Gold digger and cheat, but did ex-policeman kill his wife?


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The Independent Online

It seems beyond dispute that Des Campbell was a cad who courted and fleeced a succession of wealthy, blonde widows. But whether the former British police officer pushed his third wife over a cliff before jetting off on holiday with one of several girlfriends is the question set to be tested in the Australian appeal courts.

The jury at Mr Campbell’s trial in 2010 heard how he took Janet Fisicaro camping and pitched their tent a few feet from a sheer cliff face. He did not attend her funeral; instead, he spent the day contacting women on a dating website. After a jury found that he killed Ms Fisicaro, the judge called him duplicitous and cruel and jailed him for a minimum of 24 years.

The 54-year-old, though, has always maintained that his wife fell over the 170-foot cliff after leaving the tent at night to answer a call of nature. Now he is preparing to appeal against his conviction, Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday, in a case he hopes will be heard in the next six months.

According to the paper, Mr Campbell is seeking to emulate Gordon Wood, a businessman who – in another notorious case – was convicted in 2008 of throwing his girlfriend, Caroline Byrne, over a cliff at a well-known Sydney suicide spot. Mr Wood was freed in February after appeal court judges decided there was insufficient evidence against him.

Ms Fisicaro, 49, who had inherited a fortune from her late husband, a farmer, was besotted with Mr Campbell, according to her family. For his part, British-born Mr Campbell – who served in the Surrey police force during the 1990s – told friends that she was “pig ugly” but “filthy rich”.

During their six-month marriage, he was seeing several other women, including Goric Velicanski, whom he invited to move in with him. She had no idea he was married, and nor did another girlfriend, Lynda Rogers, whom he promised to take on a cruise, if she lost weight.

Then there were the scandals and broken promises Mr Campbell left behind when he moved to Australia in 2000. He had quit Surrey Police in 1997 after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman he met while investigating a domestic violence complaint. He had ended a relationship with a former Surrey colleague, June Ingram, by text message after she bought him a car and a house.

In Melbourne, Mr Campbell worked for the Victoria force, later admitting that he beat up suspects, planted drugs and fabricated charges. He also served in the Australian Army. When he met Ms Fisicaro, he was an ambulance officer – albeit one with a taste for sports cars and French champagne, and with sizeable debts.

Hearing rumours about his gold-digging and womanising past, her family tried to warn her off him. But, “we just could not talk her around … she was bitten by love”, her brother, Kevin Neander, said after the court case. The pair married in secret in 2004, with Mr Campbell making all the arrangements. He did not bother to book a photographer.

In mid-2005 he took his new wife camping in the Royal National Park, just south of Sydney, pitching their tent in “the most unlikely, uncomfortable and unsafe spot”. Police later found broken branches at the cliff edge – evidence of her desperate attempts to save herself.

Whether she fell or was pushed, Mr Campbell did not behave like a grieving husband. A week after Ms Fisicaro’s funeral, he flew to Queensland with Ms Velicanski to stay in a five-star beachside hotel. He then travelled to the Philippines to bring back a woman he had met through an online dating site. She is now his wife, and they have two small children.

If given leave to appeal, Mr Campbell’s lawyers will reportedly not present fresh evidence, but will appeal on “technical” grounds.