Oddly, Turnbull didn’t pursue Conrad Black in the courts.
The former mogul said in his autobiography As it happened Peter Coleman, father-in-law to Dollar Pete Costello, won the Liberal’s 1981 preselection for Wentworth and went on to win the seat. Maybe Turnbull thought he might have won the seat had there not been this unhappy story about the cat.
It emerged that one of the key things for the defendant was to secure letters that Turnbull had written to Nessie and her mistress. There was also a strong argument that the article didn’t mean what Turnbull claimed it meant. In advice to the then Stephen Jaques Stone James, Fairfax’s solicitors, he said: “There is no direct evidence that the cat was strangled at all, let alone that the plaintiff strangled the cat… The precise terms of the last letter may be critical…
Mc Phee advised that proofs should be obtained from various potential witnesses, including Fiona’s neighbours in Bathurst Street, Woollahra, the vet and others who had first hand experience of Turnbull’s volatile character.
The case was all about whether Fairfax could prove Turnbull had strangled Nessie.
Fiona Watson had been interviewed by the lawyers and silks Neil Mc Phee and David Levine gave advice to Fairfax.
Turnbull sued in the ACT Supreme Court, often referred to by media defendants as “the cowards’ castle” because there were no juries, only plaintiff-loving judges.
Another important fact was that the cat’s name was Nessie.
The Scheme has been established by The Legal Education Foundation, and is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy, City Bridge Trust and a number of law firms.
Our aim is that the Fellowship Scheme will come to be seen as a route to a career in this important area of law, with Fellows going on to become leaders in their field and important advocates for access to justice and the rule of law. To provide: The Kalisher Trust awards are designed to encourage older students who are intending to, or already practising at the Criminal Bar.