Police bungles including lost evidence, missing exhibits and interview mistakes let Michael Atkins off the hook in the days after his young lover disappeared, an inquest has heard.
Detectives failed to ask Atkins questions when he ‘was on the verge of giving information’ about what happened to Matthew Leveson, who was last seen alive leaving a Sydney nightclub in 2007.
When asked what happened to 20-year-old Matthew, Atkins, 55, said ‘I want to tell you but I’m scared what will happen to me if I do’, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Matthew Leveson’s remains are being held at Glebe morgue, below the Coroner’s Court
Michael Atkins with his younger lover Matthew Leveson, whose skeleton was found in May
Detective Senior Constable Scott Craddock, the detective in charge of the investigation into Matthew’s death, told the inquest ‘this clearly demonstrates Atkins was involved in this disappearance and needed to be questioned further’.
‘It is my opinion that opportunities were missed during questions to press Atkins on responses he gave.’
In addition to lost evidence and the officers’ mistakes, a box of missing exhibits related to the case was found in the ceiling of a former policeman’s home.
Atkins was acquitted of killing his lover in 2009.
Matthew’s mother Faye said the family had to do a ‘deal with the devil’ in agreeing for Atkins to get immunity from prosecution, as it was the only way they could find where her son was buried.
Leveson’s parents held up pictures of their son’s skeleton on Friday and accused his onetime older lover Michael Atkins of killing their boy.
Mark and Faye Leveson with pictures of their son Matthew’s remains at Glebe Coroner’s Court
‘Atkins said he loved Matt!’ one of the pictures of Matthew’s remains was captioned. ‘You don’t do this to someone you love.’
Faye Leveson had earlier stood in Glebe Coroner’s Court and accused Michael Atkins of possibly smothering, drowning or burying Matthew alive.
‘We will always be left worrying, did Matty suffer?’ Mrs Leveson said. ‘Did he die quickly or was it slow and painful? Was he terrified?’
While she spoke, Matthew’s remains were being held in the morgue under the court.
Mrs Leveson said her son would not be wearing his favourite suit when his family could finally give him a funeral. They cannot dress a skeleton, she told the court.
‘We had to watch Matty be exhumed from the grave, piece by piece, bit by bit, and then rebuilt and then watched him be packed up into two cardboard boxes and some evidence bags,’ she said.
‘That’s not how a human should end up, nobody should end up like that and we shouldn’t have had to see our son in that state.’
Mrs Leveson described the legal machinations that led to Atkins taking police to Matthew’s grave in exchange for immunity from prosecution as a ‘deal with the devil’.
She waved a photograph of her 20-year-old son and another of his skeleton at Atkins’s two lawyers, according to the Daily Telegraph. ‘I want you to look,’ Mrs Leveson said. ‘This is what Atkins did to him.’
Matthew, who was last seen alive leaving Sydney’s inner-city ARQ nightclub with Atkins in September 2007, had been sharing an apartment with his older lover at Cronulla.
Mark and Faye Leveson outside Glebe Coroner’s Court with a picture of their son Matthew
One picture was captioned: ‘Atkins said he loved Matt! You don’t do this to someone you love!’
Atkins, now 54, maintained for years he did not know what had happened to Matthew that night and was acquitted by a jury of his murder or manslaughter in 2009.
He gave evidence at a coronial inquest last year on condition he could not be prosecuted for any offence other than perjury or contempt of court.
When confronted with his perjured evidence he did another deal that allowed him to escape prosecution if he led police to Matthew’s grave.
After several searches, and using a crude map drawn by Atkins, police found Mathew’s remains buried in a shallow gave within the Royal National Park south of Sydney in May this year.
Atkins, who had initially claimed Matthew might be living in Thailand, has since told police his young lover died of an overdose of the drug GHB and he had panicked when he found his body.
Matthew Leveson’s skeleton was found in the Royal National Park south of Sydney this year
Police search for Matthew Leveson’s remains in the Royal National Park south of Sydney
Mathew’s parents Faye and Mark had spent years searching for their son’s remains, often visiting the bushland where they believed he was buried.
‘How do you put into words how the murder and the subsequent hiding of Matty’s body has affected me,’ Mrs Leveson asked the court on Friday.
‘There have been and are times I don’t want to go on any more.
‘We will always be left worrying, did Matty suffer? Did he die quickly or was it slow and painful? Was he terrified? Did he fight back?
‘Was he smothered with a pillow? Was he held underwater? Did Atkins give Matty the fatal dose or just enough in a drink to render him unconscious and then bury him alive?
Michael Atkins has been told he will not be required to give further evidence at the inquest
The crude map Michael Atkins drew of where he buried his lover Matthew Leveson’s body
Mark Leveson carries flowers to the site where police found the remains of his son Matthew
‘I will go to my grave not knowing really what happened to Matty.
‘I want Atkins to be forced to see Matty in the morgue to see the consequences of his actions.’
Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscutt ruled on Friday that Atkins would not be giving further evidence at the inquest.
Ms Truscott said the electrician had ‘consistently lied’ to police for almost a decade. His more recent actions had been entirely self-serving.
‘Michael Atkins has no credibility as a witness,’ Ms Truscott said.
It was ‘more likely than not’ Atkins was still not telling the truth but it was not in the interests of justice to have him give further evidence as nothing he said could establish Matthew’s cause and manner of death.
Police search for the remains of Matthew Leveson in the Royal National Park earlier this year
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