Bail for woman accused of murdering cop in hit-and-run

Cheryl Goodenough |

Senior Constable David Masters died after being hit by a suspected stolen car on the Bruce Highway.
Senior Constable David Masters died after being hit by a suspected stolen car on the Bruce Highway.

A woman charged with murder in an “unusual” case over the death of a police officer in an alleged hit-and-run has been released on bail.

Senior Constable David Masters died after being struck by a suspected stolen car on the Bruce Highway at Burpengary, north of Brisbane, about 3am on June 26, 2021.

The officer had just deployed a tyre deflation device and police were not actively pursuing the vehicle.

The Crown alleges Kari O’Brien was a passenger in the car driven by Skye Anne Wallis.

Both women were arrested on murder charges within days of Sen Const Masters’ death and are due to face a committal hearing in May.

A bail application by O’Brien was successful on Friday, with Brisbane Supreme Court Justice Catherine Muir finding the prospects of a murder conviction are not high.

Senior Constable David Masters (file image)
Sen Const Masters had just deployed a tyre deflation device when he was struck and killed. (HANDOUT/QUEENSLAND POLICE)

If the now 27-year-old remained behind bars until the trial it was likely she would be in custody for five years on charges she has reasonable prospects of defending, Justice Muir said.  

The crown case is that Wallis is responsible for the death as she drove the car dangerously at or toward the officer or by acting with reckless indifference to human life, the court heard.

Prosecutors, opposing the bail application, will argue O’Brien had a common purpose with Wallis to unlawfully use a car to avoid apprehension and the offence was a probable consequence.

O’Brien also allegedly encouraged Wallis to evade police several hours before Sen Const Masters was struck.

Prosecutor Michael Lehane told the court there were hours of police evasion at extremely high speeds involving high risk.

He said O’Brien did not distance herself after the incident when the women went to Wallis’ mother’s house.

“We have, on the evidence of Michelle Wallis, the applicant saying: ‘I think we just killed a copper’,” Mr Lehane said.

O’Brien’s barrister Christopher Wilson said O’Brien would “almost certainly” be arguing at the committal hearing that there is insufficient evidence for her case to go to trial.

Justice Muir said there was a significant gap in submissions by prosecutors and defence about the strength of the case against O’Brien.

“I accept the facts are unusual and … my initial assessment is the prospects of the Crown obtaining a conviction for murder cannot be regarded as particularly high.”

O’Brien has struggled with a methylamphetamine addiction and the judge described her criminal history as “disappointing”, with short periods of time in prison.

Justice Muir said the risk of a murder accused fleeing did not loom as large when there are reasonable prospects of acquittal.

O’Brien’s bail conditions include living with her mother who will provide a $30,000 surety and having no drinks, drugs, weapons or contact with witnesses.

The committal hearing is scheduled for five days from May 27 in Brisbane Magistrates Court.