Prosecution: Fugitive’s mum went to great ‘depths’ for son
UPDATE 7.30pm: A PROSECUTOR has urged a jury to decide “on the evidence, not on feelings of sympathy” for a mother alleged to have helped her son escape the country to avoid a cocaine smuggling trial.
“Elizabeth Turner was put in a difficult position by her drug trafficking son,” Commonwealth prosecutor Ben Power said in his closing argument.
“And it’s natural that she wanted to help him.
“But we can’t have a system where whatever loyalty one has to one’s children, that you can help them escape.”
Mr Power argued the evidence showed just how far Mrs Turner was willing to go to help her son Markis Turner flee Australia.
“If your son is on bail for very serious drug offences, he’s just been committed for trial to the supreme court, you don’t buy him a $75,000 ocean-going yacht unless you want him to escape,” Mr Power said.
“If your son disappears weeks before his trial is to commence and the yacht disappears or you sold it for $40,000 to a mysterious man called J. Pableo, you’d tell the authorities about that unless you don’t want them to find out.”
Mr Power said it was natural to feel sympathy for Mrs Turner.
“She didn’t create this situation,” he said, adding, “You have to decide this on the evidence, not on feelings of sympathy.”
Mrs Turner has pleaded not guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice and perjury over allegations she helped her son abscond on a yacht, which he sailed to the Philippines, and then lied to the supreme court that he had taken his own life to protect her son and her money – $520,000 linked to his bail and a $1 million life insurance policy.
He told a Mackay District Court jury there were five key matters in this case – her “significant motive”, the purchase of the Shangri-La, the “frankly bizarre” sale of the yacht to J. Pableo for $40,000, Mrs Turner’s “quite strange conduct” in the weeks before her son’s trial date and her “deliberately false evidence” in supreme court.
The court heard the yacht was purchased on July 17, 2013, about two and a half months after Mr Turner was committed to stand trial on April 30 that same year.
“It would have been somewhere in the forefront of Mrs Turner’s mind that some short period after, less than three months after he is committed to trial he purchases a $75,000 yacht,” Mr Power said.
Mr Power told the court Markis was “clearly not hiding anything from his mother” when he used a fake name “Matt” to buy the yacht in person and in emails, and pushed aside claims Mrs Turner thought her son had said “Nat”.
Mr Power said Mrs Turner was “playing a role” of someone purchasing a boat when the pair went to Cairns to view and buy the Shangri-La.
Prosecution argued the withdrawals of large amounts of money from an account Mrs Turner claimed was one her son used, was done with her knowledge and permission and done to fund his escape.
Mr Power said claims a man named J. Pableo rocked up to Mrs Turner’s house offering to buy the boat for $40,000 cash and asked for a receipt – which was tendered as evidence – was “frankly obvious nonsense”.
“Let’s assume it occurred, when (Mrs Turner) finds out her son is missing, why wouldn’t she have mentioned that,” Mr Power said.
“We’re not saying that this is the best plan in the world, the best plans in the world don’t get discovered, but it is part of a plan.”
Mr Power said despite defence claims Mrs Turner was innocent in her son’s deceit, her name was tied to a number of key instances including the Shangri-La’s last port of call in Australia – Keppel Bay Marina.
Paperwork listed Mrs Turner’s name and mobile number.
“She has to be in on his escape because … why else would he give her mobile number,” Mr Power said.
“Surely it’s not suggested from defence that Markis Turner hates his mother so much that he’s trying to bring her down with him. No, there’s no evidence about that.”
Defence had argued why Mrs Turner would have paid hundreds of thousand of dollars towards her son’s legal fees if she was only going to help him escape.
But Mr Power said there were no documents showing exactly when she paid said money and if this occurred right up until fled.
“There is simply no evidence other than that a large sum of money was paid by Elizabeth Turner,” Mr Power said.
“But that is simply a sign of how much she was prepared to help her son.
“That of course is something that is very credible for her, but it also shows the depth of her devotion and the reason why she would do something as crazy as this.”
UPDATE 3pm: THE lawyer of a Central Queensland mother accused of helping her fugitive son flee Australia has referenced the infamous Lindy Chamberlain case in warning a jury against assuming how a parent should react.
Barrister Saul Holt argued the Commonwealth prosecution fell “well short” in its case against Elizabeth Anne Turner.
The 66 year old has pleaded not guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice and perjury over allegations she helped her son escape the country on a yacht to avoid his drug smuggling trial and then lied to the supreme court about her actions.
“I’m going to have the temerity to suggest … the opposite has been demonstrated in this case,” Mr Holt said in his closing argument to the jury.
He told the jury the obvious inference was “Markis Turner duped his mother”.
“It is clear on the evidence that I will take you though that Markis Turner used his mum’s detail and money to plan and execute an escape from Australia to avoid his trial and he did so without her knowledge,” Mr Holt said.
Over the past six days, Mackay District Court heard a number of instances where Mr Turner, using fake names and email addresses, gave his mother’s details in relation to a yacht named Shangri-La, which he ultimately used to sail to the Philippines.
