Toni McHugh-Who are You? Go away now

Courtesy of Australian Women’s Weekly…

Toni McHugh: ‘My future with Gerard included his children’

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The mistress of convicted wife-killer Gerard Baden-Clay believed she would eventually build a life with him and his three young daughters.

In an exclusive interview with The Australian Women’s Weekly, Toni McHugh has opened up about how she and the now convicted murderer had high hopes of setting up house together and getting shared custody of his children.

McHugh, who was engaged in a four year affair with Baden-Clay when he violently killed his wife of 14 years,  Allison Baden-Clay, says she always considered the couple’s children when they discussed a life together.

“The future I was planning with Gerard, it actually included them. It included Allison! I thought we would all get to the point where we all, you know, shared custody, like adults and got on,” she told The Weekly.

Related: Gerard Baden-Clay’s secret life of betrayal revealed

The former real estate salesperson also shared unsettling details about the moment she came close to Allison’s body.

“We drove over that bridge, and she was under there, and later that day, maybe around noon, we heard a woman’s body has been found, and I knew straight away – instantly – that it was Allison,” Ms McHugh said.

When asked whether or not she felt responsible for Allison’s untimely death, McHugh, who describes herself as ‘Australia’s Monica Lewinsky’ – the most famous White House intern in history, said ‘No’.

Related: Gerard Baden-Clay’s colleague tells: ‘I was working with a murderer’

“It is horrible to have it said that you are the motive (for murder),” she said.

“But no, I’m sorry, he wasn’t thinking about me. He was thinking about himself.”

While McHugh admits she’s still trying to come to terms with what’s happened, she is now planning to write a book about the case.

“I’m the only one who can tell this story,” she said.

Gerard Baden-Clay was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 15 years behind bars for killing Allison and dumping her body in Brisbane’s Kholo Creek.

Read more of this story in the August issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly. 

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AFP get another 135 kg of ICE worth $130m off our streets

Follow the money and the drugs will follow. The minnows they caught with the drugs are disposable, with a queue of guys ready to take their places.

That is a lot of money to the man on the street to lose, but if you haven’t seen the brilliant show called “breaking bad”. The drugs they lost are are a mere few batches away for the big players. Not much else the Australian Federal Police can do.

from the ABC Thu 31 Jul 2014, 9:36am

A joint AFP-ACC raid in Melbourne has netted 135 kilograms of methamphetamine.

A joint AFP-ACC raid in Melbourne has netted 135 kilograms of methamphetamine. (ABC News: Tony Nicholls)

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have seized 135 kilograms of methamphetamine with a street value of $130 million from a Melbourne apartment.

Police said they located four suitcases containing the drugs in an inner city Melbourne apartment on Tuesday night.

The drugs represent 1.3 million street deals, police said.

The AFP and Australian Crime Commission (ACC) executed search warrants in Melbourne yesterday and arrested four Taiwanese nationals, all aged in their twenties.

Eligo Taskforce since 2012:

  • Aprox $40 million in cash seized
  • Over $800 million of illicit drugs seized
  • $30 million in assets restrained
  • Identified more than 179 targets previously unknown to law enforcement officials
  • Disrupted 25 serious organised crime groups
  • Shut down 18 clandestine drug labs, three of which were commercial scale
  • Raised $12 million in tax assessments with 150 referrals to the ATO for further action on evasion and money laundering.

The seizure and arrests comes after intelligence from the Eligo National Task Force.

AFP Commander Bruce Giles said it was a significant seizure for the country and the state.

“Ice, we see as one of the most dangerous and insidious diseases in our communities and the fact that we have removed over 1.3 million street deals of methamphetamine has got to be good for the Victorian and Australian community,” he said.

“I think in terms of an organised crime syndicate operating in Australia, clearly they will see yet again that agencies cooperate effectively together to join forces to combat the drug trade.”

The four men, Chun Lan, 28, Ming Hsuan Ou and Li Ping Chen, both 23, and Shu Yi Lin, 20, appeared briefly in the Melbourne Magistrates Court just before 1:00pm (AEST).

They were all charged with possessing and trafficking a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug. The charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The 135kg of crystal methylamphetamine, or ice, worth about $130 million

The 135kg of crystal methylamphetamine, or ice, worth about $130 million

The court heard the men, who were assisted by a translator, have Australian tourist visas and their arrest yesterday is their first time in custody.

They have been remanded in custody until their next court hearing. Magistrate Jelena Popovic told the men they could apply for bail at any time.

They will return to court on November 5 for a committal mention.

A Melbourne ice haul of 135kg packed into suitcases has been uncovered after authorities tracked profits of a crime syndicate.

Authorities tracking money linked to offshore crime syndicates have seized $130 million worth of ice packed into plastic bags and stacked in four bulging suitcases in a Melbourne apartment.

Four Taiwanese nationals in Australia on tourist visas have been charged over the crystal methylamphetamine haul.

More than 135kg of the drug was seized, an amount which police say would have been on-sold to users 1.3 million times over.

A joint Australian Federal Police and Australian Crime Commission (ACC) operation netted the illicit product, after intelligence was provided through the Eligo national task force which tracks money laundering.

ACC national manager of investigations Richard Grant said people were increasingly being targeted by cartels and offshore syndicates, focused purely on profit.

“One of the things for the Eligo task force is going after the profits and this is how we were able to track these particular syndicate members to end up with these seizures,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

AFP commander Bruce Giles said the bust was significant and investigations into the exact source of the drugs were ongoing.

