THE death and yesterday’s funeral of the man who sparked a police investigation into Warrnambool City councillor Jennifer Lowe has thrown the case into confusion.
Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Co-operative chief executive officer John Collyer died in Warrnambool last week and his funeral was held yesterday afternoon.
It was his allegations that prompted a two-year police investigation and led to Mrs Lowe, 37, being charged in July last year with 49 theft-related offences involving about $25,000.
The thefts were alleged to have occurred while Mrs Lowe was the finance officer with the Worn Gundidj co-op.
Her husband Robert Lowe, 39, faced two representative charges, involving goods valued at just over $17,000.
The charges ballooned to almost 600 alleged offences after the use of a fuel card was broken down into individual transactions on the eve of the committal hearing on April 2 this year.
Mr Collyer spent almost three days being cross-examined at the first stage of the committal hearing which was adjourned part-heard until yesterday.
The hearing recommenced yesterday but the unavailability of Mr Collyer’s wife Marie to give evidence sparked defence counsel Damian Sheales to apply for her to be dumped as a witness.
Both Mrs Collyer and her son Shannon Collyer were unavailable yesterday and they are not expected to appear to give evidence at the remainder of the committal hearing which is scheduled for the next three days in Warrnambool Magistrates Court.
Magistrate Ann McGarvie ruled Mrs Collyer would not have to give evidence this week.
Mr Sheales foreshadowed a submission to the Victorian Supreme Court to review Ms McGarvie’s ruling which led to a delayed start to yesterday’s proceedings.
Any application to the Supreme Court would be expected to focus on Mrs Collyer giving evidence at the committal but would also be expected to include Shannon Collyer’s involvement.
When the hearing did eventually get under way, Mrs Lowe’s uncle Christopher Flynn gave evidence, saying he had a falling out with his niece after sending her a text message asking “had she been fiddling the books at Worn Gundidj”.
“She got pretty shitty after that,” Mr Flynn said during cross-examination by Mr Sheales.
Mr Flynn, who worked at the co-op for four years, said he was convinced of Mrs Lowe’s guilt as was the police officer who put the case together, Warrnambool policeman Detective Senior Constable Gary Greene, and Mrs Lowe’s father Geoff.
He also agreed in cross-examination that being convinced Mrs Lowe was guilty aided him to make a statement to police: “possibly yes”.
Mr Flynn said discussion with Detective Senior Constable Greene helped him progress from being suspicious to being convinced of Mrs Lowe’s guilt.
“She’s pulling out all stops to cover her arse,” he said.
Mr Flynn denied ever having shock treatment, but did agree he had taken a range of anti-depressant medication for more than 20 years and at one time believed the government was investigating him in relation to terrorist activities.
The committal hearing is scheduled to continue today and finish on Thursday.