Man spends four years in jail for a murder he didn't commit
A MAN described by his family as "vulnerable" and "easily misled" has been acquitted in the Lismore Supreme Court of the April 2014 bashing murder of a woman in the shed of a rural Tweed Shire property at Tomewin.
After four years in custody, 65-year-old Gary Clifford Blackman walked from the dock a free man on Thursday after a Supreme Court judge ruled there was a "substantial body of evidence" that implicated another person in the murder of former Kings Cross prostitute Nicole Weate, 53.
Reading aloud his written judgement, Justice Richard Button described the Crown case against Mr Blackman, which centred around his alleged confession to the murder, as "generic and weak".
The court heard Mr Blackman, a cognitively impaired alcoholic who had no history of violence, had been described by a neighbour as "almost a simpleton" and "the most agreeable man he had ever met".
But the judgement delivered a scathing assessment of one of the key witnesses in the trial, Thomas Miringaorangi, who had been living on the rural property with Mr Blackman and Ms Weate at the time of her murder sometime between Tuesday April 1 and Thursday April 3.
Mr Miringaorangi was a self confessed career criminal who had spent numerous stints in jail for violent and sexual crimes.
He had claimed that he entered the shed where the couple were living on Thursday April 3 and saw Ms Weate's naked body on the floor and Mr Blackman on the couch.
He said Mr Blackman had spoken of the deceased in "derogatory terms" and told Mr Miringaorangi to dispose of the body.
He also said he saw Mr Blackman kick her in the head with his heel a week earlier.
But Justice Button said Mr Miringaorangi's version of events was plagued with "gross inconsistency" and did he did not accept him as a "witness of truth".
He was in a "romantic and sexual relationship" with Ms Weate at the time of her death.
He said Mr Miringaorangi had shown himself to be a person of "serious violence", and was "prone to bouts of irrational anger".
While giving his evidence in an open court, he had muttered to Mr Blackman "I should have f***ing killed you too, c**t."
Before Ms Weate's death he had been seen by a visitor to the property wrapping a belt round his fist and saying to her "you like my games, don't you Nikki?"
An autopsy of Ms Weate showed a number of triangular marks to her face which a forensic pathologist indicated could have been inflicted by a belt or belt buckle.
The trial also heard that he had turned up to Murwillumbah hospital armed with a hammer on the Saturday after Ms Weate's death to visit Mr Blackman, who was being treated for a leg infection, and threatened Mr Blackman with violence unless he confessed to the murder.
Mr Blackman subsequently did confess, and was charged - but retracted his confession as early as April 29, 2014.
Justice Button also accepted the evidence that at the time of Ms Weate's death, Mr Blackman had been largely incapacitated as a result of a grossly swollen leg and weight loss due to ice abuse.
He said since an early stage of the Crown case he had "considered there is a significant possibility that an innocent man has been arrested, charged, incarcerated for almost exactly four years".
After delivering his verdict and acquitting Mr Blackman on charges of murder, manslaughter, and inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, he told him to "get out of the dock immediately".
Mr Blackman was released with no possessions, and walked out of the court house in prison greens to embrace his sister Jennifer Smith.
Ms Smith and her son Ben Blackman said they knew all along he was innocent.
"He wouldn't hurt a fly," Ms Smith said.