A 30-year-old murder conviction has been overturned by
Western Australia's Court of Appeal on the back of Nobel
Prize-winning ulcer research by Perth-based scientist Barry
Chris von Deutschburg was a teenager in 1983 when convicted
of murdering Stavros Kakulas in a scuffle during a burglary
at the 86-year-old man's home in Perth's seaside suburb of
Mr von Deutschburg, then 19, received a life sentence on the
basis Mr Kakulas died of a bleeding duodenal ulcer seven days
after the crime.
The ulcer was said to have been brought on by the stress of
the home invasion.
Professor Marshall and his colleague Robin Warren won Nobel
Prizes in 2005 for proving bacteria, rather than stress,
caused stomach ulcers.
Prof Marshall told AAP he had been involved in the case from
the beginning, when he had already conceived his
award-winning theory, but was yet to prove it.
"There were just a couple of people on our side and everyone
else just believed this traditional theory," he said.
In proving his theory, Prof Marshall acted as a human guinea
pig, downing a bacterial brew that made him very ill, but
gave new hope of treatment for millions of sufferers.
Once the research gained worldwide attention, Mr von
Deutschburg, who spent seven years in prison before being
paroled in 1990, looked to Prof Marshall's work as a way to
clear him of his murder conviction.
The scientist got behind him, writing to the State
Solicitor's Office saying Mr von Deutschburg could not be
guilty, prompting former state attorney-general Christian
Porter to refer the case to WA's Court of Appeal.
Yesterday, Justices Carmel McLure, Robert Mazza and Michael
Buss announced their unanimous decision, saying the basis of
the conviction had been overtaken by the groundbreaking
discovery by Prof Marshall and Mr Warren.
The judges said Mr Kakulas's duodenal ulcer was likely to
have existed before the home invasion in June 1983.
Evidence provided by Prof Marshall, and also by PathWest
Laboratory Medicine chief forensic pathologist Clive Cooke,
raised enough doubt in the judges' minds to make them
conclude Mr von Deutschburg should not have been convicted of
"If the jury had heard Professor Marshall's and Dr Cooke's
evidence, in addition to the evidence adduced at trial, it
must be necessarily have entertained a doubt about the
appellant's guilt," the judgment read.
"A miscarriage of justice occurred at the trial."
In his petition on behalf of Mr von Deutschburg, Prof
Marshall said there was no likelihood that Mr Kakulas's
injuries either worsened or contributed to the duodenal
On Friday, Prof Marshall said the case was one for the law
"This is really a landmark case ... a milestone if you like,"
It was important for Mr von Deutschburg to clear his name, he
"To have a conviction at a young age ... that affects your
career and your job prospects for the rest of your life.
"These things are very important and maybe you can't just be
a bit irresponsible in your youth in case something does
happen like that.
"It affects you for a long time."