Walsham Three

Western Australia
Date of Crime:  February 28, 1998 (Stirling)

Salvatore (Sam) Fazzari, Jose Martinez, and Carlos Pereiras were convicted in 2006 of the murder of 21-year-old Phillip Walsham. The three allegedly pushed Walsham off of a pedestrian bridge that spanned a highway onramp.

At approximately 2:12 a.m. on Feb. 28, 1998, Walsham had gotten off a train at Stirling station with two friends, Craig Betts and Spencer Toogood. Betts walked ahead of Toogood and Walsham. When Toogood realized that Walsham was not following, he went back to the station and found Walsham there. Walsham was heavily intoxicated and not feeling well. Toogood then set off to catch up with Betts.

Up ahead on Cedric Street, Betts was hitchhiking and threw a ball at a white Commodore car that passed him containing Fazzari, Martinez, and Pereiras. Although the ball did not hit the car, Fazzari threw a bottle at Betts, who picked it up and threw it back, causing it to smash near the car. The trio got out of the car, grabbed two tire irons out of the trunk, and gave chase. Betts saw them coming and ran back towards the train station, catching up with Toogood. The two saw Walsham in the train station parking lot but did not think their pursuers would connect him with them. They then ran across a pedestrian bridge that connected the parking lot to the train station and escaped on the other side in a waiting taxi. According to the taxi meter, the two left at 2:24 a.m.

When Fazzari and Martinez reached the pedestrian bridge, they saw they were outwitted, and returned to the parking lot where both of them kicked Walsham in the head without provocation. Following the kicks, Lorena Rodriguez, an occupant in a maroon Commodore car that accompanied the defendants' car, rebuked Fazzari and pushed him into his car. Rachael Lincoln and Shevaun Lillywhite, who were getting a lift from the defendants, were outraged at what Fazzari and Martinez did and decided to leave and have nothing further to do with the them. The defendants' white Commodore then left, followed by the maroon Commodore.

Lincoln and Lillywhite went back to check on Walsham. He indicated to them that he was all right and left them, walking towards the pedestrian bridge. They saw him begin to ascend the first flight of stairs leading to it.

Some time later, a vehicle carrying Clare Marie Pigliardo stopped for a traffic light at the Cedric St. entrance to the southbound Michell Freeway onramp. Pigliardo, a front-seat passenger, saw a group of people ascend the second flight of stairs to the Stirling Station pedestrian bridge and walk onto the bridge. She then saw one of the persons backflip off the bridge onto the street below. This person was later determined to be Walsham, who died about three hours later. Based on an emergency phone call made by Pigliardo's mother, the time of Walsham's fall was determined to be 2:38 to 2:39 a.m., about 14-15 minutes after Betts and Toogood left in a taxi.

After leaving the parking lot, witnesses indicated Fazzari, Martinez, and Pereiras drove 2 miles to Odin Dr. and Fulmer St., where they parted with the maroon Commodore that had accompanied them. Testimony indicated the defendants remained at this location for several minutes, but it was unclear how long. Evidence indicated that this 2-mile journey took three minutes to travel. Thus it appears that the defendants could have returned to train station in time to push Walsham off the pedestrian bridge. The defendants said they never drove near the train station again but instead went to a McDonald's restaurant in Truart Hill. Curiously they claimed not to have bought any food there, and thus would not have had a timed receipt as alibi evidence.

If the defendants did not push Walsham off the pedestrian bridge, then he must have either committed suicide or have been pushed off by unknown persons. However, since it is not likely that Walsham would commit suicide or be murdered during the rest of his natural life, it is not remotely plausible that these possibilities would happen to occur within fifteen minutes of the assault on him by Fazzari and Martinez. Thus the circumstantial evidence indicates the defendants killed Walsham beyond any reasonable doubt.

In 2007, the Western Australia Court of Appeals quashed the conviction of all three defendants, ruling that their convictions were based on speculation and not evidence. Its reasoning was faulty in part as the circumstantial evidence against them is valid evidence, and not mere speculation. The court faulted the prosecution for not directly proving the alibi offered by the defendants was false, but such proof was unnecessary as circumstances established guilt.

However, the court did provide a basis for reasonable doubt. Pigliardo's statements did not definitively establish how many persons were on the pedestrian bridge at the time of Walsham's murder. According to Pigliardo's statements, there could have been as few as two persons on the bridge besides Walsham. While she generally indicated at least three persons, she was not always certain of the third. Thus there is reasonable doubt that she saw a third person on the bridge with Walsham. In addition there was another occupant in the defendant's car, a juvenile, Alberto Magistro, who did not leave the car during the earlier interaction with Walsham and his friends. He presumably could have been one of the persons seen by Piglardo on the bridge. Thus, it is possible that any one of the convicted defendants, and perhaps two of them, could have been absent from the bridge at the time of Walsham's murder.

Secondly, the prosecution presented no evidence that there was a conspiracy among the defendants to murder Walsham. The defendants may have returned to the train station for an innocuous purpose, such as to retrieve a tire iron that testimony suggests had been left there. Thus the one person who pushed Walsham off the bridge may have done so without the consent or agreement of others on the bridge.  [10/09]


References:  Martinez v. State, Networked Knowledge, Google Maps Street View

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Australia/New Zealand Cases