“Traditionally with this quantity of ice, you would expect it to come by land or sea,” he said.

The drugs were found in four suitcases in an inner-city Melbourne apartment on Tuesday afternoon.

Four men have been charged with a range of drug offences.

A brief hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday was told the men were in Australia on tourist visas and have no fixed address within the country.

Shu Yi Lin, 20, and Li Ping Chen, 23, were both charged with possessing a commercial quantity of ice suspected of being illegally imported.

Chun Lan, 28, and Ming Hsuan Ou, 23, were each charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of ice.

hey tough guy Hugh Garth, is this how you wanted to be famous?


What a tough little weasel, a one punch macho man Hugh Garth is ! This is a massive case if we are to put a stop to the idiotic behaviour that results in young people dying in seconds for mostly nothing. Society has had enough of one punch fools who kill.

Hugh Garth refused bail after becoming first man charged under NSW one-punch laws

 25/07/14 6.30pm 

A man accused of fatally punching another man at a birthday party in Sydney has been deemed a threat to the community and refused bail.

Hugh Bacalla Garth, 21, became the first person to be charged under New South Wales’ so-called one-punch laws after he allegedly hit Raynor Manalad in Rooty Hill, in Sydney’s west, on May 7.

Mr Manalad, who was also 21, suffered extensive bleeding on the brain and died in Westmead Hospital the next day.

Garth, who was charged with assault causing death while intoxicated, applied for bail under the state’s controversial new Bail Act in the Penrith Local Court, where he appeared via videolink.

His mother prayed over a string of rosary beads as she watched the proceedings from the public gallery, along with Garth’s girlfriend.

Garth’s lawyer, Riyad El-Choufani, told the court Garth should be granted bail because he needed full access to his legal team to build a defence to the charges, which are new and have no legal precedent.

The one-punch mandatory sentencing laws, introduced in January, mandate an eight-year minimum sentence for fatally striking a person with a single punch while drunk or on drugs.

Garth was also charged with grievous bodily harm for a separate alleged assault at the party.

Garth ‘an unacceptable risk’

Mr El-Choufani said the charges were serious but “not so grave as to warrant the refusal of bail”.

“There is no suggestion [the alleged offence] was premeditated; there is no suggestion it was planned,” he said.

Mr El-Choufani said the case would rely on a witness who said he saw Mr Manalad grab Garth by the shirt during an argument and Garth had acted in self-defence.

I am of the view the risk to the community is just too great.

Magistrate Roger Clisdell

The court also heard Garth was seeking bail because his girlfriend, Christine Galvin, is 19 weeks pregnant with their first child.

But prosecutor John Walford opposed bail, saying Garth’s significant criminal history meant he posed an unacceptable risk to the community.

“His violence has escalated to this catastrophic alleged hit,” Mr Walford said.

Your Honour would find that it’s an unacceptable risk and the bail conditions would not mitigate it.”

Magistrate Roger Clisdell agreed.

“This is a very serious offence,” he said.

“I am of the view the risk to the community is just too great.”

Garth will remain in Lithgow Correctional Centre on remand.

The matter is due before court again in August.


Charges upgraded in fatal punch case

May 7, 2014

Crime Reporter

Died in hospital: Raynor Manalad.

Died in hospital: Raynor Manalad. Photo: Supplied

The mother of man killed by a fatal punch said she does not care whether her son’s alleged attacker was the first to be charged under tough new laws because nothing will bring her child back.

Hugh Garth, 21, is the first person to be charged under the NSW government’s ”one punch” legislation after he allegedly punched and killed a nurse at a western Sydney party on Saturday.

Raynor Manalad, 21, was knocked unconscious outside a Rooty Hill house and died the next day in hospital.

Mr Garth is the first person to face the new charge of assault causing death, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 25 years.

Under new laws introduced in January, anyone who fatally punches someone while intoxicated will receive a minimum eight-year jail term.

Mr Manalad’s mother was trying to organise her son’s funeral when she learned police had laid extra charges against Mr Garth on Wednesday.

”I’m not interested in what happens, nothing can bring back my son,” she said outside her Belmore unit block.

Mr Garth, 21, appeared briefly before Blacktown Local Court, where police laid two extra charges including assault causing death while intoxicated.

”Hugh Bacalla Garth did when intoxicated unlawfully assault Ray Manalad by intentionally hitting [him] with a clenched fist … thereby causing the death of Ray Manalad,” a police charge sheet read.

The court heard he also faced a fresh charge of grievous bodily harm after he allegedly assaulted Myrik Ong, who was hosting the house party on Saturday.

Magistrate Timothy Keady outlined a total of five charges in court.

Mr Garth’s mother sat silently as her son was formally refused bail and told he would remain in custody until his next court appearance in July.

Hours before the alleged fatal punch was thrown, Mr Garth posted a picture of a Southern Comfort bottle on social media with the caption ”get it started”.

A family friend of Mr Garth cried outside of court and said his family was shattered by the charges.

”He would never, ever do this. He would never hurt anyone on purpose. He’s a beautiful person, he has a good soul,” Jodie Webster said outside the court. ”Everyone’s shattered.”

Mr Manalad’s death comes after two Sydney teenagers, Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly, were killed by single punches in Kings Cross.

Police allege Mr Manalad was trying to intervene in a fight between Mr Garth and his girlfriend when he was punched outside a Rupertswood Road house at about 12.30am.

