Former detective Gary Jubelin at home with his grandson Zion and daughter Gemma. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Former detective Gary Jubelin at home with his grandson Zion and daughter Gemma. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

In his own words: Jubelin on ‘stunning’ Tyrrell case conviction

In the Downing Centre Local Court on Monday, I sat in stunned silence.

Magistrate Ross Hudson was delivering his assessment of my actions as a homicide detective investigating a person of interest, Paul Savage, in the disappearance of three-year-old William Tyrrell.

"There is no DNA, there is no one necessarily who says: 'I saw him go into the backyard where William was or could be'. There are no leads, there is nothing," Mr Hudson said.

I was being tried for breaching the Surveillance Devices Act. I did not believe I was on trial for how I ran a homicide investigation.

If we had DNA, or fingerprints, or an eyewitness, would Australia still be asking: 'Where is William Tyrrell?'

I doubt it.

 

Former detective Gary Jubelin at home this week with daughter Gemma and grandson Zion. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Former detective Gary Jubelin at home this week with daughter Gemma and grandson Zion. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

If DNA, fingerprints and witness accounts were available, I dare say you wouldn't even need the homicide squad's involvement: that kind of case is usually left to the hardworking skilled local detectives attached to Police Area Commands.

Homicide is called in when there is no direct evidence; when cases are difficult. Sometimes, the task can seem impossible. But we do not just give up.

On Wednesday this week Mr Hudson convicted me of four counts of breaching the Surveillance Devices Act and fined me $10,000.

That was a hard pill to swallow, but the magistrate ruled I had acted illegally. I have lodged an appeal against the conviction.

I have maintained from the outset that I recorded four conversations with Paul Savage to protect my lawful interests - to protect myself against Mr Savage or anyone else making false accusations against me - not to gather evidence against Mr Savage.

Mr Hudson has ruled otherwise. Investigating homicides - it's a tough gig.

A body has been found in the park. It's not just a body, it's someone's loved one.

It could be a mother, brother, son, lover or best friend. It doesn't matter because someone loves this person.

 

Jubelin leaving the Downing Centre Local Court where he was this week found guilty of making four illegal recordings.
Jubelin leaving the Downing Centre Local Court where he was this week found guilty of making four illegal recordings.

The police are called. A crime scene is established and the body is identified. Police are then faced with the grim task of attending an address, knocking on the door and delivering news to the occupants that will change their lives forever.

Their loved one has been murdered.

I have delivered this message on many occasions and it still sends chills up my spine just thinking about it. It is not nice, but it's your job and you have to do it.

It is at this point I tell the families: "I will do everything humanly possible within my powers to find out what happened to your loved one."

It's all I can offer them and I don't say that lightly. It's a promise that I intend to keep.

That commitment might mean years of frustration, pressure and personal sacrifice, but if you call yourself a homicide detective that is the price I believe you must be prepared to pay.

Rarely do offenders simply put their hand up and admit to killing another person.

Solving homicides is a painstaking, complex process that requires specialist expertise.

That's why most police forces have dedicated homicide squads and they are considered to be the elite of the police force.

During my two-week open hearing at Downing Centre Local Court the public was given a rare insight, warts and all, into the complex internal dynamics of a major homicide investigation.

This included whether I was justified in targeting Mr Savage.

 

Detective Gary Jubelin and Detective Laura Beacroft interviewing Paul Savage in August, 2017.
Detective Gary Jubelin and Detective Laura Beacroft interviewing Paul Savage in August, 2017.

Magistrate Hudson believes not.

"Mr Jubelin made a decision that Mr Savage was his man. He pursued him as a person of interest at all cost against the view of members of [Strike Force] Rosann, at times against the flow of available evidence. In the face of no DNA, fingerprints, no traces or leads or witnesses. In many incidences, in the face of literally a lack of evidence."

When someone is charged with murder the offence is deemed so serious and complex, they are heard at the Supreme Court, not the District or Local Court.

When I took over the William Tyrrell investigation five months after he disappeared. I was very much aware of the battles ahead of us, but that was nothing particularly unusual.

These investigations aren't for everyone. They're arduous. Plenty of detectives have been broken by long, arduous investigations.

Persons of Interest (POIs) are identified and classified so we can target them, looking for exculpatory or inculpatory evidence. Gradually, we eliminate every POI.

That's not a waste of time. It's part of the process. Our role is to search for truth, wherever that may take us.

Never have I said Mr Savage was responsible for William's disappearance.

Based on the evidence available, I believed further investigation was warranted. Mr Savage denied involvement. That doesn't stop the investigation.

In the absence of the types of evidence mentioned by Mr Hudson - fingerprints, DNA, witnesses - even when a POI denies involvement we continue to probe.

This is where the work of a homicide detective begins.

 

William Tyrrell was three when he vanished from outside his grandmother’s house in Kendall in northern NSW.
William Tyrrell was three when he vanished from outside his grandmother’s house in Kendall in northern NSW.

When deciding who should be targeted on an investigation, I seek input from a wide range of people involved, but if I'm the lead investigator, the buck stops with me.

If the full circumstances of the evidence surrounding Mr Savage was heard in a Supreme Court trial and it was deemed I was unjustified, perhaps I would then reconsider.

But at my local court hearing, only snippets of the investigation into Mr Savage were revealed.

What the court did hear was this: Supreme and Federal Court judges had issued a number of warrants and extension warrants to record conversations inside his home and inside his vehicle, as well as placing tracking devices on his vehicle and cameras in bushland around his home.

In December 2018, 18 months into the investigation into Mr Savage's possible involvement, the Deputy State Coroner, Harriet Grahame, also granted a Coronial Investigation Scene Order to search his property and vehicle.

Every application for a warrant needs to be justified with new and compelling evidence gathered since the previous application. The standard is high. It is permission to invade a person's privacy and judges do not grant that permission lightly.

Mr Hudson also took issue with the way I questioned Mr Savage in our formal recorded interview. Under cross-examination I was accused of belittling Mr Savage, asking him repetitive questions and in effect trying to break him.

Mr Hudson found that my inability to make concessions regarding the way Mr Savage was treated rendered my evidence at my hearing, "unbelievable and untenable".

 

William Tyrrell's foster parents looking at pictures of their missing son.
William Tyrrell's foster parents looking at pictures of their missing son.

I make no apologies for the way in which I interviewed Mr Savage.

I interviewed Mr Savage in a manner I deemed appropriate and justifiable in the circumstances I was presented with. If charges were laid against Mr Savage, my actions in the interview room would have been thoroughly and quite rightly scrutinised in front of a Supreme Court judge.

Interviewing suspects is not for the faint hearted. Did I enjoy interviewing Mr Savage? No.

It left me drained and exhausted. Just like I felt drained and exhausted interviewing many other persons of interest in relation to William's disappearance.

I acknowledge the questions I asked of Mr Savage would have made him feel uncomfortable, but that is why I make my sacred promise to families: I will do everything humanly possible to find out what happened to your loved one.

The impact this whole sorry saga has had on me pales into insignificance when considering the impact on William's family.

Sadly, we still have no answers for them.

I am also concerned for the greater and far reaching impact this may have on the dedicated hardworking detectives who may now be concerned they could be hung out to dry when doing their job. I hope not.

We need detectives who are prepared to go hard.

Originally published as In his own words: Jubelin on 'stunning' Tyrrell case conviction


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