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Keli LANE

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Infanticide - Former Australian water polo player
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 14, 1996
Date of arrest: November 17, 2009
Date of birth: March 21, 1975
Victim profile: Her newborn baby Tegan Lee Lane
Method of murder: ???
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Status: Sentenced to 18 years jail with a non-parole period of 13 years and five months on April 15, 2011. She will be eligible for parole on 12 May 2023
 
 
 
 

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Keli Lane (born 21 March 1975), a former Australian water polo player, was convicted of the 1996 murder of her newborn baby Tegan, and three counts of lying under oath. Lane is currently serving an 18 year prison sentence and will be eligible for parole on 12 May 2023, after serving a period of 13 years and five months in custody.

On 18 April 2011, Lane's lawyers lodged an appeal against her conviction as a Sydney taxi driver made claim he allegedly saw Lane dispose of the child.

Early years and background

Lane is the daughter of well known surfer, rugby player and retired police inspector, Robert Lane and his wife, Sandra. Educated at Mackellar Girls High School in Manly, Lane enrolled in an arts degree at the University of Newcastle and then went on to study at the Australian College of Physical Education while working part-time at Ravenswood School for Girls as a physical education teacher. Between 1994 and 1998, she was in a relationship with rugby league player, Duncan Gillies.

An elite water polo player at national and international level, Lane was a member of the silver-medal winning Australian Junior Women's team at the 1995 World Championships in Quebec, Canada. It was Lane's ambition to represent Australia in water polo at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Tegan Lane

On 12 September 1996, Lane, aged 21, gave birth to Tegan Lee Lane at Auburn Hospital. Two days after giving birth to the child, Lane and Gillies attended a friend's wedding and there was no sign of the baby.

In 1999, Lane gave birth to another child and, after being refused an abortion in Queensland, she decided to put the child up for adoption. Lane advised a social worker that this was her first child and that Gillies was the father. Gillies denied the claims. The social worker, concerned for the health of the child, placed the baby in temporary foster care.

Department of Community Services investigations

Prior to finding a permanent home for this child, the Department of Community Services (DOCS) made further investigations that led to finding that the child born in 1999 was in fact not Lane's first child and that she had given birth to Tegan Lane in 1996 at Auburn Hospital.

Further investigations resulted in findings that Lane had given birth on two prior occasions, on both occasions during her four-year relationship with Gillies. Gillies claimed he was completely unaware of Lane's pregnancies. When confronted with these allegation in October 1999, Lane initially denied the existence of the two earlier children. Several days later, she claimed that the middle child (Tegan) lives with a family in Perth. Concerned about the situation, the DOCS social worker alerted the local police who began investigations in late 1999.

Initial police investigations

After some initial tardiness, in February 2001 Lane, who by now had given birth to a fourth child, was interviewed by police. During the police interview, Lane claimed that she had given the child (Tegan) to the baby's father, a man called Andrew Morris, with whom she claimed to have had a brief affair. Lane was interviewed by police again in May 2003. This time she claimed the man's name was Andrew Norris; handing over the baby in Auburn Hospital carpark.

During police interviews, Lane claimed that she was forced to hide her pregnancies because of her fear of the reaction of her parents and friends. It was reported that during the police interviews Lane said several times she felt alone when she became pregnant and "I had no other choice." Manly police referred the matter to the New South Wales Coroner in 2005.

Coronial inquest

A coronial inquest into the disappearance of Tegan Lee Lane began in June 2005 and ran until February 2006. The inquest was presided over by John Abernethy QC, and heard that police had undertaken an extensive search for the child, including attempting to match DNA samples.

The inquest resulted in the Coroner declaring that he was "... comfortably satisfied that Tegan Lane is in fact deceased..." and that he was disturbed that baby Tegan had met with foul play, although he also stated that there still existed a possibility that she was alive somewhere. The Coroner recommended that the brief of evidence and transcript of the coronial inquiry be forwarded to the New South Wales Homicide Squad for assessment and if necessary further investigation.

Subsequents police investigations

From 2006, Police investigations focused on locating Andrew Morris (or Andrew Norris), the man that Lane claimed was the father of Tegan. It was reported that police looked at birth registrations, official name changes, electoral rolls, recipients of Centrelink payments or other government payments for children, immigration records, police records, drivers licences and vehicle registration records, electricity connection records, Sydney's White Pages, and Australian Taxation Office Records. Police were unable to locate a man of that name(s) that matched the profile.

Police also sought to locate Tegan Lane by searching the records of over 9,000 primary schools in Australia a search process that lasted two years. Two girls named Tegan Lane were found in Queensland and another possibility was picked up on a Torres Strait island. Finally, police excluded all possible leads.

