Greg Lynn trial: does the evidence point to murder or a ‘tragic accident’?

<span>Russell Hill and Carol Clay were childhood friends who rekindled a relationship in their 60s – despite both being married to someone else.</span><span>Photograph: Victoria Police</span>
Russell Hill and Carol Clay were childhood friends who rekindled a relationship in their 60s – despite both being married to someone else.Photograph: Victoria Police

It is known as item 55: a skinny fragment of lead, distorted and dull silver, like a chewed piece of metallic gum.

Almost two years after Russell Hill and Carol Clay were killed at Bucks Camp, a remote site in Victoria’s alpine national park, a senior constable found this 6.5cm by 1.5cm fragment while combing the scene.

There is little dispute in the double murder trial of Gregory Stuart Lynn about the significance of evidence such as item 55: it was fired from Lynn’s 12-gauge shotgun, and on it is Clay’s DNA.

What is in dispute is the story it tells.

Does it, as the prosecution has told the state’s supreme court, help prove that the former Jetstar pilot killed Clay with murderous intent, likely after he already killed Hill?

Or does it support Lynn’s account that the killing was accidental?

Lynn has pleaded not guilty to murdering Hill and Clay in March 2020.

On Tuesday, at the start of a trial expected to last as long as six weeks, the prosecution said they do not know exactly how or why the couple were killed, but that they will provide the jury with evidence that it was not accidental.

The court heard of the question facing the jury: can item 55 and other evidence in the case lead them beyond Lynn’s account of the deaths, and to a verdict of guilty?

The jury heard how Lynn told police, shortly after his arrest in November 2021, that he found himself in a “terrible situation, a disaster … not of his making or choosing” when Clay and Hill died in a “tragic accident”.

Lynn’s lawyer, Dermot Dann KC, said the dispute started when his client went to ask Hill about a drone he was flying over the camp.

Dann said Hill had responded to the request with a concern of his own: that Lynn was hunting for deer too close to camp.

‘She’s dead’

On the defence case, Hill told Lynn his drone captured footage of the hunting, and he planned to take it to police.

Lynn said he was talking nonsense, and went back to his camp. He turned up the music on his car stereo to annoy Hill.

Several hours later, the defence goes, Lynn heard noise coming from his car, and saw Hill walking away holding his shotgun and ammunition.

He noticed Hill trying to load the gun. Hill said he was taking the gun to police too, the court heard, and when Lynn tried to get it back he fired it into the air.

Dann said Lynn had told police that he took cover before deciding to get his gun back, sparking a “chaotic scene” in which the pair wrestled while Clay shouted “Russell stop it” from a short distance away.

According to that account, Dann told the court, Hill had a finger on the trigger when the gun fired, the shot going through the mirror of Hill’s car before striking Clay in the head.

He dropped the gun, Lynn retrieved it and returned it to his car, before he was confronted by Hill, armed with a knife, screaming “she’s dead”.

“Mr Lynn is trying to defend himself, they’re locked in this struggle and it’s as part of that struggle that the two men fall to the ground. The knife goes through the chest of Mr Hill,” Dann told the court.

Faced with the prospect of being wrongly blamed for the deaths, Dann told the court that Lynn acted in a “completely selfish” or “callous” way.

“You will hear this from his own mouth – in the face of that disaster, he made a series of terrible choices.

“He’s got two people dead, he fears … his life as he knew it would be ‘screwed’ … and he tries to make this disaster somehow go away.

“He embarked on a series of actions which … have only made his situation and this whole situation so much worse.”

That included burning the couple’s tent and belongings, putting their bodies in his camper trailer, and leaving the Wonnangatta Valley – dumping their bodies off Union Spur Track on his way home, according to the prosecution.

“There’s no dispute that he then drove out of the high country, drove back to his home in Caroline Springs, and there’s no dispute that that very weekend, [the] Covid-19 pandemic hit this state with its full force and so it wasn’t just his world that was in turmoil, the state was plunged into lockdown,” Dann said.

Lynn disposed of his camper trailer after advertising it on Gumtree, and it was never found by police. He repainted his four-wheel drive and removed a distinctive awning.

He twice returned to make sure the bodies remained concealed.

“In what was another terrible action, for which he tells police in that interview there is no excuse, he burned the bodies that he had left,” Dann said of the second of these visits, in November 2020.

“He describes burning those bodies [and] being physically sick.”


Dann said he expected the prosecution to focus on challenging this account, but that Lynn welcomed such scrutiny as he was entitled to the presumption of innocence.

“We invite it, indeed we embrace it, because you will hear evidence in this case from the world of forensic pathology, anthropology, forensic odontology, entomology, ballistics, tool marking, bullet trajectory … scientists, DNA analysis, chemists – and you’ll see that process unfolding before your eyes and ears in this venerable courtroom,” Dann said.

“We are not convening at a pub, or a barbecue, or a dinner party, where conversation might turn to this case, and someone who hasn’t heard a word of evidence might well say … in terms of Mr Lynn’s explanation, ‘it couldn’t have happened that way, it couldn’t be two accidental deaths, it must’ve happened this way’.”

A ‘very loving relationship’

A picture has also emerged during the first week of the trial about Clay and Hill. They were childhood friends, and Hill was Clay’s first boyfriend. In their 60s, the pair rekindled a relationship – despite both being married to someone else.

“She said it was a very caring and very loving relationship,” Clay’s daughter Emma Davies said in court this week.

Clay was the president of her local Country Women’s Association branch, and a former state president, who enjoyed camping with Hill but wouldn’t describe herself as a camper.

For at least the past 15 years, Hill spent most days between 6pm and 6.40pm speaking to his friends on high frequency radio.

Nothing seemed “untoward” when Hill spoke with Michael Allan, a friend of about 30 years only hours before he died, the court heard.

The court also heard extensively from people who had come across Hill while camping or working in the alpine region.

The court heard he told people – including Lynn – about someone close to him being killed in a deer hunting accident.

He was concerned with firearm and hunting safety, the court heard, but appeared to openly break park rules regarding cutting down a snow gum for firewood and flying his drone.

The prosecution told the court that police suspect the drone, or footage it captured, may be linked to the dispute that sparked the alleged murders.

Hill was described in court variously as a “working-class man”, kind-natured, who liked being in the outdoors rather than home where he was “nagged” by his wife. He also appeared to be a “grumpy bugger” seemingly “on a mission” in his snazzy ute only hours before his death to get to Bucks Camp, said one park worker who gave evidence.

Lynn remained watchful throughout the proceedings, occasionally scrawling notes.

His trial is expected to continue for another three to five weeks.

At some point, Dann said, the jury would be shown footage of Lynn’s 2021 police interview. Dann said that towards the end of that interview, Lynn tells detectives: “I’m innocent of murder”

“I haven’t behaved well. I’ve made some poor decisions, but murder, as I understand it, I am innocent of.”