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  • Published: 30 July 2018
  • ISBN: 9780143790211
  • Imprint: Ebury Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $34.99

Deal with the Devil

The death of Matthew Leveson and the ten-year search for the truth

Extract

The Second Deal

Friday 4 November 2016
10 am

The fifth and final day of Michael Atkins’ evidence opened in spectacular fashion.

‘Each day this week, you have stood up and you have faced Her Honour and sworn by almighty God to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, correct?’ Fernandez began.

‘Yes.’

‘Have you taken the oath that you have made every morning seriously?’

‘Yes.’

The public gallery leaned forward in their seats. The focus in Fernandez’s voice was razor sharp.

‘On Monday, you gave evidence that you relied on the police to find Matt, so you told them the truth in order to help them, do you recall that?’

Atkins tapped his foot on the floor. ‘Yes. Vaguely, yes. Yes.’

‘I asked you, when you spoke to the police about Matt, whether you told them the truth, do you recall that?’

‘Yes.’

This was the moment Dr Yule was counting on. ‘Your evidence was, you did tell the truth to police. That’s your evidence here in this court.’

‘Yes.’

‘You agree that in your interview to police you told them lies, don’t you?’

‘Yes.’

‘You’ve lied in your evidence in this court, haven’t you, on Monday, when you said you told the police the truth?’ Fernandez said. ‘That’s right, isn’t it?’

A pause. A beat of silence, before Atkins replied, ‘Yes.’

Heads wobbled from side to side in the public gallery as the Levesons’ supporters and gathered journalists searched each other’s faces for answers. Atkins had just admitted to lying to the court – now what? To confuse matters even more, the Counsel Assisting proceeded as though nothing had happened, launching into his most memorable stunt. ‘Do you believe in forgiveness?’ he started.

‘Yes, I suppose.’ Atkins shrugged.

‘Do you believe in compassion?’

‘Yes.’

‘You’ve never had the chance to say to Mark and to Faye something about losing Matt, have you?’

Atkins remained silent. Pen in my hand, I felt goosebumps dart up my arms. Things were about to get intense.

‘Have you ever had that chance?’

‘No.’

With a sweeping movement, his black robes billowing around his arm, Fernandez swivelled his body to face Mark and Faye Leveson.

‘I’m going to give you that chance now. Please stand up, Faye. Please stand up, Mark.’

Mark got to his feet at his assigned spot at the bar, as Faye swiftly joined him from the public gallery.

‘Here are the parents of Matthew Leveson. Their son is dead, and they believe you killed him.’ The drama of the courtroom had just reached dizzying heights. ‘What would you like to say to Mark and Faye Leveson?’ Atkins stared blankly at Fernandez, frozen in horror.

‘Look at them, not me!’ Fernandez bellowed. ‘Look at them.’

Atkins made eye contact for a split second with his former boyfriend’s parents. ‘I want to say . . . sorry, I suppose,’ he faltered. ‘Sorry . . .’

‘“Sorry, I suppose”,’ Fernandez mimicked. ‘Sorry for what? Sorry for what? No! Look at them! Not me.’ Atkins rounded his shoulders, barely looking at Mark and Faye. Fernandez barked, ‘“Sorry, I suppose”, for what?’

‘For your heartache.’

‘Do you have any idea how much heartache they go through every day?’

‘No,’ Atkins said, swivelling his eyes back to Fernandez.

‘No! Look at them, not me. I don’t need any apologies. Do you have any idea what their lives are like, not knowing where their son is?’

‘No.’

At that point, Pete and Jason Leveson rose to their feet in the public gallery. Side by side in solidarity, they made their way to the bar table to stand alongside their parents. The family’s supporters wept, and their eyes and noses streamed. I looked up at the ceiling to keep the tears at the back of my eyes. The lump in my throat cut like glass.

‘“Sorry, I suppose” – that’s what you’d like to say to them. Is there anything else you’d like to say to Mark and Faye, and here’s Peter as well, is there anything else you’d like to say? Here’s Jason.’

‘Yes.’

‘This is the Leveson family. What would you like to say to them about Matt’s loss?’ Atkins bowed his head and stared at his sneakers, covered in bird poo.

‘I’m very sorry.’

‘What are you sorry for?’

‘Their loss.’ He paused. ‘If he’s gone.’

A round of incredulous scoffs burst out of the public gallery.

If he’s gone!’ Fernandez said.

‘Yes.’

‘The Leveson family believe you killed Matt. Can you look at the Leveson family and tell them whether you killed Matt or not?’ Atkins’ gaze remained fixed on the ground. ‘Look at them!’

