10 Jul 2024

Miscarriage of justice admitted in Gail Maney murder conviction of Deane Fuller-Sandys

5:00 pm on 10 July 2024
Convicted murderer Gail Maney.

In 1999, Gail Maney was convicted of the 1989 murder of Deane Fuller-Sandys but the Crown now admits a miscarriage of justice occured over testimony from witnesses at the trial. Photo: Fairfax Media

There was a miscarriage of justice in the trials that saw Gail Maney and Stephen Stone convicted of murder, the Crown has admitted.

The case, which was investigated in the hit RNZ/Stuff podcast Gone Fishing, is due to be considered by the appeal court in Wellington next month.

But in a startling development, lawyers for Maney and Stone last week received a memo from the Crown conceding that there were grave problems with the evidence heard in two trials, in 1999 and 2000, which have led to a miscarriage of justice.

Maney's lawyer Julie-Anne Kincade KC said the concession still needed to be recognised by the appeal court but it was a huge breakthrough, and could lead to a swift acquittal.

"We want the court to determine whether or not an acquittal is entered. We have a lot of reasons for saying there should not be a retrial."

Maney and Stone were jointly convicted in 1999 for the murder of Deane Fuller-Sandys, a West Auckland tyre-fitter who had gone missing in 1989, and who had initially been thought to have drowned while fishing on Auckland's wild west coast.

The Crown case was that Maney believed Fuller-Sandys had burgled her, and so asked Stone to kill him. Stone was also convicted in 1999 of the rape and murder of Leah Stephens, who had supposedly witnessed the killing of Fuller-Sandys. Two other men, Mark Henriksen and Gail's brother Colin Maney, were convicted of lesser charges relating to Fuller-Sandys' murder.

Maney has protested her innocence since the day of her arrest, and insists she never even met Fuller-Sandys, let alone arranged for him to be killed.

An initial appeal led to a retrial but Maney was again found guilty in 2000. Another appeal attempt by Maney in 2005 failed.

Her story was brought to national attention in the hit podcast, Gone Fishing, created by RNZ and Stuff in 2018.

Gail Maney.

Gail Maney says she was in tears at the news Photo: Jason Dorday/Stuff.

'I couldn't believe what I was hearing'

On Wednesday, Maney told RNZ of her emotion at hearing the news. She said she was invited to Auckland by investigator Tim McKinnel so he and her legal team could give her some news in person.

"We sat down and then, I think it was Julie-Anne, said: 'Who's going to tell her?'

"My heart was racing. I was thinking this could be good or bad. Then either Julie-Anne or Tim said to me that the Crown have conceded that there has been a miscarriage of justice.

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and I just started crying."

* Listen to the Gone Fishing podcast via Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

Shortly after the release of the Gone Fishing podcast release, investigator Tim McKinnel took up Gail Maney's cause, saying that the case had numerous "red flags".

The Gone Fishing podcast revealed major issues with the police case in the convictions of Gail Maney and Stephen Stone for the murder of Deane Fuller-Sandys. Photo:

For the past six years, McKinnel has worked alongside lawyers for Maney and Stone, to establish grounds for fresh appeals. He said the new concession from the Crown was huge news.

"It's by no means the end, but it's an incredibly positive and encouraging step after such a long struggle," he said.

"We had enough confidence in our collective work that we knew that this day should come, but in criminal justice you can never be sure."

Details of Crown's concession

Kincade said the Crown's concession of a miscarriage was "on a very narrow basis".

There were two documents which the Crown agreed should have been disclosed to defence lawyers in 1999 and 2000, and if they had been, the trials' outcomes might have been different.

"The next question is what happens next? Assuming the court agree that it is a miscarriage, the basis upon which they find it as a miscarriage is important. We will be arguing it's not just because of the lack of disclosure. There's all these other things that have gone on."

Kincade said she and her team were acutely conscious that while this was good news for Maney, this latest update to the Gone Fishing saga may be punishing for the families of Deane Fuller-Sandys and Leah Stephens.

For nine years, Fuller-Sandys' family believed their son was the victim of an unlucky accident, "and then the police turn up nine years later and say, oh no, we've decided he was shot in a garage in West Auckland". Then with every subsequent twist and turn of the saga, they are forced to deal with it afresh.

Former RNZ and Stuff journalist Amy Maas, who now lives in the United States, said she was "stunned, but not surprised" that Maney had achieved this new milestone in her battle to prove her innocence.

"It still needs to officially go through the courts, but Gail deserves to have her life back - and she's lost so much of it. Her kids have lost so much of it. It has had a domino effect on an entire family down through generations, and she deserves to be free."

The legal team for Stephen Stone, led by Annabel Maxwell-Scott, did not wish to comment while the matter was still before the court, but said they "look forward to the hearing next month in the hope that it brings finality to this case".

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs