Prosecutors in the case against celebrity crocodile wrangler Matt Wright will make an application to vary his bail conditions by “three words” on Friday, the Darwin Local Court has heard.
- Matt Wright will seek a change to his bail conditions
- Former police officer Neil Mellon also applied for a variation to his bail
- Darwin Local Court heard “more material” from prosecutors was yet to come
Mr Wright did not have to attend court for Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, when his case was mentioned alongside those of former police officer Neil Mellon and helicopter pilot Michael Burbidge.
All three are facing a series of charges in connection with an investigation into a helicopter crash in February 2022 that killed Outback Wrangler star Chris “Willow” Wilson.
Mr Wright’s lawyer, Giles O’Brien Hartcher, told the court an application would be made later this week to vary the 43-year-old’s bail conditions, but did not specify what the proposed changes were.
The court heard prosecutors would seek to remove “three words” from the strict conditions binding Mr. Wright.
Mr. Wright was charged in November 2022 with attempting to pervert the course of justice, destruction of evidence, fabricating evidence, two counts of unlawful entry and making a false declaration.
His lawyer has previously indicated that he “strenuously denies” any wrongdoing and was not on board the helicopter when it crashed during an operation to collect crocodile eggs in a remote part of Arnhem land.
The cases against Mr. Wright, Mr. Mellon and Mr. Burbidge were adjourned for six weeks after the court heard the “fairly extensive” brief of evidence was still being compiled.
Crown prosecutor Collette Dixon told the court the investigations were ongoing, and Mr O’Brien Hartcher said he understood it was likely there would be “more material coming”.
Mr. Wright’s case will return to court on Friday for a bail variation application.
Former police officer seeks return of passport to go on cruise
The court heard Mr. Mellon, a former senior Northern Territory Police officer also charged in connection with the crash, wanted to have his passport returned so he could go on a cruise and “explore work opportunities” in Singapore.
Mr. Mellon faces charges across two separate court files, one of which is related to the crash investigation.
His barrister, Sally Ozolins, made an application for Mr. Mellon’s bail to be varied to allow him to go on a cruise that was booked in 2020 and delayed several times due to COVID-19.
“It’s scheduled to go ahead in March,” Ms. Ozolins said.
“It would be of great cost to the family if that could not go ahead.”
Ms Ozolins argued Mr Mellon was not a “flight risk” as he had already traveled interstate twice while on bail and was a “long-term” Darwin resident with a house and family connections to the NT.
“He has attended court whenever he is required, despite the frenzy that goes on,” she said.
Ms Ozolins told the court Mr Mellon was exploring fly-in fly-out work opportunities in Singapore but did not have any specific documents to show it, as there was “no point” in progressing applications without a passport.
The court also heard Mr. Mellon wanted to have prominent Darwin lawyer Ray Murphy removed from the list of people he was unable to contact.
“Mr Murphy is currently engaged by my client’s wife in relation to some legal matters, which, it would seem, he will need to be able to communicate with Mr Murphy in relation to his wife’s matter and welfare matters arising from that,” Ms Ozolins said.
The court heard the prosecution’s statement of alleged facts made a reference to Mr. Mellon “disclosing information” to Mr. Murphy.
Ms Ozolins said: “Evidence to substantiate those allegations has not been disclosed.”
“In any event, the allegations arise as a result of some sort of telecommunication intercept, again, which has not been disclosed to us,” she said.
Judge Greg MacDonald did not make a ruling on the application for Mr. Mellon’s bail to be varied, instead telling Ms. Ozolins and Crown prosecutor Collette Dixon to discuss the issues outside of court.
“I want counsel to go and discuss it and work out if there is common ground,” Mr. MacDonald said.
Helicopter pilot Michael Burbidge’s matter was also mentioned in the Darwin Local Court on Wednesday and adjourned along with Mr. Wright and Mr. Mellon’s matters.
All three cases will return to court on March 8 for a preliminary examination mention.