Not all sections to the left contain subject matter yet -
Toxic Toxicology contains the sections of Patrick and Desley's submissions and
recommendations to the coroner Michael Halliday. The other sections will follow.
Flawed Toxicology Evidence from Mitch Collins’ 2001
Inquest and from the Prosecution’s Investigation 2002-06.
By Patrick and Desley
Collins (Mitch’s parents) 4.09.06.
The following provides a background to a Submission we made
to Magistrate Michael Halliday, the Brisbane Coroner who conducted Mitch’s
Inquest. Our submission discussed recommendations for change to improve
post-mortem forensic science evidence in Queensland Courts. Mr Halliday tabled
our paper, which follows this introduction, when he closed Mitch’s Inquest on
1.09.06. A leading investigative journalist, Hedley Thomas, commented on it in
The Weekend Australian, 2-3.09.06.
On 28.09.01, the Brisbane Coroner, Magistrate Michael
Halliday, adjourned his Inquest into Mitch Collins’ death. Immediately prior to
the adjournment, Coroner Halliday committed Mitch’s step niece, Mardi Lidelle
McLean to be tried for his murder. The “Transcript of Proceedings” from the
Inquest included the verbatim extract that follows. In the text, “Bench” refers
to Mr Halliday. “Mr Kissick” was McLean’s barrister (provided by Legal Aid).
Extract from the Transcript, 28.09.01:
BENCH: I am of the opinion and so determine that
on the evidence adduced in these proceedings such is sufficient to put Mardi Ladelle McLean upon her trial for the indictable offence of murder.
I now formally charge such person - is she in Court?
Ms McLean, come forward please.
Are you Mardi Ladelle McLean?
MS McLEAN: Yes, I am.
BENCH: I hereby charge you that on the 16th
day of December 2000 at Brisbane in the State of Queensland you did murder one
Mitchell Craig Collins.
will have an opportunity to give evidence on oath before me and to call
witnesses, but first I am going to ask you whether you wish to say anything in
answer to that charge.
You need not say anything unless you wish to do so and you are not obliged to
enter any plea. You have nothing to hope from any promise, and nothing to fear
from any threat that may have been held out to you to induce you to make any
admission or confession of guilt. Anything you say however will be taken down
and may be given in evidence at your trial. Do you understand what I have just
Do you wish to say anything in answer to the charge or do you wish to enter any
plea, and I'll accept your----
MR KISSICK: She has nothing to say, your
Thank you. I hereby commit you for trial to the criminal sittings of the Supreme
Court of Queensland to be held at Brisbane on a date to be notified to you by
the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Having regard to the charge, Mr Kissick, I have no jurisdiction to grant bail.
MR KISSICK: No, I appreciate that, your
accordingly remand you in custody to appear before the Supreme Court at Brisbane
on a date to be notified to you. I order that the exhibits in these proceedings
be delivered into the custody of the Director of Public Prosecutions and to be
produced at the Court in which the defendant is committed.
Data: 28092001 T1/LM3 M/T 20/2001 (Halliday Coroner)]. The full transcript from
the Inquest, which commenced 20.08.01, is held at the Magistrate’s Building, Cnr
George and Turbot Streets, Brisbane: File Numbers: COR 792 of 2000; and COR 01.
* * * * *
An examination of toxicological evidence by Mitch’s
Although Mr Halliday had, on 28.09.01, committed McLean to
be tried for murder, she was not charged until Principal Crown Prosecutor
Michael Byrne did so on 22.03.02. There was a great deal of environmental
evidence against McLean, eg verified lies she had told to Emergency Services and
to paramedics. However, it is our understanding that Mr Byrne had also been
strongly influenced by pathological evidence that suggested Mitch had orally
consumed at least some of the heroin that killed him: whereas McLean claimed he
had injected himself twice. But she was never tried in front of a jury. On
17.09.04, the DPP entered a “nul prosequi” decision: i.e. the murder charge was
dropped. This was because, on 20.08.04, Professor Olaf Drummer, a Victorian
forensic toxicologist, provided a written opinion that supported McLean. When we
subsequently found that this contained some incorrect but inflated drug
concentrations, the DPP sought yet another opinion, this time from a NSW
forensic pathologist, Associate Professor Johan Duflou. His report, dated
21.03.06, was indefinite on the key issue of how heroin had entered Mitch’s
body: i.e. there was insufficient toxicological evidence to conclude if he had
swallowed it, or if it was from one or more IV injections. With varied opinions
from forensic scientists, Prosecutor Byrne believed that McLean’s barrister
could convince a jury that the DPP’s case for murder was not “beyond reasonable
doubt”. Accordingly, the DPP returned the relevant files to Magistrate Halliday,
who resumed and concluded Mitch’s Inquest on Friday 1.09.06.
