Last Shot At Justice For Families Of Murdered Bowraville Children

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The families of three Aboriginal children murdered on the Bowraville mission more than two decades ago will be one step closer to justice when a parliamentary inquiry hands down a report into the family response to the murders early next month.

In 1990-1991, three Aboriginal children were murdered on the same stretch of road running through Bowraville mission, on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. There has only ever been one man in the sights of police over the crimes – a non-Indigenous man who used to hang around the mission.

But despite two court cases and a coronial inquest, he has never been convicted, largely due to bungles in the original police investigation which was hindered by racism.

These bungles included the fact child protection authorities were originally sent to investigate the community for child abuse and then later charged with conducting the homicide investigation during which they gave key evidence back to the accused and misdated a key witness statement.

The alleged perpetrator has only stood trial for Clinton and Evelyn’s murders. Colleen’s body was never found, and no one has ever been charged with her murder.

The families have always maintained the three murders should have been linked in one trial because of the similarities and circumstances between them.

In 1993, a Supreme Court judge ruled against linking Clinton and Evelyn’s murders which meant key evidence was omitted from both trials.

The families have never tired in their two-decade long fight to get the man before a judge again. After he was acquitted of Evelyn’s murder in 2006, they succeeded in having the state’s double jeopardy laws overturned in order to reopen the trial – a potential world first.

But the former state Attorney General John Hatzistergos and later Greg Smith both knocked back calls to reopen the trial after being approached with “fresh and compelling” evidence.

After Mr Smith knocked back their application to send the evidence back to the Court of Criminal Appeal, the families protested outside state Parliament House and achieved a small victory representing one last shot of justice – a parliamentary inquiry into the family response from the murders.

The inquiry visited Macksville and Bowraville earlier in the year and conducted a hearing at state Parliament House.

That inquiry will hand down its report on November 6.

Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin told the inquiry in Macksville the reasons these murders haven’t been solved is because the victims were Aboriginal.

Detective Inspector Jubelin took over the new investigation in 1997 and has worked tirelessly to regain the community’s trust.

“I have been investigating crimes for 20 years and I am still shocked by the lack of interest that has been shown in this matter,” he told the inquiry.

“… We have a serial killer and three children were murdered. It has been heartbreaking to see the families suffering. The only time they seem to get things happening is when they attract the media’s attention or when they publicly protest. That is very unfortunately.

“The families know the reason. The families told me the reason when I first met them in 1997. They said ‘it’s because we’re Aboriginal’.

“At the time when I met the families I did not believe them. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, having worked with the families now for the past 18 years, I think they identified the problem.”

“…. It is very nice for society to say that all victims are treated equally. I do not think that is entirely correct.

“I am a homicide detective; I am not a do-gooder or a bleeding heart. However race, and to a lesser degree, socioeconomic factors have impacted on the manner in which these matters have been investigated.”

Amy McQuire

A Darumbul woman from central Queensland, Amy McQuire is the former editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine.

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