Pages from Nicola Gobbo’s notebook were seized by police — she thinks they could help reopen a gangland murder case

Barrister-turned-informer Nicola Gobbo has claimed Victoria Police failed to hand over evidence that could help a man convicted of one of Melbourne’s highest-profile gangland killings.Key points:Nicola Gobbo says pages from a notebook that were seized by police in 2006 contain information that could have been useful during a criminal trial over a gangland murderThe notes were never given to the defence team of Stephen Asling, who was convicted of the murderAll existing avenues for appeal in the case have been exhaustedStephen Asling was convicted in 2017 of the murder of Melbourne underworld figure Graham Kinniburgh at his Kew home in 2003.Asling, who recently turned 60, is serving a 27-year jail sentence in maximum security at Barwon Prison.His mother, who is in her eighties, told the ABC podcast Trace: The Informer her son had always maintained his innocence.She said her only hope was to see him released before she died, and said she hoped new information could see the case revisited.”I pray every night,” she said.Ms Gobbo told the ABC that notes she took in her court book, during the peak of Melbourne’s gangland war, were seized by police in a 2006 raid on her chambers.She claimed the notes may have helped Asling’s case but were never given to his defence team when charges were laid around a decade later. Stephen Asling was charged with the murder of Melbourne gangland figure Graham Kinniburgh in 2015.(ABC News: Bettina Guthridge)A royal commission has heard Ms Gobbo agreed police could “raid” her chambers so she wouldn’t appear to be willingly handing over clients’ information.”[They were] notes that I made when I saw a particular witness not long after his arrest in the cells in the Melbourne Custody Centre,” she said.The notes contained information about a gangland killer-turned-witnessThe notes were made about a gangland killer. The Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants (RCMPI) has heard the killer was a hitman in three gangland murders, on the orders of drug boss Carl Williams.The killer then turned against Carl Williams to save himself and became one of Victoria’s most significant Crown witnesses.He later gave evidence against Asling over the murder of Kinniburgh.PodcastTrace: The InformerWho is Nicola Gobbo?Subscribe to the podcast to hear Nicola Gobbo describe her role as a police informer in her own words. Every episode brings fresh revelations about Lawyer X.Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.ListenDuring the case, he told the jury Williams hired Asling and another man to kill Kinniburgh.Kinniburgh, a close friend of Melbourne identity Mick Gatto, was shot dead in his driveway as he arrived home late at night in 2003, during a spate of killings in Melbourne’s underworld.The case remained unsolved for over a decade, before Asling was charged in 2015.There was no identification, forensic or DNA evidence against Asling and the Crown case relied on the evidence of the killer-turned-witness and another criminal.Both criminals received discounted sentences or indemnities in exchange for their testimony.Ms Gobbo said her notes, made in her court book, prove the killer is a liar.What was in Nicola Gobbo’s notebook?The royal commission heard Ms Gobbo met with the killer in October 2003, after he was arrested and taken into custody for murder.It heard he claimed that during the legal conference with Ms Gobbo, he rubbed his fingers together, alluding to money he was owed by Williams for carrying out a murder.”This action was referring to getting the money … so she [the killer’s mother] could be taken care of,” the killer told police in a statement.He claimed Ms Gobbo indicated she would pass the message on.”Nicola wrote a note and put it to the screen. Although I don’t remember the exact wording, it said words to the effect that she would be seeing them that day.” Nicola Gobbo says a notebook of hers seized by Victorian police could have been important evidence in a gangland murder trial.(ABC News: Greg Nelson)Ms Gobbo told the royal commission the allegation she helped facilitate payment for a murder was completely untrue, and said the notes she made during the meeting showed no reference to the killer-turned-witness’s allegation.She said the killer-turned-witness was a liar.Ms Gobbo said her notes, which have been tendered to the RCMPI, referenced annother amount of money, related to a different matter. The page in Nicola Gobbo’s notebook that mentions the $500 figure.(Supplied: RCMPI)”Those notes totally contradict what that witness said in a sworn statement — and what has been relied upon as the truth by investigators, probably by juries and by judges in convictions that have been obtained ever since,” Ms Gobbo said.Ms Gobbo said she believed the notes would have helped Asling’s defence team attack the killer-turned-witness’s credibility, and police should have made them available.Police are obliged to provide exculpatory evidence in court cases: evidence they have that might help the accused prove their innocence, even if it could damage the prosecution case.It’s up to a judge or a magistrate to determine if the evidence is covered by legal professional privilege, not the police, Ms Gobbo said.She said she told police as much after the raid on her chambers in 2006, but they told her they couldn’t confirm the killer-turned-witness had waived his right to legal professional privilege, and instead put the notes in a sealed envelope.”I guess the old saying is true, you can’t ask for what you don’t know exists,” Ms Gobbo said.”He’s [Asling] requested exculpatory material in the course of his trial. Those notes were in the possession of Victoria Police. They’re obviously exculpatory — never provided.”The former barrister claimed Asling may not have been convicted if his defence team had all the facts and material they needed.”His barristers and solicitors have gone through the whole process of summonses in the magistrates court and subpoenas in the Supreme Court and was told that these notes do not exist,” Ms Gobbo told the royal commission.A legal source close to the case said that Ms Gobbo’s notes were no ‘smoking gun’ to prove Asling’s innocence, but said the notes could have helped Asling’s defence team attack the credibility of the killer-turned-witness.Lawyers have exhausted all avenues of appeal for Stephen AslingStephen Asling’s mother, who only wants to be identified as Trisha*, told the ABC she was not blind to her son’s previous crimes, which include multiple armed robberies, grievous bodily harm and assault.But she does not believe her son committed murder.”He did these other crimes and he said, ‘I wasn’t there selling pizzas mum — I did it — so I’ve got to pay the penalty,'” she said.”And if he had done this [the murder], I’d have said, ‘Well, good enough for you.’ Stephen Asling, in his twenties, was described by his mother as a good footballer beloved by his family before he become involved with dangerous people in Melbourne’s underworld.(Supplied)”I say that to him, ‘You lie down with dogs you get up with fleas.'”And he says, ‘Oh, I don’t expect to be charged with murder, Mum.'”She said her son spent his early years at boarding school and excelled at football before he became acquainted with underworld figures.Trisha described her son’s trial for the murder of Graham Kinniburgh as the “greatest sham of all time”.The jury was instructed by the judge to treat two criminal witnesses, including the killer-turned-witness, as unreliable.A third criminal was meant to be a significant witness against Asling but by the end of the trial his credibility was so poor the “jury was instructed in the clearest terms to disregard the evidence”, the Court of Appeal found.The killer-turned-witness admitted he had lied about other murders and had received a discounted sentence for giving evidence against Asling.The jury heard the other criminal witness had charges dropped in exchange for giving evidence against Asling and had written to police in 2015 saying he had lied about Asling’s involvement.Despite that, the jury found Stephen Asling guilty.”My way of thinking is, it’s gangland and anyone associated — ‘lock ’em up for life’ seemed to be the attitude. Lock ’em up and throw away the key,” Trisha said.”I always thought they were there to protect and was always proud of Victoria Police but I’m sorry, I don’t trust them, they’re looking after themselves.”Asling’s lawyers have exhausted all of their client’s appeal options, with no success.In early September, counsel assisting the RCMPI published explosive submissions, saying many major gangland cases could be affected by Ms Gobbo’s involvement in criminals being turned into Crown witnesses.Asling’s legal representatives have requested any relevant material from the royal commission that may help provide new and compelling evidence for a fresh appeal.*Name has been changed for anonymity

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