Episodes

  • Following the shocking revelations of bungling, secrecy and misconduct within Queensland’s DNA lab exposed in journalist Hedley Thomas’ podcast Shandee’s Story, a major royal commission-style inquiry into the fiasco gets underway in a Brisbane court, headed by retired judge Walter Sofronoff KC. The hearings are immediately rocked by allegations of disharmony and distrust amongst laboratory staff, sound scientific advice being ignored by senior bureaucrats, and warnings that the lab’s prohibitively high DNA testing thresholds were unsafe also being dismissed.


    Senior police take the stand at the inquiry, saying they went along with the DNA lab’s new testing model because they trusted Queensland Health experts, only to become suspicious, then alarmed – courtesy of DNA expert Kirsty Wright’s damning assessment of the lab’s failings in Shandee’s Story – that offenders may have literally gotten away with murder for years. But DNA lab staff say the police signed off on the controversial testing decision and fully understood its implications. By the end of the inquiry’s first week it’s already clear that Queensland is in the midst of the greatest health and criminal justice crisis in its history.

    Join The Australian’s chief national correspondent, Hedley Thomas, and his colleagues Claire Harvey, David Murray and Matthew Condon, in a comprehensive analysis of the opening week of the Sofronoff inquiry.

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  • Hedley Thomas, Claire Harvey, David Murray, and Matthew Condon return to cover hearings in a major public inquiry into Queensland's state-run DNA lab.

    A new episode will be published at the end of every week, for the duration of the inquiry.

    Search for Shandee's Story in your podcast app, and press follow or subscribe to be notified when new episodes are released. You can read The Australian's ongoing coverage of the inquiry at theaustralian.com.au.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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  • DNA scientist Dr Kirsty Wright is shown how public servants and DNA laboratory managers behind closed doors have been minimising the serious concerns raised in the podcast series. A raft of internal documents responding to Kirsty's revelations become available and these show the immediate refusal of the managers of the laboratory to start a proper audit or acknowledge anything has gone awry. Many documents are heavily redacted but are likely to be flushed out as the new Commission of Inquiry gathers momentum. Kirsty's other efforts to ensure scrutiny of the lab are revealed along with interviews of key witnesses who hadn't spoken to the podcast before. The episode is expected to be the last in Season 1 of Shandee's Story. A new season, Shandee's Legacy, is likely to start during the public inquiry run by retired Supreme Court Justice Walter Sofronoff QC.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • Finally, seven months after the first disclosures in episode 7 of the podcast by Dr Kirsty Wright about grave concerns over the testing of DNA in Shandee's case and in hundreds of others, a remarkable breakthrough. The Premier of Queensland announces a far-reaching public inquiry to be led by one of Queensland's most respected legal figures and he'll be armed with vast powers and a team of lawyers and investigators to get to the truth in the DNA laboratory. Vicki and Shannah Blackburn were briefed by the premier and the health minister who said they wanted to ensure public confidence in the criminal justice system. A public inquiry became unavoidable after police went public with alarming details about what they were discovering in the lab's handling of evidence and DNA in hundreds of sexual assault cases, triggering a review of rapes going back four years. Major changes are tipped to come from the inquiry which is forecast to run for six months. Vicki says Shandee would be exclaiming 'yes!'

