Australian judge convicts ex-firefighter in 1980s murders

SYDNEY (AP) — A 73-year-old former firefighter was convicted Thursday in a series of murders and bombings in Sydney during the 1980s that terrorized Australia’s legal fraternity.

Leonard Warwick’s targets between 1980 and 1985 included judges and a church congregation, the court ruled.

New South Wales state Supreme Court Justice Peter Garling found Warwick guilty in the shooting murder of a judge and two bombing murders, including of a judge’s wife, and other offenses.

He was found not guilty in the shooting death of his brother-in-law, Stephen Blanchard.

Garling heard the trial without a jury. Warwick had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Although Warwick was considered a suspect early in the investigation, he wasn’t arrested until July 2015.

Prosecutor Ken McKay contended that the crimes were “inextricably linked” to drawn-out Family Court proceedings involving Warwick and his ex-wife, Andrea Blanchard, which ran from 1979 to 1986.

Blanchard testified that Warwick said Family Court Justice David Opas “won’t be there much longer,” weeks before he was fatally shot at his home in 1980.

Opas was the first judge to deal with the Warwick case. Justice Richard Gee took over the case, also making numerous orders against Warwick.

Gee’s home was bombed in 1984, as was the Family Court registry building where Warwick’s cases were heard.

The home of Justice Ray Watson, the third judge to issue orders against Warwick, was then bombed, killing his wife, Pearl.

Prosecutors said those incidents were “book-ended” by violent events related to Warwick’s former wife: — the shooting of her brother and a car bomb at the previous home of her lawyer.

Garling acquitted Warwick of murdering his brother-in-law, whose body was found weighted with bricks in a creek after he went missing in 1980.

The final crime was a bomb which ripped apart a Jehovah’s Witnesses hall, killing Graham Wykes and injuring 13 other members of the congregation which had offered support to Warwick’s former wife.

Warwick’s lawyer, Alan Conolly, argued there was not “a scintilla of acceptable evidence” that his client had committed extreme violence at any time in his life.

Garling rejected that argument and said he will conduct a sentencing hearing on Aug. 20. Warwick faces up to life in prison.

Copyright © 2021 . All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.


Sign up for breaking news alerts