The police investigators, assessing that they had no conclusive evidence nor any physical evidence pointing to baby Tegan's death, decided not to charge Lane; however, they referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Nicholas Cowdery. In what the National Times described as "an unusual step", on 17 November 2009, the DPP charged Lane with the murder of Tegan Lee Lane. Lane pleaded not guilty, and the matter went to trial by jury.

Trial process and criminal findings

The matter was heard in the Supreme Court; presided over by Justice Anthony Whealy; with Mark Tedeschi, QC as the Crown Prosecutor; and Keith Chapple, SC defending Lane under instruction from Legal Aid; and began on 9 August 2010. The Crown alleged that Lane fell pregnant five times over seven years during the 1990s; terminating the first two pregnancies, placing two babies up for adoption, and allegedly murdering her baby, Tegan, on 14 September 1996. The jury heard that Lane concealed her pregnancies from her family and friends in order to protect her personal image and reputation.

The evidence heard at the trial was similar to that presented at the inquest four years earlier. The major differences were the police searches that occurred in between, and the discovery that Lane had left Auburn Hospital not at 2 pm on the day Tegan disappeared, but several hours earlier.

The Crown produced evidence that, as a motive for murder, Lane was prepared to abandon her children at birth to increase her chances of representing Australia in water polo at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. There was also evidence she believed children would interfere with her educational plans, her social life, and the regard in which she was held by parents and friends. It was also alleged that her friends' wedding on 14 September may have been a crucial factor; as Lane sought a permanent solution to a potential problem to hide evidence of the pregnancy and birth from family and friends.

At various stages during the trial, clashes over points of evidence occurred between the Crown and the presiding Judge. The Crown took one matter to the Court of Criminal Appeal. At the heart of the Crown's appeal was that Lane's lies those concerning Andrew Morris, Andrew Norris, and the story that she gave Tegan to a "Perth couple" were indicative of Lane's guilt. Justice Whealy had instructed the jury that Lane's lies did not equate to guilt, whereas the Crown claimed otherwise. The Crown won its case in the Appeal Court and, in summing up, Crown Prosecutor Tedeschi suggested to the jury that the three lies were evidence of consciousness of guilt.

Lane's defence rested on the lack of evidence about how or where Tegan might have been killed. The Defence claimed that even if Lane had killed Tegan, the Crown could not prove she had done so deliberately or with the intention to kill. In the absence of evidence, Chapple called on Justice Whealy to direct the jury to find Lane not guilty of murder.

After hearing from the Crown Prosecution about similar cases involving circumstantial evidence (namely Kerry Whelan and Dorothy Davis) and considering the matter for a day, Justice Whealy rejected the defence application. Chapple announced that Lane would not be giving evidence; and that there would be no defence witnesses at all.

Summing up the cases lasted for over a week; Tedeschi taking two and a half days, Chapple taking four days. In directing the jury, Justice Whealy asked them to consider "not whether the accused is guilty, but whether the Crown has satisfied you beyond reasonable doubt that she is guilty".

In total, the trial lasted four months and, after deliberating for a week, on 13 December 2010 the jury found Lane guilty of lying under oath in relation to documents dealing with her adopting out two other babies. The jury was not able to come to a unanimous verdict on the murder charge. Under advice from Justice Whealy, the jury was given the option of returning a majority of 11 to one verdict. A little later on the same day, the jury found Lane guilty of murder of Tegan Lee Lane. Lane was refused bail.

Sentencing

Sentence procedures commenced on 11 March 2011, again in the Supreme Court before Justice Whealy, with the Crown calling for the Court to pay particular regard to general deterrence. It was reported that psychiatrist Michael Diamond, who appeared before the hearing on behalf of the Crown, found no evidence of a psychiatric disorder and that Lane's decisions appeared to be based on "problem solving".

On 15 April 2011 Lane was sentenced to 18 years jail with a non-parole period of 13 years and five months. She will be eligible for parole on 12 May 2023.

Lawyers acting for Lane lodged an appeal against her conviction on 18 April 2011. The same day, claims were aired in the media that a taxi driver saw Lane dump the baby in bushland, enroute to Manly. According to lawyer, Chris Murphy, the taxi driver collected Lane from Auburn Hospital and stopped on River Road, at her request. Murphy claims that the driver believes that Lane left the baby in bushland and returned to the taxi, where they continued on to Manly. Murphy claims that the driver returned to the site where the baby was allegedly left and found a woman there. According to Murphy, the driver claims that the woman stated she would attend to the needs of the baby and the driver then left the scene. Police are investigating the claims made by the driver.