One friend described the Mr Manalad’s final act as ”heroic”.

”May God reward you for all the good deeds that you have done especially for the last heroic act you did,” Mrv Brnrdo posted on Facebook.

Another friend, Amanda Jay, said her heart went out to Mr Manalad’s family. ”Yesterday we lost a beautiful life, amazing nurse, friend and son. A truly genuine man who always had respect for everyone,” she posted on Facebook.


Raynor Manalad dies after alleged one-punch assault at Rooty Hill party

Man dies in one-punch attack

RAW VISION: The mother of a man accused of a one-punch death in Minchinbury says she is in shock over the arrest. Nine News.

Raynor Manalad was a nurse, a brother, a son and a friend. He was a man whose life was ended by a single punch.

Police will allege the recent university graduate was struck once in the face outside a 21st birthday party at Rooty Hill in Sydney’s west on Saturday.

He was knocked unconscious and died the next day.

Raynor Manalad, who died after he was punched at a party on Saturday.

Raynor Manalad, who died after he was punched at a party on Saturday. Photo: Facebook

The alleged attack comes after two Sydney teenagers Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly were killed by single punches in Kings Cross.

Hugh Bacalla Garth, 21, of Blacktown, was charged with the assault that led to Mr Manalad’s death and will remain in custody until he appears in court on Wednesday.

It is alleged Mr Manalad was trying to intervene in a fight between Mr Garth and his girlfriend when he was struck outside a Rupertswood Road house about 12.30am.

Raynor Manalad on his graduation day.

Raynor Manalad on his graduation day. Photo: Facebook

On Monday friends and family paid tribute to Raynor Tristan Castillo Manalad, who recently graduated from nursing at the Australian Catholic Univversity.

One friend described the 21-year-old’s final act as “heroic“.

“May God reward you for all the good deeds that you have done especially for the last heroic act you did,” posted Mrv Brnrdo on Facebook.

Hugh Bacalla Garth is accused of punching Raynor Manalad.

Hugh Bacalla Garth is accused of punching Raynor Manalad. Photo: Facebook

Another friend, Amanda Jay, said her heart went out to Mr Manalad’s family.

“Yesterday we lost a beautiful life, amazing nurse, friend and son. A truly genuine man who always had respect for everyone,” she posted on Facebook.

Close friend Alyssa described Mr Manalad as a “beautiful sunset”.

Hugh Bacalla Garth allegedly threw the fatal punch at the party in Rooty Hill.

Hugh Bacalla Garth allegedly threw the fatal punch at the party in Rooty Hill. Photo: Facebook

“Hearing about your passing hits me like a ton of bricks. I cannot believe that you are gone,” Alyssa wrote online.

“It hurts that you are no longer alive because you were the person who would always keep the peace in the group,” she said.

Police have said charges against Mr Garth were likely to be upgraded at his next court appearance.

"Get it started": A bottle of Southern Comfort on Hugh Bacalla Garth's Facebook page.

“Get it started”: A bottle of Southern Comfort on Hugh Bacalla Garth’s Facebook page. Photo: Facebook

“The accused had been at a party with his girlfriend … there was a dispute between them,” police said.

In January this year the NSW government passed controversial new laws which introduced mandatory sentences for deadly one-punch assaults.

Under the new law, anyone who fatally punches someone while intoxicated will receive an eight-year jail term.

Hours before the alleged attack, the accused posted a picture of a Southern Comfort bottle on social media with the caption, “Get it started”. 

The mother of the accused said she did not even know her son had been arrested when she was approached by a Channel Nine journalist on Monday morning.

“My son? Oh my God,” she cried.

Mr Garth appeared briefly before Parramatta Bail Court on Sunday charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent, common assault and affray.

He was refused bail and will now spend his 22nd birthday behind bars on Friday.

with Megan Levy

Jenny Lee Cook, bizzare Suicide or something else?


This case of Jenny Lee Cook who died on January 19 2009 has been bought to my attention so I thought I would pop it up and at the very least folks have a read and give me your thoughts. IT is tragic for the family when suicide just does not seem right and a rushed bungled investigation adds to the concerns they rightly have.

The Corners Inquest Findings

On the surface it’s one of Australia‘s more bizarre suicides. But the family of the victim believes in a more sinister truth.

"A very bright, active girl": Jenny Lee Cook horse riding before her back injury.“A very bright, active girl”: Jenny Lee Cook horse riding before her back injury.

It’s a quiet Monday night in Townsville and an ambulance radio crackles to life in the car park of the far north Queensland city’s main hospital.

It’s a Code 1A: a woman in her early 30s has suffered an apparent cardiac arrest. Lights flashing, siren on, the two paramedics on board, Robert Haydon and Chris O’Connor, accelerate through the thinning evening traffic, hoping to find the woman still alive.

The destination is a residential property in Douglas – a suburb popular with young families that sprawls along the southern banks of the Ross River, about eight kilometres from the CBD. Pulling up in front of a new residence in Sheerwater Parade, they note the outside of the property is in darkness, and unlike some triple-0 calls, nobody is waiting outside. Within moments the two men are knocking on the front door, yelling “Queensland Ambulance Service“.

Jenny Lee and Paul at home.Jenny Lee and Paul at home.

