Rodney Lawrence sentenced for role in murder of Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon in Ashtonfield in 1982

Betty’ Dixon’s murder: Rodney Lawrence walks free from court QUESTIONS: From left: Rodney Lawrence heads into Newcastle Supreme Court on Wednesday. Danielle Martin (middle) and her mother Ann Martin (right) outside court after the sentence. And Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon.
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Rodney Lawrence walks out of Newcastle courthouse on Wednesday a free man after being sentenced for his role in the murder of Elizabeth Dixon. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP

A file photograph of Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon and the scene of her murder.

GRIEVING: From left: Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon’s sister, Ann Martin, Siobhan Veitch, and Elizabeth Dixon’s niece, Danielle Martin, leaving Newcastle courthouse after the sentence. Danielle Martin said the family was “gutted”. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP

GRIEVING: Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon’s sister, Ann Martin, outside Newcastle courthouse after the sentence on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP

GRIEVING: Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon’s niece, Danielle Martin, leaving Newcastle courthouse after the sentence. Ms Martin said the family was “gutted”. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP

TweetFacebook Rodney Lawrence walks out of Newcastle courthouse on Wednesday a free man after being sentenced for his role in the murder of Elizabeth Dixon. Picture: Darren Pateman/AAP THE family of murder victim Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon say they are “gutted” that the man who kept her killer’s secret for more than 30 years has walked free from Newcastle Supreme Court.

And Danielle Martin, Ms Dixon’s niece, said the family are still desperate for answers about what happened to the popular Northern Irish lass – who was found tied up and brutally stabbed 27 times in her car at Ashtonfield on April 6, 1982–and remain “dubious” about the version Rodney Lawrence told his son and thendetectives after decades of silence.

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RODNEY LAWRENCE GUILTYFAMILY NEED ANSWERS“There are too many inconsistencies with the story,” Ms Martin said tearfully outside Newcastle courthouse on Wednesday.

“He hasn’t come clean at all with what’s happened.”

Lawrence walked out of courta free man on Wednesday after Justice Ian Harrison sentenced him to a maximum of two years and four months in jail, with a non-parole period of 18 months and five days –the period he hadspent on remand awaiting a murdertrial.

Last month, onthe first day of his trial, Lawrence pleaded guilty to the backup charge that he assisted the murderer after the fact and the prosecution dropped the murder charge.

Since breaking his silence, Lawrence has alwaysclaimed another man, who has since died, was responsible, and that the murderer put a knife to his throat, threatened him and made him help dispose of Ms Dixon’s body and her car in the bush.

But after the sentence on Wednesday, Ms Dixon’s family said they were still waiting forLawrence to “tell the truth”.

But Justice Harrison said he accepted Lawrence’s version that hewas“threatened or coerced” into helping dump Ms Dixon’s body.

Justice Harrison also said he was satisfied that following Lawrence’s guilty plea that“the long awaited truth has now been revealed”.

That truth, according to Lawrence, who was represented by Public Defender John Fitzgerald,was that he wasasleep in the back seat of the murderer’s car after drinking with him at the George and Dragon Hotel at Greenhills on the night of April 3, 1982.

He said the murderer, who cannot be identified,drove to a location where he said he was meeting someone.

But Lawrence said when the man returned to the car he woke him up and said he had“just killed someone”.

Lawrence claims he told him he“didn’t want anything to do with it”, but the murderer threatened him with a knife and told him he would kill him if he didn’t help out.

Lawrence claims they went to Ms Dixon’s unit where he saw her body. He then tied her hands and helped move her into the boot of her car.

When Lawrence asked why he killed Ms Dixon, the man replied:“Because she called me an old man.“No one calls me an old man.”

But there were anumber of troubling aspects to Lawrence’s version of events.

Firstly, a forensic pathologist who examined Ms Dixon’s body in 1982 opined that her hands were tied before her death.

Also, Ms Dixon’s sister, Ann Martin, told police she repeatedly went to Ms Dixon’s Metford unit during the time she was missing and found nothing was out of place.

Outside court on Wednesday, Danielle Martin,who was flanked by her mother, AnnMartin, said Lawrence was“just as guilty” as the killer.

“That part that he has played in this,” she said.

“It’s not just to apparently help somebody, which is dubious.

“He has kept going with that and he had 20 years before he even came good with his story, he had time to decide what he wanted to say.”

Justice Harrison saidMs Dixon’s family would have been“literally tormented” by the uncertainty of what happened to her.

But he said Lawrence had“undoubtedly carried the terrible burden of his special knowledge”, with thelonger he remained silent, the harder it would have become to divulge the truth.

He concluded that Lawrence’s 18 months and five days on remand was punishment enough for his decades of silenceand Lawrence walked free from court.

Ms Martin,said the family were“gutted” that Lawrence was sentenced to time already served.

“It was nowhere near long enough for what he actually admitted to doing,” Ms Martin said.

“We’ve just done everything that we can and there is nothing else we can do.

“A man that did a lot of things that were verywrong gets away scot-free.”




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