Further Reading

  • Langdon, Allison (2007), The child who never was: looking for Tegan Lane, Double Bay, NSW: Media 21 Publishing, ISBN 978-1-876624-56-9 

  • Chin, Rachel Jane (2011), Nice Girl The story of Keli Lane and her missing baby, Tegan, Pymble, NSW: Simon and Schuster Australia, ISBN 978-0-7318-1496-1

 
 

Keli Lane sentenced to 18 years' jail for murder of Tegan

SMH.com.au

April 15, 2011

Keli Lane has been sentenced to 18 years in prison at the NSW Supreme Court for the murder of her baby daughter Tegan.

"The life that has been taken is a baby, completely defenceless ... the present case may properly be seen, in every sense, as a tragedy involving mother and daughter".

Her non-parole period is 13 years and five months and she will be eligible for release on parole on May 12, 2023.

Extensive searches have uncovered no trace of Tegan since Lane left Auburn Hospital with the girl on September 14, 1996, two days after the birth, and went to a wedding in Manly a few hours later.

After a four-month trial, a jury rejected Lane's claim that she had handed Tegan over to the girl's father, a man named Andrew Morris or Norris, with whom she had a brief affair.

Tegan was the second of three children born to Lane after she kept the pregnancies secret from everyone closest to her. The two other children were adopted out.

She had been a water polo player with Olympic ambitions and prosecutors contended that, in the 1990s, raising children did not feature in her plans.

Justice Anthony Whealy delivered his sentence to Lane in front of video cameras.

Lane, who has dyed her blonde hair jet black, showed no reaction as the sentence was handed down.

Agreeing with the Crown description of Lane as a "golden girl", Justice Whealy said she had murdered Tegan "in a situation of desperation".

"From her perception, there was simply no way out," he told the packed courtroom, which is the largest in the complex.

The judge concluded that Lane was fully rehabilitated and presented no danger to the community.

He said the two aggravating features of the murder were the age of the victim and that it had been an abuse of a position of trust.

"The life that has been taken is a baby, completely defenceless," he said.

"The present case may properly be seen, in every sense, as a tragedy involving mother and daughter."

He noted the tragic fact that, for whatever reason, Lane could not tell her own mother of the secret birth of her three children.

"Secondly, it is a tragedy between mother and daughter in the sense that the offender disposed of her second child Tegan, and in so doing, tore asunder the natural relationship between mother and daughter.

"That fact has, and will, continue to haunt her throughout her life."

 
 

Mysterious woman with Mona Lisa smile

By Michael Duffy - SMH.com.au

December 14, 2010

Fourteen years after Keli Lane's daughter disappeared, many questions remain unanswered

This was an extraordinary trial, not just because it involved the strongest bond there is, between mother and child. It was extraordinary because after more than four months, we know almost nothing more about Keli Lane's character, and her daughter's disappearance, than we did at the start.

The unusual thing about the case is that there was only ever one piece of physical evidence for the alleged murder. This was the fact that somewhere between lunch and dinner on September 14, 1996, 21-year-old Keli Lane was parted from her daughter Tegan. After what has been described as the biggest missing person search in Australian history, not one piece of physical evidence has been added to that: no scrap of clothing or DNA or fingerprint, no sighting of Keli or Tegan between the time they left Auburn Hospital and Keli arrived home alone. Nothing.

Of course, it was a circumstantial case, like those involving the deaths of Azaria Chamberlain and Caroline Byrne, and circumstantial cases by their nature are weak on direct evidence. This is even more so when the alleged victim's body is missing and there is not even a crime scene. Even so, usually there is more than there was here. Keli Lane's trial opened as a mystery wrapped around that one fact and it closed as one.

Advertisement Still, the fact of Tegan's disappearance was so unusual and so terrible it had to be investigated. And once it had been investigated - several times, including a coronial inquest in 2005 - the Director of Public Prosecutions decided Keli Lane had to be prosecuted.

The facts of her life that have emerged were bizarre and they were many. They revealed a woman incapable of effective contraception, who in the 1990s became pregnant five times when she did not want children. A woman who was able to hide three pregnancies and births from those close to her, including her parents and a partner with whom she was having a regular sexual relationship and most of her water polo team mates. A woman who gave away at least two newborn children. Some of the details were so amazing they strained credulity, yet none added one jot of physical evidence to our knowledge of what happened on the afternoon of September 14, 1996.

Nor did Keli Lane's many lies about the children she had in the 1990s. These were told to hospital and adoption workers at the time, and to police and friends later on, when sharp-eyed DOCS worker John Borovnik realised Tegan had disappeared from the official radar and notified police. But telling lots of lies does not make you a murderer, as Justice Anthony Whealy warned the jury during the trial.

