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Ex-cop Louis Mahony thought he’d got away with staging wife Lainie Coldwell’s murder

The scene at the Charleville house where Louis Mahony (inset) claimed his partner of 18 years fell from a ladder in 2009. Picture: Jamie Hanson

EVEN on the day he was arrested for murder, cocky ex-cop Louis Mahony was so confident he’d get off, he told officers they would soon be shouting him drinks to apologise.

For six years Mahony thought he had fooled the world after ruthlessly disposing of an inconvenient wife.

He’d staged the scene to make it appear that Lainie Coldwell, his defacto wife of 18 years, had fallen from a ladder at their Charleville home on August 23, 2009.

It convinced the country cops, who didn’t realise they were staring at the murder weapon – a bloody antique iron lying among rocks where Lainie supposedly fell and struck her head.

Mahony thought his dreams were in reach – he had Lainie’s multimillion-dollar life insurance policies to cash in.

Lainie Coldwell with husband Louis Mahony and their young daughter, who was three when her mother was murdered.

He was also free to pursue the foreign women on 457 visas at the local abattoir, where he worked after leaving his former career as a Northern Territory police officer.

The flies in the ointment were detectives from the state’s homicide squad, brought in to reinvestigate the case years after Lainie’s supposed freak accident.

“He said to me, ‘Renee, one day when this is all over, you are going to buy me a beer and apologise for what you’ve done to me’,” Detective Renee Hoile recalls of the day she arrested Mahony in December 2015.

Mahony’s prediction was proved spectacularly wrong last week, when he was convicted of killing Lainie, the mother of his young daughter.

With the 43-year-old sentenced to life imprisonment, the inside story of his downfall can now be told by the detectives who brought him to justice.

Detective Acting Sergeant Renee Hoile and Detective Inspector Damien Hansen, who broke the case open. Picture: Jamie Hanson

They revealed how a calculating and “narcissistic” Mahony initially researched car crashes and poisons before deciding to stage a fatal fall. He spent the day of his wife’s funeral planning a romantic getaway with a lover.

It’s hard to escape comparisons with Queensland’s other egotistical wife-killer, Gerard Baden-Clay, who murdered wife Allison in 2012 and thought he could escape justice.

In both cases, the accused was involved with other women and stood to benefit from large insurance payouts. And in both, the women standing in the way of a life of ease and fortune ended up dead.

Interestingly, insurers were the first to raise the alarm about Mahony. About two weeks after Lainie died, they contacted Charleville police to report they had more than a passing interest in the case.

Two life insurance policies worth a whopping $2.25 million had been taken out in Lainie’s name in the two months before her death. Suspicions were so grave, the company refused to pay out the policies.

The blood-stained antique iron that Mahony used to kill his wife.

Mahony arrives at court in Charleville for his committal hearing.

The blood-stained antique iron that Mahony used to kill his wife.

In 2009, it had been Mahony who made the triple-0 call, saying he found Lainie unconscious in a puddle of blood at the base of a large gum tree. She must have fallen taking down party lights in the tree, he said.

Lainie, 36, was flown to the Royal Brisbane Hospital, with Mahony by her side. Her family made the agonising decision to turn off her life support system and donate her organs.

At the scene, a rusted and bloodied antique iron lying among rocks at the base of the tree was photographed but not collected. It has not been found since. It is now believed Mahony used the iron to deliver a fatal blow to the back of his wife’s head.

In a tragic series of failings, a lone detective in Charleville made little headway before moving away, leaving the case to stagnate.

Local sergeant Gerard Thornton always had his suspicions and tried to pursue the investigation between other duties before calling in Brisbane-based homicide detectives in early 2013.

The case had an unusual complication. Because Lainie’s organs were donated, an autopsy had not been conducted. So, Detective Hoile and colleague Karen Murray set about contacting the medical specialists brought in from hospitals around the southeast to work on the organ donation process.

They confirmed that Lainie’s only significant injury was a single blow to the back of her head.

Lainie had supposedly fallen at least five metres from a ladder propped on the tray of Mahony’s ute.

“There were no ribs broken, no other organs injured,” said Detective Inspector Damien Hansen, who manages the homicide squad.

Photographs from the scene showed blood had inexplicably seeped onto the flat of the iron, which had been face down on rocks at the tree’s base. Strands of Lainie’s blonde hair were clearly visible amid blood on the underside.

