McCulkin murders: How the trial nearly collapsed
IT WAS the verdict that nearly never came.
As Vincent O'Dempsey's murder trial entered its final days, a witness's slip of the tongue almost caused a mistrial.
A prison informant who said O'Dempsey confessed to murdering Barbara, Leanne and Vicki McCulkin - the trial's final witness - accidentally revealed information being kept from the jury for prejudicial reasons.
When working out the date of the alleged conversation, the informant said it must have been about when O'Dempsey's co-accused Garry Reginald "Shorty" Dubois was found guilty.
Although the jury had been told Dubois was being tried separately, the court did not want that trial's outcome to potentially influence the jury's thinking.
When the jury left the room, O'Dempsey's barrister Tony Glynn called for the trial to be aborted and begun again with a new jury.
He said the current jury could think Dubois's guilty verdicts proved the prosecution's alleged motivation - the two were trying to silence knowledge of their alleged involvement in the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub arson.
But Justice Peter Applegarth disagreed. He refused the application and warned the jury three times to "disregard" that part of the informant's testimony.
He said the evidence against Dubois and O'Dempsey was different which was why they had been tried separately.