The man convicted of murdering Gold Coast detective Damian Leeding has launched an appeal but the case is on hold after his lawyers quit.

Gold Coast detective Damian Leeding’s convicted killer wants to appeal against his conviction and sentence for gunning down the police officer three years ago.

But Phillip Graeme Abell’s bid for leniency has hit a roadblock after he was left without legal representation.

The 42-year-old has been sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole for at least 20 years after being found guilty of murdering Detective Senior Constable Leeding during an armed robbery in 2011.

The non-parole period was later extended to 21 years for an unrelated home invasion committed by Abell before the murder of the 35-year-old detective.

Abell appeared in the Court of Appeal in Brisbane by video link from prison on Tuesday.

Before he can appeal he must persuade the court to grant him an extension of time – as documents were lodged too late – and that he has a prospect of succeeding.

However, his solicitors failed to show up and the judge told Abell they had indicated they were no longer acting for him.

It was news to the prisoner, who replied he hadn’t been able to contact the firm because he was locked in a detention unit in prison.

He also admitted he had no funds for an appeal but expressed interest in finding a lawyer who was willing to take on his case for free.

Justice Margaret McMurdo labelled the appeal material that had been submitted “a mess” but agreed to adjourn the case to allow Abell to seek legal representation.

“The court’s very conscious of the fact that you’ve got a very, very long sentence, you’ve got a very, very long time before you’re eligible for parole because of a combination of the sentences imposed,” she said.

“And the court, of course, would be reluctant to close off all avenue of appeal to you.”

The matter was adjourned to a date to be fixed.

Det Sen Const Leeding was shot in the head trying to stop an armed robbery at a Gold Coast tavern on May 29, 2011.

Abell’s accomplice Donna Lee McAvoy was sentenced to life imprisonment with no parole for 15 years for murder, while getaway driver Benjamin Ernest Power was jailed for nine years for manslaughter.