Caroline Stuttle murder trial opened
By GREG CHAPMAN
"COME and meet me" were the final words Caroline Anne Stuttle uttered moments before her death, a jury heard yesterday.
The final minutes of the British backpacker's life were played out in the Bundaberg Supreme Court at the beginning of one of Australia's most publicised murder trials.
Ian Douglas Previte, 32, stood in the dock - his long hair now close-cropped and face clean-shaven - and calmly told the court he was not guilty of the robbery and murder of the 19-year-old.
The small court room was already cramped with Australian and British media when the jury of seven men and five women was selected.
Crown prosecutor Peter Feeney then recounted the events that followed when Ms Stuttle went to call her boyfriend from a telephone near the Bundaberg Post Office at 8pm.
"It was a clear and moonless night and Caroline was wearing a light blue hooded jumper over a white T-shirt, corduroy pants and she was carrying a bag with the strap over her shoulder," Mr Feeney said.
After telephoning her boyfriend Ms Stuttle began to walk back across the bridge about 9pm.
"Previte was sitting on a bench on the east side of the bridge just out of sight and he saw her walk by alone," Mr Feeney told the court.
"About nine minutes later Caroline called her friend Sarah and said 'Come and meet me' in a hurried voice."
Mr Feeney told the jury the evidence would show Previte intended to rob Ms Stuttle and murder her by forcing her over the rail of the bridge.
"This is all going to be proven by a lot of witnesses who each have a little bit to tell," Mr Feeney said.
"It will come down to timing - to where people were and the aspects of what Previte has said which are facts that would only be known by the killer."
Mr Feeney told the jury they would hear police interviews and secret tapes of Previte telling prisoners he was responsible for Ms Stuttle's death.
Evidence from forensic pathologist Dr Rosemary Ashby suggested Ms Stuttle had been assaulted before she fell from the bridge.
Dr Ashby said severe skull fractures and a severed spinal column from the impact of the fall ultimately led to her death, but there was evidence of an assault.