As part of the original investigation, police had seized and held Mahony’s laptop. When computer expert James Morris, a civilian from the Queensland Police electronic evidence examination unit, inspected the computer, he struck gold.

Crime scene photo of the ladder balanced on the back of Mahony’s ute

Tributes at the base of the tree near where Lainie’s body was found.

Before Lainie’s death, Mahony had Googled terms including poisoning, car crashes, head injuries and forensic science. After her death, he was back online organising his love life.

“He’s searching Gold Coast limousines and Dracula’s Restaurant, and the Marriott Hotel on the Gold Coast. That’s leading up to the funeral and on the day of her funeral,” Detective Hoile says.

For a cop with an intimate understanding of police procedures, Mahony made plenty of mistakes.

In his triple-0 call, he twice said Lainie was face down.

“That’s not possible if the injury is to the back of the head,” Detective Hoile says.

Call records to insurers showed that before his wife’s death, Mahony had asked whether they would pay out if someone died in a car crash but wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. And compromising videos of Mahony and a Korean co-worker were found on his laptop.

Lainie was aware of Mahony’s affairs and made it known that she was leaving him and taking their daughter, Dakota, then three.

Three years after he murdered his wife – while still a free man – Mahony remarried a wealthy divorcee. She continued to raise Dakota when Mahony was arrested in 2015, and she stood by him through his trial.

To this day, Detective Hoile is struck by Mahony’s lack of remorse in robbing Dakota of a mother.

“There was never a time in my discussions with him where he ever displayed emotion when he was talking about her. If there was any emotion, it was about him,” she said.

www.clublibido.com.au

IT’S a haunting photograph.

A little boy sits in the gutter dressed in an oversized blue forensics suit. He is barefoot and rests his head on one hand as he listens intently to the stranger sitting next to him.

The stranger — a Gold Coast detective — has just arrived at Upper Coomera, a quiet ordinary suburb that has suddenly become a major crime scene.

It was inside the child’s home the horror unfolded. His mother Renee Kuch, 39, and father Corey Croft, 37, had been stabbed to death more than 24 hours earlier by Ms Kuch’s ex-partner Christopher Carter, a former soldier.

Carter had gained custody of the pair’s two children, now aged 16 and 19, in 2015 and she began a relationship and had another child with Mr Croft.

The 39-year-old was found not guilty of murder or manslaughter this week by a Brisbane Supreme Court jury, the jury clearly believing his account that he killed the pair out of self-defence.

The young boy is comforted outside his home after both his parents were killed. Photo: Glenn Hampson

When he left their home that night, on January 20 2015, the only person still alive inside was the couple’s five-year-old son who had been asleep in his room when his parents were killed.

The boy woke to an unimaginable scene. His parents were dead. There was so much blood he is now traumatised by the colour red. He picked the knife from near his mum’s body and put it in the sink.

He then waited for help. But no one came.

PRAYERS FOR A ‘GUILTY’ VERDICT

The little boy’s grandmother Jo-Anne Kuch is angry.

She couldn’t sit through every day of the trial and wasn’t up to being there when it all came to an end late Thursday afternoon.

Her partner was in court to hear the jury foreman deliver the not guilty verdicts for the murders of her daughter and her partner.

“I couldn’t be there. I would have had a heart attack,” Ms Kuch told news.com.au from her Gold Coast home.

The things she heard during the trial devastated her. The trial process made her angry.

“I’m shattered, I’m so upset and angry. I felt like killing someone last night… It’s an injustice, an injustice in the legal system. It’s quite simple.”

Her partner Rod left the court when the verdicts were read. The two slipped out before the media frenzy that surrounded Mr Carter — who was about to walk out of court, a free man, for the first time in two years.

“It’s just horrendous, absolutely horrendous and heartbreaking.”

Ms Kuch and her family have endured a living hell in the two years since the stabbings.

“We’ve waited two years. It’s affected all of our lives, especially [the boy]. As I said to you, he’s developed ADHD, separation anxiety, he locks all the doors and windows at night.”

She is angry things were said in court about her daughter that she was unable to defend herself. The jury was told of binge drinking and affairs — accusations Ms Kuch rejects.

‘WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE COME AND HELP ME’

Ms Kuch is shattered most about the impact the killings are having on her grandson. He turned eight a week before the trial began.

