Eastman walks out of prison

David Eastman has left prison after his conviction for the 1989 murder of Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Colin Winchester was quashed.

But whether he faces a new trial, as recommended by the full bench of the ACT Supreme Court yesterday, is up to prosecutors.

Eastman, 68, had served 19 years of a life sentence after being convicted in 1996 of Mr Winchester's murder.

He was driven from the Alexander Maconochie Centre shortly before 6pm, avoiding waiting reporters.

The court agreed that Eastman should not remain in jail for the time being and ordered his release on bail subject to a number of conditions.

They include him residing at a nominated address and agreeing not to contact a list of 300 people who may be involved in a new trial.

Prosecutors did not oppose the bail application.

In delivering the court's decision on Friday, Justice Steven Rares said there had been a substantial failure at Eastman's original trial and it would be an affront to justice to let the conviction stand.

However there remained a strong circumstantial case against Eastman and a new trial would not be unfair, he said.

"The community has a vital interest in ensuring that a person against whom a strong circumstantial case for murder of a very senior police officer exists does not escape having a jury decide whether or not he is guilty of that crime."

Prosecutors have been told to consider any new evidence unearthed by an earlier judicial inquiry into the case.

They have also been asked to consider whether a re-trial would be fair and in the public interest.

Eastman's supporters say a fair hearing will be difficult because some witnesses who were not cross-examined at the first trial had since died.

The Winchester family has decided to make no public comment about the decision.

However, the ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey said the court's decision was distressing for them.

"This is another day of mourning for the Winchester family," he said.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell, who confirmed Eastman's release from prison, said he was deeply conscious of the ongoing concern and distress being experienced by the family.

"Today's developments will not be welcome by them and my thoughts are with them," he told reporters.

Mr Winchester, the most senior policeman to be murdered in Australia, was shot dead at his Canberra home on the night of January 10, 1989.

The killer calmly fired two shots into the policeman's head at close range as Mr Winchester sat in his car.

Although there was speculation it was an organised crime hit, police charged Eastman, a former Treasury official with a personality disorder and a grievance against police.

Earlier this year, an inquiry into the trial concluded there had been a miscarriage of justice and recommended Eastman be freed.

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