Convictions with No Bodies in Australia

Posted by Barbara Etter on 6 December 2012 | 7 Comments

Found an interesting article from 18 December 2010 in The Daily Telegraph by Janet Fife-Yeomans (see that covers the issue of convictions in Australia where there has been no body. The Sue Neill-Fraser matter here in Tasmania falls into that category and the article lists the matter in its catalogue of cases. The article states that since about 1990, there have been at least 11 convictions for murder around the country. One of the high profile cases is that of Keli Lane who was convicted of murdering her 2 day old baby, Tegan. That matter is currently on appeal. Another is the murder of Peter Falconio by Bradley Murdoch. The article claims that such cases are now more prevalent due to changes to the Evidence Act  in 1986 which made it easier to introduce what is called "similar fact" or "tendency" or "coincidence" evidence into a court.

The Shark Arm Case in 1935 is known as probably the first in which someone was charged with murder without a body. In that case, there was only the arm of the victim vomited up by a 4 metre tiger shark held in Coogee Aquarium Baths. It had been cut off, not bitten, and fingerprints identified it as having belonged to SP bookie James Smith. His best friend, Patrick Brady was charged with the murder, but the only evidence the prosecutor could present to the jury was that Smith was last seen drinking with Brady at a Cronulla pub and that he told police a stack of lies about his whereabouts and movements. The judge directed the jury to acquit.

Apparently, Lindy Chamberlain is the only person convicted of a murder without a body to have had their conviction overturned.

The cases listed in the article are:


Convicted: Keli Lane. Victim: Tegan Lane.

Lane, 35, was convicted this week of murdering her two-day-old baby daughter within hours of leaving hospital in 1996. She secretly gave birth to three babies, adopted two of them out and told police she gave Tegan to her natural father, Andrew Morris or Norris, who police found did not exist. In jail awaiting sentence.


Convicted: Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser. Victim: Bob Chappell.

Neill-Fraser, 56, was jailed for life in Hobart in October for the murder of her de facto partner of 18 years. Chappell, 65, about to retire as the Royal Hobart Hospital's chief radiation physicist, went missing from the couple's yacht Four Winds while sailing off Hobart on Australia Day 2009. The judge said Neill-Fraser killed him for money. She was jailed for 26 years with an 18-year non-parole period. (Since reduced on appeal to 23 years with a 13 year non-parole period).


Convicted: Paul Wilkinson. Victim: Kylie Labouchardiere.

Labourchardiere, 23, arrived in Sydney with two packed suitcases for what she thought would be a new life with her married lover Paul Wilkinson. Instead of leaving his wife, Wilkinson, 34, murdered Kylie in April 2004 and later tried to cover his tracks by burning down the rental house he shared with his wife. He was jailed last year for 28 years, with a minimum 24.


Convicted: Sudo Cavkic, Costas Athanasi and Julian Michael Clarke. Victim: Keith William Allan.

Cavkic, Athanasi and Clarke were found guilty in 2007, after a third trial, of the contract killing of Allan, 53, who disappeared in May 2000. Clarke, a law clerk in Allan's Avondale Heights office, took up to $560,000 from a trust account to finance his gambling and that of his partner and another associate. To stop Allan finding out, he procured Athanasi to recruit a killer, and Cavkic was brought in.


Convicted: Bradley John Murdoch. Victim: Peter Falconio.

British tourist Peter Falconio, 28, disappeared in 2001 while driving with girlfriend Joanne Lees in their Kombi van on the Sturt Highway near Barrow Creek in the Northern Territory. Lees said they were flagged down by a man who killed Peter and kidnapped her. Murdoch, 52, was convicted in 2006 and jailed for life.

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  • I too heard about such high profile cases and many of them is really heart whelming. The murder of 2 year old baby is really cruel one and sometimes we are ashamed of being citizen of such place. Anyway thanks for sharing this article.

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  • It was sensational! Keep it going! This is a glorious article! An amazing article to read. I was really impressed with the way you balanced the composition of this article.

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  • Nice post! This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year! Thanks for informative post.

    Posted by Tech News, 05/04/2015 6:39pm (3 years ago)

  • also the case of gary ernest white in wa

    Posted by micheal rutherford, 26/10/2013 5:19pm (4 years ago)

  • I don't know if we are permitted to comment on this case, but personally I do not believe that Kelly Lane killed her baby. I believe her original story. That she gave her baby to a Perth family. I feel that the teenager is alive and well, and that one day her true identity will be discovered. I think Lane was shocked that the jury found her guilty, with basically no solid evidence of a murder having taken place?

    Posted by sandgroper, 06/07/2013 2:24pm (5 years ago)

  • Dear Ingrid

    Yes, I am formally retained by the family but have worked "pro bono" on the matter since January 2012, initially as an Integrity and Justice consultant (see Law Council of Australia 1992 resolution on issue of "pro bono work").

    Posted by Barbara Etter, 18/03/2013 5:38pm (5 years ago)

  • I think you should disclose whether you or your company or business are on the pay role of the prisoner or her family

    Posted by Ingrid peake, 17/03/2013 11:59pm (5 years ago)

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