A 21-YEAR-OLD man has been found guilty of the brutal rape and murder of a Queensland woman, as well as killing her unborn child — a crime he committed when aged just 17.
Joan Ryther, 27, of Logan Central, south of Brisbane, was eight weeks pregnant when she walked from her home to start her shift at a nearby McDonald’s outlet, on the evening of May 21, 2013.
She was randomly accosted in the street by then-teenager Andrew Burke, who raped her with an object most likely to be a screwdriver, the jury heard, before “viciously assaulting” her and leaving her for dead.
A resident of Leichhardt Street, Logan Central, found her bloodied and partially clothed body in their front yard the following morning. She had made it just 900m from her home.
Burke was charged with Mrs Ryther’s rape and murder, as well as destroying the life of her unborn child.
After a two-week trial in the Queensland Supreme Court, sitting in Brisbane, a jury on Monday, found Burke guilty of all charges. They had deliberated since 11am Friday.
Early on Monday afternoon, the jury returned to the courtroom, to say they could not reach a unanimous verdict.
Justice Debra Mullins ordered they return for further deliberation in a bid to reach a verdict.
They returned to deliver their guilty finding shortly after 2.30pm.
At trial, forensic expert Jacqueline Wilson gave evidence that a piece of DNA found on Mrs Ryther’s clothing was “100 billion times” more likely to belong to Burke than any other person.
The court heard one of his black shoes was also found to have a similar statistical likelihood of carrying her DNA, while a hand bandage obtained by police also suggested a match.
Other samples also showed varying likelihoods for a number of people from the more than 20 reference profiles provided, with some returning results suggesting it was more likely Burke had not contributed DNA, it was heard.
Mrs Ryther’s husband Cory, who she married in her home country of the Philippines in 2011, was the first witness to give evidence and sat through each day of Burke’s murder trial.
The chef was still at work when his wife left their home to walk the short distance to work about 7.30pm and he told the court he became concerned for her safety when he tried to drop his car at McDonald’s so she could drive home safely at the end of her shift.
He was told she had not shown up for work.
Mr Ryther told the court he then drove the route she normally walked to work to look for her.
“There was no sign at all,” he said. “I was getting quite concerned it was out of character for her.”
While no witnesses saw Burke at the scene, residents of Leichhardt Street testified they heard a woman screaming around the time Mrs Ryther was attacked.
Stephen Hodby said he was watching television when he heard the screaming outside.
He and his wife went outside to investigate but could not see anything.
“There was a huge scream. It sounded like a woman screaming, a very loud noise,” he said.
His wife said she believed the sound had come from across the road.
Burke was arrested 11 days after Mrs Ryther’s body was found.
He was charged with Mrs Ryther’s rape and murder and made his first court appearance on June 1, his 18th birthday. He has remained in custody since.
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