The All Blacks bugging saga is over in Sydney, where team security consultant Adrian Gard has been found not guilty of lying to police about finding a listening device in a hotel chair.
Local Court Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson said she couldn't rule out the possibility it was planted by someone else at Double Bay's Intercontinental Hotel - which routinely hosts sports teams and entertainment stars - before the All Blacks checked in there last year.
- Kieran Read defends 'pretty good man' Adrian Gard in All Blacks bugging trial
- All Blacks 'bug' sold at a common chain of spy stores
- All Blacks 'worried about bug publicity'
"It may well simply have been a coincidence that it was only when the All Black arranged for the bugging sweep to occur that the device was found," said Magistrate Atkinson.
But the Magistrate was critical of All Blacks management for waiting five days to report it to police. By then, the evidence was "so thoroughly contaminated that it made the police’s job very difficult".
It brings to an end a mysterious saga which has shadowed the All Blacks for the past 12 months - but leaves the team and the public none the wiser as to how the bug was hidden there in the first place.
Mr Gard had organised a bug sweep of the team hotel at the request All Blacks Manager Darren Shand, who wanted to keep the team's strategy safe ahead of the Bledisloe Cup last year.
He hired a consultant, Charles Carter, to carry out a sweep with sophisticated equipment. Two chairs were put aside for further inspection, which Mr Gard took alone to his hotel room.
It's there that he found the listening device.
But police began quickly to suspect his story. An expert upholsterer testified in court that the chair didn’t appear to have been tampered with. Prosecutors alleged the bug was found by Mr Gard in a different part of the chair to where the bug sweep suggested it should be.
But defence witness Professor Richard Buckland, who lectures in security at the University of New South Wales, said that didn't mean the bug wasn’t there.
"Being present in one location might cause it to be detected in other locations as well," said Professor Buckland.
The Magistrate said that was an important factor in finding Mr Gard not guilty.
The prosecution case was circumstantial - there was no direct evidence Mr Gard planted the bug. Defence lawyer Anthony Kimmons stressed that in his evidence, saying Mr Gard had no motive to lie to police and nothing was proven beyond reasonable doubt.
What was never in doubt was the support of the All Blacks. They've stood by Mr Gard since day one.
Captain Kieran Read was a character witness, calling Mr Gard a "good man" who was "honest" and "loyal".
Mr Gard let out a whoop and a clap in court as the Magistrate declared him not guilty of public mischief - and was quickly reprimanded for doing so.
But it wasn't all good news for Mr Gard. He was found guilty of a second charge of carrying out security work without possessing the appropriate license, for which he’ll be sentenced on September 1.