In 2010 Keli Lane was sentenced to 18 years for one of the strangest murders in Sydney history, that of her newborn daughter Tegan in 1996.
Lane was born in 1975, to a police father and athlete mother. In the mid-1990s she was a champion water polo player, living with rugby player Duncan Gillies, and hoping to represent Australia in the 2000 Olympics. She became pregnant five times in seven years, and had two abortions and adopted out three babies, hiding their existence not only from her friends, family and fellow sportswomen, but (in the cases of the first two) from Gillies himself. This strains credulity, but was thoroughly investigated by police and tested in court, and is all true.
In 1999 Lane approached the Department of Community Services to adopt out her third child, and a staff member discovered that Tegan had been born but there were no subsequent records of her. He notified police, who amazingly did not interview Lane until 2001. Following an Inquest in 2005/06 and further investigations, police decided not to charge Lane, but this was overridden by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Police behaviour in the early stages of the case has never been publicly explained.
Lane claimed that two days after Tegan’s birth, she had discharged herself and child from Auburn Hospital and handed Tegan over to her father, a man named Andrew Morris or Norris. Ultimately police launched a massive search effort for father and daughter, which took two years and cost millions of dollars. In just one strand of the search, 9,000 primary schools around Australia were contacted to see if any child who might be Tegan was enrolled.
Lane’s trial in 2010 took four months. Senior Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi argued with Justice Anthony Whealy that Lane’s lies to investigators and others could be seen as indicating consciousness of guilt. His Honour disagreed and the matter was settled (during the trial) by the Appeals Court, in Tedeschi’s favour.
With the exception of the extraordinary behaviour described above, Lane appears to have been a normal, indeed a healthy, individual. This of course makes the case all the more disturbing. She was examined at the time of sentencing by a psychiatrist, who found no sign of a psychiatric disorder.
Like the inquest, the trial was noteworthy for the fact that Keli Lane refused to give evidence.