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Ronald Ryan Part 3 - The eve of the hanging / An application to Mr Justice Starke.

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)


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