Only Carol Clay’s murderer Greg Lynn knows what really happened to her and her lover Russell Hill

<span>Russell Hill (left), Greg Lynn and Carol Clay. Greg Lynn, has been found guilty of murdering Carol Clay and not guilty of murdering Russell Hill in a supreme court trial.</span><span>Composite: AAP / Victoria Police / Victoria Supreme Court</span>
Russell Hill (left), Greg Lynn and Carol Clay. Greg Lynn, has been found guilty of murdering Carol Clay and not guilty of murdering Russell Hill in a supreme court trial.Composite: AAP / Victoria Police / Victoria Supreme Court

Gregory Stuart Lynn knew how Carol Clay and Russell Hill died, but was he telling the truth about it?

While it is the role of the prosecution to prove charges beyond reasonable doubt, it became clear in the earliest days of Lynn’s meandering double murder trial that his story about the deaths was the only one the jury would hear.

And so this became the question of the case, one that lingered after weeks of evidence: could the jury believe the only man who actually knew the truth?

The prosecution didn’t know what happened, but said Lynn’s actions after Clay and Hill died proved murder: who else but a cold-blooded killer would destroy crime scenes, burn bodies, and ignore the heartfelt calls of family members for answers?

Lynn, 57, told the story of the March 2020 Wonnangatta Valley camp site deaths differently, with a disarming level of detail, and a pragmatic explanation for what came next: he was struck twice by lightning, a man so unlucky that two people died accidentally within minutes of each other, and he was the only one alive to tell the tale.

But then he panicked amid this misfortune, acted terribly, and did what he could to ensure his life was not ruined.

Ultimately, the jury found Lynn murdered Clay but acquitted him of murdering Hill after a five-week trial in the supreme court of Victoria.

On Tuesday afternoon, Justice Michael Croucher told the court he had received a note from the jury which read “Good afternoon. We the jury have come to a verdict. Thank you.”

Courtroom three of the Victorian supreme court is a cavernous building, with ceilings at least 10 metres high. Lynn was almost the same distance away from Croucher, and almost as far away from the jury. But in a small triangle at the back of the room, with each party so close they could almost touch, was Lynn, the detectives who were involved in his charging, one of his sons, and one of Hill’s daughters.

Just after 12.45pm, the jury foreperson delivered the verdicts for both charges in the packed court room and at-capacity public gallery above.

An audible gasp was heard as the foreperson replied “guilty” to the second charge relating to Clay. Lynn’s son, Geordie, crossed his arms and shook his head as the guilty verdict was handed down.

A ‘fateful’ decision

Lynn called it a “fateful” decision. On 18 March 2020, he decided to negotiate the washed out Zeka Spur Track to camp and stalk deer in Victoria’s Wonnangatta Valley.

Hill helped grade that same track, decades earlier, when he was a forestry worker.

The Wonnangatta Valley was one of Hill’s favourite spots, a place where, as one witness noticed, he was “happy as a pig in shit”.

During the trial, a picture emerged of the long-term affair between Hill and Clay.

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Hill, who had a wife of more than 50 years, Robyn Hill, told his family he was no longer seeing Clay after being given an ultimatum in 2006 by a neighbour to tell his wife about the affair he was having, the murder trial was told.

The court heard Hill and Clay were childhood friends, and Hill was her first boyfriend. In their 60s, the pair rekindled a relationship. Clay was separated from her husband but Hill was still married at the time of their deaths.

Clay’s daughter, Emma Davies, described it as a “very caring and very loving relationship.”

Lynn spent that night alone in the valley. The next day, he saw a white Toyota Landcruiser tearing down the track into camp. Hill, 74, was behind the wheel, and Clay, 73, was in the passenger seat.

Only metres from where they camped, a plaque had been erected in honour of Hill’s uncle, who had been killed in an accidental shooting while deer hunting in the valley in 1994.

“Not every stag under … a tree is a deer” the plaque reads.

The trial heard that Hill told Lynn about this death on the morning of 20 March 2020.

Lynn headed off hunting stag later that morning, the stalk uneventful, by his telling, until he was bothered by a sound similar to a swarm of bees. He noticed a drone hovering overhead, and when he returned to camp later that day found it belonged to Hill.

According to the former airline captain’s account, Hill told Lynn that he had footage of him hunting too close to camp, and planned to report him to police. Lynn thought him a fool, and returned to his own camp. He decided to annoy him by playing loud music from his Nissan Patrol.

It was some time between 9pm and 10pm when Lynn said he heard Hill near his car. He said he saw the older man walking away, clutching Lynn’s 12-gauge shotgun and a magazine of ammunition.

A deadly confrontation

The jury heard how Lynn described trying to approach Hill, but the older man fired one – or possibly two – warning shots into the air. Fearing the next one would be aimed at him, Lynn said he took cover behind Hill’s car, before deciding he had to try to disarm him.

