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(AUSTRALIA) Supreme Court Report: Jury took 11-and-a-half hours to acquit 65-year-old John Wark of the murder of 17-year-old Hayley Dodd in July 1999 #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Apr.02: Instead, the jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter: Ms Dodd was last seen alive walking along a remote road near where he owned a property at Badgingarra, in WA’s Wheatbelt region:

Francis Wark acquitted of murdering teenager Hayley Dodd in Badgingarra in 1999, guilty of manslaughter: ‘A convicted rapistwho was accused of murdering a missing West Australian teenager more than 20 years ago has been found guilty of manslaughter, but acquitted of murder after a second trial’

updated 4h ago

Mr Wark wearing a suit and looking down as he walks along.
Francis Wark gave evidence at the trial, saying he had never met Hayley Dodd and did not kill her.(ABC News)

The teenager has not been heard from since and her body has never been found.

A smiling Hayley Dodd sits on a bed wearing a light blue school polo shirt.
Hayley Dodd was last seen near Badgingarra in WA’s Wheatbelt in 1999.(AAP: Australian Missing Persons Register)

Wark was charged with her murder in 2015 while he was serving a 13-year jail term in Queensland for violently sexually assaulting a 31-year-old woman in 2007.

He had picked up the victim as she walked along a remote road, which WA prosecutors argued was evidence that Wark had a tendency to pick up women and attack them.

Wark consistently denied having anything to do with Hayley’s disappearance.

Hayley Dodd poses for a photo with her head resting on her right hand.
Hayley Dodd’s body has never been found.(AAP: Australian Missing Persons Register)

He maintained that around the time the teenager was last seen walking along the side of the road — around 11:40am — he was shopping in Moora, about 50 kilometres away.

He said he had never met the teenager and he did not kill her.

Wark’s lawyer argues ‘fundamental flaw’ in case

In his closing address, Wark’s lawyer Darryl Ryan claimed there was “a fundamental and inexplicable flaw” in the prosecution’s case — the timeline alleged by the state.

A tight head and shoulders shot of Francis Wark taken from a police video shot during a search of his house in 1999.
Prosecutors argued Wark had a tendency to pick up women and violently attack them.(Supplied: Supreme Court)

He said given Wark’s version of events, his client simply would not have had time to encounter Hayley, murder her and then dispose of her body for it never to be found.

But Director of Public Prosecutions Amanda Forrester SC argued there was compelling evidence that Wark had murdered the teenager.

Most notably, this included an earring found lodged in the car seat cover of the vehicle Wark was driving on the day of Hayley’s disappearance.

The ankh-shaped earring was similar to sketches done by a friend of Hayley of the jewellery she was wearing on the day she disappeared.

The earring was not found until 2013 when police were carrying out a cold case review of the case, and it is what led to them reassessing him as a suspect.

The defence suggested the earring may have been planted by police, who were under pressure about their handling of the case from Hayley’s mother, Margaret.

But in her closing address, Ms Forrester said any suggestion of planted evidence was a “desperate ploy” and argued the earring — along with a single hair also found in the car — was “overwhelming evidence” of Warks guilt.

Hayley Dodd’s mother in court

Wark was remanded in custody until he is sentenced in a fortnight.

Hayley’s mother Margaret Dodd, who has campaigned relentlessly over the past 21 years for justice for her daughter, was in the courtroom for the verdict.

Margaret wears a black shirt and black sunglasses, holding back tears with a distraught face, while cradling a baby in her arms.
Margaret Dodd said there would be no closure until her daughter’s body was found. (ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

She was accompanied by detectives who had worked on the case.

Outside court, Ms Dodd said while there would be no closure until her daughter’s body was found, today’s outcome was welcomed.

“Well of course, ideally we would have wanted murder but we got manslaughter — at least he’s not going to get out for a while,” she said.

“I just hope that now he [Wark] tells us where Hayley is.

“He can’t keep going on like ‘I haven’t done it, I haven’t done it. 

“You have done it, you have known you’ve done it, just tell us where she is so we can rest.”

In an unusual move, the members of the jury decided to remain in the courtroom to watch proceedings after their verdict was delivered.

There were concerns yesterday afternoon the jury may have been discharged after it sent a note to Justice Hall saying it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

However after being told to continue deliberating the jury spent about four more hours considering the case before returning its verdict just before lunch today.

ABC News

#AceNewsDesk report …………Published: Apr.02: 2021:

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