A KEY photograph from Gordon Wood's murder trial has been lost, leaving the three judges hearing his appeal unable to view the evidence the jury relied on to find him guilty.
In November 2008, Wood was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, the model Caroline Byrne, by spear-throwing her from The Gap, a notorious suicide spot, on June 7, 1995.
In the latest twist to one of the state's most notorious cases, the Crown prosecutor, Wendy Abraham, QC, yesterday admitted the photograph - which is said to have showed a one-metre wide bush near the edge of the cliff - is missing.
Wood's barrister, Tim Game, SC, who has asked for Wood's conviction to be quashed and a retrial ordered, said the defence team did not have a copy of the photo either.
The photograph is a central ground in Wood's appeal because during the trial it was captioned as having been taken in 1996, when in fact it was taken in 2003.
Associate Professor Rod Cross had told the jury the presence of the bush meant Ms Byrne could not have run, jumped and landed head-first, some 11.8 metres out from the 29-metre-high cliff face, and must have been thrown.
However, this week the Court of Criminal Appeal was told the bush may not have been present in 1995 and, as a result, Ms Byrne's potential run-up could have been longer than Professor Cross had based his calculations on.
Yesterday, Justice Peter McClellan said he and his fellow appeal judges, Megan Latham and Stephen Rothman, only had copies of the photograph whose details were ''indistinct''. During cross-examination, Professor Cross said he became aware that the photo was incorrectly captioned about two years before the trial.
Mr Game suggested to the retired physicist that he did not correct the record during his evidence, which Professor Cross refuted.
''I told the police when I found out and I told the court during the trial,'' he said.
However, he admitted the majority of the experiments he designed to test if Ms Byrne could have committed suicide were predicated on a four-metre run-up. Mr Game has accused Professor Cross of not being an impartial witness, saying his book, Evidence for Murder: How Physics Convicted a Killer, written after the trial, detailed his involvement in the police case.
''You were very pleased that your report had convinced [the Crown prosecutor Mark] Tedeschi such that Mr Wood would be charged,'' Mr Game said.
''I was happy that I was able to identify the correct landing point but I wasn't going around waving a flag that I did it,'' Professor Cross said.