Philip OPAS QC interview 4/8/2003
I got a message from the airline people (while in Bangkok
en route from England) that my wife was trying to find me
and I tried to ring my wife, but there was a typhoon off that
area somewhere – I couldn’t get through and there
was an eight-hour delay on the phone. So I went to the Australian
ambassador in Bangkok, and asked permission in the circumstances
to use the embassy hotline. He gave me approval.
Unfortunately the typhoon was affecting everything all around
the region, so although I could speak to Stella, everything
I said had to be reinterpreted from some lady telephonist
in Hong Kong. She repeated what I said to Stella and what
Stella said to me – it didn’t make much sense,
except that Ryan had been reprieved.
I thought they weren’t going to hang him. But the
moment I got home, I was met by a battery of TV cameras and
interviewers – I pushed past them and got to my rooms.
The phone went and I picked it up. There was a girl crying
on the end of the phone. “You’ve got to help my
daddy – they’re going to hang him in the morning.”
That was his daughter.
That would have been just some of the psychological
pressure that was brought to bear on you.
Yes, well, that afternoon around 4 o’clock, I appeared
before the trial judge, Justice Starke, seeking a postponement
of the hanging till we had the opportunity of testing new
proferred evidence. I pleaded with him, and said ‘Why
the indecent haste to hang this man until we’ve tested
all possible exculpatory evidence?’
He rejected my application and I was on the telephone all
night to people, getting phone calls from a number of Liberal
party members of parliament, asking what I could do and what
I was doing, and I was asking them what they were doing, since
I’d exhausted my opportunities. They were all saying
much the same thing: ‘we agree with you, he shouldn’t
hang, but don’t quote me as saying it’. Well,
with the usual backbone of jellyfish, the politicians were
not prepared to stand up and be counted. I had phoned and
spoken to Sir Rowan Delacombe, because I knew there was an Executive
Council meeting that night to discuss the hanging. I wanted
to address it.
The last thing that happened – I got a phone call from
Brian Dixon, who was a member of parliament, at half past
two in the morning. He was offering support, but he couldn’t
do anything else. He (Ryan) was hanged at 8 o’clock.
Conducted for the Bar Oral History project by Juliette
Brodsky in the Neil McPhee Room, Owen Dixon Chambers and filmed
by Stewart Carter (People Pictures)