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Rugby league referee killer's appeal bid denied

Brisbane Times logo Brisbane Times 12/08/2017 Jorge Branco
Tony McGrath died from a single gunshot to the head. © Courtesy Brisbane Rugby Tony McGrath died from a single gunshot to the head.

A man sentenced to life behind bars for the "cold-blooded" murder of a Brisbane rugby league referee has failed in his bid to have his conviction overturned.

Tyson John Taylor was found guilty last year of shooting Tony McGrath dead in the 57-year-old's Woolloongabba garage in May 2013.

Across 11 days, a Supreme Court jury heard how both men were in love with a prostitute named Susan Stewart, who McGrath thought was pregnant with his child and had given more than half-a-million dollars before he died.

The crown alleged Taylor killed the referee because the woman, who was said to have been made the beneficiary of Mr McGrath's will, wanted him dead.

Taylor had slipped the drug Fantasy into the victim's wine at his home on October 8, 2012, knocking him out, before injecting poison into his feet, thinking it would kill him.

He set the house on fire when the poison didn't work but that attempt was foiled too when a neighbour noticed the flames and Mr McGrath was rescued.

Taylor was convicted of murder for returning to the home on May 21, 2013, and shooting Mr McGrath in the head, having returned from a rugby league event carrying takeaway food.

A murder charge against Ms Stewart, who Mr McGrath was supposedly engaged to, was dropped in July last year.

Outside court after the sentence, Mr McGrath's sister Carmel Waugh said the fire was barbaric.

"Then he was hunted down and killed in cold blood," she said.

Taylor was convicted of murder and attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison, eligible for parole after 22 years. He appealed the decision this year, arguing a miscarriage of justice.

During its deliberations, the jury was given a transcript of evidence given by three former friends he was said to have confessed to.

A recording wasn't available because of a technical problem.

There were no complaints at the trial but on appeal, Taylor's lawyers argued the judge should have given the jury better direction about how to interpret it and/or also handed over a transcript of the killer's evidence.

High-profile criminal barrister Saul Holt QC argued not to do so provided an unfair balance in favour of the former friends' evidence.

But the Court of Appeal disagreed, finding that not only was there not a miscarriage of justice but handing over a transcript of Taylor's evidence would have hurt his chances of escaping conviction.

"The appellant did not fare well in cross-examination," Judge Jean Dalton said, in a judgement delivered on Friday.

"I cannot see that it would have been in the interests of the defence case to ask the trial judge to give the whole of the transcript of his evidence to the jury.

"To the contrary, it would have been against the appellant's interests in my view."

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