THE trial for a Tamworth man charged with causing the death of his wife and son in a car crash has been abruptly abandoned minutes before it was due to start.
Stephen George Russell appeared visibly shocked in Tamworth District Court when the Crown prosecutor told the court of developments that had come to hand overnight.
The reasons the trial was abandoned cannot be reported for legal reasons but Judge Jonathan Williams said they were "significant".
The Crown prosecutor lodged an application to vacate the trial and said the developments had "blindsided us at this stage", and other "things that need to be investigated".
Judge Williams said it "is one of the most extraordinary things I've ever heard".
Defence barrister Bruce Donnelly said he and his solicitor had been "taken completely by surprise" and "he went into a bit of shock about it".
Judge Williams said "in any event it can't be run with that information" that had come to light.
The jury of five women and seven men had only been empanelled on Tuesday, but were led into the courtroom on Wednesday morning before Judge Williams told them "don't get too comfortable".
"I've just been informed about something that would have a significant effect on this trial," he told the jury.
"It's something quite extraordinary in my experience."
Judge Williams told the jury "it's very significant" and "possibly would have a significant effect on this case if it goes to a hearing, and it may mean the case will not go to the hearing".
After the Crown made an application and with the consent of the defence, Judge Williams said: "I'm discharging the twelve of you as jurors. I apologise for this".
"It is not something that anyone had any idea was going to happen ... but it is extraordinarily serious," he said.
The court heard trials are "booked up to August, next year", "which is regrettable".
The case was adjourned to February.
Russell's accused of four charges including two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death; dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm; and doing an act with intent to pervert the course of justice.
The Crown claims Russell was driving in a dangerous manner before the crash on the Oxley Highway on January 3, 2019.
Lynette Marie Russell, 72, who was in the front seat, and 38-year-old Stephen Leslie Russell, who was in the back seat, died at the scene as a result of their injuries.
Another passenger in the backseat was seriously injured and airlifted to hospital.