Chauffeur threw lover off Sydney's suicide Gap: jury

Thu Nov 20, 2008 10:50pm EST
 
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SYDNEY (Reuters) - A court on Friday found a former chauffeur guilty of throwing his lover to her death off Sydney's famous suicide spot, The Gap, because he feared she would leave him and divulge information about his stockbroker boss.

The decision by the New South Wales state Supreme Court jury ended a 13-year case involving Australia's best-known stockbroker, Rene Rivkin, who killed himself later, a blonde model, an international police hunt and two trials.

Former chauffeur Gordon Wood threw Caroline Byrne, 24, off The Gap in 1995, a sheer cliff drop of 55-plus meters (180-plus feet) into the ocean, because she wanted to leave him, the prosecutor told the Supreme Court during the trial.

Wood also feared his lover could divulge potentially damaging information about Rivkin's private and professional life, said the prosecutor.

The flamboyant Rivkin, who was known for driving around in a convertible Rolls Royce, smoking cigars and twirling Greek worry beads, killed himself in his mother's apartment.

During the trials, some of Sydney's biggest corporate, political and entertainment celebrities gave evidence.

"Gordon Wood was found guilty of murdering Caroline Byrne," said a court official. He is to be sentenced next week.

Wood, 45, has denied killing Byrne, saying she killed herself. In 1998, a coroner recorded an open finding into Byrne's death, saying there was not enough evidence for a suicide ruling.

For years after Byrne's death, Wood lived in a Swiss skiing village, but was arrested in 2006 in London after prosecutors said there was enough evidence to charge him with murder.

Wood's first trial started in July 2008, but was aborted one month later after jurors sought to visit The Gap, a popular tourist spot on the southern headland of Sydney Harbour with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and John Chalmers)