Crimes and courtroom drama that shocked the Clarence
SHOCKING crimes and courtroom drama made headlines throughout 2019. We take a look back at some of the biggest stories covered by The Daily Examiner.
JURY FINDS JOHN EDWARDS GUILTY
FOLLOWING a three-week trial at Coffs Harbour Supreme Court in November, John Wallace Edwards, 62, was found guilty for the murder of Grafton schoolteacher and his estranged wife Sharon Edwards.
Ms Edwards, who had reunited with her old flame from high school Billy Mills, had spent the night of March 14, 2015, at a Grafton pub with Mr Mills before driving back to her home.
The court heard that when the 55-year-old arrived back at her home that night, John Edwards was waiting for her inside the home and killed her in a jealous rage.
Ms Edwards' body has not been found, and Mr Edwards maintained his innocence throughout the court proceedings.
- INSIDE THE TRIAL: Unreported evidence from Edwards case
- FULL COVERAGE: How the John Edwards murder trial unfolded
JURY RETURNS VERDICT IN JAIL BASHING MURDER TRIAL
A JURY returned a not-guilty verdict in the trial of a man accused of the bashing murder of his cellmate in Grafton Correctional Centre in 2010.
Shane Leslie Johnson had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Woolgoolga man Ian Klum, 53, who died in Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital from a brain haemorrhage four days after he was transferred from Grafton Correctional Centre.
Mr Johnson and Mr Klum were both serving sentences for traffic offences when the pair were housed in the same cell of Grafton jail in 2010.
The jury took less than two hours deliberating their verdict in December.
MAN CHARGED WITH MURDER OVER SOUTH GRAFTON STABBING
A SOUTH Grafton man has entered a plea to a murder charge over an alleged stabbing death in South Grafton in January.
Justin Shawn John Smith, 34, pleaded not guilty to murder in Grafton Local Court in November.
Prosecutors withdrew a charge of wound with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
It is alleged that about 3.40am on Saturday January 5 an argument broke out between Mr Smith and a 28-year-old from Eatonsville at a home in South Grafton.
Mr Smith is accused of stabbing the victim twice in the abdomen, who died in hospital the following day.
MURDER CHARGES LAID AFTER TWO DEAD IN CRASH
KEVIN James Cook, 34, was arrested and charged in July with two counts of murder after police found the small pistol allegedly involved in the December 2018 crash that claimed the life of two men on the Pacific Hwy near Halfway Creek.
Police allege all parties had been involved in a disagreement before the vehicles, a Mitsubishi Lancer and a Commodore driven by Cook, could be seen driving erratically on the highway.
Detectives allege the firearm, brandished by Mr Cook, caused the Mitsubishi Lancer to leave the highway and roll several times before catching on fire.
Mr Cook allegedly fled the scene without contacting emergency services.
Grafton man Daniel Elliot and Tucabia man Jared Ward died in the incident.
A 39-year-old woman suffered permanent injury and was flown from the scene.
MURDER ACCUSED FACES 62 DRUG SUPPLY CHARGES
A GRAFTON man accused of a double murder following a fatal crash south of Grafton last year has had more charges laid, and is now facing 62 counts of drug supply including supplying a commercial quantity of methylamphetamine.
Kevin James Cook, 34, was charged with 62 counts of drug supply including supplying a commercial quantity of methylamphetamine; one count of possess a shortened .410 shotgun; one count of possess ammunition without authority; one count of aggravated break enter and steal upon a construction company depot in June 2019; and one count of discharge firearm with intent to endanger life (relating to a shooting incident in South Grafton in June 2019).
DRUG SUPPLY SYNDICATE UNCOVERED IN DOUBLE-MURDER PROBE
FIVE men were arrested in a dramatic series of raids when officers from Coffs/Clarence Police District, with assistance from operational support units, conducted four search warrants at homes in Grafton, South Grafton and Halfway Creek in August.
During the search warrants, police allegedly located and seized methylamphetamine, cannabis, cash and weapons.
Tyson Dean Stoker, 24, of South Grafton, was charged with 40 counts of supply prohibited drug.
Jason Wayne O'Driscoll, 39, of South Grafton, was charged with seven counts of supply prohibited drug, possess prohibited drugs and recklessly deal with proceeds of crime.
Aaron Raymond Godwin, 38, of Grafton, was charged with aggravated break and enter in company and supply prohibited drug.
Gregory John Reilly, 45, of Halfway Creek, was charged with 11 offences including supply prohibited drug, receive stolen property and possess unauthorised firearm.