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • From Hedley Thomas and the journalists at The Australian comes The Teacher's Trial. A new episode will be published every Friday for the duration of the trial of Chris Dawson, who is accused of the murder of his wife Lynette Dawson. Search for The Teacher's Trial wherever you listen to podcasts, or read The Australian's ongoing coverage of the trial here.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • Will Shandee Blackburn ever get justice? Will systemic flaws in Queensland’s forensic lab be independently investigated by the authorities? In this episode of the podcast series – which is pausing until new leads arise – Dr Kirsty Wright reveals the letter she confidentially wrote to Queensland’s corruption-fighting agency about the broken lab and her concerns that its problems are more serious than they first appeared. John and Shandee's former friend Jarrod Hau describes as untrue a claim John made to detectives and friends after the murder. Police investigate whether a taxi driver picked up John when he had a bandaged right hand in the days after Shandee’s murder. Vicki and Shannah’s tireless search for justice continues and more developments will come as DNA in Shandee’s case and other leads are reinvestigated by the coroner.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • Evidence that appears to have fallen through the cracks in Shandee’s case is revealed as John Peros’s flat – and its hiding places – gets a fresh examination in light of new information from a listener. Retired homicide detective Scott Furlong recalls his visit to the flat the day after the murder as part of the investigation, of seeing apparent renovation works, and then noting a year later the elaborate concealment spaces which had been created by John. The smell of paint or bleach the day after the murder weighs heavily for those who heard about it. A domestic violence expert examines John and Shandee’s abusive relationship.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • The footsteps of a running man captured in CCTV footage seconds before and after Shandee’s slaying are re-enacted to test a theory that the running man didn’t have enough time to be her killer. Criminal lawyer Kristy Bell explains the legal principle of double jeopardy and the evidence required to recharge an offender for the same crime under Queensland law. In 2019 the inquest hears detailed police evidence about the CCTV compilation of a suspect's vehicle. John Peros enters the witness box after being compelled to give evidence and reports suffering from memory problems that go back years.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • Queensland’s government-run forensics lab has been using a testing threshold that is preventing it from detecting DNA in many samples, says Dr Kirsty Wright, with potentially catastrophic consequences for victims of violent crime. A t-shirt described as 'blood-soaked' is found at a Mackay business near the murder scene – but the lab reports “No DNA detected”. A truck driver who is sure he saw Shandee’s handbag at a Mackay rubbish dump just days after the murder says his information wasn't followed up by detectives for two months. In 2019 the inquest examines new persons of interest.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • Forensic biologist Dr Kirsty Wright says she’s found irrefutable evidence that the forensics train wreck in Shandee’s case is not a one-off incident – and reveals the shocking results that have led her to believe many victims of rape and serious sexual assault have been denied a fair shot at justice. In 2017, a recently acquitted John Peros insists on the return of his Toyota Hilux – but coroner David O’Connell seizes it under his coronial powers and scours the vehicle for clues. The vehicle and its unique features are examined by a retired photogrammetrist. And as the ninth anniversary of Shandee’s murder passes, coroner O’Connell formally reopens the coronial investigation into Shandee’s death, giving the Blackburn family renewed hope for justice.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • Shandee’s family reflect on a justice system they say failed Shandee and share who they believe her real killer is – and why he escaped justice. Unheard evidence is examined. More DNA problems and omissions are discovered by Dr Kirsty Wright who is joined by another forensic scientist in expressing serious concerns about the lab. A new person of interest comes into view. 

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • The prosecutor Josh Phillips argues CCTV footage proves John is a killer and William Daniel a red herring, while Craig Eberhardt responds with a large display photo of a great white shark - and tells jurors it's the real killer, William Daniel. Text messages between John and Shandee are read to the jury – but many depicting John's menacing behaviour and his anger are not provided. The sample puts Shandee in a poor light. Justice Jim Henry tells the jurors he's making a very rare decision to order Levii Blackman go into the witness box, after the prosecution refuses to call the self confessed liar. 