A tall, thick-set, blond man, Paul Cook, a local prison guard, answers the door and says that his wife, Jenny Lee, is lying out the back. Haydon thinks he looks upset, but to O’Connor, Cook appears unemotional as he ushers them through the house, out into the backyard and on to the side of the property. Here the two paramedics are confronted with a horrific sight.

It’s the body of a woman, lying on her left side on a bloodstained plywood board, with her legs folded backwards. There are spots of congealed blood on her forehead and the left side of her chest. She’s wearing shorts, runners, and a sun hat. Strangely, what looks like a section of a sheet has been wrapped around the back of her head, partly obscuring her face, and a bathrobe tie is secured around her throat.

The woman looks as if she’s been dead for some time, her outstretched arms apparently stiff from rigor mortis, but it’s the job of the two paramedics to make sure. Haydon kneels carefully alongside the body, attaches electrodes to her limbs, and finds no signs of life. But as Haydon is about to get to his feet, something very sharp presses into his back and he springs forward. Shining their torches in the direction of the object, the two paramedics are startled to see a large, bloodstained knife poking out from the wall, its handle tightly bound in string and tape and wedged firmly in the gap between the steel window frame and the concrete wall.

"It was so sharp": The bloodstained knife on which it is claimed Jenny Lee Cook impaled herself.“It was so sharp”: The bloodstained knife on which it is claimed Jenny Lee Cook impaled herself.

Haydon immediately radios the ambulance dispatcher to notify the police. He explains that the paramedics are at a likely crime scene, and the cops need to get here as soon as possible.

When the first police arrive at the scene, they find Paul Cook sitting hunched at the kitchen bench moaning. On another bench opposite are his wife’s handbag and some documents.

One of the officers asks him if his wife was on any medication and Cook obliquely says his wife had a bad back, was on antidepressants and was involved in a difficult WorkCover claim.

A police drawing of the scene.A police drawing of the scene.

The reference to antidepressants suggests something was not quite right about Jenny Lee – a hint of emotional instability, perhaps – and maybe even a predisposition to suicide. “She never told me she even thought about killing herself,” Cook would later tell detectives, not even raising the possibility that she may have met with foul play.

He explains to Sergeant Kay Osborn and Constable Damien Cotter, who were tasked to interview him at the scene, that he arrived home at around 6.45pm, and was surprised to find the dog locked up on the property’s front balcony and Jenny Lee nowhere to be seen. He was relieved that she was out – things hadn’t been going well in their marriage. But then he noticed her belongings were still lying about, although her runners weren’t in their usual place. So he decided to take the dog for a walk through the scrubby bushland at the end of Sheerwater Parade.

A short time later he returned home, downed a soft drink, jumped into the shower and began to wonder where Jenny Lee was. He became much more concerned after noticing that a large knife was missing from the kitchen block. He sent his wife a text, and when there was no reply began to search outside. That’s when he came across the body. “She was cold and she was stiff and I moved her lips back and they didn’t [move],” he tells the two detectives. That’s why he didn’t attempt to do CPR, he explains.

'Til death do us part: Paul and Jenny Lee Cook on their wedding day in 1998.
‘Til death do us part: Paul and Jenny Lee Cook on their wedding day in 1998.

During the course of their discussion in the kitchen and another formal interview later that night, Cook repeats his certainty that Jenny Lee killed herself – although he has no idea how she did it. “She had blood coming out of her mouth … what did she do?” he asks Detective Cotter.

Later, Cook says when he first saw her body he thought Jenny had jumped on the knife or she had overdosed. He also talks about the knife, saying, “It was so sharp, that knife, like a f…ing sword or something – I don’t know why I even bought it.”

He tells detectives that he used the knife only two or three times, later changing this to two or three times a year, the first of a series of contradictions in a long and rambling interview in which he revealed that all wasn’t exactly rosy in the Sheerwater Parade house.

Paul Cook.
Paul Cook.

Paul tells the interviewing detectives that while they “never fought”, Jenny Lee would have “a sook” about her chronic back problems “hundreds of times” and would “crack the shits” and be “a moody bitch”. Only the night before, he explains, he’d arrived home to find Jenny Lee sitting on the toilet in the bathroom crying. Ignoring her tears, he asked where his earbuds were, put them on, went to bed and fell asleep.

He admits that he’d set off for work that morning barely speaking to her, and later that day told a colleague that his marriage was over. Asked about his movements, Cook tells police that he left his job as a prison guard at Townsville Correctional Centre about midday to pay a bill at a computer shop for repairs to his laptop, then returned to the jail about 12.30pm. Strangely, the credit card payment receipt in his wallet shows the bill was paid at 12.23pm – giving him the almost impossible task of travelling the eight or so kilometres back to the jail, negotiating a number of intersections and traffic lights, by 12.30pm. He also tells police that he had sent an email to the shop, but the shop has no record of receiving any such email that day.

Within 20 hours of arriving at the scene on that steamy January night, the police decide that Jenny Lee (a woman who hated needles and blood and had a big enough stash of pain medication to overdose if she wanted to) had – without leaving behind any note -blindfolded herself, tied a belt around her neck, put a sheet over the top of her head and deliberately thrust her body on to the knife before slumping to the ground and bleeding to death.

Jenny Lee's parents, Lorraine and Terry Pullen.
Jenny Lee’s parents, Lorraine and Terry Pullen. Photo: Debrah Novak

Less than two days after the death, the Sheerwater Parade house is cleared of being a crime scene and Cook is allowed access to potentially important evidentiary exhibits such as the plywood board, still lying in the backyard. There is no dusting for fingerprints on the knife, no DNA test of the board, no search of the house for traces of the string or tape used to wedge the knife into the wall and no follow-through on Cook’s alibi.