“He’s OK at the moment. He wasn’t himself last weekend. We wanted to make a happy day at the park, he went swimming and on a boogie board but I could just tell he was affected.”

He lives with Ms Kuch’s sister and they are doing their best to give him a normal life, but they worry the emotional scars — not to mention what he saw and heard that night — will return to haunt him.

Ms Kuch can barely bring herself to look at the picture of him sitting in the gutter. His clothes had been replaced with the forensic suit given to him by officers who arrived within minutes of the 000 call.

More than 24 hours after the stabbings, Ms Kuch’s sister — with whom the boy now lives — went to the house after calls went unanswered.

She found the bodies and rescued the boy from the home.

Renne Kuch’s son and her mother Jo-Anne Kuch. Picture: Facebook

“He said after, ‘Why didn’t someone come and help me.’ It’s just horrendous,” she said, detailing for the first time what the boy went through.

“He couldn’t get out of the house because Corey was [dead] at the front door. He thought they were playing tricks on him,” she sobbed.

He thinks he can remember shouting that night, but has never said what he saw or heard inside the home. But Ms Kuch said he recently remembered “seeing a man”.

The family has managed to keep the trial away from him so far. But they know he will one day learn the truth.

He saw a psychologist regularly who was helping him cope with the horror he’d seen. He hates the colour red because that’s all he saw when he woke up, but had made good progress recently.

“My sister got him into sport and everything he touches turns to gold. He’s a good runner, he plays soccer — he just tries everything. It’s just a sham that Renee and Corey aren’t here to see him grow up.”

INSIDE THE HOME

This trial was no whodunnit, no mystery. Mr Carter never denied stabbing the couple. The central question the jury members had to grapple with was whether prosecutors could prove he had the intention to murder them.

Ms Kuch was stabbed at least 10 times. The fatal blow was to her neck and was so severe it severed her spinal cord. Her partner had five stab wounds, all in the neck and head.

The trial heard Carter was made aware Croft had forced a 10-year-old girl to shower with him and that he was a convicted paedophile who had raped a child in South Australia.

Ms Kuch told news.com.au she “condemns paedophiles” but insists her daughter wasn’t aware of Mr Croft’s past until she was expecting his child.

“Renee didn’t know about his past. She had the child, but you still don’t kill paedophiles, you don’t have that right. [Corey] was a great father to [the boy] and he and Renee had a good relationship. Sometimes it wasn’t, but that’s just a normal relationship.”

During his closing address on Wednesday, Crown prosector Glen Cash QC argued Carter intended to kill Croft and Renee Kuch.

Former soldier Christopher Carter leaves the Brisbane Supreme Court after being found not guilty. Picture: AAP

Christopher Carter said he was acting in self defence.

“The intent was one he developed in the course of the interactions, not that he came there to kill,” he said.

But Mr Carter’s barrister David Brustman QC argued it was not murder but an “unforeseeable” event that was the result of years of tension and hostility between Mr Carter and Renee Kuch.

Mr Carter gave evidence at trial and told the jury he went to the home just to talk to his wife.

The Crown alleged he went there, a former soldier who knew how to kill, to commit murder.

After a heated argument at the doorway, the court heard Ms Kuch appeared with a knife and the two wrestled over it. He stabbed her several times, and then said he was attacked by Mr Croft.

“I was stabbing Corey. As we moved back into what was the doorway, Corey fell to the ground.

“I didn’t know where Renee had gone through that period. I’ve just stood up and started moving to the back of the house,” Carter said.

Corey Croft was a convicted child sex offender..

Police outside the couple’s home. Picture: Annette Dew

It was then he said Ms Kuch attacked him again

“I was in a state of shock, I couldn’t believe what happened. I stabbed her. I didn’t mean to do it. I pushed her down off me. The way she fell to the ground … it was essentially like she was unconscious and I’ve seen a pool of blood was coming from her head.”

He admitted he placed the knife in her hand.

“The only thing I remember thinking in my head was: ‘It’s your knife, you can have it back.’”

A MOTHER’S LOVE

Ms Kuch couldn’t listen to the graphic evidence. Few parents could. Each time the details of her daughter’s injuries were spoken in court, she broke down in tears.

She wants her daughter remembered in a different way to what she says are mistruths from the court case.

“She was a beautiful, caring mother who loved her children. She was well liked at work, she would do anything for anyone.”

