Texts talk about ‘fix’

December 07, 2017

Text messages between two of four people accused of fixing a harness race in Cobram were read out in court yesterday.

Mark Pitt, Lisa Bartley, Amanda Turnbull and Nathan Jack have pleaded not guilty to charges of engaging in conduct that corrupts a betting outcome, among other charges.

An investigation was launched into the tactics adopted during a harness race at Cobram on June 22, 2015 — which Airbournemagic won.

At Shepparton Magistrates’ Court yesterday, prosecutor Gary Hevey detailed text messages between Avenel harness racing driver Mr Pitt and Ms Bartley ahead of the race in question.

‘‘Metro (stable name for Airbournemagic) is at $15 now,’’ Mr Pitt wrote.

‘‘Maybe Nathan and Brocq (Robertson) backed him already,’’ Ms Bartley responded.

‘‘Could of babes,’’ Mr Pitt replied. ‘‘I hope,’’ Ms Bartley said. ‘‘Yeah,’’ Mr Pitt finished.

The court heard text messages were also exchanged between the co-accused on race day, with Ms Bartley asking Mr Pitt if he asked Mr Jack to put a bet on for him.

‘‘Yep,’’ Mr Pitt wrote to Ms Bartley.

Prosecutors allege footage of race four at Cobram shows Mr Jack took to the track with Tooram Lad and he allowed Airbournemagic, driven by Mr Pitt, which was close behind, to win.

On Tuesday, Magistrate John Murphy viewed an interview with Mr Pitt recorded with Victoria Police detectives, at the Melton Police Station on August 28 last year.

During the first half of the interview, Mr Pitt told detectives ‘‘(there was) nothing (out of the) ordinary in that race ... Tooram Lad got a bit tired late’’.

He denied discussing race odds with anyone before or after the race.

A few hours later, Mr Pitt was played a recording of a phone call with Mr Jack intercepted by Victoria Police.

The court heard he then made admissions of fixing the race — after changing his story a number of times.

‘‘Obviously the race was fixed ... it was Mr Jack’s idea,’’ he told detectives.

‘‘He (Mr Jack) said he would lead and I would follow him and let it roll at a fast pace.

‘‘I didn’t tell anyone about the fix, but I’m sure she (Ms Bartley) would’ve known about it.’’

Mr Pitt admitted to knowing Ms Bartley had a bet, but said ‘‘I don’t know how much she put on’’.

Mr Pitt’s lawyer John Kelly questioned the two detectives who interviewed his client, calling the interview ‘‘assertive’’ and ‘‘beyond the pale’’.

‘‘It is improper to be asking a suspect to speculate,’’ he said.

‘‘The evidence is the answers not your questions.’’

Mr Kelly said the way Victoria Police’s organised crime intelligence unit Detective Leading Senior Constable Peter Holland conducted himself was inappropriate.

‘‘It is not appropriate to contradict and argue with the accused,’’ he said.

‘‘Do you concede that this (one of your questions) ... was a piece of cross-examination?’’

Det Ldg Sen Const Holland admitted it was.

‘‘(However), I was never trying to intimidate or cross-examine (the suspect),’’ he said.

An interview with Ms Bartley and Victoria Police was also shown in court yesterday, with her admitting to backing Airbournemagic.

‘‘Yeah I backed it ... I can’t remember exactly how much was in my Bet365 account, maybe $70,’’ she said.

‘‘(Airbournemagic) started at $35, then $15 then ended up at $8 or something ... I got $35, I think I won about $2000.’’

Ms Bartley also admitting to knowing others who backed the winning horse.

Last week, betting agency employees gave evidence about the pre-race betting patterns and Harness Racing Victoria evidence was thrown out, as it was found to be involuntarily obtained.

The hearing continues today.

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