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • John’s defence lawyer Craig Eberhardt smashes the credibility of three key Australia Day witnesses as they try to deny obvious references to illicit drug use in text messages about “lollies”. Their evidence of hearing John say hatefully that Shandee should be stabbed is undermined. Craig highlights a tenuous purported DNA 'link' between William Daniel and the murder - and when a forensic scientist says it is statistically "meaningless", the judge tells the jury to ignore his comment. Cyclone Debbie looms and tensions rise as William Daniel's lengthy criminal history is read to the jury, sparking fiery scenes.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • John Peros’s murder trial begins, and John's criminal defence lawyers fight to have evidence they believe is unfair to their client excluded. Evidence police labelled as ‘blood’ in John’s Toyota Hilux is ruled inadmissible by the trial judge because the results of the presumptive Luminol testing were not conclusive. The excluded ‘blood’ samples could still contain crucial DNA evidence, says forensic biologist Dr Kirsty Wright. And, just before this episode's release, the government announces in Parliament it will ask for the inquest into Shandee's death to be reopened after Dr Wright's revelations on Shandee's Story.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • Detectives face tough questions from John Peros’s legal team at a committal hearing prior to his murder trial. William Daniel and Levii Blackman are witnesses – and Levii denies William told him “I did it”. Frustrated detectives sought answers for the lack of forensic evidence. The lab’s suggestion bacteria may have interfered with DNA testing is “ludicrous”, says forensic scientist Dr Kirsty Wright. Problems with the lab date back years, and Dr Wright believes major changes to software and equipment just weeks before the murder are at the heart of the faults. Vicki and Shannah Blackburn stand with Dr Wright just before the release of this episode, calling for a public inquiry and retesting by another lab of all forensic samples in Shandee’s case as a matter of urgency. A cane farmer finds a blood-stained knife he suspects is linked to the murder, but the lab finds no DNA.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • John Peros is taken to a windowless room in Brisbane’s police headquarters in early September 2014. Detectives want him to see CCTV footage from the night of the murder of a car remarkably similar to his ute driving around Mackay, and vision of a running man, and to confess to a murder. John refuses to look at the screen, and is charged with Shandee’s murder. Respected forensic scientist Dr Kirsty Wright finds more major and serious problems in the lab - including the failure to get DNA from a sample from Shandee’s forearm that would have at least contained many hundreds of her own skin cells. She describes the situation as “diabolical”, and warns the lab’s results in Shandee’s case and in unknown others cannot be trusted.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • Major forensics failures in a government-run laboratory seriously compromised the police investigation into Shandee’s murder, one of Australia’s most respected DNA experts finds. After months examining the case for Shandee’s Story, forensic biologist Dr Kirsty Wright is convinced critical problems thwarted the lab’s ability to generate DNA profiles from crime scenes - potentially allowing a killer to get away with murder. Dr Wright finds the lab couldn’t find DNA in a sample of blood, or trace DNA from John Peros in his own car. She says all the results in Shandee’s case need to be retested by an independent laboratory, and that doing so could uncover the killer’s DNA.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • An increasingly paranoid John Peros cuts ties with former friends and records his conversations – a close friend tells police that John is “losing it” under the pressure of the intensifying investigation. John is served with a forensic procedure order and told he must comply. At the police station John is friendly with detectives who take his DNA samples and fingerprints. They photograph and video him. Detectives go to Peros’s flat with an order to revoke his weapons licence and seize his Glock pistol - there’s a brief standoff before John reveals an intricate security system leading to a hidden safe key. Pressure on John mounts as detectives release CCTV images of a vehicle of interest to the media. Some people in Mackay observe that the vehicle looks very similar to John’s.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • A violent self-styled gangster who carries knives, deals and uses illegal drugs, and attacks men and women in the sugar and mining town looms into serious view for homicide cops. William Daniel is a young man with a long criminal record who calls himself ‘The Black Prince’ and ‘Willy D’ and has become a public menace in Mackay’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. He denies involvement in Shandee’s murder - but his friend Levii Blackman discloses that William said he’d done it. Levii later said it was probably a joke while police suspected it was a ‘throwaway line’ by a show-off - but his use of knives and other factors make him a major target in a police investigation still locked on John Peros.

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

  • John Peros tells a friend he has entered “stealth mode”, purchasing a motor scooter, deleting social media and using a new phone as police obtain a warrant to search his property. Friends who socialised with John on Australia Day 2013 give police statements, alleging that John made hateful comments about his former girlfriend on that day, two weeks before Shandee was murdered. A vitriolic document John sent to Shandee is analysed by a forensic linguistic expert, and a former detective speaks about his role in the murder investigation from his home outside Brisbane. Many people who remember John say he is a great bloke. A talented fighter who is calm and measured, and a fiercely loyal friend. 

    Subscribers to The Australian have exclusive first access to episodes of Shandee's Story via The Australian app. Subscribe to The Australian here.

    You can download on The Australian's app in Apple's store here.

    Also get it on Google Play here.

    To contact Hedley Thomas anonymously with any information on Shandee's Story email here - [email protected]

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.