She worked in aged care, but at one stage dreamt of a career in the police force. “She didn’t pass the physical though because of her asthma.”

Not guilty…Christopher Carter.

Police found Renee Kuch and Corey Croft’s bodies inside their home. Picture: Annette Dew

Now the trial was over Ms Kuch told news.com.au she could finally go ahead with plan to scatter her ashes. She has a spot in mind, a part of the Queensland coast that is special to the family.

“That’s where my brother’s ashes were spread. A lot of Renee’s friends will be there, they’re all married now with children.”

The date she has set is not going to be Renee’s birthday, but January 20. It will be three years since she was killed.

“That’s when we are going to do it; that’s when she was taken from us.”

www.ozrural.com.au     www.clublibido.com.au

SHOES FROM DANIEL MORCOMBE FOUND AT SCENE

For the first time, the Morcombes are finally able to think about planning a funeral for their son Daniel eight years after he went missing.

Bruce Morcombe has spoken to media after the police confirmed the shoes found at the Sunshine Coast search site are the same Globe brand as the Sunshine Coast schoolboy was wearing when he disappeared in 2003.

Deputy Queensland Police Commissioner Ross Barnett told reporters the shoes found last week were consistent with Daniel’s footwear, although forensic tests were under way.

Bruce Morcombe addresses the media on Monday for the first time about the discovery of human bones, possibly Daniel's, at the Beerwah search site.Bruce Morcombe addresses the media on Monday for the first time about the discovery of human bones, possibly Daniel’s, at the Beerwah search site. Photo: Robert Shakespeare  

“If that hasn’t been confirmed [publicly], we can say they are the same brand [Globe] as those we believe Daniel was wearing at the time of his disappearance,” he said.

He said the exact size of the shoes was yet to be confirmed, but their characteristics were consistent with Daniel’s shoes.

And Mr Barnett said the forensic testing of three bones found yesterday was likely to take weeks rather than days. However, he said it was a top priority.

Second major breakthrough ... search teams have found human bones.Authorities have suspended the search for Daniel Morcombe’s remains due to bad weather. Photo: Getty Images 

Police today suspended the search for the remains of missing schoolboy due to bad weather.

Rain set in on the Glass House Mountains bushland search site over the weekend and has continued this morning.

The search will not resume today, but police said they would continue to monitor conditions so the search can recommence as soon as practical.

Search for Daniel Morcombe’s remains

Denise and Bruce Morcombe talk to the media, thanking the public for their support, on Monday, August 15, 2011, two days after a man was charged with the murder of their son Daniel. They are outside the Daniel Morcombe Foundation headquarters on the Sunshine Coast. Photo: Michelle Smith

The scene will continue to be guarded by police who found human remains at the site over the weekend.

It could take “anywhere from days to weeks” for DNA analysis of the bones, with the analysis depending chiefly on the condition of the bones and the resources available at Queensland Health’s Forensic and Scientific Services at Brisbane’s John Tonge Centre.

Mr Barnett said today authorities would do “whatever it takes” to get the forensic examination done as quickly and professionally as possible, but would not rush the work.

He did not rule out getting help from interstate or overseas forensic experts if such assistance was needed.

Mr Barnett said the search was suspended today purely because of the heavy rain overnight, which made the site muddy and water-logged.

However, this meant police and SES volunteers were getting a well-deserved break.

Mr Barnett was hopeful of finding more evidence at the same site when the search resumed.

“Having found what we’ve found in relatively close proximity to each other, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t find further evidence,” he said.

Daniel’s parents were in Melbourne for Denise’s parents’ joint 80th birthday party when they learned bones had been found.

They decided to keep the news to themselves to avoid overshadowing Denise’s parents’ party but Mr Morcombe said it was hard to contain the emotion.

“All this time I have not known what to call Danny and how to receive any news,” he said.

“And now we are thinking ‘is this going to be the final chapter or not?'”

But for the first time last night, the Morcombes thought about making funeral arrangements after learning of the discovery of three bones in the dense bush in Beerwah.

“Certainly the significance of the find is not lost on the family,” he said.

“We were choked with emotion.

“We are really hopeful it is him.”

Peter Boyce, the solicitor acting for Daniel’s parents Bruce and Denise Morcombe, said he hoped the forensic testing process would be expedited in this case.

