisted on photographing him.

It has also been alleged that Gambardella would place fake job ads in local newspapers for a part time gardening position. Young men would apply, and Gambardella would interview them. Often his questioning would lead toward risqué topics, to measure the boy’s response, and it is alleged he would then single out the ones who weren’t suspicious or reacted in certain ways for future sexual assaults.  

Gambardella’s location is currently unknown, but Police have dropped any charges they had against
Veale Gardens - South Adelaide Parklands
A notorious gay sex hangout in the 1970's, in walking distance
to Derrance Stevensons 'house in Parkside
(source SBS)
the man in the hope he may come forward and offer names or evidence against others involved in the Family murders.

Another interesting character associated with Gambardella and Stevenson is former High Court Judge, Lionel Murphy. It is alleged that the former Judge was present on the night of Stevenson’s death. 

This claim first surfaced in 1991, when the Legal Services Commission contacted David Szach’s and stated that someone had come forward with information about the visit. A taxi driver is alleged to have dropped Mr Murphy and two other men off at the house in Parkside on the night of the murder.

 Lionel Murphy died in 1986, after a long career which saw him serve as the attorney-general in the Whitlam Government. His long career ended in controversy when he charged with trying to pervert the course of Justice in 1985, and jailed. His conviction was swiftly over-turned and Judge Murphy returned as a working Judge, this led Bob Hawke to invoke an inquiry into the matter.

The case was reported in The Australian (newspaper) in December 2016 as “one of the greatest judicial scandals since federation was left with no conclusion, the commission being abandoned when it was revealed Murphy had been diagnosed with cancer and had only months to live” by reporter Kylar Loussikian.

Murphy died in 1986 after a brief fight against cancer.

If High Court Judge Lionel Murphy was at the Stevenson house in 1979, what was he doing there?
Who were the other men he was with?

The only person who might be able to answer that question in Gambardella, and no one is certain where he is, or if he is even still alive! 

Next Week: The Parkside Body in the Freezer Case: Incompetent Coroner? (part 4)

(Bibliography in the final blog post of this series)