'We have been denied justice the whole way through'

JEFFREY Brooks feared for his life. The young scientist believed he was going to be murdered at his workplace - and that those involved would try and make it look like an accident.

He told people, including his best friend and a former boss, how it would go down. He told them how he would be killed, who was after him, and why.

He was so afraid that he asked his brother to lend him a gun. For protection.

And not long after, Jeffrey was dead.

Aquaculturalist Jeffrey Brooks was newly married when he died on March 13, 1996, south of Brisbane.
Aquaculturalist Jeffrey Brooks was newly married when he died on March 13, 1996, south of Brisbane.

He'd been shot in the chest and the police who arrived to investigate quickly called it an accident - just as Jeffrey had predicted.

Jeffrey's family and friends believe police and the system failed Jeffrey - and them. After 22 years of searching for the truth, they have called on The Courier-Mail to bring the case into the spotlight and help expose a stark travesty of justice.

As part of a special investigation called Dead Wrong, you will hear all of it in coming weeks, every detail of the life and death of Jeffrey Brooks.

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There are many loose threads and twists and turns, but we will highlight the 10 key reasons why this shocking death should be investigated as a possible murder.

Jeffrey, from Lismore in Northern NSW, was killed at the Beenleigh Crayfish Farm, 50km south of Brisbane, on March 13, 1996.

The former Beenleigh Crayfish Farm where Brisbane man Jeffrey Brooks died 22 years ago.
The former Beenleigh Crayfish Farm where Brisbane man Jeffrey Brooks died 22 years ago.

Police determined he had accidentally shot himself in the chest while dragging an old, loaded shotgun from a farm ute to shoot cormorants that had been swooping on stock.

According to them, the hammer of the gun had become caught on the seat and it had discharged, fatally wounding the 24-year-old newly married aquaculturist.

His parents Lawrie and Wendy knew in their hearts it could not have been an accident.

Their son, an experienced shooter, was pedantic about safety and had always refused to use the falling-apart firearm found with him, owned by the farm's manager.

However, when they protested, they say police pushed back. It has taken 22 years for them to muster the courage for one last push for justice.

Mr Brooks approached The Courier-Mail for help after seeing a series of articles about misconduct claims against Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon, the same officer who investigated his son's death as a Detective Sergeant all those years ago.

Following a 17-month investigation by Ethical Standards Command and the Crime and Corruption Commission, Mr Condon was cleared of any misconduct relating to the recent claims, linked to the Daniel Morcombe inquest.

Jeffrey's mother Wendy, a devout Christian and former Sunday school teacher, said the family had been ripped apart by Jeffrey's death and their fight for answers.

“The pain’s still there”: Lawrie and Wendy Brooks at the scene of their son Jeffrey’s death. Picture: Adam Armstrong
“The pain’s still there”: Lawrie and Wendy Brooks at the scene of their son Jeffrey’s death. Picture: Adam Armstrong

"You know the pain's still there ... you don't get over something like this. Especially when you have had so much thrown at you that's so wrong,'' Mrs Brooks said.

"Justice has never been done. We have been denied justice the whole way through. And Jeffrey deserves better,'' she said.

"We have tried to get on with our lives, pick up the pieces, but we have this thundercloud hanging over us and it just won't go away.

"We are not bitter, we are just hurt. And the pain of that and the injustice that has been done is what we want cleared up.''

Mrs Brooks said the whole family had been affected.

"You don't have your brother taken and see your parents fighting for justice and not have it affect you … things are now as they should never have been,'' she said.

Misconduct allegations against policeman Mike Condon, which have since been dismissed, spurred Jeffrey Brooks’ family into action. Picture: File
Misconduct allegations against policeman Mike Condon, which have since been dismissed, spurred Jeffrey Brooks’ family into action. Picture: File

Mr Brooks, a retired engineer, said Jeffrey had been part of a family with a long history with firearms and hunting.

He said his son had been raised from a young age to respect guns and that's why he found the police theory that he had shot himself so hard to accept.

"We just couldn't believe it. It wasn't true. Our son knew so much about guns and he never used that gun (owned by farm manager) and his own gun was in the shed,'' Mr Brooks said.

"He was not an idiot. We know that he just wouldn't have pulled a loaded shotgun towards himself.''

Mr Brooks said the family had always had the utmost respect for police and the difficult work they did.

However, he said there were so many aspects of this case that were not pursued and didn't add up.

Jeffrey's family and friends believe police never really entertained the possibility he had been murdered.

Initial concerns about the investigation included no Gunshot Residue (GSR) testing being done on the victim or his co-workers, previous threats and hostility discounted, neighbours with key information not interviewed and alibis not fully tested.

Later concerns included an eight-month delay in accessing phone records, the destruction of the firearm, which police claimed was an accident, and the sudden disappearance of autopsy photos and negatives after an insurance investigator requested them.

Coroner Trevor Anders delivered an open finding at the 1998 inquest into the death. He found that while an accident could not be ruled out as a possibility, evidence the victim feared for his safety after threats from colleagues could form a possible motive for murder.

MORE FROM OUR TRUE CRIME AUSTRALIA SERIES

10 REASONS WHY THIS INVESTIGATION SHOULD BE REOPENED

1. An international expert in gunshot wound trajectory finds the angle of the fatal shot does not match the police theory

2. Independent ballistics tests raise serious doubts that the victim could have been holding the gun that killed him

3. A comprehensive insurance investigation concludes the death was not an accident and "most likely murder"

4. A prominent private investigator uncovers evidence that points to a powerful motive

5. New evidence reveals contents of the victim's chilling final phone call

6. The victim was so afraid for his safety he borrowed a gun "for protection"

7. A business owner's plea to police that "this needs to be treated as homicide" was ignored

8. The victim's former boss reveals Jeffrey told him: "they are going to kill me and make it look like an accident"

9. A re-enactment using a similar vehicle shows the police theory was implausible due to space restrictions

10. New evidence adds to overwhelming testimony that Jeffrey refused to use the old shotgun that killed him due to safety concerns



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