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Clarence Valley News

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

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Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

By Tim Howard

A former Grafton school teacher jailed for 24 years for the murder of his wife nearly seven years ago, will serve out his entire sentence.
John Wallace Edwards, 65, was convicted of the murder of Sharon Edwards in December 2019 and jailed for 24 years with a non-parole period of 18 years.
On February 14 a panel of three Supreme Court judges, Chief Justice Tom Bathurst and Judges, Stephen Rothman and Hament Dhanji unanimously rejected Edwards’ appeal against his sentence.
At the October 20 hearing, Edwards counsel argued a four-point appeal that the trial judge should have directed the jury to the availability of a manslaughter verdict, and that the murder verdict was unreasonable and could not be supported with the available evidence.
But the Appeal Court was not swayed.
They found the trial judge, Robert Hulme, had provided the jury with sufficient direction on the possibility of a manslaughter verdict.
In addition the defence, while aware of the possibility of a manslaughter verdict, had not argued for it until late in the trial.
Central to the four interconnected points of the appeal was Edwards post-offence behaviour.
Edwards counsel argued the judge should have directed the jury that this behaviour should be described as “intractably neutral”, that is, it was equally indicative of manslaughter or murder.
But the appeal judges found Edwards behaviour after the events of March14-15, 2015, was that of a murderer.
Although they disagreed Edwards had provided “13 different accounts” of what happened on the night of his wife’s disappearance and almost certain death, there were certainly a number of different stories.
They found the differing versions of events and other lies Edwards told indicated he had been prepared to inflict serious injuries that could have led to the death of his wife.
One of the accounts, told to two of his sons, was he had a physical altercation with this wife on the night of her disappearance.
“…yeah he said, ‘He’d, like he’d snatched the iPad, he’d wrestled with her’…he had her hand pinned behind her back or her side and he slammed her on the floor and she hit her head and then she got up and went to bed‘,” a son told the trial jury.
The appeal judges also said evidence he had broken a bone in his right hand, described by a doctor as a “boxer’s fracture”, around the time of the offence, indicated he had been capable of inflicting a blow powerful enough to cause serious injury leading to death.
In his finding Justice Dhanji noted: “There was no evidence of any disturbance consistent with an argument on the night of the deceased’s death. Nothing of this nature was heard by the neighbours. Nor was there any evidence that the applicant was intoxicated. Even if any assault was unplanned, these matters point away from an uncontrolled outbreak of violence. In these circumstances the possibility that the applicant struck the deceased with a blow sufficiently hard to break a bone in his hand suggests a level of force consistent with an intention to cause, at least, really serious injury.
“Further, if, for example the deceased hit her head as a result of falling on a hard surface after such a blow or otherwise, death was unlikely to have been instant. For the reasons discussed above, not seeking assistance and then disposing of the body suggest, a disregard for the deceased, and point away from an intention to do something less than inflict really serious injury.”
Edwards’ determination to withhold the location of his wife’s remains, despite the pain it caused the rest of the family was another indication his wife’s death had been deliberate rather than accidental.
Other indicators, such as Edwards realisation his wife was about to leave him for another man, and financial concerns about their jointly owned properties strengthened the case for a verdict of murder.
The murder of Mrs Edwards, who disappeared after a night out with friends in Grafton in 2015, shocked the Clarence Valley.
Initially treated as a missing person investigation, on April 1 it turned into a homicide case and Edwards and the couple’s three sons made impassioned pleas for people who knew anything to come forward.
The popular teacher had no enemies, but it emerged her marriage to Edwards was finished.
During the trial it emerged she had rekindled a relationship with an old flame, William ‘Billy’ Mills, who had been with her on the night of her disappearance and they had plans to live together.
By mid 2017 and despite no sign of her body, police were convinced Edwards had killed his wife and he was formally charged with murder.
At his trial, which concluded in December 2019, a jury found Edwards guilty of his wife’s murder. Son Josh said after the trial he no longer considered Edwards his father for what he’d done to his mum.
Edwards has never hinted at the location of his wife’s body.
He will serve out the remainder of his sentence of 24 years with a minimum of 18 years non-parole from June 20, 2017. His earliest release date is June 19, 2035.