The mystery of Tegan's fate was reflected in the mystery of her mother. For more than 60 days Keli Lane turned up in court well-dressed and perfectly groomed, her unlined face composed in an expression of serenity. There were tears on only a few occasions. More often she displayed a faint smile that reminded this observer, disconcertingly but persistently, of the Mona Lisa. Sometimes she smiled at the judge, the jurors or some of the lawyers or witnesses. Compared with most people who have sat in the dock at King Street Court 3, she was a strong presence. Given the enormity of what she was charged with, and the bizarre and troubling nature of some of the evidence, her serene self-confidence was at times disconcerting.

Although we learnt a great deal about her life in the 1990s, the trial produced surprisingly little insight into her character. She refused to go into the witness box here, just as she refused at the inquest. What remains is a great disconnect between what we know she did - even putting aside the murder allegation - and the fact that by literally all public accounts she was a normal, happy and sociable northern beaches girl with a supportive and loving family, a passion for sport, and a healthy social life. There was no suggestion she had suffered postnatal depression or any mental illness. The vast gap between these two sides of her character was the second great black hole in the trial. Keli Lane was - she is - an enigma.

Senior Crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi ran the prosecution. His recent successes include the murder prosecutions of Gordon Wood (who has appealed) and Des Campbell. In a circumstantial case the prosecution needs to disprove any reasonable alternative hypothesis that might explain the death of the victim. As in any case, the accused does not have to prove anything, but usually in circumstantial cases they do present an alternative explanation. Keli Lane had told hospital and welfare workers and police eight different versions of what had happened to Tegan, but the one she settled on during the police investigation was that she had given Tegan to the baby's father, Andrew Morris or Norris.

In theory this made the task of police and prosecution easier, as they knew the account they had to disprove.

Two other strands in the prosecution case were attempts to show Lane might have had a tendency to treat Tegan badly because of the way she treated other children she gave birth to around this time, and to show Lane had demonstrated consciousness of guilt by things she said later. A lot of the evidence on both matters involved what the Crown claimed were lies, and by the end this became a trial about lies and their importance.

The idea of lies was built into the indictment. Keli Lane was charged not just with murder but with three counts of perjury, in relation to things she had told hospital and adoption staff about her other babies. This enabled Tedeschi to present a great deal of information not directly relevant to Tegan's disappearance but which the jury might decide was relevant to the way Lane felt about having children at that time in her life, and also about her truthfulness.

Tedeschi opened the trial on August 9 with a riveting 6 hour speech that wove all the elements of the circumstantial case - many of them speculative - together. It was a masterly performance, as gripping as listening to a first-rate crime novel.

Most of the subsequent evidence involved two aspects: the alleged lies relating to the births of Tegan and the siblings on either side of her, and the many police searches for Tegan and Andrew Morris or Norris. Just one of these involved seeking details from 9491 primary schools around Australia. The jurors were given coloured flow charts to help them comprehend what had been done, and by the end of the trial each had several fat ringbinders of documents provided by the Crown and the defence barrister, Keith Chapple, SC.

Justice Whealy, while prepared to allow an enormous amount of detail into evidence, was sceptical about the prosecution's attempts to attribute meaning to much of it. For example, in 2004 police intercepted telephone conversations between Keli Lane and her friend Kati Cummins, who seemed to be having trouble understanding why Lane was so concerned by the questions being asked by a detective.

"But he's got nothing," Cummins said, "so how can something come out if he's got nothing?"

Lane replied, "Because that's, he wants to, he wants to find out what he doesn't have."

Later in the conversation Kati said, "The worst thing that can happen is, the hardest thing you'll ever do is telling [people about giving Tegan away]. And once you've told them, it'll be all right."

To which Keli responded, "But, it's going to keep going on, that's the thing. If I knew that by telling them, that would end it, that would be great, but it's not."

Tedeschi wanted to argue this was evidence of consciousness of guilt, but Justice Whealy refused. He said it might just mean Lane suspected it would be a long investigation.

For those who became immersed in the detail of the case, after a while it was possible to forget the raw fact of Tegan's disappearance and the strangeness of her mother's refusal to give evidence. The length and complexity of the trial threatened to shift the focus onto the many tedious details of the police search for Andrew Morris/Norris and for Tegan.

This was an area of diminishing returns for everyone involved, because it was never going to be possible for the Crown to establish with 100 per cent certainty these people do not exist. It is just incredibly unlikely. Arguably, that was as clear when the trial began - it was as clear five years ago - as it is today.

