IM this article to a friend!

April 2, 2005

Decades on, deaf-mute acquitted of killing

From: Brisbane Courier Mail, Australia - Apr 2, 2005

Tim Clarke

A DEAF-mute Perth man found guilty of a brutal axe murder more than four decades ago created Australian legal history yesterday when his conviction was overturned on appeal at the sixth attempt.

Darryl Beamish, now 63, was 18 when socialite and chocolate heiress Jillian Brewer, 22, was slain in her Cottesloe flat by an intruder, who brutalised her naked body with a tomahawk and a pair of dressmaking scissors.

Two years later Beamish was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death after the West Australian Supreme Court heard apparently compelling evidence of his confessions, which contained details of Brewer's killing.

Beamish's death sentence was commuted to life in prison. He served 15 years behind bars before his release in 1977.

Justices Christopher Steytler, Christine Wheeler and Carmel McLure ruled Beamish had not committed the murder, saying they now believed a 1964 gallows confession from one of Australia's most notorious serial killer, Eric Edgar Cooke.

The decision creates the longest gap between a conviction and an appeal victory in Australia.

In a written statement delivered after the decision, Beamish said he did not want financial compensation for his ordeal, merely to see truth and justice prevail.

"All I ever wanted was truth and justice. I have just wanted everyone to know for sure that I did not kill anyone. Now they know," his statement said. "The appeal court judges say that they believe me – I always told the truth. The deaf have many problems being understood by people who can hear. There are always mix-ups.

"I did not understand what was happening at the police station, or at my trial in court."

After thanking his family, friends and legal team, Beamish praised the bravery of Cooke's widow Sally and her children.

"Bravest of all have been Eric Cooke's family, most of all his widow Sally and his eldest son Tony," Beamish said.

In five previous appeals, Cooke's account of how he killed Brewer was discounted by the court as the work of a "palpable and unscrupulous liar".

Yesterday's decision reversed that thinking.

The case was the second to have been initiated on the back of evidence unearthed by Walkley Award-winning journalist Estelle Blackburn.

© Queensland Newspapers