Francis John Wark has been found guilty of the murder of teenager Hayley Dodd.
Wark, 61, showed no emotion as Supreme Court Judge Lindy Jenkins announced he had been found not guilty of wilful murder but guilty of the lesser charge of murder.
Justice Jenkins was visibly shaken and Hayley’s mother Margaret burst into tears as the verdict was handed down.
Hayley, 17, was last seen walking along a rural road in Badgingarra, near Wark’s home, on July 29, 1999.
Prosecutors had alleged Wark lured Hayley into his ute between 11.40am and midday, murdered her and disposed of her body before 1.36pm when he paid an account at Badgingarra roadhouse while riding his motorcycle to Perth.
Wark’s lawyer Darryl Ryan argued it was possible an ankh-shaped earring, matching a description of the style Hayley was wearing when she went missing, could have been planted by police.
The key piece of evidence was only found in September 2013 when a car bench seat cover that police seized one week after Hayley vanished was examined at the state forensic laboratory.
Prosecutors argued the fact the hook on the earring was bent suggested a violent struggle, but there was no DNA recovered from it.
Justice Jenkins found the earring had not been planted by police and it was not reasonable to conclude that it belonged to anyone other than Hayley.
In her judgment, she said Wark had picked up Hayley and killed her on 29 July 1999 by unknown means, within a narrow hour and half window of time.
She said contrary to what the accused told the police, he was not in Moora at about midday on the day. Instead, he was driving alone on the same stretch of isolated road that Ms Dodd was walking on when she disappeared.
Justice Jenkins said Wark had a propensity to pick up female hitch-hikers and seriously assault them and there was compelling evidence that Hayley was in a ute Wark had borrowed from his housemate, convicted paedophile John McConnell, in the form of the ankh earring.
“It is a reasonable inference to draw from the evidence that the accused picked up Ms Dodd in order to sexually assault her and that he killed her in the prosecution of that unlawful purpose, without necessarily forming an intention to kill her,” she said.
The family emerged from the court wearing yellow roses in their hair in remembrance of Hayley and other missing people.
Outside court, asked how she felt about the verdict, Hayley’s sister Toni said it was “too early to say”.
“It’s too early to say how we feel, we’re still shaken up,” she said.
Ms Dodd said the family would not have closure until Hayley’s body is found.
“No there’s no body, we need a body for some closure,” she said.
“Maybe he will tell us where she is.”
She described sitting through the seven-week trial as “horrible”.
“We had to sit through it to know every detail,” she said.
“We want to know what happened, to try to figure out why, try figure out if there’s any clues as to why he did it.
Asked if she had a message for Wark, Ms Dodd said: “Tell us where Hayley is so we can put her to rest, we didn’t just lose a sister we lost parents as well.”
Wark’s lawyer Darryl Ryan said he had spoken to his client, who will consider lodging an appeal.
“I have spoken to Mr Wark, we are going to consider the possibility of an appeal,” he said.
“We are going to consider the possibility of an appeal, obviously I haven’t looked at the reasons yet, but they are his instructions at this point in time.”
Wark is likely to be sentenced on January 30.