Chicken mogul to remain in jail

Lenard's Chicken mogul Gerardus Gerrit Heijne's appeal against a conviction for murdering his 25-year business and life partner has been dismissed.
May 11, 2010

Chicken mogul to remain in jail
Aja Styles


Frank Cianciosi (left) was murdered by Gerardus Gerrit Heijne, his life partner and business partner in the Lenard's Chicken chain. Photo: Joseph Sapienza/Channel Ten

Lenard's Chicken mogul Gerardus Gerrit Heijne's appeal against a conviction for murdering his 25-year business and life partner has been dismissed.

Heijne, 45, will remain in jail to serve out the remainder of his 13-and-a-half year prison sentence for strangling to death Frank Cianciosi, 51.

A Supreme Court jury found Heijne guilty of killing his "partner in life" inside their plush East Perth penthouse in January 2008, but stopped short of convicting him of wilful murder.

Heijne faced Chief Justice Wayne Martin, Justice Neville Owen and Justice Michael Buss in March to try to get his conviction quashed.

In court, Heijne's defence attorney David Gray argued the sentencing judge, John McKechnie, failed to clearly direct the jury on evidence given by pathologist Judith McCreath.

Dr McCreath could not determine how much pressure was needed to fracture Mr Cianciosi's Adam's apple or rule out that a heart attack may not have resulted in his death, Mr Gray said.

He argued that without having a clear cause of death, the prosecution was unable to prove that Heijne intended to kill his partner and instead relied on the damage to Mr Cianciosi's throat to show that, through grievous bodily harm, he did in fact commit murder.

"Nowhere does his Honour link arguments that support the lack of intent to cause grievous bodily harm to the facts of the case," Mr Gray said.

In its submission to the court, the defence also relied on arguments that the judge should have left it up to the jury to examine self-defense as possible grounds for reasonable doubt, since the only evidence given about Mr Cianciosi's death was Heijne's own account of the night.

During the trial Heijne claimed he had a violent relationship with Mr Cianciosi, who hit him that night, calling him 'nothing but a f$#ing dumb bodybuilder' and he was fearful of being struck again when he grabbed his partner around the throat.

However the prosecution used the relationship Heijne had with Mr X, his 19-year-old lover whose name was suppressed, as a motive for much of the discontent in his relationship with Mr Cianciosi and consequently his murder.

In handing down his judgement, Chief Justice Wayne Martin found: "The evidence of Dr McCreath, supported by the evidence of Mr Heijne himself, enabled the jury to find that he applied a degree of force to the neck of Mr Cianciosi.

"The fact that Dr McCreath was unable to particularise the precise degree of force applied does not mean, as counsel at trial and on appeal suggested, that the jury was 'in the dark' as to the degree of force applied.

"…However, that was only one part of the evidence from which the jury could infer that Mr Heijne intended to cause some form of grievous bodily harm to Mr Cianciosi.

"The other evidence which, in combination with Dr McCreath's evidence, was capable of sustaining that inference was: the evidence of animosity within the relationship between Mr Heijne and Mr Cianciosi arising from Mr Heijne's relationship with Mr X and their business disagreements; Mr Heijne's description of the struggle which preceded Mr Cianciosi's death; Mr Heijne's evidence that when he realised Mr Cianciosi was dead, he thought he must have strangled him; Mr Heijne's conduct before and after Mr Cianciosi's death, including his shopping trip with Mr X; Mr Heijne's admissions to Mr X and Jason Mitchell the following day, including his demonstration of his strangulation of Mr Cianciosi; and (Mr Cianciosi's brother-in-law) Mr Stefani's evidence of the lies told by Mr Heijne."

Chief Justice Martin concluded that despite there being some grounds for appeal in consideration of the fact that no injury was identified as the intended injury to cause grievous bodily harm, the matter was still to be dismissed since the whole appeal "should be dismissed generally".

Justice Owen and Justice Buss agreed.

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