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Clarence Valley News

Body of man located in floodwaters near Grafton

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THE NSW NORTHERN RIVERS TIMES NEWSPAPER

Body of man located in floodwaters near Grafton

The body of a man has been recovered from a property in the state’s north.

Officers attached to Coffs/Clarence Police District were contacted about 8.30pm yesterday (Thursday 24 March 2022), after reports a 72-year-old man went missing after attempting to cross a flooded roadway on foot near Coaldale Road, Coaldale, about 35km north of Grafton

A search involving local police located the body of a man about 9.15pm a short distance away in a gully.

While he is yet to be formally identified, it is believed to be that of the missing man.

Inquiries are continuing.

A report will be prepared for the information of the coroner.

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Clarence Valley News

Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

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Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

Grafton’s time-old royal tradition leads the way against gender discrimination

By Lesley Apps

FOR the first time in its 88-year history the Jacaranda Queen program will welcome kings and ambassadors into its entourage.

While the role of Jacaranda Queen is traditionally female, to honour the inclusive spirit that festival manager and the committee have been championing over the past few years, people of all gender identities are welcome to enter the 2022 event.

Reigning Grafton Jacaranda Queen, Hanna Craig said the committee decided the time was right to recognise the diversity of gender and update the festival’s program accordingly.

“We are an inclusive organisation and welcome everyone and support safe and diverse spaces, and this move is in line with this approach,” Miss Craig said.

She said accepting how someone identifies was the right step to take.

“Acknowledging this not only supports the Festival’s contemporary approach but paves the way for other (similar) events to do the same.”

Festival manager Mark Blackadder said all entrants will be referred to as Jacaranda candidates (junior or senior).

“Winners can choose whatever title they feel comfortable with, Queen, King or Ambassador.”

While the festival committee was looking forward to welcoming a more progressive competition this year it’s not the first time the format has deviated from its all-female tradition.

In 2003 two male candidates, Wayne Herbert and Scott Kelly, showed interest in entering, causing varying degrees of controversy as the local paper reported at the time before both pulled out of the competition.

It reported Mr Kelly had partnered two Queens vying for the title in the past but wanted to be called King, while Mr Herbert, then manager of the town’s Gay and Lesbian Resource Centre, was happy with the Queen title but withdrew his candidacy after challenging the festival’s fundraising rules after he wanted to nominate his own charity rather than support the annual event.

While the Jacaranda Committee at the time (almost 20 years ago) was supportive where possible, it generated plenty of press coverage and community conversation, prompting a former queen to write to the paper to say the behaviour of the male candidates was “inappropriate and distasteful” and made a mockery of the event.

Nominations for the 2022 Grafton Jacaranda Festival Queen, King or Ambassador are now open. A candidates information evening will be held at the Grafton District Services Club on Friday, March 18, 6pm. For more information on the Grafton Jacaranda Festival visit: www.jacarandafestival.com

Caption: Reigning Jacaranda royal party, from left: Junior Jacaranda Princess: Aaliyah Scarlet Roach, Jacaranda Princess: Breeze Paine, Jacaranda Queen: Hanna Craig, Junior Jacaranda Queen: Brooke Chapman. Change is in the air with a new gender inclusive Jacaranda Candidate program for 2022.

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Clarence Valley News

Flying fox frequency, pt 2

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Flying fox frequency

Flying fox frequency, pt 2

Story by Lara Leahy

In the second part of the Flying Fox Frequency, we look at the flying fox population in the Kyogle Council, Clarence Valley Council and Ballina locations. Kyogle Council have also provided excerpts from their Management Plan giving further information on why Flying Foxes receive so much focus.

