A failed prosecution report has come in from Sydney. This one involves the Crown relying upon a witness who may have been material involved in the commission of the offense. A reminder of what can go wrong when the prosecution tries this approach…

“Four men charged with 34 serious crimes, including the robbery of six armoured vans that netted $6.3 million, have all been found not guilty of each offence, in a blow to NSW police investigators.

The trial of the four accused ran for 98 days but in the end it appears the jury did not believe the pivotal Crown witness – a big heroin and cocaine dealer.

He had ”rolled over” and given police a version of events that came under serious challenge during the trial.

Of the more than $6 million that was stolen during the brazen robberies around Sydney, during which shots were fired from an AK47 and other weapons, only about $500,000 has been recovered.

The lack of a result is all the more embarrassing because it appears the Crown witness relied upon by the police may have been a principal in the robberies, rather than the relatively minor role he said he had.

The witness told the NSW District Court that at the beginning of 2009 when the robberies started, he had cash assets of about $60,000.

But under cross examination by the defence barrister Julie Hickleton, for one of the four defendants, Nathan Stuart, the witness admitted he had spent $55,000 on a boat, $17,000 on a BMW, $55,000 on a customised Harley Davidson motorcycle, $15,000 on a unit for his mistress and $6500 on jewellery for his wife.

In addition, he had lost $200,000 at the Sydney casino and had put a deposit of either $42,000 or $100,000 on a Bentley. There was another $250,000 invested in a Sydney restaurant “and then he spent $12,000 on his personal trainer and prostitutes”.

All up, Ms Hickleton told the jury in her closing address, he had spent $824,900 in just seven months.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to be flippant, but this man has better cash flow than the state of Tasmania,” she said.

She said the jury should ask itself how he was “flash with the cash” and one explanation was that he had lied to the police and minimised his involvement in the crimes when he was heavily involved.

Sources familiar with the trial said it raised serious questions about putting forward big criminals as Crown witnesses.”

The main witness had been given an indemnity for his role in the robberies. Yet he admitted dealing kilograms of heroin and cocaine as well as buying guns and providing stolen cars.

Full story here.