By Amy McQuire, August 9, 2013, Tracker Magazine.
NEW SOUTH WALES: The NSW Attorney General Greg Smith has come under fire from the families of three Aboriginal children, murdered on Bowraville mission in the early 90s, after he refused to support a Royal Commission into the case, stating it would not lead to a conviction.
It is the latest disappointment in the case that has strangled the victims’ families and the community of Bowraville, on NSW’s mid north coast.
Between 1990-1991, 16-year-old Colleen Walker-Craig, 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux and four-year-old Evelyn Greenup all disappeared within a five month period from the same street on Bowraville mission.
Whilst the bodies of Clinton and Evelyn were found in close proximity to each other, Colleen is still missing. Her clothes were fished out of the nearby Nambucca River, where they had been weighted down with rocks.
There has only ever been one alleged perpetrator targeted over the crimes, but due to failings in the original police investigation, he has never been convicted, and has only stood trial for Clinton and Evelyn’s murders.
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 had ruled against linking the murders of Clinton and Evelyn – which meant key evidence was omitted from both trials.
The families have been on a 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 both the former state Attorney General John Hatzistergos and current Attorney General Greg Smith knocked back calls to reopen the trial after being approached with “fresh and compelling” evidence.
Mr Smith claimed the evidence presented very little chance of conviction. In response, the families began petitioning him to launch a Royal Commission as one of the few avenues left for any semblance of justice.
Earlier this year they took part in a protest outside NSW Parliament House in Macquarie St, shutting down traffic along the busy motorway and calling on Mr Smith to help bring some sort of healing to their communities.
But representatives of Clinton and Evelyn’s families met with Mr Smith in April and were disappointed at his response, where he mistakenly referred to the alleged perpetrator as Thomas – the name of Clinton’s father.
At the meeting, Mr Smith said he would not consider a Royal Commission because it would not lead to a conviction.
According to Leonie Duroux – Clinton’s sister-in-law – he also asked family members if they had undergone grief counseling, and then mentioned that they would probably need more.
“It was patronising,” Ms Duroux told Tracker.
That meeting was followed up with a recent letter to Ms Duruox, stating that Mr Smith had re-considered a Royal Commission and again ruled it out because it would not lead to a conviction.
Ms Duroux told Tracker she replied to the letter, stating that Mr Smith had missed the point.
She said that it was about accountability.
The police officers involved in the original flawed investigation have never been held to account, and neither has the man accused of the crimes.
“I replied to him and said with all due respect, you’ve missed the point,” Ms Duroux told Tracker.
“We understand that a Royal Commission won’t secure a conviction… we appreciate the legal consideration has been extensive but it doesn’t address the issues we raised at the meeting.
“…. Besides (Greens MLA) David Shoebridge, no one is willing to put their political agenda aside and put their hand up and take responsibility.”
“… I asked in my email to Mr Smith that if he won’t do it, if he is not willing to open a Royal Commission and it isn’t a recommended avenue, please advise us what he’s going to provide us.”
Ms Duroux says she has also written to the Human Rights Commission and the Police Integrity Commission.
The PIC has said it has made representations to the Attorney General but they couldn’t go any further.
Ms Duroux has also written to NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione but as yet has not received a response.
“It really does feel like the doors are closing. But we’ll find the doors that are still open,” she said.
Ms Duroux says it feels as if Mr Smith is just telling the families to move on, when there are no other avenues to move on.
Colleen Craig-Walker’s mother Muriel Craig told Tracker she was glad she hadn’t attended the meeting with Mr Smith and said she felt “spared” from his words.
She says she had hoped the Attorney General would understand and that he would have sympathy for their plight.
“It’s alright for him to say (move on), but that can’t happen with us. We’re still stuck in one place. I haven’t been able to sleep. I overthink and I stress at night. “He isn’t to going through what we’ve been going through,” Ms Craig
Ms Craig’s main focus is finding her daughter.
“I really want to know what happened to Colleen and where she is. I don’t care who did it or whether they are going to jail. Hate is not going to solve anything. We just want to find her.”
Evelyn Greenup’s mother Rebecca Stadhams told Tracker that she still has nightmares.
“I look at (Evelyn’s) photos.. I think about her. She would have been 27 years old.
“We can’t move on. We’ve got to keep fighting. Sometimes you get tired. You do feel like you want to give up you know.
“Then you kind of look at (the kids’) faces and the pictures and you know you can’t give up. It’s wrong for us to give up.
“We’re still fighting for Evelyn.”
Ms Duroux is currently circulating a paper petition calling for a Royal Commission to State Parliament. It needs 10,000 signatures in order for it be raised for debate in Parliament.
Ms Duroux says she went to NAIDOC Day at Musgrave Park in Brisbane, and was shocked that out of 80 people she petitioned, only two knew about the Bowraville murders.
She says the families will continue fighting for justice.
“We don’t want someone to say ‘I’m sorry’. We want accountability. We want those police officers (in the original investigation) to answer questions. Sorry doesn’t cut it.
“Why has it taken 22 years?”
This is the text of the petition. If you would like a paper copy to circulate, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The petition of certain citizens of NSW notes that:
• Twenty two years ago over a five month period three Aboriginal Children: Colleen Walker-Craig,
Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux were murdered in the small town of Bowraville on
the mid north cost of NSW.
• To date no person has been convicted of these crimes.
• The police investigation of these murders was characterised by flawed communication, crucial
evidence was missed, crime scenes were not properly followed up.
• Although attempts have been made to bring charges in these matters, as yet there has not been
a trial where all three murders were considered together.
• On 8 February 2013 the Attorney General Greg Smith advised that he would not exercise his
power under Section 115 of the Crimes (Appeal and Review) Act 2001 to allow an application to
be filed in the Court of Criminal Appeal seeking a re-trial.
Your petitioners request that the House:
• Support a Royal Commission into the handling of the investigation, failed prosecutions and the
manner in which applications to have the matters referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal were
assessed and rejected.
• Consider whether the Double Jeopardy changes introduced in 2007 are having an intended effect.