Jenny Lee’s death is deemed non-suspicious, a clear case of suicide. But if it’s a suicide, it’s clearly one of the most extraordinary to have ever occurred in Australia: the Queensland suicide register and the National Coronial Information System have no record of female suicide by self-impalement.

Shortly after her death, Cook cashed in Jenny Lee’s WorkCover settlement and superannuation, which along with the sale of the Sheerwater Parade house, amounted to about $800,000.

It will take four years of unwavering determination by Jenny Lee’s parents, Lorraine and Terry Pullen, to have an inquest held into their daughter’s bizarre and tragic death. The inquest will also query a suspected affair between him and an attractive female prison guard (although both claimed this commenced after Jenny Lee’s death). Mainly, though, the inquest will reveal startling omissions in the police investigation into Jenny Lee’s death, and the destruction of a key piece of evidence – the bloody knife – before the coroner could properly investigate.

On the day Jenny Lee diedJanuary 19, 2009 – Lorraine rang her daughter a couple of times, but she didn’t pick up. Just before 9pm, Jenny Lee’s dad, Terry, phoned Lorraine with the terrible news and Lorraine rushed to Townsville.

So many things just didn’t add up for Lorraine. For starters, she couldn’t believe that Jenny Lee didn’t leave a suicide note. “I don’t believe she would have gone without saying goodbye. She always wrote notes and letters,” she says. Nor did Lorraine buy the scenario of her daughter impaling herself. “Jenny Lee would run from a needle. She was frightened of sharp things.”

Jenny Lee was the type who would have left directions about who was to look after the dog, insists Lorraine, and who would get what. “We had an extremely close relationship and I don’t believe she would go without telling me or asking for help.”

After Lorraine arrived at the house, Cook took her outside and showed her where Jenny Lee had died. (“He said he didn’t want any ghosts in the house,” adds Lorraine.) She recalls Cook saying something about Jenny Lee putting on her running shoes so she wouldn’t slip when she ran onto the knife, she says, but Cook would later deny ever making such as statement.

Then there was the presence of one of Cook’s female work colleagues. The woman dropped by five days after the death to clean Jenny Lee’s car, which had to be returned to James Cook University (JCU), where she worked as a water nutrient analyst. “Call it a woman’s instinct but I knew they were close,” Lorraine said after she saw the woman with Cook in the kitchen.

Lorraine says that both she and her husband have been in a personal hell trying to unravel what happened to their daughter. “I lie awake at night and it just goes round and round in my head. For 18 months afterwards I had this pain in the chest, like someone had stabbed me. I’m so frustrated and angry. If it had been [a police officer's] daughter, things would have been done properly. We don’t think Jenny Lee would be capable of doing something like this.”

The 29-year-old had met Cook more than 10 years earlier, while she was studying at James Cook University. At the time the pretty redhead had been in the midst of fulfilling her ambition of becoming a marine biologist and was enrolled at the university’s well-regarded marine sciences program. She had moved to Townsville from her family farm near Macksville, a small NSW coastal town midway between Sydney and Brisbane with a population of about 3000.

Jenny Lee’s childhood had been that of a carefree country kid running wild on her parents’ banana farm, riding dirt bikes around the hills and galloping her horse along the area’s unspoiled beaches, says Lorraine, a retired theatre nurse who still lives on the farm with Terry. “She was a very bright, active girl – she wouldn’t sit on your knee for long,” recalls Lorraine. “When she and her sister were little and they were naughty they would run and climb up the mango tree. I couldn’t get them and they would stay there till I started laughing.”

From an early age the ocean fascinated Jenny Lee, and at age 15 she was already writing to university professors for advice about how to become a marine biologist. In 1998 she gained entry to JCU and moved to Townsville to study. Like many of the young students, she partied in a nightclub scene overflowing with young single men from the nearby military base, Lavarack Barracks – one of the largest garrisons in the country. One night, in a nightclub called The Playpen, the 19-year-old met a handsome young soldier, Paul Cook. The couple were soon dating and within six months Cook proposed.

The wedding was held on Magnetic Island, off Townsville, on November 8, 1998. The video shows a handsome couple – Cook, looking like a tall, solid, Amish farmer with his blond thatch of hair and moustache-less beard, stands about 15 centimetres taller than Jenny Lee, whose curly red hair and white dress conjure up images of a mediaeval princess.

At first, friends recall, they seemed like a devoted couple who did everything together: grocery shopping, cooking, hiking and camping around the rainforests of north Queensland. But things changed in 2007. While attempting to lug heavy buckets of water samples back to a lab at James Cook University for analysis, Jenny Lee seriously injured her back. Over the space of nearly 18 months she underwent two operations that left her virtually immobile and cut off from most of her work friends while she slowly recovered. She put in a WorkCover claim, which led her to see a psychologist, which in turn led to her taking anti-depressants and major pain medication.

Cook, meantime, had left the army and started working as a prison guard at the Townsville Correctional Centre, a jail about 12 kilometres west of the city. As a workplace, it seemed to foster controversial personal relationships. “The prisoners were nice – it was the workers you had to worry about,” says one guard who worked with Cook at the sprawling jail, which has a farm, a high-security men’s jail and a women’s prison.

