The Death of Warriena Wright, the 26 year old woman who fell 14 stories to her Death – Criminal Case

In the early hours of 8 August 2014 police discovered the body of a young woman at the base of Avalon Apartments, on the Gold Coast. The woman was Warriena Wright, a 26-year-old from New Zealand who was staying on the Gold Coast for a wedding. 

Throughout the course of the investigation, it was discovered that Ms Wright had fallen 14 stories to her death and within 24 hours a 28-year-old man by the name of Gable Tostee was charged with her murder (covered under the area of law known as ‘assaults and offences of violence’). The most bizarre feature of the case is how Mr Tostee could be charged with Ms Wright’s murder even though the evidence showed that he was inside his apartment with the door to the balcony closed at the time that Ms Wright fell from that same balcony. 

How could Mr Tostee be charged with the murder of Ms Wright when he wasn’t even near her when she fell from the balcony? This article explains a very rare legal principle (in matters of criminal offences) which can be used to secure a murder conviction in such a circumstance. It is current as of October 2014. 

Leading up to her death

Shortly before her death, Mr Tostee met Ms Wright through ‘Tinder’, a popular dating app, which strangers often use to meet other strangers for coffee, a date or a sexual encounter. It was alleged by the police that after meeting on ‘Tinder’, Ms Wright attended Mr Tostee at his apartment on level 14 in the Avalon Apartments complex.

Mr Tostee, it was revealed, had a very strange obsession with recording all of his encounters with women that he met. He would record their conversations with his phone and his apartment was rigged with hidden cameras. It was ultimately his recordings which gave the police the evidence they needed to charge him.

The recordings on Tostee’s mobile phone

One of the recordings was extracted from Mr Tostee’s mobile phone. The 199-minute recording allegedly revealed a panic-stricken Tostee ringing his father after Ms Wright fell to her death and telling him:

“Me and her had sex and it was like, the more that she drank, she just got more violent for some reason. I can’t remember what I did but I absolutely did not throw her off my balcony. I would never do anything like that.”

According to police analysis, the mobile phone recording reveals hitting sounds and rocks possibly being thrown, a male voice complaining of being beaten up, a woman boasting of being a “ninja” and telling him to untie her because she will break his jaw. The man then tells the woman that he doesn’t like getting beaten up and to be nice.

The recording reveals the woman accusing the man of stealing her phone and him replying: “I should never have given you so much to drink. I thought that we were going to have fun.  I am the one who is injured and you don’t have a goddamn scratch on you. I thought you were kidding and I have taken enough. This is f—— bullshit. You are lucky I haven’t chucked you off my balcony, you goddamn psycho little bitch. You are not my kind of girl. That is enough. You have worn out your welcome. You have to leave”.

Therefore, it is clear that some form of altercation took place shortly before Ms Wright’s death and the recording suggests that Ms Wright was the one who was the more violent of the two.

The High Court case that the police will rely upon

The Police allege that Ms Wright had been the victim of assault, was in fear of her life and trying to flee Mr Tostee when she fell to her death. They are relying on legal precedents where victims have been literally “scared to death” to make the murder charge stick.

The case is very similar to that of Kelly Healy, who died after climbing out a sixth-storey bathroom window to escape her abusive boyfriend, then 33-year-old Kim William Royall in NSW in 1986. Ms Healy was showering when Mr Royall bashed in the bathroom door, punched her in the face and tried to strangle her. He was found guilty of murder, even though he didn’t push her from the window, because she died trying to escape from him.

The case went all the way to the High Court, which upheld Mr Royall’s conviction. “In NSW, death as a result of an act done with the intention to inflict grievous bodily harm is murder. It is immaterial that the death was caused in a way which the applicant did not precisely foresee,” the court found. 

What the court is saying, therefore, is that if a person does something with the intention of causing another person serious injuries and in the course of doing so the victim dies, the person can be convicted of murder even if the victim died in a way that the person didn’t anticipate. 

In Mr Tostee’s case, the police will be alleging that Ms Wright was in fear of her life and attempted to escape by climbing the balcony, perhaps to another apartment. As she fell to her death in doing so, Mr Tostee could be found guilty even though he didn’t push or throw Ms Wright and wasn’t even on the balcony when she fell.

This matter is still in the very early stages of the court proceedings and isn’t likely to proceed to trial for another two years. However, at Mr Tostee’s application for bail in the Supreme Court on 8 September 2014 it was observed by the Judge that the police will have difficulty in securing a murder conviction.

Perhaps you have been searching on Google for “criminal lawyer near me” but are worried about getting the right information? If you’re needing assistance with matters concerning assault and offences of violence or drug-related offences, Cridland & Hua are the specialists amongst Brisbane Law Firms, practising exclusively in criminal and quasi-criminal law. Contact us today. 

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