The man acquitted over two of the Bowraville murders more than 25 years ago is a step closer to facing a retrial following an application by the NSW government to the state’s highest criminal court.
Three Aboriginal children – four-year-old Evelyn Greenup and 16-year-olds Colleen Walker and Clinton Speedy-Duroux – disappeared from the mid-north coast town within five months during 1990-1991.
Two separate murder trials ended in acquittals and no one has ever been brought to justice for the killings.
Now new evidence regarding all three cases will be heard together in a single trial by the Criminal Court of Appeal.
Police commissioner Andrew Scipione on Tuesday delivered an 18-volume brief of evidence to Ms Upton detailing new evidence, which allegedly links local man Jay Hart to the three deaths.
In separate trials, Mr Hart was found not guilty of murdering Clinton and Evelyn, whose bodies were found in bushland on the outskirts.
Colleen’s clothing was pulled from a nearby river but her body has never been found.
Under the double jeopardy law the Court of Criminal Appeal may order an acquitted person be retried for a life sentence offence if there is fresh and compelling evidence.
Colleen’s brother says his family have been shocked by the happy news.
‘I’ve grown up seeing my mum being let down so many times, and to see her face change this afternoon … it feels like we’re finally being heard,’ Lucas Craig told AAP on Tuesday evening.
‘This is a step forward that we needed.’
Leonie Duroux, the sister-in-law of Clinton Speedy-Duroux, said she was relieved the matter had been referred to the court of appeal and was not being decided by a politician.
‘We needed to be able to argue the cases together,’ she told ABC radio.
‘Just speaking for my family we’re overjoyed – we’re really, really happy that the attorney-general has decided to go this way and not wait another six months or 12 months for someone else to look at it and make that decision.’
She added that she hopes the Colleen Walker’s family will find answers to what happened to her.
‘I do hope that the person of interest will crack and tell them where she is,’ she said.
NSW attorney-general Gabrielle Upton decided on Tuesday the matter should be brought to court as soon as possible.
‘The best and most transparent way to deal with this tragic case is to make an application for retrial to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal,’ she said.
Families never gave up
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge, who last year failed in an attempt to introduce legislation to rewrite double jeopardy laws in favour of the families, described it as ‘a giant step forward in the push for justice for the Bowraville murders.’
‘There has been more than a quarter of a century of heartache, campaigning, frustration and persistence from the families of the victims of the Bowraville murders,’ he said.
‘Like any community would if their children were taken, they were never going to give up and today they have won a very significant victory in their struggle for justice.
‘The families came time and again to Parliament, demanding justice. They petitioned, they called, they wrote letters, emails and pleas. In short they never gave up. Today their efforts have borne fruit.
‘While this is long overdue, the Greens welcome the attorney-general’s referral so that these families can finally have their day in court,’ Mr Shoebridge said.
– with AAP