The guard, who asked not to be named, told Good Weekend that the sex scandals that occurred there were on a scale that “you wouldn’t believe”, with warders often quitting over allegations they were having inappropriate contact with each other, or with prisoners. As recently as last year, the jail’s hot-house staff relationships were still making headlines in local papers, including manager Andrew Pike quitting after allegations were published alleging he’d had an affair with a junior female clerk who also worked in his office – a scenario exposed by posts from the woman’s jilted boyfriend on Facebook.

Whether Jenny Lee knew about this workplace environment it’s hard to say, but she certainly had concerns about a tall, striking-looking female guard in her late 20s who was regularly rostered on to work with Cook. “Jenny confronted Paul, who denied there was anything between them,” says a friend of the couple, who, like others Good Weekend spoke to, did not want to be identified.

In the months leading up to her death, Jenny Lee had never given any indication to her family of problems in the marriage other than a brief conversation with her father in which she implied that sexual intimacy with Cook was difficult because of her back injury.

Towards the end of 2008, friends recalled her enthusiasm about returning to work at JCU on reduced duties. Her doctors thought her depression, brought on by her chronic back problems, was in remission and that she was not a suicide risk (she had previously admitted to thoughts of “cutting herself” in the depths of her despair after her second operation, one doctor would later claim). The couple also moved into their dream home in Sheerwater Parade in November – a new, two-storey, brick-veneer home with four bedrooms, only a couple of minutes’ walk from the river. Life was starting to look up again.

The first sign of trouble on January 19 at the Cooks’ home was a barking dog. Trying to sleep in the house across the road was Janice Cavanagh, recuperating from shoulder surgery, and the noise was keeping her awake.

The barking got worse around lunchtime when the animal began making what Cavanagh would call a “crying” sound that seemed to go on for hours. She got up and thought: “Should I go over and see if it’s caught somewhere?” But because she didn’t know the Cooks, who had only moved into the new home two months before, she decided to stay put. The barking stopped around 4.30pm. About two hours later, around 6.45pm, another neighbour saw Cook drive up and chatted to him before he went inside.

These and other statements were made to coronial investigators for an inquest that was held late last year. The statements highlighted questions and contradictions in Paul Cook’s account of events on the day of his wife’s death, and shortcomings in the initial investigation. For instance, Cook told police that his movements could be easily confirmed by the jail’s CCTV cameras. But detectives never checked, and in any case, renovations were being undertaken at the jail at the time and the cameras at the entry and exit gates weren’t working. Jail logbooks, which had Cook entering the jail at 7.30 on the morning of his wife’s death and leaving at 12.49pm, were also incomplete, with no record of him re-entering the prison that day.

Maderline Ronan, another prison employee who was rostered on with Cook that day, described him in her statement to the inquest as “very quiet” and didn’t know where he was between 11am and 1.30pm. Later in the afternoon, Cook told her he had a headache and finished up early, around 5.30pm. This raised questions about where he had been until 6.45pm, when he arrived home, as the drive between the jail and Sheerwater Parade is about 15 minutes. (Jenny Lee was suspected of dying some time between 8am and 2pm, according to the autopsy.)

Cook’s statements to police indicate he was increasingly frustrated by his wife’s pessimism and depression, such as on the night before her death, when he ignored her sadness and crying and went to bed early with his earbuds in. But his later account to WorkCover was radically different: “That night in bed she cried as she told me of her pain and her concerns about her work future, which had been reinforced at the functional capacity evaluation. I hugged her till she fell asleep,” he said.

Asked at the inquest about the contradiction, he painted a strange picture. He said he had both hugged Jenny Lee and ignored her and then they both fell asleep sharing his headphones and listening to a Phil Collins song he hated.

At the subsequent inquest, Cook calmly gave evidence for nearly three-quarters of a day, without legal representation. He denied having any role in Jenny Lee’s death. Coroner Jane Bentley would later describe him as being “deliberately untruthful” in his evidence, adding that it was likely he had given different representation for the purposes of his WorkCover claim.

Cook claimed that his relationship with the unidentified work colleague prior to Jenny Lee’s death had been strictly professional, with the romance only starting a couple of months afterwards. It began with kiss in a pool at a barbecue after a few drinks and evolved into a relationship with sexual events but not intercourse, he said. Asked how many times he would have phoned or texted this woman before Jenny’s death, he said he would be surprised if it was more than five times. But when confronted with records that showed 52 calls or texts he said: “Obviously I was talking to her a lot more than I’m remembering, but we didn’t have any relationship before that other than friends”.

In her statement, fellow worker Maderline Ronan alleged she’d seen Facebook photographs of Cook socialising at drinks functions with this woman prior to Jenny Lee’s death. Bizarrely, eight months after the death, the same woman was at the centre of a violent row when she was caught by her former de facto “canoodling”, as the Townsville Bulletin headlines put it, in a prison van with a fellow guard. (The woman, whose name was suppressed in the inquest, made a statement to coronial investigators and did not appear at the inquest. After being asked for comment by Good Weekend she said, “I’ve heard about your Paul Cook stuff and I’ve got nothing to say.”)

Coroner Bentley’s findings, handed down in November last year, were damning of the police’s failure to properly investigate and the failure to follow procedures such as failing to retain the knife. But she delivered an “open finding” into Jenny Lee’s death, saying she was unable to determine whether the Townsville woman’s death was suicide or murder.

