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Coroner: Try husband for 1991 killings

March 2, 2013 at 1:51 AM

BRISBANE, Australia, March 2 (UPI) -- An Australian man should be charged with killing his wife and her best two decades ago, deaths originally ruled a murder-suicide, a coroner said Friday.

Coroner Michael Barnes ruled Alan Leahy must be tried for murder, The Courier-Mail of Brisbane reported. Leahy, who now lives in Western Australia, would be tried in Cairns in Queensland.

Julie-Anne Leahy, 26, and Vicki Arnold, 27, disappeared in 1991. Their bodies were found in the bush near Cairns two weeks later in Leahy's SUV. Leahy had been hit with a rock, stabbed and shot, while Arnold had been shot twice in the head.

Barnes was harshly critical of the original investigation, which determined Arnold had killed her friend and then taken her own life.

"Those involved in the early stages of the investigation failed to gather, lost or corrupted evidence that may have established the truth of what happened at Cherry Tree Creek on the night of July 26, 1991," he said. "They then set about squeezing what evidence was left into an explanation that required no further action."

Barnes said Leahy had ample motive to kill his wife, including an affair with her sister and the money from her life insurance. He said Leahy lied to police about a number of details.

Leahy denied committing the crime.

"Of course I will fight the charges," he said.

Vida Arnold, Vicki's 87-year-old mother, was in the courtroom Friday, weeping as Barnes cleared her daughter of being a killer.

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