Jury sets truck driver free

GRANT Kelly Connelly is a free man after he was yesterday acquitted of manslaughter.

Just after 1pm, a Coffs Harbour Supreme Court jury found the Sandy Beach 36-year-old not guilty of the manslaughter of Andrew William Walker, 41, in December 2005.

The acquittal follows Friday's not guilty verdict on the charge of murder.

Once Justice Megan Latham formally discharged the father-of-three yesterday, he was escorted from the courtroom and immediately ushered away through the rear of the Coffs Harbour Courthouse.

Family and supporters of both men were in the public gallery when yesterday's verdict was handed down, just like they had been for each day of the trial.

The jury of seven women and five men had retired on Thursday to consider its verdict after listening to two weeks of evidence.

Mr Walker died in hospital the day after he and Mr Connelly were involved in a confrontation at Mr Walker's Moonee Beach home on December 18, 2005.

Mr Walker, who owned a transport company, was hosting a Christmas party for family, friends and employees. At the time of the incident, Mr Connelly worked as a truck driver for Mr Walker.

Speaking outside the courthouse yesterday, Mr Connelly's solicitor, Scott James, said the jury had carefully deliberated the evidence put before it.

"Whilst we acknowledge the trauma the deceased's family has been through, it is our opinion the jury came back with the right verdict," Mr James said.

"He (Mr Connelly) is very, very relieved, but he is certainly sympathetic with the Walker family."

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