Sheerwater parade, Townsville, has changed little since Jenny Lee’s death. The homes are still well kept, with dazzlingly clean driveways and manicured lawns lushly greened by the tropical weather. Most residents have largely forgotten the dreadful tragedy that occurred in their sleepy patch of surburbia.

Those who do remember the couple have nothing bad to say about Paul Cook, with one describing him as a “gentle giant”. (Cook, after initially offering to answer any questions supplied by Good Weekend, later withdrew his co-operation, saying in an email, “I’m not going to comment, sorry.”

In the meantime, Jenny Lee’s parents have not given up the quest to find out what happened to their daughter. Lorraine has just been in Townsville once again, walking in her daughter’s footsteps on the streets of Douglas, in the city centre, and at James Cook University, showing photographs of Jenny Lee and Cook to locals. “It might make somebody remember what they saw,” she says.


Police yet to act on bungled ‘suicide’ investigation

July 19, 2014

Investigative journalist

Email Rory

Police have failed to act on a recommendation to take action over an apparently bungled investigation into the impalement death of a NSW woman in Townsville.

The incident is the latest twist in the extraordinary case of Macksville woman Jenny Lee Cook, who was found dead in 2009 after seemingly impaling herself on a kitchen knife wedged into a wall at the North Queensland home she shared with her prison guard husband, Paul James Cook.

Queensland police took fewer than 24 hours to write the death off as a suicide despite Mrs Cook, 29, not leaving a note and there being no other case in the Queensland suicide register or other coroner databases of a woman killing herself in such a way.

They also failed to fingerprint the knife, search the house for articles used to jam the knife in the wall, check on her husband’s whereabouts around the time of death, or seize important potential exhibits or DNA test them.

The knife used in the killing was destroyed before further tests or investigation by the coroner’s team could take place.

Mr Cook, who found his wife’s body, has denied any involvement in the death. He did admit there had been problems in the marriage.

As a result of his wife’s death he received $800,000, which included money from her life insurance, a work cover claim she had been pursuing, her superannuation and from the sale of their house.

After years of lobbying, Mrs Cook’s parents, Lorraine and Terry Pullen, late last year convinced Queensland authorities to hold an inquest into the death.

Coroner Jane Bentley found Mr Cook evasive and untruthful in his evidence and said because of the problems with the investigation she could not make a finding of suicide.

She recommended the Commissioner of Police consider whether any action should be taken into the inadequacy of the investigation.

This week – more than six months after the ruling – the Queensland Police Service have not acted.

A QPS spokesman said: “Ethical Standards Command continues to overview the review of the coronial file in relation to the death of Jenny Lee Cook. It is anticipated this matter will be finalised in the near future”.

The counsel representing the deceased family in the inquest, Marjorie Pagani, said she had been shocked at the way the investigation was conducted.

“I was appalled by the shoddiness of the investigation and what appeared to be total disregard for the proper coronial and police process and this has resulted in primary and most significant evidence having been destroyed under police authority, despite an ongoing inquest,” she said.

“The impact on the entire family was tragic. They felt as though they have been done a severe injustice because of police processes and they will probably never forgive the people responsible.”

Fairfax Media has also learnt that contradictions in some of the statements were never put to some of the witnesses during the inquest, and that a woman who was alleged to have had a relationship with Mr Cook soon after Mrs Cook’s death was also never called to give evidence. Her name has been suppressed.

The Pullens have called for the inquest to be reopened and for the suppression of the woman’s name to be lifted.

The coroner’s office said the name was suppressed because of allegations of an extra-marital affair.


How did Jenny Cook die?

How did Jenny Cook die?

Jenny’s family outside court

TOWNSVILLE woman Jenny Lee Cook was quirky and fun, had an infectious laugh, and was conquering milestones from a young age.

Her mother Lorraine Pullen recalled her daughter, with a big grin on her face, climbing to the top of a step ladder before she was 18 months old.

“Her first attempt at putting on makeup (she was) about two – eye shadow, rouge and lipstick, and plenty of it. Like face painting,” Mrs Pullen said.

Jenny learned to ride motorbikes at four, enjoyed horse riding and loved her Boxer dog, Nikeisha.

In happier times, Jenny and husband Paul Cook would often be seen walking Nikeisha around the streets of Douglas in the evenings.

But on January 19, 2009, something “bizarre and unusual” occurred at their immaculate home.

Mrs Cook, 29, was found dead, her body lying on a piece of plywood in the side garden by Mr Cook.

Her death was “prematurely” deemed a suicide but there were many questions unanswered.

Was she murdered? Did her husband do it? Was the police investigation adequate?

Coroner Jane Bentley convened an inquest in Townsville this week in a bid to find answers to those questions.

They are questions that have lingered for Jenny’s parents for years, but a “vastly inadequate” police investigation and the destruction of a key piece of evidence means they may never get answers.

The lack of investigation by police was slammed by barrister Kerri Mellifont QC during closing submissions yesterday, with chief investigator Detective Senior Sergeant Kay Osborn recommended for disciplinary action or re-training.

During the five day inquest, the court heard Mrs Cook, a nutrient analyst at James Cook University, had been on anti-depressants and suffered back pain following a workplace accident several years prior to her death, and had been involved in protracted negotiations for compensation.

On the day of her death, Mr Cook, a former prison officer, came home but could not find his wife.

He sent her a text message at 7.38pm but heard her phone in the house, and noticed a knife missing from the knife block.

