A postman who was wrongfully convicted of bludgeoning an elderly widow to death has vowed to fight for justice after spending almost seven years behind bars.
Steven Fennell, 60, was sentenced to life for the murder of grandmother Liselotte Watson, 85, inside her Macleay Island house, off the coast of Brisbane.
Breaking his silence for the first time on Wednesday after being reunited with his wife and son, Mr Fennell said he was ‘really p***ed’ he had spent so long in jail.
‘It doesn’t end here,’ he told The Courier Mail.
‘I’ve read a good deal… I’ve spent six and a half years trawling through the limited information I was given by Legal Aid Queensland, who certainly need to be taken and given a deadly shake.’
Steven Fennell (pictured centre with his wife Helen and son Adam on Thursday) was acquitted of murder after spending nearly seven years behind bars
The father-of-one claims prior convictions, a gambling habit and a friendship with Mrs Watson – who was known to keep money in her home – led to his arrest and subsequent life sentence for the widow’s murder.
‘I was an easy and simple target,’ he told Nine News. ‘I gambled. I know Mrs Watson. I must have done it. And that’s all that happened.’
Bill Potts, the president of the Queensland Law Society told The Australian while Mr Fennell could try to sue the state, he was unlikely to be successful, as he was convicted by a jury and had lost an appeal.
Liselotte Watson, an 85-year-old widower, was known to have kept money in her home
During Mr Fennell’s court case, the jury was told he had gone to the Macleay Island police station and requested someone check on his elderly friend on November 13, 2012.
He told officers he was worried about an ’86-year-old lady who he had a lot to do with’, and a note he had left in her letter box about 6am that day – explaining he would miss their normal coffee meeting as he was going to the mainland – was still there in the afternoon, and her door was locked.
Officers found her dead on the floor of her bedroom with a doona partially wrapped around her.
A pathologist found she had been struck in the back of the head between four and six times with a hammer-like object.
Just days earlier, a toiletries bag filled with banking documents and weighed down by a rock was found floating in the water at nearby Thompson Point.
The discovery was made on November 10 and reported on November 15.
Mr Fennell said he did not know who was behind the murder, but told reporters he believed it was an unfortunate consequence of another crime gone wrong.
The father-of-one (pictured in handcuffs) was found guilty by a jury of striking his elderly neighbour in the head six times with a hammer-like object
The High Court of Australia adjourned for just four minutes on Wednesday before returning with a unanimous decision he should be acquitted
‘I don’t know (who killed Mrs Watson) but I’ve said all along I don’t believe anybody intended to kill (her),’ he said.
‘I believe it was a bungled burglary.’
After a failed appeal in July 2017, Mr Fennell had his case heard by the High Court this year.
On Wednesday, at the conclusion of the hearing, a transcript shows the Court adjourned for just four minutes, from 2:41 to 2:45pm, before returning with a unanimous decision that the appeal would be allowed, and Mr Fennell would be acquitted.
This means the former junk mail deliveryman can only be charged with Mrs Watson’s murder again if fresh and compelling evidence comes to light.
The reasons for the shock decision are unlikely to be known for months, but Mr Fennell’s case appeared to centre around the fact the evidence against him was circumstantial, therefore making the guilty verdict unreasonable.
Legal representatives for Mr Fennell argued the case against him boiled down to little more than ‘he could have done it’.
Ms Watson’s granddaughter Emma Watson told the Courier Mail she and her family were thankful to the Queensland Police Service for their ‘relentless effort and dedication’, and ‘unwavering support and compassion’.
‘Recent events have of course been devastating for our family and many throughout our community, but we will get through life’s next challenge as we have got through the others,’ she said.
Mrs Watson’s granddaughter Emma said she and her family were thankful to the community and police, and remained confident they would ‘get through life’s next challenge as we have got through the others’
WHAT HAPPENED TO MRS WATSON?
November 10, 2012: A toiletries bag with banking material belonging to Mrs Watson is found floating in water at Thompson Point
November 12, 2012 – 9am: Liselotte Watson was last seen alive
November 13, 2012 – 6am: Steven Fennell leaves a note in Mrs Watson’s mailbox to let her know he won’t be around for coffee that morning
November 13, 2012 – 3.30pm: Mr Fennell calls police and asks them to conduct a welfare check after noticing his note was still in Mrs Watson’s mailbox
November 13, 2012 – 4:30pm: Mrs Watson is found dead in her home at Macleay Island
November 15, 2012: A local resident reports finding the toiletries bag to police, who find a hammer in the same location later that day
March 14, 2013: Mr Fennell is charged with murder and taken into custody
March 21, 2016: Mr Fennell is found guilty by a jury and given a life sentence for the murder of Liselotte Watson
March 29, 2016: Mr Fennell launches an appeal
July 21, 2017: The appeal is dismissed
April 3, 2019: Mr Fennell appeals to the High Court of Australia
September 11, 2019: Mr Fennell’s appeal is granted and he is acquitted of murder and immediately released from prison