Murdered Woman’s Innocent Boyfriend Exonerated After Bizarre “Confession” Is Exposed As False
by Hans Sherrer
For Justice:Denied magazine (January 2005)
After being a couple for a short time, Lawrence Lloyd and Katherine Sheffield amiably broke up in early August 1994. The last time they saw each other was on August 8th, when they shopped together in Mangonui - a small town in New Zealand’s Northlands, more than 100 miles north of Auckland.
The 23-year-old Katherine disappeared on August 22nd, after a friend dropped her off at the farm where she was living west of the Northlands town of Taipa. On September 21st, her body was found in a shallow grave close to Lloyd’s farmhouse four miles south of Mangonui - about 13 miles from where she was last seen. 1
The friendly and easygoing Lloyd was targeted as a suspect because of where Katherine’s body was found and their known relationship. Nine days after discovery of her body, police claimed that after an intense interrogation Lloyd confessed to her murder. Lloyd was alleged to have confessed that the two of them were drinking at his house when he stabbed her chest and slashed her throat. He also allegedly confessed that he then wrapped her in a sleeping bag and buried her in a shallow grave on his property. The police speculated that Lloyd’s motive was her possible theft of marijuana that they alleged she sold for $40,000.
However in spite of his alleged confession that was neither tape recorded or video taped, Lloyd steadfastly asserted his innocence, claiming that he had not seen Katherine for two weeks prior to her disappearance. He was angry at not just being accused of Katherine’s murder, but at claims he had confessed to it, telling people that she was his “best mate.” His claim of innocence was supported by aspects of his supposed confession being so strange that Katherine’s mother even doubted he was her murderer. The suspect nature of Lloyd’s alleged confession was also supported by the absence of any physical evidence or witnesses tying him to Katherine’s murder, in spite of the police’s allegation it occurred at his house.
The jury apparently took into consideration the inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case when it found Lloyd guilty of manslaughter, and not murder. He was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment. People told him “You didn’t do this, mate,” to which he responded, “Nah, but that’s the way it goes.” 2 Lloyd didn’t think there was anything he could do to prove his innocence while imprisoned, so he focused on staying healthy while confined in New Zealand’s maximum security prison. As he later said, “The thing is you are there and you just have to get on with it and do it. You feel hopeless.” 3
Lloyd was released in January 2002 after seven years of imprisonment. A few months before his release, Katherine’s murder investigation was reopened when another man came under suspicion. However that investigation was closed without an arrest.
Lloyd moved back to Mangonui and worked on fishing boats and rebuilding his house that had burned down while he was imprisoned. In May 2003 Katherine’s murder investigation was reopened for a third time. During that investigation, under police supervision a backhoe dug some holes on his property. 4
In July 2004 the case took a strange twist when Noel Clement Rogers, Lloyd’s 31-year-old nephew, was charged with murdering Katherine Sheffield. Rogers was also charged with raping Katherine in 1993, a year before murdering her. 5
Lloyd filed a petition to quash his conviction based on the new evidence that he was the victim of a frame-up by his nephew. The prosecution didn’t oppose his petition and New Zealand’s Court of Appeals quashed his conviction on August 25, 2004, and ordered a new trial. Lloyd’s attorney said after the hearing that given the prosecution’s acknowledgment that their evidence was no longer sufficient to support his conviction, the dropping of the charges against him was a formality that would most certainly occur at some point prior to a retrial. While friends and family wanted to celebrate after the Court’s ruling, Lloyd didn’t want to do so out of respect for Katherine’s memory. He told reporters, “I just want to live a normal life.” 6
During a bail hearing on November 29, 2004, prosecutors revealed that the clothes Katherine had worn the night of her murder in 1994 had been recovered from the “long-drop toilet” (outhouse) on Lloyd’s property, and those clothes tied Rogers to her murder. The prosecutors asserted that after murdering Katherine, Rogers cleaned up the crime scene, removed her clothes, and redressed her in clean clothes. He then disposed of her clothes he had removed in Lloyd’s outhouse. Apparently he though the clothes might contain incriminating evidence. The prosecution’s scenario concedes Lloyd had nothing to do with Katherine’s murder.
However a strange twist in the prosecution’s case is their claim that after waking and finding Katherine dead in his house, he buried her in a shallow grave on her property instead of calling the police. 7 As of January 2005 Lloyd has not been charged with any crime related to that prosecution allegation. There are two possible reasons why Rogers’ prosecutors may be trying to implicate Lloyd in some aspect of Katherine’s death: To conceal that the police either fabricated his alleged confession or extracted a false confession; or as a tactic to minimize or perhaps eliminate the government’s liability to pay him compensation for his seven years of wrongful imprisonment. Taking into consideration the payouts to other wrongly convicted people in New Zealand and Ministry of Justice guidelines, the August 2004 quashing of Lloyd’s conviction could make him eligible for compensation in excess of $1 million. Regardless of any Justice Ministry stratagems, New Zealand’s government won’t consider any compensation claim by Lloyd until his nephew’s legal case is concluded, which may not be until sometime in 2006.
1Distance from http://www.multimap.com.
2Confessions of an Innocent Man, New Zealand Herald, August 26, 2004.
3Confessions of an Innocent Man, New Zealand Herald, August 26, 2004.
4Third probe into woman's killing, Tony Gee, New Zealand Herald, May 12, 2003.
5Slain Woman’s Clothes Excavated From Long-drop Toilet, Court Told, New Zealand Herald, November 30, 2004.
6Confessions of an Innocent Man, New Zealand Herald, August 26, 2004.
7Slain Woman’s Clothes Excavated From Long-drop Toilet, Court Told, New Zealand Herald, November 30, 2004.(“While Mr Lloyd was unconscious on the ground, it was he, Rogers, who has killed the deceased.”).