Legal wheels turn again in bid to get justice for Rachel
PROSECUTORS have made a referral to police investigating the death of schoolgirl Rachel Antonio over whether surf lifesaver Robert Hytch could be charged with perjury.
The Courier-Mail can reveal police are now considering advice from the Office of The Director of Public Prosecutions, four years after a coroner said he believed Mr Hytch had lied to an inquest about the nature of his relationship with the missing teenager.
Rachel was 16 when she disappeared from Bowen in North Queensland in 1998 after being dropped at the local beachside cinema by her mother.
"The DPP has concluded its consideration of the matter and it was referred to the Queensland Police Service for their consideration," a spokeswoman for the ODPP said when asked about the perjury matter.
A Queensland Police Service spokeswoman said: "As the matter is still under consideration the Queensland Police Service is unable to provide further comment at this time."
The Courier-Mail previously revealed officers were reinterviewing witnesses in the case.
It comes after The Courier-Mail's 2016 podcast, Searching For Rachel, brought the schoolgirl's disappearance back into the arena following a coronial inquest.
Mr Hytch, aged 25 when Rachel disappeared, was found guilty of her manslaughter in 1999. He was acquitted at retrial. The former surf lifesaving captain denied being in a secret relationship with the schoolgirl and has always maintained his innocence.
Coroner David O'Connell in 2016 found Mr Hytch had been in an intimate relationship with Rachel. He also found that Mr Hytch had fatally injured the schoolgirl and then hid her body.
The inquest heard Rachel faked a pregnancy after finding out Mr Hytch had had sex with someone else.
On the night she disappeared, she was seen walking along the beach soon after being dropped at the cinema by her mother.
In his findings, Coroner O'Connell said Mr Hytch left his brother's 18th birthday party to hire a movie and buy ice. When he returned, his shirt was missing and he'd forgotten the ice. He wasn't able to account for his movements for about half an hour, claiming his car had broken down. A tiny drop of Rachel's blood was later found on the sandals he'd been wearing.
Coroner O'Connell referred to detailed diary entries written by Rachel about her alleged relationship with Mr Hytch, as well as letters she'd written to a friend about the man she claimed was her boyfriend.
This evidence was not admissible at the trial but was able to be presented before the inquest.
"The result is that I believe that Mr Hytch, in denying the nature of this relationship before this inquest, made statements which were deliberately false," Mr O'Connell said in 2016.
Mr Hytch challenged the Coroner's findings and appealed, but the Supreme Court upheld the decision.
The position of state prosecutors has changed since the inquest finding.
When previously asked if there was a decision in relation to a perjury charge, an ODPP spokeswoman said "the ODPP has for some time been in contact with investigators as to certain aspects of the investigation".
"The decision of the DPP cannot be finalised until those matters have been clarified," they previously said.
Rachel's father Ian Antonio said the family had waited long enough.
"It's just gone on too long," he said.
"Years and years we've waited. They're not going to do anything. They've put it in the too hard basket.
"I never stop thinking about this. I think about every day. I think about her (Rachel) every day."
Originally published as Legal wheels turn again in bid to get justice for Rachel