Former detective and wife killer Des Campbell loses appeal

Convicted wife killer and former detective Des Campbell has lost his appeal in the state’s highest court.

Four years ago a jury found Campbell guilty of murdering his wife Janet by pushing her off a 50-metre cliff in the Royal National Park in 200

The former detective killed the 49-year-old, a trusting woman from country NSW, six months after they married in secret, a crime for which he received a 33-year jail sentence.

Campbell is said to have been motivated by a desire to get his hands on Mrs Campbell’s money, and it later emerged that he had three extramarital affairs during the course of their brief marriage.

But earlier this year Campbell appealed against the conviction. 

In a striking similarity to the appeal launched by Gordon Wood, Campbell attacked the credibility of retired physics professor Rod Cross, who gave evidence in both about the physics of cliff falls.

Professor Cross had opined from the witness box that it was most likely Mrs Campbell was pushed off the cliff from behind.

Campbell’s barrister, April Francis, told the NSW Court of Appeal judges that Professor Cross’s expertise was not relevant to the type of fall involved, specifically, vital evidence he gave about a shoe print Mrs Campbell left at the scene.

She also said Professor Cross had not been an independent expert witness.

Professor Cross’s experiments were criticised during Mr Wood’s successful appeal, with the judges upholding the claim that his evidence had been lacking in a number of key respects.

But on Tuesday, in a unanimous judgment, the three-judge appeal panel of Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, Justice Peter Hidden and Justice Carolyn Simpson, dismissed the appeal.

The judges agreed that it had not been properly established at Campbell’s trial that Professor Cross had ‘‘the relevant expertise, derived from both study and experience, to provide the expert opinions that he did’’.

However, their honours were ‘‘satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of Mr Campbell’s guilt on the evidence properly admitted at trial’’.

Campbell was not present in court for Tuesday’s judgment, nor were any of his or Janet Campbell’s family.