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Police 'unaware' of Duluk photograph, court told

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Police investigating an alleged assault by Liberal exile Sam Duluk were not aware of a photograph featuring the Waite MP with his accuser, SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros, until three weeks ago, a court has been told.

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Three remaining prosecution witnesses in the MP’s trial – including Greens MLC Tammy Franks – did not give evidence today, with prosecutors instead tabling a set of affidavits and an agreed version of events.

This included an acknowledgement that Bonaros did not disclose the existence of a photograph, which was yesterday tendered as evidence, taken during a December 2019 corridor drinks party at parliament house of her with Duluk and Labor MLC Justin Hanson.

Bonaros has alleged Duluk assaulted her at the event by “whacking” her on the bottom.

The Waite MP, who has stood aside from the Liberal party-room pending the trial outcome, has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer Marie Shaw QC has told the court there is “reasonable doubt” about the nature of the contact.

Bonaros yesterday told the court she had earlier that night posed for photographs with Duluk and Hanson, during which the then-Liberal MP for Waite picked her up after she joked that she was “clearly very short in this line-up”.

Shaw revealed Bonaros had weeks later discussed the photographs via text message with a staffer, whom the court heard was told: “I don’t want them to see the light if (sic) day.”

Bonaros replied that she did not recall the text messages, “but if I did say that, I did it for very obvious reasons”.

“I was under a huge amount of stress, and I didn’t want the entire thing to see the light of day,” she said.

Today, prosecutor Anika Francis told the court both sides had agreed that Bonaros did not tell a police interviewer about the existence of the photograph during an initial interview on February 3 last year.

“Ms Bonaros did not tell [the interviewing officer] during that meeting about the photo or the circumstances in which the photo was taken,” the court heard.

During a follow-up interview the next day “Ms Bonaros first told [the officer] that a photograph was taken with herself, Mr Duluk and Mr Hanson on the night of 13 December 2019”.

Francis said that Bonaros had “handed over her mobile phone to police” at the start of the initial interview “and that was not available to her during the statement-taking”.

She told the court the interviewing officer “has no recollection of being shown the photograph thereafter”.

Another police officer who was overseeing the investigation “was unaware of the photograph until he rediscovered it after 11 May 2021… in response to a defence request for disclosure”.

That officer, she said, “had not been advised by Ms Bonaros [about the photograph] and was unaware that the phone records showed that [a staffer] had sent the photo to Ms Bonaros”.

The court was told the staffer had not been approached by police to provide a statement.

The trial will conclude this afternoon, with both prosecution and defence to sum up. Duluk will not give evidence.

Bonaros told the court yesterday that Duluk had arrived uninvited to the crossbench-hosted party from a nearby Liberal drinks event. She said he appeared intoxicated, was drinking gin straight from the bottle and poured ice down the front of her dress before later “whacking” her on the bottom.

“I felt ice coming down my dress and I knew it was coming from Mr Duluk’s hand,” Bonaros told the court under cross-examination.

She gave evidence that after the alleged assault she told Duluk to “sit the fuck down”, grabbing his hands and guiding him towards a chair.

She said she left for the bathroom shortly afterwards and didn’t see Duluk again on her return.

However, the court also heard from prosecution witness Emily Bird, who was then a senior staffer for Greens MLC Mark Parnell.

Bird gave a different account of events, including that she never saw Duluk put ice down Bonaros’ dress.

“Mr Duluk had taken some ice and thrown it – a lot of it went on the floor [and] I got some in my bag of chips,” Bird told the court.

“I noticed Connie had moved out of the way so he wasn’t able to put any down the front of her dress.”

Bird told the court she witnessed the incident at the centre of the basic assault charge, but did not describe it in the same terms as Bonaros had done, saying: “I saw [Duluk] come out and touch her on the bottom.”

She mimed the action she witnessed for the court, with magistrate Jonathan Wells describing the action as “the right hand moving downwards and across”.

Shaw told the court the defence would be submitting that “the conflict” between “the incident described by Ms Bird and the incident described by Ms Bonaros” left a reasonable doubt as to Duluk’s guilt.

However, Bird told the court she believed the pair shared a brief interlude on the dancefloor – instigated by Duluk – after the incident.

In cross-examination, Shaw asked Bonaros: “What do you say to suggestions you and Mr Duluk were walking side by side, and in the course of that Mr Duluk patted you on the backside?”

Bonaros replied: “That’s not my recollection… I don’t accept that’s my account.”

She agreed that the contact was “a whack that essentially caused [her] to have to regain balance”.

But Shaw suggested “that insofar as this incident you’ve described is concerned, nothing like that occurred at the time you’ve described, or any time for that matter”.

“That’s incorrect,” Bonaros replied.

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