Kyogle Council
Judy Faulks, the Senior Environmental Services Officer has replied with a great deal of information on the issues faced by all areas with Flying Fox populations. Kyogle Council has sourced funding from the NSW Dept of Planning and Environment (DPIE) and researched its own management plan.
Kyogle’s Plan
“In 2021 Council received funding from DPIE to complete the Kyogle Flying-fox Camp Management Plan (currently in draft form). This Plan has been prepared to guide future management of the Kyogle flying-fox camp along Fawcetts Creek on the northern side of Kyogle township. The Plan aims to reduce conflicts between humans and the flying-fox camp.
“The remaining flying-fox camps throughout Kyogle LGA (one of which is a Nationally significant flying-fox camp) are in more rural/remote areas of the LGA so conflict between humans and the flying-fox camps is minimal.
“In consultation with the community, a range of management actions have been identified in the draft Kyogle Flying-fox Camp Management Plan which includes both general and location specific actions. The key management actions aim to maintain or enhance separation between people and the flying-fox camp. Applying for and securing external funding will be important to enable implementation of the Plan.
“In late 2021 Council also received further funding from DPIE to implement a high priority action under the draft Plan – i.e. undertake habitat enhancement and creation at the northern end of the Kyogle Recreation Reserve to encourage flying-foxes to roost in this area away from sensitive receivers. This project will complement previous vegetation regeneration works along Fawcetts Creek; provide roosting habitat away from residential areas thereby reducing flying-fox conflicts; and reduce pressure on vegetation at the existing flying-fox camp.
“Kyogle will continue monitoring flying-fox camps as part of the National Flying-fox Monitoring Program – as this provides valuable information on the location, species, timing and numbers of flying-foxes at a given camp over time.
Conflict vs Harmony
“There can be conflict between humans and flying-foxes. Key issues identified as part of community consultation for the draft Kyogle Flying-fox Camp Management Plan included flying-fox noise, odour and excrement impacts; and disease concerns. There are local residents and users of the area who reported enjoying the flying-fox camp or whose primary concerns related to flying-fox conservation issues. Reported positive feedback was from people who:
· acknowledge the need to conserve flying-foxes as an important native species and find a balance between wildlife and human needs
· enjoyed watching flying-foxes at the camp
· appreciated the natural values of the camp and vegetation along Fawcetts Creek
· feel the camp does not negatively impact on their lifestyle
· understand the low risk of flying-foxes to human health.”

