Tinder Murder Trial: What the Jury Wasn’t Told

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Scales of justice

Mr Gable Tostee was acquitted yesterday of both murder and manslaughter over the death of his Tinder date Warriena Wright, who fell from his 14th floor apartment after the pair got into an argument.

As reported in an earlier blog, Mr Tostee said he locked his date out onto the balcony because she had been assaulting him.

While there was no allegation that Tostee pushed Wright to her death, a Supreme Court Jury in Brisbane was asked to decide whether Tostee was nevertheless responsible for her death.

Prosecutors argued Tostee’s actions – including “threats and intimidation” – made Ms Wright fear for her safety, giving her no other option but to escape by climbing down from the balcony.

But Tostee’s defence lawyers argued the evidence did not amount to murder or manslaughter for a range of reasons, including that their client locked Wright outside to protect himself. They submitted Tostee could not be responsible for Wright’s irrational and risky decision to climb over the balcony.

The jury, which was struggling to reach a verdict, finally handed down its decision yesterday afternoon, just hours after Tostee’s defence lawyers called for a mistrial over social media posts by a juror.

A person identifying themselves as someone deliberating on the Tostee trial wrote on Instagram “…ready for another hard day”.

“I’ve snagged a nasty one, so it’s a bit full on,” the juror wrote, while posting their location as the Supreme Court in Brisbane.

Justice Byrne rejected the mistrial application, ruling the communication did not show bias, nor did it publish evidence. However, the judge said he was disappointed the juror did not heed his directions not to comment to the case, especially on social media.

What the jury was not told

Now the case is over, other details of Tostee’s life have come to light, with reports that he is a skilful forger with a binge drinking problem, and has a history of boasting about his sexual conquests.

The Gold Coast carpet layer, who called himself “Superhero” on Facebook, declared he’d entertained dozens of women at the apartment where Ms Wright died, posting that he “…banged two girls tonight. First one was 4/10 not worth mentioning didn’t look like her pics and I couldn’t even finish”.

Mr Tostee is reported to have been a regular on the Gold Coast nightclub scene, who had been kicked out of clubs because young female patrons said that he ‘creeped them out’.

Of course, this information was inadmissible because it is irrelevant to the question of guilt in respect of the charges before the court. This rule makes it harder for jurors to convict people because they don’t like them, when they should be determining guilt or innocence solely on evidence that is relevant to the facts in issue of the case at hand.

Tostee’s history with the law

When Ms Wright met Mr Tostee via the dating app Tinder in August 2014, he was already facing criminal charges for other offences allegedly committed while he was intoxicated.

In 2011, he was fined and disqualified for driving while intoxicated, and has admitted to having a binge drinking problem.

And in January 2014, Surfers Paradise police were flagged down by a tuk tuk driver who claimed Tostee had run away without paying. Officers located Tostee at a nearby convenience store, allegedly “using obscene language”. They charged him with public nuisance and obstructing police, but the charges were later dropped.

Two weeks before Ms Wright’s death, police detected Tostee in the early hours of the morning across the NSW border. He had been attending the Splendour in the Grass music festival in Byron Bay and was driving home in a car without number plates. A police pursuit ensued, reaching speeds of nearly 200km/h. Police threw spikes onto the road, but Tostee allegedly continued to drive on his tyre rims until sparks flew and he finally came to a halt.

While he was on bail for the murder charge against Ms Wright, Tostee pleaded guilty to charges from the driving incident and was imprisoned for six months.

Tostee’s forgery scam

It’s also been reported that Tostee was once the mastermind of a forgery scam, which netted him and two friends $30,000.Reports say the trio made and sold fake ID cards to underage schoolies.

At the time, a Queensland magistrate declined to record a conviction against Tostee for charges of possession of a counterfeit instrument and making counterfeit money, but warned him to use his exceptional artistic talents for good purposes only.

Again, these offences had no relevance to the murder trial and were therefore not disclosed to the jury.

Declaration of innocence

A few days after Ms Wright’s death, Tostee wrote on social media: “I’ve been advised not to go into details but all I will say is that I absolutely did NOT cause this girl to fall and that I am devastated about what happened to her”.

He has always maintained his innocence and did not give evidence at his trial, as is his right.

The prosecution relied heavily on recordings taken on Tostee’s Iphone and also CCTV footage from his apartment building and the surrounding streets of Surfers Paradise.

After the verdict was delivered, his lawyers said that he is now ‘looking forward to getting on with his life.”

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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