Mr Holt said the Australian Federal Police, who ultimately arrested Mrs Turner, failed to investigate the case properly and overlooked lines of inquiry because “it didn’t fit their case theory so they had a closed mind”.
He told the jury his client’s involvement “was that of a mother helping her son in what must be … one of the most difficult circumstances a parent could ever find themselves in”.
“What she did, members of the jury, unquestionably helped him … but not in order to escape,” Mr Holt said.
Her help, he said, was to aid him financially with his work, to support his children and wife, to help with legal fees.
“When he disappeared she genuinely and reasonably thought that he had taken his own life,” Mr Holt said.
“The conclusion is obvious, inevitable and honest … it turned out to be wrong, but not because Liz Turner committed any crime, because Markis Turner did.”
Mr Holt referred to the serious and complex drug smuggling and trafficking allegations against Mr Turner and said this pointed to a man with “an ability to deceive”.
Mr Turner was arrested in 2011, and disappeared four years later in mid August 2015, the month before his supreme court trial for drug smuggling, trafficking and possession.
The court heard a phone call on September 20, 2020 from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade alerting Mrs Turner her son had been arrested in the Philippines five days earlier.
Prosecution placed weight on the fact Mrs Turner showed no emotion during the call, which Mr Holt said was because she had been told of his arrest five days earlier.
“Please also just be careful about the notion that any of us can actually assess how a mother should react in those kinds of circumstances,” Mr Holt said.
“Surely if anything the Lindy Chamberlain case (shows) the difficulties of trying to judge how someone might react in a situation.”
Mr Holt introduced an expert witness who testified three signatures on “critical documents” in the case purportedly by Mrs Turner were forged.
Mr Holt said Mr Turner had access to his mother’s bank accounts and credit cards, which she had done to help him because he went bankrupt.
Mr Holt said there was no evidence his client ever used the email address TurnerHoldings@gmail.com, which was used a number of times in relation to the Shangri-La. He labelled it “classic subterfuge” from Mr Turner.
Mr Holt questioned why Mrs Turner invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in her son’s legal fees if she was only planning on helping him escape.
He told the jury the perjury charge linked to his client allegedly lying about having a mobile phone during a road trip to Western Australia was a “flawed charge” and was in fact a “combination of confusion and lack of memory”.
“The underlying question which you are going to have to ask and answer in this case is has the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that Liz Turner deliberately, knowingly, and intentionally helped Markis Turner flee the country, and then lied about it?” Mr Holt said, adding that “beyond reasonable doubt” was a high standard.
He told the jury if they believed Mrs Turner to be possibly innocent, probably guilty or they were not sure, then the Commonwealth had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt and they would find her not guilty.
Prosecutor Ben Power, for the Commonwealth, begins his closing argument this afternoon.
INITIAL: A FORENSIC handwriting expert has testified three key signatures in the case against the mother of fugitive Markis Turner were purportedly forged.
Mackay District Court heard forensic document examiner John Heath, who gave evidence via videolink on Monday, examined three “question” documents, namely the Mackay Marina berth application, the closure of registration for the Shangri-La and a notice of appointment of agent.
While testifying Elizabeth Anne Turner said she did not sign any of these documents.
She has pleaded not guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice and perjury over allegations she helped her son flee Australia ahead of his trial for cocaine smuggling and then lied to the supreme court about his death.
The court heard Mr Heath had also been given a number of documents definitely signed by Mrs Turner including a supreme court affidavit and legal documents.
Mr Heath said there was a natural range of variation within anyone’s signature that he dubbed “the family resemblance”.
Under questioning by Mrs Turner’s defence barrister Saul Holt, Mr Heath said there was a family resemblance between the signatures on the three “question” documents indicating the author was the same.
The court heard between the “authentic” documents, Mr Heath found the same resemblance.
“But between the two, what was your conclusion?” Mr Holt asked.
“They’re two different families,” Mr Heath said, adding they differed in “many features”.
Mr Heath agreed it was his finding the three signatures on the question documents were forged.
Prosecutor Ben Power questioned the length of time Mr Heath had been given to examine and compare the signatures.
The court heard Mr Heath had initially received just one question signature and six pages of a receipt book on September 23 this year.
Mr Power said he was then requested to examine three question signatures “a week ago”.
The court heard Mr Heath may have been asked on October 29 or 30.
Mr Power suggested Mr Heath must not have had “very long” to examine the signatures.
“In my worksheets I have some three hours of examination time … with respect to this work,” Mr Heath said, adding that “did give me enough time”.
Mr Power suggested it was “not an accepted practice” to say a number of signatures were forged by the same person.
“It is an accepted practice, this is something that I personally call the illegitimate family of signatures,” Mr Heath said, adding the three challenged signatures showed a “family connection”.
Hr Heath said there were no signs the three signatures had been traced.
Mr Power suggested the letter from Mrs Turner’s solicitors requesting Mr Heath to examine the signatures “gave the desired result”.
Mr Heath agreed it mentioned Mrs Turner’s comments but said that did not impact him either way.
The trial resumes later this morning for closing arguments.