Denis and Neil Wagner leave court during the Brisbane portion of the hearing.
Denis and Neil Wagner leave court during the Brisbane portion of the hearing.

60 Minutes program left me gutted, Neill Wagner tells court

ONE of four Wagner brothers who successfully sued Channel 9 and others over a 60 Minutes report which inferred blame for 12 deaths arising from the 2011 floods at Grantham has told a Toowoomba court of feeling "gutted" by the program.

Neill Wagner told Toowoomba Supreme Court he had watched the 60 Minutes program titled "The Missing Hour" with his wife and four children in May 2015.

He said prior to that program he had watched 60 Minutes "religiously" every Sunday night and thought it to be "the number one current affairs program in the country".

However, that changed after having watched the program which had left him feeling "numb".

"I definitely thought they were saying we caused the disaster and we were guilty of killing 12 people," he said.

The program inferred that a collapsed wall of a quarry then owned by Wagners had led to the flash flooding of Grantham leading to the 12 deaths and widespread damage during what was described at the time as an inland tsunami which rushed water down the Toowoomba Range and into the Lockyer Valley in January 2011.

Separate inquiries into the flood and its effects found the quarry had no significant effect on the tragic events of that day.
The Wagner brothers Denis, John, Neill and Joe sued Channel 9 Australia, broadcaster Alan Jones, journalist Nick Cater who appeared on the 60 Minutes program and others for defamation.

A Supreme Court jury found in favour of the Wagners and the hearing in Toowoomba is to determine the amount of damages to be paid by the defendants.

Mr Wagner was shown certain segments of the 60 Minutes program including vision of a truck swamped by flood waters.

Mr Wagner said he had seen that footage and realised that it was actually vision from Withcott, 20km upstream from Grantham, describing the inclusion of that footage as "sensationalist journalism".

"Using footage 20km away is completely false, completely wrong," he told the court.

Asked by counsel for the Wagners Tom Blackburn SC about the 60 Minutes program claims that the Wagners had declined offers of an interview, Neill Wagner said they had made a decision at board level not to appear on camera but provided a statement to Channel 9 three days before the program went to air.

No reference to that statement appeared in the program.

"I felt they were on some kind of vendetta," he said.

Mr Wagner said following the 60 Minutes program he had been approached numerous times by people asking about the accusations made in the program.

He said more than one million people had watched 60 Minutes that night.

"I can't physically go out to 1.1 million people to explain to them," he said.

"It's there for the rest of time, you can't set the record straight."

The hearing before Justice Peter Applegarth continues.


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