Higgins? fate left to jury



IS FORMER Tweed City Commonwealth Bank branch manager Graham Higgins a calculating liar who deliberately defrauded an elderly woman of nearly $80,000, or an innocent victim of a conspiracy of human error and missing paperwork?

The 12-member jury who are today expected to decide the fate of Higgins at the Lismore District Court was yesterday presented with these vastly different versions of events in a dramatic final day of evidence.

Higgins is accused of having fraudulently dealt with a cheque for $78,303 given to him in 2001 by an elderly client, Doreen Loder, now deceased.

Crown Prosecutor Julia Baly accused Higgins of destroying bank files pertaining to Mrs Loder to hide evidence of his dealings.

"I never ever destroyed bank documents," Higgins replied.

Under cross-examination Higgins denied having acted dishonestly and claimed he had been "ambushed" by fraud investigators.

"I hadn't done anything.

"No-one wanted to believe that the filing had not been located," he said.

"They wanted to find someone to nail and I was the scapegoat. I was pinned."

In the Crown's closing statement Ms Baly urged the jury to use their common sense to find Higgins guilty of fraud.

"He has been very calculating," Ms Baly said.

"But, under any kind of scrutiny (his version of events) falls apart it is so implausible."

Higgins' defence counsel, Peter O'Connor, finished the day by asking the jury to take into account Higgins' excellent character, while two friends of Higgins testified yesterday that Higgins was a "generous man" and a "perfect gentleman".

Mr O'Connor also reminded the jury of the famous Lindy Chamberlain case in which Mrs Chamberlain was sent to jail for killing her baby Azaria based on circumstantial evidence, only to have her conviction overturned when new evidence came to light.

Two plus two doesn't always equal four, Mr O'Connor warned the jury.



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