‘No,’ he said, snapping his head up, ‘I did not kill Matt.’

Pete Leveson exploded with rage and resentment. ‘That’s bullshit!’ he yelled at Atkins.

Fernandez continued, ‘Would you like to say anything else to the Leveson family, who are right here in front of you, who you’ve never said anything to before about Matt’s loss?’ Atkins remained silent. ‘Would you like to say anything else to them about Matt’s passing?’

‘I’m very sorry . . . I’m sorry Matt’s not here.’

Pete called across the courtroom, ‘Where is he?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘You know you have the chance here to end the suffering that the Leveson family go through. You know that, don’t you?’ Fernandez pushed.

‘Yes.’

‘All the Leveson family want to know is where Matt’s body is. Are you able to tell them where Matt’s body is?’

‘No.’

As the court adjourned for lunch that day, Detective Chief Inspector Jubelin grabbed Craddock and headed for the door. By this stage Craddock was considered Jubelin’s right-hand man, after a recent promotion into the homicide squad. They both lived and breathed the case. In that moment, they were faced with a thrilling breakthrough.

Michael Atkins was exactly where they wanted him: cornered and facing prosecution.
 

1 pm

The sun was perched high above the expansive grounds of the University of Sydney, the unforgiving heat belting down from a milky blue sky. The jacarandas were starting to blossom around the campus. It was lunchtime on a Friday and hundreds of students were out in force, scuttling from tutorials straight into an early weekend.

The hype went unnoticed by a pair of detectives standing in a private nook within the university campus. Gary Jubelin and Scott Craddock had bolted there from the Coroner’s Court across the road with Pat Saidi, the barrister for NSW Police. Away from the cameras and prying eyes, the trio had convened this impromptu meeting with Sharon Ramsden and Claire Wasley.

Jubelin pointed out that their client had now perjured himself. It was checkmate. He’d been caught lying, an offence that wasn’t protected under his section 61 certificate, and now faced charges that could attract a ten-year prison sentence.

But the Levesons and the police remained focused on their shared ambition: to bring Matt home. The way police saw it, Atkins’ perjury placed a new option on the table, a bargaining tool. A stick as well as a carrot. Jubelin told Atkins’ lawyers that if their client was willing to share information that led to the recovery of Matt’s body, police could consider pushing for an indemnity from prosecution. Such an approach was unheard of. They were talking about a murder suspect here. The deal would not only require the seal of approval from the NSW Attorney General, but also the strong backing of the Leveson family and the NSW Police Force, right up to the Commissioner.

Atkins’ defence team played it straight, not committing either way. At this stage the discussion was still hypothetical, and they’d need to take instructions from their client before giving an answer. In the meantime, the detectives and their barrister would find out whether the potential deal held any chance of gaining approval.

*

‘It was a deal with the devil,’ Faye Leveson says to this day. Her family was forced into a corner by a legal system that couldn’t provide them with anything even remotely resembling justice. By this point in 2016 it was more than nine years since she’d lost her precious Matty, and she and Mark had tried every possible route.

The Levesons knew there was nowhere left to turn, but that knowledge didn’t make the decision any less excruciating. It felt worse than the first round of immunity offered to Atkins to take the stand, because now the choice was to lock him up or let him walk in exchange for Matt’s body. Around their dining room table, over generously poured glasses of bourbon and Coke, Mark and Faye examined their impossible choice with their sons. Jason couldn’t believe his parents were even considering the deal. Neither could they.

‘We thought this was the last throw of the dice. If we didn’t do this, we’d end up with little more than we already had. It was a gamble,’ Mark Leveson admits. He and Faye know that outsiders will struggle to comprehend the choice they ultimately made – to do a deal with the most evil person they knew – but their children came first. Having Matt’s body returned to their family was a prospect they simply couldn’t turn down. No matter the cost.


Monday 7 November 2016

Three days after granting the police permission to push ahead with the deal, Mark and Faye received an unexpected phone call at their Bonnet Bay accounting practice. The NSW Attorney General was on the line. Gabrielle Upton was gentle and compassionate. She was calling because she wanted to check, to hear with her own ears, that the Levesons fully grasped what they were signing up for. Already the Commissioner of Police and the Commander of the Homicide Squad, Michael Willing, were on board. But Upton needed to confirm the Levesons’ position before giving her final tick of approval.


Deal with the Devil Grace Tobin

The death of Matthew Leveson and the ten-year search for the truth

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