Sydney man acquitted of abducting wife

A Sydney man accused of abducting his estranged wife and driving her halfway to Sydney was acquitted on Monday of a charge of unlawful confinement.

The man, 29, who has not been named to protect the identity of his now ex-wife, clapped once on hearing the verdict and waved to the jurors as they filed from court.

His family in the public gallery cried.

As the man left the Canberra court he spoke to a police officer across the room and said: “It’s my turn now, it’s my turn”.

He said he had spent $110,000 on his defence since he was charged, before his lawyers ushered him out.

It can also be revealed that during the ACT Supreme Court trial last week the man was cautioned for contempt of court, after prosecutors told the judge he had allegedly intimidated the same police officer by calling her a “rat” and saying she should not be in the courtroom.

She had not completed her evidence at the time.

No contempt charge has been laid.

The man faced trial on a single charge of unlawful confinement after he allegedly forced the Canberra woman into his car on November 29, 2015, before driving her halfway to Sydney against her will.

They had been separated for some 11 months, the court heard, and she described her husband as “estranged”.

The woman was called to give evidence at the start of the trial but once in the stand denied any memory of why their marriage broke up or the events that day.

The court also heard she did not want to give evidence, that she wanted the charges dropped and that it was a family dispute that should never have come to court.

But prosecutor David Swan told the jury in his closing address on Monday that they should disregard her ambivalence about the trial.

“She does not get to decide what is a family disagreement and what is a criminal offence,” he said.

He said there was no evidence of a plan to go to Sydney and the woman’s last text message to the man confirmed that.

Then at a rest stop in Goulburn she had texted her new partner, the prosecutor said, saying her husband was angry about him, and she was “fkn scared”.

In the defence closing address, barrister David Carroll said the Crown relied on a statement the woman gave to police in two hours days after the incident to prove beyond reasonable doubt the man was guilty.

But what is it really, he asked the jury.

He suggested it was a “letter” to her new partner to who she was then engaged, and who had seen the woman and her husband together at her house. He suggested it was not an accurate account of events.

The woman was not an honest person, he said, and she told particular people particular things at particular times.

He referred to her first police statement, in which she said she and the man had lunch that day – a detail that was left out of the second police statement.

The husband was angry when her new partner showed up at the house while they were there, so when he left they got into his car to talk so she could explain, he said.

That was the most likely explanation, he said.

The jury retired shortly after 1.30pm and returned its verdict at 4pm, after about two-and-a-half hours deliberating.