Gordon Wood arrives to the Supreme Court for his case against the State of NSW on February 24. Photo: Daniel Munoz Caroline Byrne, whose body was found at the bottom of a cliff at The Gap, in Watsons Bay, in June 1995. Photo: Supplied
Gordon Wood paused, took a deep breath, and remembered saying goodbye to his girlfriend Caroline Byrne as her body lay in the morgue.
“A counsellor invited me to go into the into the room, so that I could say goodbye to Caroline,” Mr Wood said, his British accent cracking and trembling.
“She lay in a blue body bag and it had white trimming on it.
“[The counsellor] removed Caroline’s hand from the bag and allowed me to hold her hand and say goodbye, which I did my best to do but I didn’t feel comfortable doing it in front of the lady.”
Mr Wood, 54, was in the witness box in the NSW Supreme Court, where he was giving evidence about the death of Ms Byrne, and how being jailed for her murder changed his life.
Ms Byrne’s body was found at the bottom of a cliff at The Gap, in Watsons Bay, in June 1995, and her death was initially treated as a suicide.
Mr Wood, who worked as a chauffeur and “gopher” for the late businessman Rene Rivkin, was charged with her murder in 2006 and found guilty after a trial in 2008.
He was acquitted by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal in 2012, and is now suing the state of NSW for malicious prosecution, seeking millions of dollars in damages.
Under cross-examination from Peter Neil, SC, for NSW, Mr Wood said he felt he had moved on from Ms Byrne’s death when he started a new relationship with a woman in 2005, but his arrest interrupted that.
Mr Neil pointed Mr Wood to his witness statement, in which he described Ms Byrne as “the love of my life”.
“Is that how you feel about her today?” Mr Neil asked on Monday.
“Yes,” Mr Wood replied.
Mr Wood told the court he takes medication for depression and anxiety, and has done so since his acquittal.
He said that at one point, he felt “paranoid and unsafe”, in fear that police “would stitch me up again”.
Mr Wood, who previously worked in fitness and in finance, has not worked since his arrest.
“The advice of my doctors is that I’m not capable of handling that at this point.
“I would like to be healed from my condition.”
The hearing, which is set down for a month, continues before Justice Elizabeth Fullerton.