It would be fascinating to know how this jury reached their decision. Maybe it was because of the overwhelming detail of the police search, and the meticulous nature of the Crown case. Or maybe it was because of a far simpler consideration, the belief that a mother should not be allowed to lose her baby between lunch and dinner and be unable to account for that.

 
 

Keli Lane screams and collapses as jury finds her guilty of murdering baby Tegan

By Kim Arlington - SMH.com.au

December 13, 2010

Keli Lane has been found guilty of murdering her baby daughter Tegan.

"Mr Tedeschi said that when Lane fell pregnant five times over the course of seven years in the 1990s, she had sought 'a permanent solution' to all the pregnancies, terminating the first two, adopting two babies out, and allegedly murdering Tegan".

On hearing the verdict, Lane sobbed and collapsed in the dock of the Supreme Court.

Lane screamed out, "Oh, no!" and fell to the floor. The court was closet as court officers, her lawyers and family members rushed to her aid.

A paramedic was called to attend to her.

Her mother, who was in the public gallery, also sobbed and many jurors had tears in their eyes.

In refusing to continue her bail, Justice Anthony Whealy said he didn't want to give Lane false hope as the crime she had been found guilty of carried a substantial sentence.

But, he said, he felt "great sympathy" for Lane.

As court officers attended Lane in the dock, the judge temporarily adjourned the hearing but told the jurors they would return shortly as he wished speak to them.

The verdict came after the jury deliberated for a week after a four-month trial.

Earlier, the jury also found Lane guilty of three counts of making a false statement on oath in relation to documents dealing with her adopting out two other babies.

Earlier today, the jury foreman told the judge, Anthony Whealy, they had not come to a unanimous verdict on the murder charge and it was unlikely that further deliberations would produce one.

Justice Whealy told the jury to continue discussions, giving them the option of returning a majority 11 to one verdict.

The case has intrigued the public for more than five years, since an inquest into Tegan's disappearance revealed the astonishing fact that Lane, 35, managed to keep three pregnancies secret from her family, friends and even her long-term boyfriend.

Tegan was the second of three babies she carried to term and delivered without those closest to her even suspecting she was pregnant.

She put her first and third babies up for adoption but a year ago Lane was charged with Tegan's murder.

Tegan Lee Lane was born on September 12, 1996.

Two days later, Lane left Auburn Hospital with her daughter. There was no sign of the baby when she attended a friend's wedding at Manly that afternoon and a nationwide investigation has found no trace of the child since.

At the trial, Lane pleaded not guilty and maintained she gave the newborn to the child's natural father.

In police interviews she named him as Andrew Morris or Norris, a Balmain resident with whom she had a brief affair.

In one of several different accounts given to social workers and police, she said that after Andrew agreed to raise the child, she handed two-day-old Tegan over to him, his mother and his de facto partner, Mel, at the hospital.

Over the years police have conducted a fruitless national search for Andrew.

Investigators tracked down men named Andrew Norris or Morris in the age bracket given by Lane, and ruled them out as having taken Tegan.

The prosecution contended the man she described had never existed.

The Crown case was that Lane murdered Tegan to rid herself of the responsibility of raising a child.

At the time she was a 21-year-old physical education student and water polo star, with dreams of making the Australian team at the Sydney Olympics.

She was also terrified of how her family and friends would react if they knew of her pregnancies and did not want to tarnish her "golden girl" image, Crown prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, QC, told the court.

Mr Tedeschi said that when Lane fell pregnant five times over the course of seven years in the 1990s, she had sought "a permanent solution" to all the pregnancies, terminating the first two, adopting two babies out, and allegedly murdering Tegan.

But the defence said there was no proof that Tegan was dead, let alone that Lane had murdered her.

On the contrary, she had done the responsible thing by giving the baby to her natural father, defence barrister, Keith Chapple, SC, said.

The fact that she legally adopted out two other children supported her story that she had given Tegan into somebody else's care.

Mr Chapple said tens of thousand of girls remained unaccounted for after the police search for Tegan.

The failure to find Tegan or Andrew could be explained by names having been changed.

"If you are looking for a needle in a haystack and you are looking for the wrong name, the search is useless," Mr Chapple told the jury.

The trial began on August 9, with jurors hearing from about 80 witnesses and sifting through masses of documents.

But before sending the jury out to consider the verdicts, Justice Anthony Whealy pinpointed the basic issues.

He told them if there was a reasonable possibility Tegan was alive, or that Lane had handed her over to the father or anyone else, then they must acquit her of murder.

But if they were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Lane caused Tegan's death by a deliberate act, and that it was done with the intent to kill her, she should be found guilty.

Kim Arlington is a Herald Court Reporter.

- with AAP

 

 
 
 
 
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