‘Devastating’: families of Russell Hill and Carol Clay respond to Greg Lynn murder trial verdict

<span>A sketch of Greg Lynn (left), who was found guilty of the 2020 murder of Carol Clay (right) and not guilty of murdering Russell Hill in the Wonnangatta Valley following a supreme court trial.</span><span>Composite: AAP/Victoria police</span>
A sketch of Greg Lynn (left), who was found guilty of the 2020 murder of Carol Clay (right) and not guilty of murdering Russell Hill in the Wonnangatta Valley following a supreme court trial.Composite: AAP/Victoria police

The families of two campers at the centre of a case that gripped Australia have expressed mixed emotions after a Victorian supreme court jury convicted a former Jetstar pilot of murdering one of the couple.

After a five-week trial, a jury found Gregory Stuart Lynn guilty of murdering Carol Clay and acquitted him of murdering Russell Hill in Victoria’s high country in 2020.

The supreme court had heard Hill, 74, had been camping with 73-year-old Clay, with whom he had been having an affair, when they both died.

Lynn, 57, had pleaded not guilty to both murder charges.

He stared straight ahead and showed no emotion while the verdicts were delivered, before taking a small sip from a cup of water.

Soon afterwards, he looked over towards his son, Geordie Lynn, who was sitting only metres away.

Colleen Turnbull, one of Russell Hill’s daughters, was sitting just behind Geordie and also showed little emotion when the verdict was delivered, looking down at her phone and appearing to type.

A joint statement from the Hill and Clay families said they were both “relieved and devastated”.

“We thank the jury for their verdict of guilty in the murder of Carol Clay. It was an extremely difficult task given that the accused destroyed so much evidence,” the statement said.

“The verdict of not guilty in relation to the murder Russell Hill is devastating. There was not enough evidence to be sure of how he died.”

Related: ‘He was selfish’: Greg Lynn covered up deaths because he believed he would be blamed, murder trial told

The families thanked the crown prosecutors for their “diligent effort” in presenting the case during the trial and pre-trial hearings.

“They had an enormous job putting a case together with limited evidence,” their statement said.

The jury delivered the verdicts just after 12.45pm on Tuesday after seven days of deliberations.

The Victoria police assistant commissioner Martin O’Brien said police would continue to support the families after the verdicts.

“Our thoughts are with the Hill and Clay families at this time and we acknowledge how difficult these past four years have been for them,” he said in a statement.

“Their courage and resilience in the face of their grief, amidst enormous public attention, has been nothing short of extraordinary,”

O’Brien also acknowledged the determination of Victoria police’s missing persons squad detectives for the “exhaustive and complex investigation” and support from specialist and local police officers.

Police had in November 2021 charged Lynn with two counts of murder over the deaths of the pair after a near two-year investigation.

Lynn was camping at Bucks Camp, a remote site in the Wonnangatta Valley, when he was joined in the valley by Hill and Clay in March 2020. The pair were childhood sweethearts who engaged in an affair later in life, the trial had heard.

Prosecutors had alleged Lynn killed Hill and Clay with murderous intent, possibly over a dispute related to Hill’s drone, but did not know the exact circumstances or motive behind the alleged murder, the jury was told. It was alleged Hill was killed first by an unknown means and Clay was later shot in the head.

Related: ‘Very sorry for your suffering’: Greg Lynn apologises at murder trial for actions after campers’ deaths

The crown prosecutor Daniel Porceddu had told the court Hill was most likely killed first, in part because it was unlikely Clay “would have posed any threat to the accused, other than being aware of Mr Hill’s violent death”.

But Lynn’s defence barrister, Dermot Dann KC, argued the deaths were the result of a tragic accident and that his client had “made a series of terrible choices” to cover them up. Lynn’s account was that Clay was shot in the head after he and Hill struggled over control of the former pilot’s shotgun. Hill died after a subsequent struggle resulted in a knife going into his torso.

Lynn was the defence’s only witness.

He maintained he was innocent of murder and said he had no reason to kill Hill and Clay but conceded his actions after the death, including disposing and burning their bodies, were “despicable”.

Dann said his client’s story, including that Hill had been operating a drone and that Clay was shot in the head, was supported by the prosecution’s witnesses.

Emma Davies, Clay’s daughter, told the court her mother had been in a “very caring and very loving relationship” with Hill at the time of the pair’s death.

• This article was amended on 25 June 2024. Russell Hill’s daughter’s name is Colleen Turnbull, not Colleen Hill, as the article previously said.