An excerpt from draft Kyogle Flying-fox Camp Management Plan: Flying-fox ecology and behaviour
Ecological role
Flying-foxes make a substantial contribution to ecosystem health through their ability to move seeds and pollen over long distances (Southerton et al. 2004). This directly assists gene movement in native plants, improving the reproduction, regeneration and viability of forest ecosystems (DEE 2019a). Some plants, particularly Corymbia spp., have adaptations suggesting they rely more heavily on nocturnal visitors such as bats for pollination than daytime pollinators (Southerton et al. 2004).
Grey-headed flying-foxes may travel 100 kilometres in a single night with a foraging radius of up to 50 kilometres from their camp (McConkey et al. 2012) and have been recorded travelling over 500 kilometres in two days between camps (Roberts et al. 2012). In comparison bees, another important pollinator, move much shorter foraging distances of generally less than one kilometre (Zurbuchen et al. 2010).
Long-distance seed dispersal and pollination make flying-foxes critical to the long-term persistence of many plant communities (Westcott et al. 2008; McConkey et al. 2012), including eucalypt forests, rainforests, woodlands and wetlands (Roberts et al. 2006). Seeds that are able to germinate away from their parent plant have a greater chance of growing into a mature plant (DES 2018). Long-distance dispersal also allows genetic material to be spread between forest patches that would normally be geographically isolated (Parry-Jones & Augee 1992; Eby 1991; Roberts 2006). This genetic diversity allows species to adapt to environmental change and respond to disease pathogens. Transfer of genetic material between forest patches is particularly important in the context of contemporary fragmented landscapes.
Flying-foxes are considered ‘keystone’ species given their contribution to the health, longevity and diversity among and between vegetation communities. These ecological services ultimately protect the long-term health and biodiversity of Australia’s bushland and wetlands. In turn, native forests act as carbon sinks (Roxburgh et al. 2006), provide habitat for other animals and plants, stabilise river systems and catchments, add value to production of hardwood timber, honey and fruit (e.g. bananas and mangoes; Fujita 1991), and provide recreational and tourism opportunities worth millions of dollars each year (DES 2018).
Flying-foxes in urban areas
Flying-foxes appear to be roosting and foraging in urban areas more frequently. There are many possible drivers for this, as summarised by Tait et al. (2014):
· loss of native habitat and urban expansion
· opportunities presented by year-round food availability from native and exotic species found in expanding urban areas
· disturbance events such as drought, fires, cyclones
· human disturbance at non-urban roosts or culling at orchards
· urban effects on local climate
· refuge from predation
· movement advantages, e.g. ease of manoeuvring in flight due to the open nature of the habitat or ease of navigation due to landmarks and lighting.
Under threat
Flying-foxes roosting and foraging in urban areas more frequently can give the impression that their populations are increasing; however, the grey-headed flying-fox is in decline across its range and in 2001 was listed as vulnerable by the NSW Government through the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (now BC Act).
At the time of listing, the species was considered eligible for listing as vulnerable, as counts of flying-foxes over the previous decade suggested the national population had declined by up to 30%. It was also estimated the population would continue to decrease by at least 20% in the next three generations given the continuation of the current rate of habitat loss, culling and other threats.
The main threat to grey-headed flying-foxes in New South Wales is clearing or modification of native vegetation. This removes appropriate roosting and breeding sites and limits the availability of natural food resources, particularly winter–spring feeding habitat in north-eastern NSW. The urbanisation of the coastal plains of south-eastern Queensland and northern NSW has seen the removal of annually-reliable winter feeding sites, which is continuing.
There is a wide range of ongoing threats to the survival of the grey-headed flying-fox, including:
· habitat loss and degradation
· conflict with humans (including culling at orchards)
· infrastructure-related mortality (e.g. entanglement in barbed wire fencing and fruit netting, power line electrocution, etc.)
· exposure to extreme natural events such as cyclones, drought and heatwaves.
Flying-foxes have limited capacity to respond to these threats and recover from large population losses due to their slow sexual maturation, low reproductive output, long gestation and extended maternal dependence (McIlwee & Martin 2002).
Camp characteristics
All flying-foxes are nocturnal, typically roosting during the day in communal camps. These camps may range in number from a few to hundreds of thousands, with individual animals frequently moving between camps within their range. Typically, the abundance of resources within a 20 to 50-kilometre radius of a camp site will be a key determinant of the size of a camp (SEQ Catchments 2012). Many flying-fox camps are temporary and seasonal, tightly tied to the flowering of their preferred food trees; however, understanding the availability of feeding resources is difficult because flowering and fruiting are not reliable every year, and can vary between localities (SEQ Catchments 2012). These are important aspects of camp preference and movement between camps and have implications for long-term management strategies.
Little is known about flying-fox camp preferences; however, research indicates that apart from being in close proximity to food sources, flying-foxes choose to roost in vegetation with at least some of the following general characteristics (SEQ Catchments 2012; Eco Logical Australia 2018):
· closed canopy >5 metres high
· dense vegetation with complex structure (upper, mid- and understorey layers)
· within 500 metres of permanent water source
· within 50 kilometres of the coastline or at an elevation <65 metres above sea level
· level topography (<5° incline)
· greater than one hectare to accommodate and sustain large numbers of flying-foxes.
Optimal vegetation available for flying-foxes must allow movement between preferred areas of the camp. Specifically, it is recommended that the size of a patch be approximately three times the area occupied by flying-foxes at any one time (SEQ Catchments 2012).
Clarence Valley Council
Clarence Valley Council (CVC) said “Traditionally any flying fox camps in or adjacent to urban areas present challenges for Council and the community.” They highlighted examples in their area, including Maclean, Iluka, Grafton, Ulmarra, South Grafton as well as some rural locations such as Blaxlands Creek.
CVC have applied for the LGNSW grant. “The current strategy is to implement the Maclean Flying Fox Management Strategy and the draft CVC wide Flying Fox Management Strategy. Improving flying fox habitat opportunities away from sensitive receivers and mitigating existing impacts between camps and sensitive receivers while still accommodating co-habitation of both with less conflict.”
“We are currently in the process of issuing fresh communications around newly established, seasonal flying fox camps in Grafton and Blaxlands Creek and we are open to having further conversations to promote challenges around flying fox management as they apply to the Clarence Valley LGA.”
Ballina Shire Council
James Brideson, the Natural Resource Officer for Ballina Shire Council was able to contribute from their area:
“We understand some residents have concerns about local flying foxes and may be worried about disease. Within Ballina Shire, flying fox camps are currently located away from residential areas with buffers in place. However, their camps do change with the seasons. It’s also important to remember that within our community flying foxes are a very important part of the ecosystem process and are important for the survival of many plant species in our area.”

Next week: Richmond Valley Council, Tenterfield Shire and Lismore City Council – Edition 86 of The Northern Rivers Times

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