Cop’s shocking take on Keli Lane conviction
CONVICTING Keli Lane for murder without the body of her baby being found was wrong from a policeman's standpoint, says a highly-respected former cop.
Ron Mason says Lane was a liar and without doubt a child killer, but still questions the outcome of her murder trial.
One of the most experienced cops in the NSW Police Force, Mason was Manly local area commander when his officers investigated Lane and his first gut feeling was that she was innocent.
The 21-year-old champion water polo player, part-time PE schoolteacher and daughter of a senior police officer had in 1996 given birth to a baby girl, Tegan.
The baby disappeared soon after, but it wasn't until 2001 that a police probe was launched and one of the largest missing person's cases in Australian history initiated.
The subsequent high-profile legal case went all the way to the High Court. Lane was convicted of Tegan's murder even though the baby's body was never found.
Now in an explosive Police Tape podcast, Mason has broken his silence about the case, with Lane half way through her 18-year sentence. He says his opinion about her guilt changed when he looked her in the face, but he does not believe she should have been convicted for murder without a body.
"My first gut feeling is that she's given the baby away to somebody, simply because I couldn't imagine anybody having to kill a defenceless two-day-old baby," Mason, now retired, told True Crime Australia. "It was just something, you would hope to believe, that a mother couldn't do."
When she was finally brought in for questioning Mason analysed the recorded interview tapes and that's when his gut feeling changed about her likely guilt.
"It was quite obvious from the beginning that there was something she wasn't revealing, whether it was an out and out lie or she knew more than she was telling," he said.
"I had (at) first said I thought the baby was alive and she didn't kill the baby, but it became obvious to me that perhaps that might not be the truth. And every investigation, everything we did, also pointed that way as well."
Mason said he had interviewed many people whom he believed were murderers, but without evidence to put before a court they would get away with it. Lane was no different, and he was surprised at her conviction.
"She was one of the first people in Australia to ever be charged and convicted of murder without a body. Looking from the policeman's side of view, I'd say it's wrong," he said.
"But, then again, I understand judges have to go for information, and I'm biased. I'm biased that I see the worst in people, but also see the best in people as well. But you see the worst, and I look at it from a victim's point of view. I'm not looking at it … totally like a judge that has got to balance up the facts. So my opinion is police only arrest people when they're guilty, but I also know that's wrong."
When asked if Keli Lane is guilty of child murder, Mason is emphatic.
"Yes she is, I strongly believe that she is," he said.
By the time the then Superintendent Mason was transferred to head the Manly area command there had already been a police probe into Lane in 2001, but it had stalled only to be restarted again more than a year later. It wouldn't be until 2009 that she was finally charged, with her trial beginning the following year.
Mason's role was to ensure the case progressed and proper resources were allocated. He remains confident if Tegan was alive she would have been found.
The nme she claimed was Morris or Norris. She also claimed to have never been pregnant before Tegan, before admitting it was her fourth pregnancy.
"We went everywhere to try to find out if the baby was alive," Mason recalled yesterday. "We went interstate for the investigation in relation to babies, we went everywhere (in) relation to babies registered, went to school records, the whole lot, and if they (Tegan) were still alive we would have found her."
Despite the police efforts and the widespread publicity surrounding the case, there was no trace of the child and no success in identifying the supposed father.
"Everything you do in policing, the more (high) profile it is the more scrutinised (it is), and scrutinised by everybody, (public) to politicians," Mason said.
"It was my job was to make sure that everything was done right, and I'm quite happy with the investigation and the way it showed that everything possible that could have been done to locate that child, if it were still alive, was done."