Commencing with our discovery (in early 2002) of major
scientific errors in the evidence of a forensic analyst during Mitch’s Inquest,
we embarked on an ongoing investigation of scientific evidence tendered about
Mitch’s death. To enable this, we examined evidence from some relevant trials.
We also subscribed to leading on-line forensic science and medical data banks,
including “Toxfile”, “Medline” and Lancet. These searches led us to
numerous relevant journal articles, hundreds of which we acquired from document
providers such as the University of Qld Biological Sciences Library. We also
purchased and studied current pharmacological textbooks. We soon mastered the
scientific jargon and Patrick’s knowledge of statistics (from his psychological
studies) allowed us to interpret toxicological, pathological and
gastroenterological conclusions. More to the point, we were soon convinced that
Mitch had received a raw deal, especially at the hands of QHSS forensic
scientists. Between May 2002 and 1.09.06, we made numerous submissions. These
were to QHSS (sometimes referred to as the John Tonge Centre), Principal
Prosecutor Byrne and the DPP, the Office of the State Coroner, Chief Justice
Paul de Jersey, Mr Peter Forster who examined Queensland Health practices in
2005, and also to The Ministerial Task Force that inquired into QHSS in 2005.
Finally, when we learned that Magistrate Halliday was to hand down his closing
statement about Mitch’s death, we approached him about what we had learned.
To our delight, Magistrate Halliday, who had been handed
copies of most of our submissions, eg by the State Coroner and the DPP, invited
us to discuss our toxicological concerns. We subsequently compiled the
submission that follows, and which summarises much of our investigation. We
decided that the most constructive approach was to make recommendations about
how to improve the quality of forensic evidence presented during Queensland
inquests and trials. Each of our recommendations was supported with attached
documentary evidence: eg Coronial transcripts, official correspondence, journal
articles, etc. that supported our claims. When Mr Halliday resumed and concluded
Mitch’s inquest on 1.09.06, he tabled our complete submission, including our
attachments. Most importantly, he directed that our submission was also to be
provided to the Director of QHSS for his consideration.
As was reported on 2-3.09.02 in The Weekend Australian
(pages 2 & 22), by leading investigative journalist Hedley Thomas, Mr Halliday
supported our actions and quoted from some of our key evidence. Consequently, by
tabling our submission, it now forms part of the public record from Mitch’s
Inquest. Significantly, persons who might be offended by anything in our
submission cannot sue us for this.
Conclusion: Our submission to Mr Halliday, on the following
pages, (Toxic Toxicology) is likely to be the last formal evidence tendered to a Court about
Mitch’s death. Significantly, Mr Halliday did not withdraw his conclusion of
28.09.01: i.e. that McLean had murdered Mitch. Instead he re-read this finding.
Hopefully, the contents of our submission will convince objective readers that
Mr Halliday had no reason to change his mind, although inconclusive (and
sometimes erroneous) forensic scientific evidence was basic to the DPP’s nul
prosequi decision. Finally, it is important to us that Mitch’s family and
friends understand that McLean has never been found “not guilty”, as was
erroneously published by The Courier-Mail on 18.09.04. However, unless
some new incriminating evidence comes to light, it is unlikely that she will
ever face a jury. We do though find it hard to accept that post-mortem forensic
scientists, via their erroneous and/or equivocal evidence, had effectively
filled the roles of judge and jury in relation to Mitch’s death. If you read our
submission, please feel free to comment on this claim. If you have any new
evidence, please reveal it. We can be contacted via the main menu.
Patrick and Desley Collins (Mitch’s parents): 4.09.06.
Notes: (i): Although a Courier-Mail journalist was
present at the Inquest conclusion on 1.09.06, the Courier did not publish
a report. This was disappointing, as we had previously, though unsuccessfully,
asked senior staff to correct the paper’s erroneous “not guilty” report of
(ii): Similarly, although we had advised the Queensland
Liberal Party leader, Dr Bruce Flegg (the Opposition’s spokesperson on Health),
of our submission to Mr Halliday, no person from his office attended the
hearing, and none has since contacted us about our evidence.
(iii): Mr Halliday has undertaken to provide us with
written copy of his actions and conclusions of 1.09.06. When this document is
available in a few weeks time we will add it to this site.