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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.

You 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.

DEFENDANT: No

BENCH: 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 said?

DEFENDANT: Yes.

BENCH: 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 Worship.

BENCH: 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 Worship, yes.

BENCH: I 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.

Reference 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 parents:

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 18.09.04.

(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. 

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