He found her body lying on a large sheet of plywood, with a sheet or bandage covering her face, and a large knife, wrapped in string and secured with tape, wedged between a security screen and a window.

No suicide note was located and an autopsy found she died from a wound to her chest.

Paramedic Robert Hayden told the court Mr Cook appeared “upset” when they arrived at the house.

He said rigor mortis had set in, but he could not estimate how long Mrs Cook had been dead.

Detective Senior Constable Damien Cotter, Det Sen Sgt Osborn’s partner, said he formed the view Mrs Cook’s death was a suicide after Professor David Williams gave a verbal preliminary report that her wound was “consistent” with a self-inflicted injury.

Barrister Marjorie Pagani, for Mrs Cook’s parents, asked whether the wound could also be consistent with a person being pushed on to a knife. He replied “yes”.

A NSW forensic officer also could not rule out the possibility she was pushed on to the knife.

Police released the scene shortly after hearing Prof William’s preliminary findings — less than 20 hours after the first call to triple zero.

Det Sen Const Cotter said he was not aware of any other investigations after the scene was released, but said police treated it as a homicide until they received the preliminary autopsy findings.

Both Ms Mellifont and Ms Pagani criticised how quickly police concluded Mrs Cook’s death was self-inflicted.

Mr Cook was asked if he played a role in his wife’s death. He said “no”.

He was questioned about his relationship with a female colleague, ­referred to only as the “unnamed ­female”.

Phone records show he made 52 texts or calls to the woman in the six weeks before his wife’s death. He made only 14 contacts with his wife, by text or call, between November 3, 2008 and January 19, 2009.

He denied having an extra-marital affair with the unnamed woman but a friend confirmed they had a physical relationship in the weeks after his wife’s death.

It was revealed police never investigated Mr Cook’s movements on the day his wife died, or confirmed his version of events, whether he had any financial motive, or if he was having any extra-marital affairs.

Ms Mellifont conceded, in closing submissions, that Mr Cook could be completely innocent, but the lack of investigation by police had let him and Mrs Cook’s parents down.

But Det Sen Sgt Osborn could face disciplinary proceedings after authorising the destruction of the knife.

She denied knowing a coroner could request exhibits, saying she believed the knife could be destroyed because the police investigation was done.

Coroner Jane Bentley is expected to hand down her findings on Friday.

Mrs Cook’s friend Dee, who sat through proceedings, said Mrs Cook was the kindest person.

“Soft by nature, and extremely helpful,” she said. “She was not confrontational or violent in any way.

“It (the way she died) was so violent. For someone who was such a planner it’s hard to comprehend she made such a permanent solution without a note or list for anyone.”

Coronial inquest into the death of Jenny Lee Cook

A CORONIAL inquest is examining whether Jenny Lee Cook, a young Townsville woman whose 2009 death was deemed a suicide, was actually murdered, with the police investigation into her death also in the spotlight.

At the centre of the mystery is a large knife, wrapped in string and tape, located wedged between a security screen and a window.

The hearing, which began before Coroner Jane Bentley in Townsville on Monday, was asked by Mrs Cook’s parents Lorraine and Terry Pullen.

The inquest heard Mrs Cook, 29, a nutrient analyst at James Cook University, had lived with her husband Paul James Cook in Douglas before her body was found in the side garden on January 19, 2009.

On the opening day of the inquest, barrister Kerri Mellifont, QC, said Mr Cook arrived home about 7pm, but could not find his wife.

He took their dog Nikeisha, a boxer, for a walk and when he returned Mrs Cook was nowhere to be found.

Mr Cook sent his wife a text message at 7.38pm but heard her phone in the house and noticed a knife missing from the knife block. He found Mrs Cook in a pool of blood at the side of their house.

Ms Mellifont said no suicide note was located and an autopsy revealed her cause of death was a wound to the left side of her chest.

The inquest heard Mrs Cook had been on anti-depressants and suffered back pain following a workplace accident several years before her death and had been involved in protracted negotiations for compensation.

Detective Senior Constable Damien Cotter, a plain clothes officer in 2009, said the scene was released back to Mr Cook after preliminary results from the pathologist concluded Mrs Cook’s injuries were consistent with being self-inflicted.

Barrister Marjorie Pagani, for Mr and Mrs Pullen, asked whether those same injuries could be consistent with a person being pushed on to a knife.

Det Sen Constable Cotter replied “yes”.

The inquest heard Mrs Cook had been upset and crying the night before her death, with Mr Cook saying he hugged her and they lay in bed listening to music. He said that looking back, there were signs his wife needed help.

On the night Mr Cook found his wife’s body, he said it was obvious she had been dead for a while. He recalled being instructed to do CPR, but her mouth was black with blood.

“I dropped the phone, put my hands on the lawn and grabbed the grass. I think I screamed,” Mr Cook said.

Mr Cook was also questioned about his relationship with a female colleague, ­referred to as the “unnamed ­female”.

Phone records showed Mr Cook made 52 contacts, by text or call, to the unidentified female in the six weeks before his wife’s death.

In comparison, he made 14 contacts with his wife, by text or call, between November 3, 2008 and January 19, 2009.

The inquest heard Mr Cook made a claim against his wife’s life insurance in the weeks after her death, and also sold the marital home for $570,000.

Ms Mellifont asked Mr Cook if he had any involvement in his wife’s death. “No,” he said.

The inquest continues today.


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