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Alexander McLeod-Lindsay (1934–2009)

by Malcolm Brown

He was a victim of gross injustice, serving nine years in prison for a crime he did not commit. When the truth came out almost 20 years later, Alexander McLeod-Lindsay's name was linked with others who had suffered similar misfortune, such as Lindy Chamberlain and Ziggy Pohl.

Evidence of ''blood spatter'' on his jacket, that led to his conviction for the attempted murder of his wife, Pamela, in 1964 was ultimately found to have been flawed. His conviction could not stand. It was an important lesson for forensic science – experts and courts should recognise that expertise has its limitations.

Alexander McLeod-Lindsay, who has died at 74, was born in Scotland on Christmas Eve 1934. His parents, William McLeod-Lindsay, a hotel waiter, and Jessie Colligan, hotel housemaid, were not married and the boy was sent to live with his grandparents who, though both blind, cared for him with the help of several of his aunts.

The boy grew up in Glasgow, until, at the age of 16, he became a £10 migrant to Australia. He became apprenticed in the printing trade, and worked for the fire brigade and the Air Force and served in the Australian Black Watch, CMF.

While in hospital for minor surgery, he fell in love with a nurse, Pamela Parsons, and married her in 1956. Children arrived: Bruce in 1960, Alyson in 1962 and Andrew in 1963.

In 1964, the McLeod-Lindsays bought a home in Sylvania. With five mouths to feed, he worked at a garage by day and as a hotel waiter by night. On September 14, 1964, he arrived home from his day job, mowed the lawn and at 7.30pm went to work at the Sylvania Hotel. He worked till just after midnight, then left for home, where he found Pamela and Bruce brutally bashed.

His wife had been hit repeatedly, which had fractured bones in her face and skull, and Bruce's skull was fractured.

McLeod-Lindsay called an ambulance. Developing doubts about his story, police believed that he might have slipped away from work, attacked his wife and son, then returned as the ''surprised husband''.

Blood staining on his jacket was interpreted as impact splatter from his attack.

The mother and son recovered from their injuries. Initially supportive of her husband, Pamela said she had heard a man's voice with an ''Australian accent''. But, two weeks after the attack, police charged her husband with attempted murder. When the case came to trial, the Crown accused Pamela of lying to protect her breadwinner.

On March 5, 1965, a jury found McLeod-Lindsay guilty. The trial judge, Justice Athol Moffitt, said he agreed with the verdict and that the crime had been ''premeditated, cruel and cold-blooded in the extreme''. He sentenced McLeod-Lindsay to 18 years' jail.

McLeod-Lindsay lost his appeal to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal but a McLeod-Lindsay Citizens Committee, which included Lady Herron, wife of the Chief Justice, Sir Leslie Herron, campaigned for an inquiry. Justice Jack Lee's inquiry in 1969 found that, although there was no established motive for the attack, that did not take away ''a single incriminating bloodstain''.

McLeod-Lindsay was released on parole in August 1973. In December that year, Pamela, who had visited him in jail, divorced him. McLeod-Lindsay had used his prison time to learn a trade as a boiler attendant and went to work for ACI Industries.

In February 1974 he joined a social club run by Valda Potts in Burwood. Although some of her friends, knowing of his past, told her not to bring him near them, she believed in him. The two were married in November 1974.

Pamela McLeod-Lindsay now seemed confused about the events. She said on television in 1977 that she ''knew'' who had done it. But Valda remained steadfast and helped her husband write a book, An Ordinary Man, published in 1984.

The couple, who had dropped the ''McLeod'' from their name, resettled in 1987 at Windeyer, near Mudgee. He worked as a boiler attendant at an abattoir and for a mining company. Both took careful note of the overturning of forensic evidence in the Azaria Chamberlain case and renewed their push for an inquiry.

In 1990, Justice Ray Loveday said he had ''a feeling of unease and a sense of disquiet'' about McLeod-Lindsay's guilt. His judicial inquiry took into account more sophisticated analyses of the blood evidence – particularly from a US expert, Anita Wonder. She said that it was ''clotted'' blood on his jacket – not ''spatter'' – and consistent with what might have been transferred as he sought desperately to help his wife and son.

McLeod-Lindsay was exonerated and received $700,000 compensation. In 1995 he and his wife resettled in Cherrybrook and, in 2004, at a retirement village on the Central Coast. He developed emphysema and willed his body to Newcastle University.

Alexander McLeod-Lindsay is survived by Valda. He remained close to his daughter, Alyson, but relations with his sons were troubled.

Original publication

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Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'McLeod-Lindsay, Alexander (1934–2009)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 December, 1934


17 September, 2009 (aged 74)
Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.