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A gross miscarriage of justice

By Bernie Matthews - posted Monday, 7 May 2007

Patrick John Power was a respected pillar of society who upheld the law with zealous tenacity. During his tenure as New South Wales Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor, he prosecuted and helped imprison hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. One of those he successfully prosecuted and imprisoned was Roseanne Catt.

Roseanne Catt’s saga (PDF 422KB) began during the 1980s when she was informed by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) that her new husband, Barry Catt, in company with other prominent Taree townspeople, had been molesting his own four children (Roseanne’s stepchildren) for years prior to their marriage.

Roseanne Catt agreed to support the children and help FACS prosecute her husband. Shortly afterwards she was arrested by Detective-Sgt Peter Thomas, a friend and drinking buddy of Barry Catt. Thomas charged her with three counts of soliciting others to murder Catt, two counts of wounding him, one count of endangering his life with Lithium, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, perjury, and possession of an unlicensed pistol.


One of the charges included offering a stranger at her local RSL club $10,000 to break Catt's arms and legs - even more to kill him. That stranger, Taree’s police Aboriginal liaison officer, James Morris, was being investigated for running a prostitution ring involving young girls in Taree. He signed a statement accusing Roseanne of offering him money the money: the police investigation ceased after Peter Thomas had him sign a statement against Roseanne. He then became a prosecution witness.

Barry Catt’s former housekeeper, Marie Whalen, told police Internal Affairs, a Taree solicitor and two FACS officers that she had been taken to an abandoned house by Thomas and another police officer where she was held at gunpoint and forced to sign a false statement denying a previous statement she had made against Barry Catt after he had been committed to stand trial for the sexual abuse of his children in August 1989.

Roseanne Catt stood trial in 1991. The prosecution successfully prevented a veteran child psychiatrist Dr Sara Williams, OA, and a child sexual assault counsellor from testifying at the Barry Catt’s sexual assault trial in 1990, Roseanne’s trial 1991 and Roseanne’s appeal in 1993. Dr Williams had originally been contacted by Taree FACS to give expert evidence in the child sexual assault matter.

Despite the conflicting and contentious evidence of child sexual assault that arose during the trial, Roseanne Catt was found guilty on eight counts and jailed for 12 years and three months for attempting to murder Barry Catt.

Her appeal in 1993 was dismissed after key witnesses, including her step-children, retracted their original evidence against Barry Catt and Peter Thomas and made fresh accusations against Roseanne Catt instead. At the time of her appeal in 1993 the DPP withheld fresh evidence concerning another case where it was found that Judge Harvey Cooper and Prosecutor Nicholas Harrison, concluded that detective Thomas had a tendency to threaten and intimidate witnesses into giving false evidence. It was recommended that he be charged but nothing eventuated.

July 12, 2002 the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal found there was sufficient fresh evidence to instigate an Inquiry and they referred Roseanne Catt’s case back to the District Court to conduct a 474B inquiry into the original trial and appeal of Roseanne. The 18-month Inquiry by Judge Thomas Davidson heard a substantial amount of fresh evidence including one witness, Peter Caesar, who stated Thomas had told him: “It's common knowledge that I planted a gun on the bitch.”


Judge Davidson found Thomas “descended into malice and abuse of power”. He also found there was significant evidence that:

  • Det/Sgt Peter Thomas gave and procured false evidence;
  • Thomas, Barry Catt and Adrian Newell conspired to have Roseanne falsely convicted;
  • Thomas was instrumental in planting the gun on Roseanne Catt;
  • Thomas, Catt and Newell rang each other hundreds of times during the Inquiry 2003-04 against specific instructions from Judge Davidson, who conducted the Inquiry; and
  • Crown witnesses’ testimony was unreliable.

Judge Davidson also concluded that:

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About the Author

Bernie Matthews is a convicted bank robber and prison escapee who has served time for armed robbery and prison escapes in NSW (1969-1980) and Queensland (1996-2000). He is now a journalist. He is the author of Intractable published by Pan Macmillan in November 2006.

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