EXCLUSIVE: A CRIME scene photo of Jill Meagher's semi-naked body lying in a shallow grave was shown to an audience of hundreds of men by a leading homicide detective who investigated her murder.
Victoria Police offered the force's sincerest apologies for the "unfortunate error", which distressed members of the 400-strong audience at a Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia fundraiser in Bendigo last Friday.
The photograph was shown by a homicide squad veteran, Detective Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles, as part of a talk about his job.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Steve Fontana last night apologised for Mr Iddles and banned all public presentations on operational matters by officers until new rules were put in place.
"This was a deeply unfortunate error of judgment and my sincere apologies are extended to Jill's family, friends, the community, and in particular to her husband, Tom," Mr Fontana said.
Members of the audience have said they were upset by the graphic photograph.
"I was shocked, and where I was sitting a few people looked at each other and there were raised eyebrows," one said.
Another said the picture had appeared abruptly on the screen. "I looked but I had to look away," he said.
The Herald Sun has been told some audience members were shocked that Det. Sen-Sgt Iddles discussed personal details of the Meagher family.
"There were 400 people in that room and there was no warning. Someone could have known her. It could've been quite disturbing for them," an audience member said.
Mr Fontana said Det. Sen-Sgt Iddles has been one of Victoria Police's most dedicated and hardworking detectives for more than 30 years.
"Few wearing the uniform have been more committed and loyal in their service of the community," he said.
"I am saddened that a speech he delivered in good faith, at a charity fundraiser, will have caused further emotional anguish for the family."
But local National Party MP Damien Drum said the talk had been "outstanding" and the audience had been warned about the content.
"I was there supporting prostate cancer and I found the presentation appropriate given the context of a homicide detective talking about the work that homicide detectives do day in day out," he said.
The use of the image in the talk has also been defended by the Prostate Council of Australia which promotes the Biggest Ever Blokes lunches.
Spokesman Ishtar Schneider said the PCFA did not manage or control the events.
"In any case, we have also spoken to people in attendance who have explained that the presentation was not offensive and the context was a story about the process of police investigation, and that sensitive material was clearly prefaced with a warning," she said.
Event organiser Keith Sutherland said the charity lunch went "exceptionally well".
"We were just trying to get the message out to 400 local men about prostate cancer," he said. "We raised $70,000."
He said he had previously heard the detective speak, and thought he had been well-received by the audience.
It is understood that Det. Sen-Sgt Iddles has raised more than a million dollars for charities through his voluntary speaking engagements over the years.