BY AMY MCQUIRE, APRIL 3, 2012
Originally published in Tracker Magazine.
Malcolm Naden is escorted by corrective services officers after being charged and appearing at Taree Local Court (AAP IMAGE).
NEW SOUTH WALES: It’s the news we’ve been waiting seven years to hear.
Shortly after midnight, on Thursday March 22nd, Australia’s most wanted man and the subject of folklore across NSW, Malcolm John Naden, was captured as he tried to escape from a private property near Gloucester, in the Barrington Tops.
The manhunt for Naden intensified in December last year after he escaped from encroaching officers by shooting a police officer, at a site near Tamworth. It was the biggest breakthrough in the case since police shut down Dubbo’s world famous open-range zoo in 2005, after a staff member spotted him roaming the grounds.
Immediately, the bounty for information relating to his capture was more than doubled to $250,000.
Naden has been on the run for seven years, wanted over the murder of 24-year-old Kristy Scholes, an Aboriginal mother-of-two and the partner of his cousin, and for questioning in relation to the disappearance of his 24-year-old cousin Lateesha Nolan, an Aboriginal mother-of-four.
He was also wanted for questioning over an indecent assault on a 15-year-old girl.
In the course of those seven years, Naden has lived on in the stories of communities – both black and white – across New South Wales.
He’s been the subject of numerous unsubstantiated sightings from Redfern to Boggabilla.
But his location was first pinpointed to the Barrington Tops five years ago, when his fingerprints were found on two separate occasions – once in 2007 and again in 2008.
Now the question – Where is Malcolm John Naden? – has finally been answered.
He is sitting in a two-metre by three-metre cell in Goulburn’s Supermax prison. He’s segregated, and has no entertainment save for 90 minutes a day where he gets his allotted exercise time.
What does he look like?
He’s reportedly shaved off the long beard he sported when he was captured. He’s thinner than his now infamous mug shot, in “reasonable health”, according to police, has a small wound on his bald head, and walks with a slight limp from the wound where the police dog bit him during his capture.
But many more questions remain unanswered.
Chief among them is this: where is Lateesha Nolan? The body of his cousin has never been found. Malcolm has not been charged over her disappearance yet (at the time of press).
And there are so many more. Where has he been for the past seven years? What has he been doing? Has anyone been assisting him?
Those questions will hopefully be answered in coming months.
Naden has been formally charged with the murder of Kristy, indecently assaulting a 15-year old girl and shooting a police officer.
It is expected more charges could be laid.
Naden made no application for bail and no statement of facts was tendered.
The case, in the Taree Local Court, has been adjourned to April 24, according to media reports.
Malcolm and Lateesha’s aunty, Margaret Walker, told Tracker the family were still in shock. But she’s glad her nephew has been found alive.
“The way it was going, we thought he’d be shot on sight. There was always a worry that he’d never be brought in, especially after he (allegedly) shot that policemen.”
Ms Walker says Malcolm’s grandfather, John, with whom he lived before he disappeared, was relieved.
“He believed Malcolm had died years ago.”
Ms Walker says there were concerns for Malcolm’s health.
“I hope he’s alright. He looked like he had serious bites on his leg from the dog, and we hope he’s in good health.
“He’s still getting medical treatment. But we don’t know what he’s like with his mind, we won’t know until we are allowed to contact him.”
At the time of press, the family hadn’t been able to contact Malcolm.
Kristy and Lateesha’s kids didn’t go to school in the days after Malcolm was found because “kids are a bit cruel when things happen like this”.
Now she says the family is focusing on finding out what happened to Kristy and Lateesha.
She says they can’t make any judgments about whether he was involved in Lateesha’s disappearance.
“I just want to know what happened that night (when Kristy went missing),” Ms Walker said.“We have to make sure he did it first. And if he admits to it, we have to ask why?
“We need a few answers, not only for us, but Kristy’s family.
“It’s all about closure.”
Kristy’s uncle Tony Scholes feels the same way.
“We were shocked, but relieved. We’re happy he’s been caught,” Mr Scholes told Tracker. “… Now we can start looking forward to other future events.”
Mr Scholes says his brother, David, Kristy’s father, is still overwhelmed.
“It’s more about trying to come to terms with it, that they’ve captured him,” Mr Scholes said. “And now we’re on the long road to closure. Only half a book has been written.
“There’s still a story to be told to get the closure we need. The story of Malcolm Naden is still yet to be completed. I’m happy he’s brought in alive. It gives us that opportunity for closure.”
Mr Scholes said he was happy with the police effort.
“They’ve acted in the best possible way they could… even though it took a police officer to be shot. But they’ve done really well to bring him in from being out there.
“(Police officers) have had to leave their families and go out and spend weeks at a time tracking him down.”
Mr Scholes said his thoughts also rested with the family of Lateesha – including her father Mick Peet.
“Now that Naden has been caught, Mick Peet and his family can relax a little bit more. They’ve got to know eventually what happened to Lateesha Nolan. The Scholes, Morris and Donovan families thoughts are with him.”
Mr Peet has been a long-time and active campaigner for Naden’s capture.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald the next step was finding out what happened to his daughter.
“It’s like we’ve sort of won lotto or something like that … it’s been a long seven years trying to find out what happened to Lateesha,” Mr Peet told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We’ll never lose that pain of losing a loved one, but having lost a loved one and not knowing where that loved one is, that’s a pain that’s pretty hard to describe.
“You have so many thoughts [about] what could have happened, but you just don’t know the truth. To get the positive truth about what has happened to my daughter and where she may be, that will relieve a lot of pain that we’ve got inside us.”