Michael Looker was charged with 11 counts of supplying a prohibited drug between March 15 and May 14.
COMMUNITY SERVICE FOR MAN'S DEATH
THE driver involved in a head-on collision which claimed the life of a Grafton man has avoided jail time after he was sentenced for the fatal crash in September.
Mitchell Jackwitz, from Ipswich, west of Brisbane, appeared in Coffs Harbour Local Court on Monday after the 21-year-old entered a guilty plea to negligent driving causing death for the 2017 crash which killed 44-year-old Grafton man Matthew Benson.
According to agreed facts, around 4.15am on August 26, 2017, Jackwitz, who was on his green P-plates at the time, and his girlfriend left Ipswich to visit Jackwitz's grandfather at Kempsey.
Around 7.53am, Jackwitz was driving south on the Pacific Highway at Cowper when he failed to negotiate a slight left-hand bend and drove across the centre line and collided with Mr Benson's silver Ford Falcon that was travelling north.
Mr Benson suffered multiple and significant injuries and was declared dead at the scene. Family were devastated with the outcome.
PAIR EXTRADITED OVER ALLEGED TODDLER INJURY
TWO people accused of serious child neglect charges appeared in Grafton Local Court after they were extradited from Queensland in May.
The 24-year-old woman and 39-year-old man, who can't be named for legal reasons, were in court in September for a charge certification committal hearing for charges over allegations of injuring and neglect of a young girl in the state's north.
The charges were a result of a Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad investigation, and police allege they were notified after a 23-month-old girl was presented to Maclean District Hospital with life-threatening injuries on March 12 this year.
Doctors allegedly told police the girl had suffered a "catastrophic brain injury", with the man accused of injuring the child at a holiday rental home northeast of Grafton. Police allege medical attention was only sought three days after the alleged injuries.
LEAGUE CALLER IN HIGH PROFILE ARREST
VETERAN Grafton football caller Dougie Graham's colourful call of the Grafton Ghosts versus Woolgoolga Seahorses Group 2 rugby league game in July came to an even more colourful end this afternoon at Frank McGuren Field.
Midway through the first half two Grafton Police officers climbed the stairs in the Northern grandstand to where Graham and co-commentator Kevin Blanch were calling the game.
Police informed Graham they had come to arrest him for an outstanding warrant, but the commentator quickly became belligerent swearing and threatening the officers.
In court the following month, magistrate Kathy Crittenden said Graham's active role in the community, including volunteering as a commentator for the Grafton Ghosts at their home games, was a consideration in her sentencing on charges of affray, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault for an incident in a carpark on April 19, 2018 involving Graham and a co-accused.
MISSING CHILDREN'S 1,000KM JOY RIDE ENDS IN ARREST
FOUR Queensland children who allegedly stole one of their father's vehicles and went on a 1000km interstate joy ride were tracked down and arrested by police off the Gwydir Hwy at Jackadgery in July.
The children, a 12-year-old girl, two 13-year-old boys from Queensland and a 14-year-old boy originally from Grafton, were found in the stolen Nissan Patrol after having travelled through the centre of Queensland, out through Warialda before travelling towards Glen Innes.
During their journey the children, who had failed to pay for petrol twice, were sighted at stations in Banana in Qld and Warialda in NSW, and had led police on a pursuit at Glen Innes.
HOMES RAIDED DURING COUNTER TERRORISM INVESTIGATION
A COUNTER-terrorism investigation was underway at homes in the Grafton and Coffs Harbour areas in March following the devastating terror attack at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, at the hands of Grafton man Brenton Tarrant.
Tarrant was charged with the murder of 51 people after the gunman opened fire on Muslims during Friday prayers on March 15, which he had livestreamed and has since pleaded not guilty to.
On the morning of March 18, officers from the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team executed a search warrant at a home in Sandy Beach, and another at Lawrence in search of material to assist New Zealand police in their ongoing investigation.
Tarrant's family also assisted police with their inquiries.
DRIVER BANNED UNTIL 2053
BUYING a car should have been the last thing on the mind of a South Grafton man disqualified from driving until 2053.
However a trip to the bank, behind the wheel of the car he was planning to purchase, ended in him fleeing from police and a prison sentence.
Scott Robert Harding, 48, appeared in Grafton Local Court in February after pleading guilty to take and drive conveyance without consent of owner, and a raft of driving offences, including drive in a manner dangerous, not obey directions of police and driving while disqualified.