Maitland:Accused denies killing Elizabeth Dixon


A MAN accused of the 1982 murder of Elizabeth Dixon has admitted to helping dispose of her body but rejects killing her, a court has heard.

Rodney Lawrence has allegedly placed the blame on his dead father-in-law, Bill Phillips, telling relatives and police he had been forced totie up a lifeless Ms Dixon and place her in the boot of her own yellow Mazda 323 before her body was driven to bushland near Ashtonfield and dumped.

But Newcastle Local Court heard on Wednesday that Mr Lawrence’s version, which included Ms Dixon being murdered in her own Metford home, contradicted forensic evidence both at her unit and at the bushland crime scene.

Detective Sergeant Jerry Bowden told a bail hearingthat there was no evidence, including any blood or signsof a struggle, found inside the unit or in the boot at the time of the murder that suggested she had been killed at home before her body was taken.

“No, quite the opposite,” Detective Sergeant Bowden said.

The detective said blood spattering on the interior roof of Ms Dixon’s car, which was consistent with “cast off” stains from a weapon, and the pooling of blood around her body, suggested she was killed inside the vehicle.

She was also still wearing scuffs, or slip-on shoes, and glasses despite claims her body was moved in and out of the car boot, the court heard.

Detective Sergeant Bowden also gave evidence that Mr Phillips had never been a person of interest until named by Mr Lawrence to relatives, and that Mr Phillips had classed the allegation as “ridiculous” when it was put to him by his daughter before his death in 2010.

Mr Lawrence, 64, was last week charged with the murder of Ms Dixon, who was found with 27 stab wounds and head injuries consistent with being struck with a blunt object, possibly a piece of timber found on the back seat.

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The Stockton man had applied for bail on Wednesday, his legal aid solicitor citing health problems and the age of the case, including that Mr Lawrence had no criminal history and had strong ties to the area.

When magistrate Robert Stone denied the application, Mr Lawrence said: “You’re joking. I won’t survive.”

Prosecution facts tendered during the bail application said Mr Lawrence told police after his arrest that Mr Phillips had murdered Ms Dixon inside the Metford unit while he slept in a car outside.

He was then ordered to tie her wrists and help dispose of her body before heading home, where he threw out a pair of shoes he said were stained with blood.

The facts alleged Mr Lawrence told police he felt Mr Phillips would kill him if he didn’t follow orders and stated “he never reported the incident to police, because he did not want to be sent to gaol”.

“Some aspects of the accused’s version appeared doubtful, including how his shoes came to be stained with the victim’s blood despite not being present when she was stabbed,” the statement of facts said.

“There also appeared to be many opportunities for the accused to flee from Phillips during the incident and not assist him as he supposedly demanded.”

The court also heard that a significant prosecution witness, who is a relative of Mr Lawrence’s, was concerned for his welfare if the accused was granted bail. Mr Lawrence will reappear in Newcastle Local Court on January 13.

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