Forensic Toxicologist Dr William Allender has written a book about some of the most fascinating cases he has worked on. Picture: Sue Graham
Forensic Toxicologist Dr William Allender has written a book about some of the most fascinating cases he has worked on. Picture: Sue Graham

Dreadful truth behind Brimble cruise death

Dianne Brimble had no chance of survival after unwittingly taking multiple doses of liquid ecstasy on a P&O cruise, the forensic toxicologist who reviewed her infamous death has revealed.

The Brisbane mother of three died aboard the Pacific Sky in September 2002, creating national headlines when it was revealed there were eight Adelaide men as "persons of interest" in the case.

Dianne Brimble was just 42 when she died. Picture: Supplied
Dianne Brimble was just 42 when she died. Picture: Supplied

But despite criminal charges against three of the men and a long running inquest and trial, a jury could not reach a verdict and charges were downgraded.

Prosecutors in the 2006 coronial inquest claimed Mrs Brimble was killed "by someone slipping her a lethal dose of a date rape drug without her knowledge" but at trial, evidence was heard she took GHB consensually with fellow passenger Mark Wilhelm and the pair had consensual sex.

Now the just retired NSW Police forensic toxicologist turned author involved in the case Dr William Allender has spoken publicly and says he believed she had inadvertently taken multiple doses of the drug and could not have known what she was doing.

Dr William Allender says the death of Dianne Brimble was a “tragic case”. Picture: Sue Graham
Dr William Allender says the death of Dianne Brimble was a “tragic case”. Picture: Sue Graham

In a new book featuring some of the country's most infamous death cases he has worked on, Dr Allender who fully retired from the NSW Police forensic unit last year said Mrs Brimble death was tragic and he was sorry for the family for how the case ended.

 

Dr William Allender’s book is called The Expert Witness. Picture: Supplied
Dr William Allender’s book is called The Expert Witness. Picture: Supplied

 

 

He said there were some unusual elements in the criminal trial but four forensic experts called to give evidence couldn't agree on all the facts relating to the drug use.

"Because she was drinking alcohol while enjoying herself as a regular passenger, unfortunately in combination (with GHB) resulted in her respiratory system shutting down and the poor woman died," he told True Crime Australia.

"Nothing seemed to come out of that case, I explained the combination resulted in her death, I was asked if she had any chance of survival and I said sadly I don't think so.

"I was cross-examined pretty harshly by a barrister appearing for the P&O line and I think they were trying to avoid culpability but the amount of the GHB she had in her blood I strongly suspect it was multiple doses. If she had had just one large dose of that drug earlier in the evening well she would have succumbed in the actual restaurant or the ballroom. Instead she had succumbed in one of the actual cabins.

"The problem is GHB is not the sort of drug you can do a back calculation on like with alcohol. Alcohol is very easy, it secretes and metabolises at a known rate you can calculate, but GHB doesn't follow those nice orderly kinetics in the body which made it difficult to give an accurate answer in the coronial inquest."

 

South Australia men Mark Robin Wilhelm, Matthew Graham Slade, Dragan Losic, Petar Vladimir Pantic, Ryan Kym Kuchel, Letterio Silvestri, Luigi Vitale and Sakelaros
South Australia men Mark Robin Wilhelm, Matthew Graham Slade, Dragan Losic, Petar Vladimir Pantic, Ryan Kym Kuchel, Letterio Silvestri, Luigi Vitale and Sakelaros "Charlie'' Kambouris about to board the cruise in 2002. Picture: Supplied

The jury was hung in the case as they were uncertain whether the drug had significantly caused her death. Evidence was heard she took the drug voluntarily before having sex with Wilhelm.

"I was disappointed with the outcome and my heart really went out to the poor woman and particularly her family," Dr Allender said. "She was there with her daughter and saved for years to go on that trip and she winds up dying on the cruise. It is really quite a tragic case."

• Read more about the Brimble case in an extract from Dr William Allender's book The Expert Witness.



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