Final evidence heard in murder trial
A FORENSIC pathologist has told the jury in the Supreme Court murder trial against Donald Gordon that both the Crown and defence's viewpoints on how Clarence Valley man Danial Cotter died are possible explanations.
During the final day of evidence in the Grafton courthouse, defence witness Professor Jo DuFlou was examined, cross-examined and re-examined at length on his opinions of what may have caused Cotter's death on the night of November 6-7, 2013.
From the outset of the trial it has been acknowledged that Cotter was run over by Gordon's Mitsubishi Magna at the entrance to Collum Collum station, but Gordon has pleaded not guilty to murder. He has said he was highly intoxicated at the time and didn't remember how it happened.
Throughout the evidence the defence has maintained contact with the vehicle caused Cotter's fatal injuries, while the Crown Prosecutor has aimed to show Gordon intended to kill or cause serious injury to his victim, allegedly by striking him with a large, blood-stained rock found resting beside the body.
Yesterday, Professor DuFlou agreed with the opinion of crown witness Timothy Lyons that the most likely cause of Cotter's death was blunt force head trauma.
But while Professor Lyons said during his evidence that he believed a transverse skull fracture sustained by Cotter was "rapidly and inevitably fatal", Professor Du Flou emphasised a number of other factors, including significant head injuries and high blood alcohol concentration, "probably acted together" to cause Cotter's death.
As to the cause of the victim's fatal injuries, Professor Du Flou listed three different scenarios that could have caused Cotter's transverse skull fracture: being struck by a motor vehicle and falling over, striking his head; some part of the motor vehicle making contact with the head while he was lying on the ground; or the result of a direct blow to the head with an object such as a large rock.
During the examination by public defender Jason Watts, he said it could not be ruled out that Cotter's head was run over by a front tyre of the vehicle, but he acknowledged during cross-examination it was more likely that his head had made contact with another part of the vehicle's undercarriage.
"I must say, one thing I found persuasive was the presence of tissue and hair under the vehicle," he said.
The crown asked if the same weight could be placed on hairs found embedded in blood stains on the rock, but Professor DuFlou said he believed it was possible the hair could have been passively transferred to the object. He also conceded in cross-examination that is was an "entirely plausible" possibility that Cotter's injuries were caused by a combination of being hit by Gordon's car and struck with a rock.
With all of the evidence now heard, the Crown and defence are expected to make their closing arguments this morning, before the jury retires to deliberate.