Compounding a community’s ongoing grief

BY AMY MCQUIRE, NOVEMBER 12, 2013, Tracker Magazine.

The Bowraville police station. IMAGE: Chris Graham.
The Bowraville police station. IMAGE: Chris Graham.

NATIONAL: In 1997, the investigation into the murders of Colleen Walker, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy Duroux was re-opened, led by Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin and former Detective Sergeant Jason Evers.

It took them over a decade and countless visits to rebuild the trust of the community.

In 2011, Det Sgt Evers told ABC Four Corners the identity of the killer was patently obvious.

“I could make a cop show out of this and it wouldn’t get to the first ad break because it’d all be over, because the summation is that quick. There’s no challenge to it.”

So why, 22 years on, has there never been a conviction? Much of the blame lies in the original police investigation, which was botched from the outset.

The community suspected Jay Hart from the very first day Colleen went missing. But their concerns were ignored. Muriel Craig Walker, Colleen’s mum, reported her disappearance the day after the event, only to be questioned by police about whether the pretty teenager was really her daughter (Colleen was fair and doubt was cast on her Aboriginality).

The only contact Muriel ever received from police in the course of the original investigation was a phone call weeks after Colleen’s disappearance, to inform her her daughter had been found. Police told her Colleen was on a bus on her way to Brisbane. Muriel rushed down to the police station, but when she arrived police realized it was a case of mistaken identity – the ‘Colleen Walker’ on the bus was an elderly white nun.

In the Four Corners program Muriel says: “I couldn’t say anything… I mean they were policemen, and look, I was only a black person, just reporting something miss… you know, my child missing.”

The same indifference was shown to Evelyn Greenup’s family. Her parents were also told she must have gone “walkabout” despite the toddler being loved and cared for and always by the side of her brother, Aaron.

When Clinton Speedy Duroux went missing it only re-affirmed the community’s belief there was a serial killer frequenting Cemetery Road and suspicion focused on accused murderer Jay Hart.

Even then, despite disturbing similarities between the cases – all three children had disappeared from house parties where the accused was also seen, and all were staying on the same short stretch of road – local police refused to link them, instead treating them as missing persons.

The detectives sent in shortly after Clinton’s disappearance were from the Child Mistreatment Unit. The detective Alan Williams admitted to Four Corners that he was sent in to investigate the role of the community in the disappearance of their kids.

When Clinton’s body was found – with evidence linking him to Jay Hart’s caravan – Alan Williams, with no experience in homicide, was handed the investigation.

Mr Williams told Four Corners he believed NSW Police rated his chances of success at “nil”. He said he was given the case largely “because I was here”, and the investigation was hindered by a lack of resources and experience.

“It (meant no) cost to do the inquires. I think no one wanted this investigation.”

That investigation was slow and flawed. For example, it took investigators 10 days to seize Jay Hart’s caravan to examine it for evidence. In addition, a set of barbells which forensic tests suggested could have been the weapon used to kill Clinton were handed back to Jay Hart before they were examined.

The historic mistrust and broken relationship with police also affected the gathering of evidence. Hilton Walker – Evelyn Greenup’s uncle – was drinking with Jay Hart after his niece and Colleen Walker disappeared. Jay Hart confessed to Hilton that he “had a couple of bodies out near… yarndi plants”. This is where the police later found the bodies of Clinton and Evelyn.

Mr Walker did not come forward until years later. His reasoning: “I thought no one would believe me… cause I’m an alcoholic.”

Another witness statement that police believe could have been crucial in Clinton’s trial came from a white truck driver, who reported seeing a man matching Jay Hart’s description standing over the body of an unconscious Aboriginal male teenager on the night Clinton was last seen.

Michael Scafadi approached the man, noticing the Aboriginal teenager was not wearing any shoes. He offered his help to the white man.

There was a nearby vehicle with the lights off and the boot up.

“We asked him did he want a hand to get the guy away and he said no that he’d made a call to the local police and they were on their way out,” Scafadi later told Four Corners.

That evidence never made it to Clinton’s trial, despite Scafadi reporting it to police in 1991.

The botched investigation was only the beginning of the families’ pain.

