new jump tests fill murder gap

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    New jump tests fill murder gap
    By Paul Whittaker and Jennifer Sexton
    October 30, 2004

    THE final piece of evidence in the police murder case against Rene Rivkin's former chauffeur, Gordon Wood, has been put in place with the conclusion of extensive new scientific tests proving his girlfriend did not jump to her death.

    Caroline Bryne, whose body was found at the bottom of a cliff.

    The fresh experiments are currently being peer reviewed by a biomechanics expert before the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions decides whether to approve a police recommendation that Mr Wood be charged with murdering his 24-year-old girlfriend, Caroline Byrne.

    In a separate development yesterday, Rivkin's eldest son, Damien, scuttled reports that his father might know something about Mr Wood (after leaving Rivkin's employ) getting a job paying $400,000 in Britain, courtesy of a benefactor.

    "You can dig all you like, you are certainly not going to find any evidence of my dad paying him a cent after he resigned," Mr Rivkin said. "Why would you pay him $400,000 a year? What were his skills?"

    The highly sophisticated experiments in the police murder case against Mr Wood focused on the "unusual" distance Byrne's body was found - 9.5m from the base of a 30m drop at The Gap at Watson's Bay, a notorious suicide spot in Sydney's east. The part-time model and deportment teacher was found in the early hours of June 8, 1995. State Coroner John Abernethy handed down an open finding into Byrne's death, concluding she either jumped, fell or was pushed.

    The Weekend Australian understands a group of recruits from the Goulburn Police Academy, matching the physical proportions and fitness of Mr Wood and Byrne, took part in a series of videotaped experiments. A team of physicists from the University of Sydney, led by forensics expert associate professor Rodney Cross, conducted the tests. They involved recruits jumping or being thrown from a swimming pool tower.

    The Weekend Australian understands no female recruits were able to replicate the "jump" required for Byrne to land 9.5m from the base of the cliff - suggesting she was thrown from the clifftop by one or more persons.

    Male recruits - either alone or with another person - were able to throw the body double the required distance. Sydney University physicists did an initial but less extensive study with police in October last year.

    Those tests involved throwing mannequins of Byrne's height and weight over the 30m drop at The Gap.

    Sergeant Mark Powderly had told a Coroners Court the distance Byrne's body was found from the cliff was unusual. "It would have to be a fairly good run-up to get that far," Sergeant Powderly said. It was "not inconceivable" that someone threw Byrne off the cliff, he said. Mr Wood, who worked for Rivkin between October 1993 and February 1996, was questioned by NSW homicide detectives after the death of Byrne in June 1995. He has recently engaged a solicitor in Australia.

    A crucial witness told homicide detectives he saw a man fitting Mr Wood's description arguing with Byrne at The Gap only hours before her death.

    Mr Wood left Australia for Los Angeles in 1998 and The Australian tracked him down in March this year living in the exclusive French Alps ski resort of Megeve.

    The Australian,4057,11230196%255E421,00.html



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