A convicted killer’s plan to use a TV documentary to prove his innocence has backfired – as the investigation claims he may have helped cover up the involvement of others in the killing.
David Szach was 19 years old in 1979 when he was charged with the murder of his 44-year-old lover, Adelaide lawyer Derrance Stevenson, with whom he had been living for three years.
Mr Stevenson was shot in the back of the head sometime between June 4 and 5 of that year.
His body was found curled up in the fetal position, hidden in a freezer with the lid superglued shut.
Adelaide lawyer Derrance Stevenson, 44, (pictured left) was found shot in the head and hidden in a freezer in 1979. His lover David Szach, 19, (pictured right) was convicted of the murder but has always maintained his innocence. ‘I did not kill Derrance Stevenson,’ he said.
Legal academic Dr Robert Moles said David Szach (pictured around the time of the crime) did not get a fair trial as he was convicted on inadmissable evidence from a discredited forensic pathologist. Mr Szach has always maintained his innocence
David Szach, pictured recently, was knocked back for legal aid funding for an appeal because after 14 years in prison he is no longer facing any jail time. Mr Szach, who has motor neurone disease, turned to TV series Frozen Lies for help to clear his name – but it backfired
Other people had been present at Mr Stevenson’s house during the window of time in which the murder may have occurred including a man named Gino Gambardella who was charged with being an accessory to murder, but the charge was dropped and Mr Gambardella moved to Italy. The other leads came to nothing.
Mr Szach was arrested on June 5 in Coober Pedy, about 900km northwest of Adelaide, where he was driving Mr Stevenson’s red Datsun the day after the killing was alleged to have occurred.
The young man was convicted on key evidence from South Australia’s former chief forensic pathologist Colin Manock, who had no formal qualifications as a pathologist, and whose evidence in other cases has been discredited, The Australian has reported.
Mr Szach said he was innocent, but he lost his appeal against his murder conviction in 1980.
During the next 13 years he spent in prison, he insisted he was innocent.
He even refused to apply for parole as he said that would be an admission of guilt and he said that he was not guilty.
After being released from prison in 1993, Mr Szachs continued to try to clear his name.
In 2013, a change of law in South Australia made it possible for convicted criminals to ask leave to appeal a second time if there is fresh or compelling evidence they have been wrongly convicted.
He applied to the Legal Services Commission of South Australia for legal aid to launch an appeal, but was knocked back on funding grounds since he had already served his 14-year jail term in full and was not at risk of further imprisonment.
‘Your application for funding was not refused on the basis of the merits of your appeal but on Commission funding guidelines,’ wrote Gabrielle Canny, the commission’s director.
Tony Kerin, a partner at Adelaide law firm Grope Hamilton, took on Mr Szach’s case pro-bono a few years ago and has said he will file the appeal for Mr Szach, but the appeal has yet to be lodged.
Desperate to clear his name, Mr Szach approached Foxtel documentary show Frozen Lies to investigate his case.
Derrance Stevenson’s body was found curled up in the fetal position face down in this freezer in Adelaide in 1979. The lid had been superglued shut
Debi Marshall on location during filming for Foxtel documentary series Frozen Lies
The TV crew led by author Debi Marshall and former NSW Police forensics detective Kris Illingsworth reviewed the evidence for 18 months but came to a stunning conclusion.
Frozen Lies decided that Mr Szach had committed the murder – and that he had also likely covered up the involvement of others, News Corp reported.
After decades of struggling to clear his name, Mr Szach was bitterly disappointed.
‘I did not kill Derrance Stevenson, I played no part whatsoever in his murder,’ Mr Szach told Foxtel.
Mr Szach said he had no reason to lie.
‘That is your ending it’s not my ending,’ he said as he walked off the set.
Legal expert Dr Robert Moles, an adjunct principle researcher from Flinders University who specialises in miscarriages of justice, said it was clear that Mr Szach had not received a fair trial because Dr Manock’s was inadmissable.
‘David Szach’s conviction should be set aside and he should be returned to the legal status of innocent,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Friday.
Dr Moles said he is an advocate of improving the legal system so it works properly, and he has investigated Mr Szach’s case.
‘David Szach is one case where it’s not working properly.
‘I do support very strongly there should be an independent review … because it’s perfectly clear that he didn’t get a fair trial’
Dr Moles said people were entitled to proper procedure before a court to determine their innocence or guilt and that it was not up to a TV show to decide.
‘It’s up to a court, not up to a private individual or a private organisation like a TV show to assess guilt. People are entitled to proper procedure – put the evidence before a court and allow a jury to determine guilt,’ he said by telephone from Adelaide.
Legal expert Dr Robert Moles, who specialises in miscarriages of justice, said David Szach’s conviction should be set aside and he should be returned to the legal status of innocent
Dr Moles said Mr Szach’s case was complicated by his physical deterioration with motor neurone disease, the same degenerative condition that killed physicist Stephen Hawking.
The condition causes him to speak in a way which TV viewers may mistake for being shifty or strange – but it is actually caused by illness.
‘David has a peculiar way of expressing himself in writing and in the way he speaks,’ he said.
‘It’s partly his illness and partly language … it’s the way he speaks – he’s not being dishonest or untruthful.’
Foxtel confirmed that Frozen Lies investigation had determined that Mr Szach had killed Derrance Stevenson and that he had likely covered up the involvement of others.
Frozen Lies investigation also has decided that the crime scene had been altered.
The final episode airs on Tuesday, October 22.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Tony Kerin for comment. Dr Manock could not be reached for comment.