Celebrity crocodile wrangler, former police officer, helicopter pilot faces court over fatal crash

Prosecutors in the case against celebrity crocodile wrangler Matt Wright will make an application to vary his bail conditions by “three words” on Friday, the Darwin Local Court has heard.

Mr Wright did not have to attend court for Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, when his case was mentioned alongside those of former police officer Neil Mellon and helicopter pilot Michael Burbidge.

All three are facing a series of charges in connection with an investigation into a helicopter crash in February 2022 that killed Outback Wrangler star Chris “Willow” Wilson.

Mr Wright’s lawyer, Giles O’Brien Hartcher, told the court an application would be made later this week to vary the 43-year-old’s bail conditions, but did not specify what the proposed changes were.

Side-profile mid-close-up of a white man in a light blue collared shirt, walking past a big news camera.
Matt Wright arrives at court in November last year.(ABC News: Tiffany Parker)

The court heard prosecutors would seek to remove “three words” from the strict conditions binding Mr. Wright.

Mr. Wright was charged in November 2022 with attempting to pervert the course of justice, destruction of evidence, fabricating evidence, two counts of unlawful entry and making a false declaration.

His lawyer has previously indicated that he “strenuously denies” any wrongdoing and was not on board the helicopter when it crashed during an operation to collect crocodile eggs in a remote part of Arnhem land.

helicopter crash site
The helicopter was found damaged and in an upright position.(Supplied: Careflight)

The cases against Mr Wright, Mr Mellon and Mr Burbidge were adjourned for six weeks after the court heard the “fairly extensive” brief of evidence was still being compiled.

Crown prosecutor Collette Dixon told the court the investigations were ongoing, and Mr O’Brien Hartcher said he understood it was likely there would be “more material coming”.

Mr Wright’s case will return to court on Friday for a bail variation application.

Former police officer seeks return of passport to go on cruise

a middle aged man smiling
Former senior Northern Territory police officer Neil Mellon has been charged with multiple offences.(Supplied)

The court heard Mr Mellon, a former senior Northern Territory Police officer also charged in connection with the crash, wanted to have his passport returned so he could go on a cruise and “explore work opportunities” in Singapore.

Mr. Mellon faces charges across two separate court files, one of which is related to the crash investigation.

His barrister, Sally Ozolins, made an application for Mr Mellon’s bail to be varied to allow him to go on a cruise that was booked in 2020 and delayed several times due to COVID-19.

“It’s scheduled to go ahead in March,” Ms Ozolins said.

“It would be of great cost to the family if that could not go ahead.”


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