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SA man found not guilty of murdering teen

AAP logoAAP 18/08/2016 By Michael Ramsey

A judge has found Nikola Novakovich not guilty of murdering teenager Karen Williams in outback South Australia, despite being satisfied the 44-year-old had some involvement in her death.

SA Supreme Court Justice Tim Stanley on Thursday delivered the not guilty verdict after a trial spanning more than a year, leaving one of the state's most enduring cold cases unresolved.

Ms Williams was 16 when she disappeared from Coober Pedy in August 1990.

The girl's body has never been found, but Novakovich was charged in November 2013 following a renewed investigation that included the excavation of several disused opal mines.

Prosecutors alleged during the trial, heard by Justice Stanley without a jury, that Novakovich killed Ms Williams after she attempted to blackmail him over an armed robbery.

It was alleged that Novakovich and a friend, Aleksander Radosavljevic, had robbed an opal dealer of about $1000 just before Ms Williams went missing.

Mr Radosavljevic, who became the prosecution's key witness, claimed he helped Novakovich to dump Ms Williams' body in a disused mineshaft on the outskirts of the town.

But Justice Stanley said he was not prepared to accept Mr Radosavljevic's evidence and believed his testimony had been motivated by the prospect of claiming a $200,000 police reward.

"I found Mr Radosavljevic to be an unimpressive and unreliable witness," the judge said in his written findings.

"He regularly contradicted himself. His evidence was contradicted by other witnesses, including disinterested witnesses ... in relation to important rather than peripheral matters."

The prosecution presented taped conversations between Radosavljevic and Novakovich during the trial which they claimed proved the accused's guilt.

Justice Stanley said he was prepared to infer from the conversations that Novakovich had an involvement in the death of Ms Williams and the disposal of her body.

But the statements did not prove that Novakovich killed the teenager, and much of the evidence presented by the prosecution was unreliable and inconsistent, the judge said.

Novakovich declined to comment as he was escorted from court to a waiting taxi on Thursday.

A distressed woman lashed out at police outside court, yelling "they've let him go again".

Ms Williams' family later expressed disappointed with the verdict.

"20-odd years we've been waiting and that was a 10-second verdict, just like that, so how do you guys think we feel," brother Kym Williams told reporters outside court.

Family friend Lavene Ngatokorua said the verdict offered little comfort.

"We're not happy," she said.

"We haven't stopped our grieving. We will continue to think about where Karen is and we want her back."

Detective Inspector Greg Hutchins from the SA Police major crimes unit said the search for Ms Williams' remains would continue.

"We do not consider the case closed," he said outside court.

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