Jay Hart was charged with the murders of Clinton Speedy and Evelyn Greenup in 1991. While in prison, Hart made full and partial admissions to four prisoners. Only one of these informants’ testimonies was used in Evelyn’s trial, and the other evidence came to light after Clinton’s trial. It was never used.

In 1993, the Supreme Court decided that the two cases would not be linked in a joint trial, despite the similarities between the murders.

The jury in Clinton’s trial was not given key evidence linking Clinton and Evelyn’s murders because the accused would have been seriously and unfairly prejudiced (according to an order sought by Hart and upheld by the Supreme Court).

When Hart was subsequently acquitted of the murder of Clinton, Evelyn’s murder was “no billed”.

The decision not to link the trials caused the families’ a great deal of angst. They have had legal advice that there would have been better chance of a conviction if the trials had been run together.

With no room to move, the NSW Police ordered a reinvestigation – which brought Detective Inspector Jubelin and Evers to the community.

After years of gathering evidence, Detective Inspector Jubelin referred it to the DPP to prosecute Hart over Evelyn’s murder. The DPP knocked it back. Detective Inspector Jubelin then pushed the new evidence in the direction of the Coroner, who delivered his findings into Evelyn and Colleen’s deaths in 2004.

The NSW Chief Coroner John Abernethy recommended the DPP consider pressing new charges over Evelyn Greenup’s murder.

“This man’s place in that community was to me the most striking. But the sexual relationships involved in all three cases, there were a number of them without going into them in detail. I felt they were striking enough to be looked at by the DPP,” Mr Abernethy told Four Corners.

He also recommended the DPP consider using the evidence of all three cases together: “I commented on it in my judgment and suggested that the Director of Public Prosecutions look at whether that evidence, some of that evidence in relation to all three, could be used in the prosecution of the murder of Evelyn Greenup.”

The following year, the DPP announced an ex-officio indictment of Jay Hart to stand trial for Evelyn’s murder. But despite the coroner’s recommendation, the juries never heard evidence about the other two murdered children.

Jay Hart was acquitted of Evelyn’s murder in 2006.

In the ABC Four Corners’ report Jason Evers also raised concerns that he, along with fellow detective Gary Jubelin, were not called to give evidence at Evelyn’s trial.

“We went to Evelyn Greenup’s trial, 10 years of investigation, reinvestigation, all these underlying issues. Requisitions? None… not one (question about the investigation).

“We’d apparently run the world’s best investigation, because there wasn’t one thing the DPP could see that was worthwhile furthering or [needed clarification].”

When asked by Four Corners what this said to him, Evers replied: “Pretty clear. I don’t – do I have to even answer that? It’s, it was, it was already in the process of being treated apathetically.”

A former staffer at the DPP confirmed this to Four Corners.

“I had the view at the time that if that matter was to run to trial, it was being run as a trial because it was one of those trials that you had to run, not a trial where a conviction was, you know, would be well justified,” former prosecutor Nicholas Harrison told Four Corners.

Current NSW Attorney General Greg Smith was the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions at the time, and told the families this year he had pushed for a prosecution over Evelyn’s murders. But the families say his current power to refer the case back to the court – a power he refused to exercise based on legal advice – represents a conflict of interest.

The families are used to the kind of apathy that contaminated the original investigation and seeped into the prosecution of Hart.

That is why after a long fight to overturn the double jeopardy legislation, which would have prevented Jay Hart from being charged again over Clinton and Evelyn, and having two knock backs from the previous Attorney General, they are not ready to accept Greg Smith’s decision.

“I’m 65, I want to live to see closure,” Elaine Walker says. “We need answers. We are human beings too. We are just as good as the next person. We are fighting these other people who don’t have a heart. Honestly, I don’t know how he sleeps at night.”

And then there is that ever-present question that weighs on the community, that has plagued them since Colleen disappeared.
What if police had taken it seriously when Muriel first visited that police station?

“I just can’t believe it aye,” Clinton’s cousin Jasmin Speedy says.

“If you look at the facts of the case, you can’t believe it happened. It should have been figured out by now. Those were three kids. I just think if they would have taken action after Colleen went missing… Evelyn and Clinton could still be here.

“They just didn’t take it seriously.”

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