BY AMY MCQUIRE, DECEMBER 2, 2011
Originally published in Tracker Magazine.
NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner at a protest held by family members of the three Aboriginal children murdered at Bowraville in 1990.
NEW SOUTH WALES: NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner this month made a promise to the families of the Bowraville murder victims, vowing he will personally deliver the news of whether the state Attorney General will recommend a re-trial for the man long accused of the crimes.
Mr Stoner made the commitment outside NSW Parliament House after being presented with a petition from a delegation of about 70 people from around the country.
In 1990, 16-year-old Colleen Walker-Craig, 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux and four-year-old Evelyn Greenup disappeared within a five month period from the same street on the Bowraville mission.
In 1994, a non-Indigenous man who was well known around the mission was tried and acquitted of the murder of Clinton. In 2006, after a coronial inquest recommended charges be laid, he was tried and acquitted of the murder of Evelyn.
Both children were found at the end of the same street. No one has ever been tried over Colleen’s murder because her body remains missing.
Meanwhile, the families are still resilient, but fractured by the fact no person has ever been convicted of the murders of their children.
Following the acquittal of the man in 2006, the families campaigned to have the “Double Jeopardy” rule overturned, which prevented anyone being charged twice for the same crime. It was an Australian, and possibly international legal first.
They are now fighting relentlessly for the DPP to lay new charges on the same man tried for Evelyn and Clinton’s murders, and have campaigned to have the three cases combined in one trial.
In 1993, NSW Supreme Court Justice Badgery-Parker of the NSW Supreme Court had ruled that the accused could not be tried for the two cases together.
But the families have long claimed all three murders are linked and should be heard in one trial.
After changes to the double jeopardy principle, the NSW Police made an application calling on the state Director of Public Prosecutions to re-trial the man accused.
The families say the DPP ignored the requests. Through law firm Allens Arthur Robinson, the families also lodged two requests with the former state Attorney General John Hatzistergos, who also decided against using his powers to apply for a re-trial of the accused man.
Now the families are lobbying the new Attorney General – Greg Smith – who has previously said he will consider the case.
But the families say they are still waiting for answers, five months on from lodging the application.
In a petition, handed to Mr Stoner this month, the families plead to the new O’Farrell government to restore their faith in the justice system.
“We, the families of the murdered children, supported by the friends and the community have fought long and hard to find justice for our children,” the petition says.
“Despite the numerous setbacks, insults and rejections we have kept faith in the judicial system in the hope that justice would be done.
“However after 21 years our patience has run out. We no longer have any faith in the justice system. Our faith has been eroded over the years by what appears to be a total lack of interest and empathy in our fight for justice by the decision-makers within the legal system and the politicians who are elected to serve us.
“We believe we know what happened to our children. We believe the matters are related, to suggest otherwise is to ignore the circumstances surrounding the murders.”
The families also state they have had no contact with the Attorney General’s office.
“It appears the murder of three Aboriginal children are not high on the priority list of the Attorney General,” the petition says. “We understand these matters might seem historical, but we are living with the pain every day.”
Mr Stoner told the delegation he would ensure a resolution is reached.
“This (petition) will give me further ammunition to pressure the Attorney General for an early resolution on this issue,” he said.
“I know that the community, in particularly the families, have been waiting for justice for this for a very long time,
He says that the matter is now before the Crown Prosecutor.
“I’ll be taking this petition to the Attorney General to urge him to bring pressure to bear on the Crown Prosecutor, to not only do the right thing and prosecute this matter again, but to also act quickly to bring justice to the family and the broader community.
“The family, and at the end, the community need closure on this. It’s been too long since a terrible injustice, a terrible tragedy, a horrible crime was committed on your people and I want to see the person responsible brought to justice and locked up for a long, long time.”
He says he will bring the issue up with the Attorney General personally.
Mr Stoner also promised to go to Bowraville to deliver the news of the Attorney General’s decision after being questioned by NSWALC *Councillor for the Mid-North region Peter Smith.
*Tracker is published by NSWALC.