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October 14, 2004

Victims key to deaf mute's appeal

From:, Australia - Oct 14, 2004

By Tim Clarke
October 14, 2004

THE axe murder of wealthy socialite Jillian Brewer was so similar to other crimes committed by notorious Perth serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke it was almost certain he, and not the deaf mute man convicted of her killing, was the culprit, a court was told today.

As the appeal of 63-year-old Darryl Beamish, found guilty in 1961 of Ms Brewer's killing, drew to a close yesterday, WA's Court of Criminal Appeal was told the murder of the 22-year-old bore chilling resemblances to Cooke's murderous modus operandi.

Mr Beamish's lawyer Tom Percy QC said these now included four previously unknown cases, where Cooke had confessed to breaking into a house in the dead of night, assaulting a young, single woman in her bed before escaping without leaving a trace.

Coupled with new documents casting grave doubts on the confessions of Mr Beamish, the only evidence offered against him by police at the time, Mr Percy said his client's conviction should be set aside.

Earlier in the hearing, four women now in their 60s - Mary MacLeod, Alix Cooke, Anne Whitsed and Carmel Tonks - all gave evidence of how they were attacked.

Mr Percy today told the appeal details of the unpublicised attacks, given by Cooke in confessions, could only have been known by the perpetrator.

"Each of the new victims are matters of great significance," Mr Percy said.

"In the case of Mary MacLeod there is no mistaking this attack with the one described by Cooke, and there is no prospect whatever he would have known the elements at all, let alone the details."

Mr Percy said numerous elements of the attacks were all present in the Brewer case.

"There are very similar unifying elements that indicates a clear modus operandi ... (and) had a jury been privy to any of this information, there is a significant possibility the outcome might have been different," he said.

But Simon Stone, appearing for the respondent, contended differences between the crimes, as well as the nature of Cooke's confessions, meant there was no way the court could now conclude he was Ms Brewer's killer.

"(We should) examine the differences in each of these offences to show they are so dissimilar ... (and) there are no substantiating matters to corroborate these so-called confessions," Mr Stone said.

The appeal has been told Cooke confessed several times to killing Ms Brewer, including moments before he was hanged in 1964, but his admissions were discounted as lies at previous appeals.

The appeal has also been told of police documents casting doubt on the way Mr Beamish's confessions were obtained by detective Owen Leitch, who later became WA's police commissioner.

A previously unseen memo written by Mr Leitch showed Mr Beamish had needed "considerable prompting" to give details of the crimes, when the evidence at trial had indicated his confession had been spontaneous.

The appeal decision is expected to be reserved.


Copyright 2004 News Limited.