The men wrestled for control of the gun; Lynn said his eyes were locked with Hill’s, and that he could remember that his hands were not on the trigger, but that Hill’s must have been, because the shotgun then discharged, its fire careening through a side mirror and into Clay’s head, killing her instantly.

Hill let go of the gun, Lynn said, and he was able to secure it in his car while Hill tended to Clay.

Before he knew it, Lynn said Hill was coming towards him with a black-handled kitchen knife in his right hand. Lynn said the pair struggled again, before Hill pushed him to the ground, but the knife lodged in Hill’s chest.

It is at this point that very little was disputed between the prosecution and defence, and Lynn admitted much of his conduct after the deaths.

He had tried to vanish from the valley, rather than make the couple vanish, and may have succeeded, were it not for a most unlikely hitch: an automatic numberplate recognition camera near the edge of Mount Hotham, to detect those skimping on ski resort entry fees.

Lynn’s Patrol was caught travelling through the area at the exact same time as Hill’s mobile phone pinged on a nearby tower.

Once police attended his Caroline Springs house, and noticed the Patrol had been painted since the trip to the Victoria’s alpine region, it started an investigation involving telephone intercepts and recording devices in his house and car.

What the jury wasn’t told

What police heard – but what jurors weren’t told – were several utterances Lynn made to himself. While camping in the same region in December 2020, he was recorded saying, “Let’s see if the cops turn up. If they do, we know that they can put a tracker on it.” Among the other things said on that trip that the jury didn’t hear were: “Who decides what’s right and what’s wrong? That’s the thing, judgment, judge does, the law does, the community does” and “Little old people, they looked at me like [inaudible words] fair enough, fair enough”.

The jury also wasn’t told that after hearing a news story about the couple’s disappearance in May 2021, Lynn was heard saying: “I put a fucking trigger lock on it. You’ve gotta get a second set of trigger lock fucking keys and stick them in there … They’ve just got to keep pushing all the time, don’t they?”

Prosecutors wanted the jury to hear evidence about Lynn’s first wife Lisa, as her relatives alleged she “lived in fear” of him before she died.

Her death in 1999 was referred to the Victorian coroner, who found she died from alcohol and drugs and that investigations had not shown there to be suspicious circumstances or any other people involved.

Her mother prepared a statement about travelling from Tasmania to Victoria to visit Lisa when she was trying to leave Lynn, a pre-trial hearing was told.

“As far as I’m concerned, Greg is responsible for my daughter’s death via mental torture inflicted by him, she lived in fear of him,” the mother’s statement read.

Prosecutors alleged Lisa was subjected to physical and mental abuse at the hands of Lynn, accusing him of “losing his temper … he exploded into a fit of uncontrollable rage when out in Macedon for dinner”.

“Both parents of Lisa Lynn are alive, inquiring if they are available,” prosecutor John Dickie said during pre-trial.

Lynn’s defence barrister, Dermot Dann KC, hit back that it was all “hearsay” and none of the material was permitted to be aired before the jury.

Prosecutors said they spoke to the defence force to borrow a Chinook helicopter to transport the jury to the remote site of the campers’ deaths.

Dann joked: “I take it Mr Lynn is not required to fly the plane?”

The plan did not go ahead.

Brought to justice

Lynn was arrested and charged in November 2021, and has been in custody since.

The prosecutor, Daniel Porceddu, told the jury in his closing address that Lynn’s account of the deaths was fanciful. He said that as Lynn knew how the couple had died, he had been able to spend 20 months between the deaths and his arrest concocting a story that could not be disproved.

But Dann told the jury that Lynn answered 1,217 questions from police and the evidence backed up his account of the deaths. He had been open in admitting the horror of the acts he committed afterwards.

He said that describing Lynn’s account as an “elaborate fiction” ranked as one of “the silliest things ever said” in the 150 year-history of the court building in which the trial was held.

Lynn was watchful and mostly silent throughout the proceedings, an extra in his own play, until he took to the witness stand in final days of the trial.

His manner in the stand was not dissimilar to that he had displayed in his interview with police: calm, matter-of-fact, even mannered. It was as though he was explaining how he had accidentally bumped into a car while reverse parking, not explaining the deaths of two people.

Lynn shared detailed explanations that did not come across as if they had been rehearsed.

The jury did not hear that Lynn was interviewed by police for four days, and subject to what justice Michael Croucher said was “oppressive conduct” for several hours by two detectives while giving a “no comment” interview, before ignoring the advice of a lawyer and provided his account.

After the verdict, as the jurors left the court room, Lynn stood and watched them from the dock.

Lynn was taken from court into custody, wearing the same dark suit, blue shirt and striped silver tie he had worn throughout the trial.

Lynn was remanded in custody to appear the in court for a pre-sentence hearing on 17 July.

With additional reporting by Australian Associated Press

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