Murder trial underway

A court sketch of Greg Lynn. Picture: AAP Image/Paul Tyquin

Emily Wood, AAP

A pilot has admitted he was involved in the accidental deaths of Russell Hill and Carol Clay after an argument over hunting before making “terrible choices“ by hiding their bodies.

Greg Lynn, 57, has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter over the couple’s deaths while camping on March 20, 2020.

However, his defence barrister told the jury of 15 on Tuesday he admitted to police that he was accidentally involved in their deaths.

“I’m innocent of murder, I haven’t behaved well, I’ve made some poor decisions, but murder, as I understand it, I’m innocent of,“ Dermot Dann KC said, citing what Lynn told detectives in his interview.

He said Lynn – who had brought two guns with him – went hunting and when he got back to the campsite he became aware of a drone flying above that was operated by Mr Hill.

About dinner time, Lynn went over to Mr Hill’s campsite and asked him about the drone.

Mr Hill voiced his issues with Lynn about deer hunting near the camping grounds and threatened to show police footage of Lynn, Mr Dann alleged.

“Mr Lynn told him he was speaking nonsense,“ he said.

He said Lynn went back to his campsite and started playing loud music from his car stereo to annoy Mr Hill.

Lynn claims he heard some noises around his car and then saw Mr Hill walking away. Believing he had his gun he followed Mr Hill and asked him for it back.

“Mr Hill told him to ’f*** off’,“ Mr Dann said.

“Mr Lynn, you’ll hear and see, explains to police that Mr Hill lost his temper, that loud music had obviously disturbed Mr Hill late at night.“

Mr Dann said Lynn went to get his gun back from Mr Hill, when the 74-year-old fired it into the air.

Lynn said he took cover at the back of Mr Hill’s car and tried again to get his gun back, with a struggle taking place.

The accused double murderer claimed in a “chaotic scene“ Mr Hill discharged the gun and a bullet went through the car mirror.

“That same shot, tragically, shot Mrs Clay in the head,“ Mr Dann said.

Mr Hill ran over to Mrs Clay, Lynn retrieved his gun and then Mr Hill ran towards Lynn, with a knife, screaming “she’s dead“.

In a struggle over the knife, as Lynn tried to defend himself the knife went into Mr Hill’s chest, Mr Dann alleged.

He said Lynn then made “series of terrible choices“ because he feared he would be blamed for the deaths.

“He tried to make this disaster somehow go away,“ Mr Dann said.

“He embarked on a series of actions which, he recognised in that record of interview, only made his whole situation so much worse.“

He said Lynn packed up the campsite and put the bodies in his trailer before setting fire to the couple’s site.

He then allegedly removed the knife Mr Hill used, took the drone and the couple’s phones before driving into the night with their bodies.

Lynn went to the Union Spur Track, near Dargo, and buried the couple before driving home to Melbourne, Mr Dann said.

He admitted he returned to the site when COVID-19 lockdown ended, in May 2020, and then again November when he burned their remains.

“He describes being physically sick, scooping up the remains of the fire,“ Mr Dann said.

Lynn told police about the location of Mr Hill and Mrs Clay’s remains during his interview and helped them find it, he said.

But Mr Dann told the jury Lynn was not guilty of murder or manslaughter as the prosecution would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the deaths were not accidental.

“The prosecution will have to disprove his account,“ he said.

Earlier, crown prosecutor Daniel Porceddu accused Lynn of intentionally murdering the couple.

“The prosecution alleges Mr Hill was most likely killed first because Mrs Clay is very unlikely to have provoked a violent confrontation involving a firearm other than having witnessed or been aware of Mr Hill’s violent death,“ he said.

He said Mr Hill, who was a radio enthusiast, would have been able to readily call for assistance if Mrs Clay had been shot first.

He alleged Lynn was camping in the Wonnangatta Valley at the same time as Mr Hill and Mrs Clay, who were childhood sweethearts.

“It is alleged that during the evening of Friday, 20 March 2020, at Bucks Camp the accused murdered Mr Hill and Mrs Clay,“ Mr Porceddu told the jury.

“The precise circumstance of the killings are not known, nor is the motivation.“

He alleged one possible motive was Mr Hill’s drone had captured a dispute between Lynn and Mr Hill, which he claimed was later removed and destroyed.

“There might have been an argument or confrontation between the two men,“ Mr Porceddu said.

He said it was not known how Mr Hill was killed, but evidence allegedly showed Mrs Clay was shot in the head.

“The prosecution alleges Mr Hill was most likely killed first because Mrs Clay is very unlikely to have provoked a violent confrontation involving a firearm other than having witnessed or been aware of Mr Hill’s violent death,“ the prosecutor said.

Mr Porceddu alleged Lynn moved Mr Hill and Mrs Clay’s bodies into his car trailer and set fire to their tent, camping items and an area next to Mr Hill’s LandCruiser to cover what is likely to have been Mrs Clay’s blood.

Lynn removed cash from their wallets, took their phones and Mr Hill’s drone, packed up his campsite and drove off with their bodies, the prosecutor said.

Lynn then drove for “many hours“ along four-wheel-drive tracks until he reached the Union Spur Track near Dargo, unloaded their bodies and hid them in bushland, he alleged.

“It was a location where the accused would return,“ he said.

The moment COVID-19 lockdown ended, about midnight on May 12, 2020, it’s alleged Lynn returned to the burial site “to ensure that they were still well-hidden”.

The initial 14 jurors were discharged last Friday due to ‘technical reasons’ with 15 new jurors selected on Monday May 13.

Twelve of them will ultimately decide whether Lynn is guilty or innocent of the two charges.

The trial continues.