“Police have not given us an indication as to how long the DNA testing might take,” he told brisbanetimes.com.au.

“At the end of the day, we would hope that it is given some priority. It should be able to be done within one week or two weeks I understand.

“They’ve been waiting such a long time and now, in a week, three major finds of significance have been taken by police from the site.

“The sooner they find out the answer as to whether it is Daniel’s DNA or whether DNA can be obtained from each of the samples, the better for them.”

Yesterday, investigators scouring bushland at Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast, just 40 kilometres from where the 13-year-old went missing eight years ago, uncovered the bones in the primary search area at the end of Kings Road.

Police confirmed just hours after the discovery the bones were human, but cautioned the find might not be related to the investigation.

The breakthrough followed the discovery of the two matching shoes at the site – one was found last Wednesday and the other was uncovered on Saturday.

Mr Boyce described the agonising process as “putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle”.

“Who knows what’s next on the agenda?” he said.

“[The Morcombes] are experiencing a mixed bag of emotions at the moment,” Mr Boyce said.

“While this is a very significant event in the case it is still pretty tough on Bruce and Denise. It brings up memories from the very first day Daniel was [reported] missing.”

Mr Morcombe spoke of the four ‘monumental’ phone calls he has received in the past eight days – the arrest, the discoveries of the first and second shoes, and the discovery of three bones.

He hoped the fifth call would be to report police had discovered an entire skeleton.

“The feeling that the bones are potentially Danny’s is one of relief,” he said.

“It’s not good news or celebratory, just sheer relief.”

A DNA analysis of the three bones will be compared with Daniel’s DNA profile, which was created immediately after his disappearance from items including his clothes and shoes.

Claude Roux, director of the Centre of Forensic Science at the University of Technology Sydney, said DNA analysts would be inclined to be more cautious under the circumstances.

“It all depends on the quality of the biological material. It could take days or weeks,” he said.

“In a case like this it would be cautious to take a bit more time. First [analysts] would want to identify the remains … but they would also want to reconstruct what happened to the person.”

He said the best chance of identifying remains was analysing dentistry or traces of clothing.

More than 100 State Emergency Service volunteers and police officers have been scouring the muddy bushland near Coochin Creek since the arrest of Brett Peter Cowan on charges of Daniel’s abduction and murder on August 13.

The findings come after it was revealed Mr Cowan was monitored for months at a Perth caravan park before his arrest.

He had almost every second of his life monitored by detectives who were living just metres from him at Crystal Brook Caravan Park.

The former truck driver reportedly acted as an unofficial handyman for older residents in the park, before heading to Queensland in early August.

Mr Cowan will fight the charges of murder, child stealing, deprivation of liberty, indecent treatment of a child and interfering with a corpse when he faces Brisbane Magistrates Court on September 26.

The Morcombes are determined to continue their work with the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, which helps educate children on how to keep safe, provides financial support to young victims of crime and kept the search for Daniel on the public and authorities’ agendas.

– with Marissa Calligeros


Forensic scientists  would link

sex offenders to condoms

Sexual offenders are increasingly using condoms when committing their assaults, both to reduce the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases, and to avoid leaving their DNA at the crime scene. While an offender might still leave their fingerprints behind, that often only proves that they were at a given location, and not that they were involved in any wrongdoing. Researchers from the Biomedical Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, however, have recently developed technology that detects condom lubricant in fingerprints. If a suspect could be tied to a crime scene by their fingerprints, and be shown to have handled a condom at that location – well, they’d have a lot more explaining to do.

The process utilizes MALDI-MSI, or matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry imaging – this allows for the analysis of fragile molecules, that fragment when subjected to more conventional ionization techniques. The Sheffield team previously researched the use of this same technology for mapping fingerprint ridge patterns.

In lab trials, the researchers were able to identify lubricant from two major brands of condoms in fingerprints, some of which were several weeks old. It is hoped that in the future, it might even be possible to match lubricant found in fingerprints to that found in vaginal swabs from victims, or to determine the brand of condom used.

“If condom lubricant can be detected in fingermarks it would improve the evidence for the prosecution by establishing the assailant’s presence at the scene and, crucially, having had contact with a condom,” said Dr. Rosalind Wolstenholme, co-author of a paper on the research. “This would enable forensic scientists to provide further support to the evidence in alleged cases of sexual assault.”

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