The ghosts of Bowraville

By Amy McQuire, November 2013, TRACKER MAGAZINE

Two children on the main street of Bowraville mission. IMAGE: Chris Graham.
Two children on the main street of Bowraville mission. IMAGE: Chris Graham.

NATIONAL: Three children were murdered on the Bowraville mission within five months of each other in 1990 to 1991. Only one man stands accused of these crimes, but thanks to a series of spectacular failures in the original police investigation – and a racist and apathetic justice system – he has never been convicted, writes AMY McQUIRE*.

In the old days of Bowraville, in the days of segregated theatres, cafes and pubs, you were told to respect your elders.

That’s what Elaine Walker learned whilst growing up on Cemetery Road, the stretch of street that cuts through the mission on the north coast of NSW.

“Those elders said you had to respect that man in the blue uniform. And that’s the policeman,” Elaine says. “And he’ll abide by you. My grandfather used to say that.”

Time passed and the grandchildren grew to become elders. The racism hung around the mission like a bad stench, but those lessons died.

They were buried deep by a trauma that ripped the place apart – the unsolved murders of three innocent children.

It was February 1991, and this was the first time in her 48 years that Elaine had confronted the men in blue.

Standing unsheltered from the angry weather drenching her hair, Elaine and the rest of the community pushed against the wooden gate of the police station, as their frustration and sorrow spilt over.

In television footage of the day, screened recently on Channel Seven, Elaine can be seen angrily pointing her finger at then Inspector Bob Moore, one of the most senior police officers in the region.

“What kind of man are you? You’re standing there in a blue uniform and you’re just looking at us. You can’t even say nothing!”

Others at the protest yelled: “How many more of our black kids have to go? We need answers!”

From another angle, shot by the ABC, Elaine’s piercing blue eyes pleaded for those answers.

“Why did you stand there and say you wanted information from us when the black people gave you the information?”

He appeared nonchalant, unaffected: “To do this investigation properly we’ve got to have you people on side and working with us. We can’t be apart, we must be working together.”

He said this knowing what the community didn’t – that the “you people” were the ones actually under investigation.

Three children – Colleen Walker, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy Duroux, 16 – had gone missing from Cemetery Road within months of each other. But the community believed they knew who was responsible.

There was another white man who hung around the mission – a hulking 25-year-old who supplied the alcohol and the drugs.

At that time, the homicide detectives that many had become close to (they occasionally shared a drink with some of the family members) were not working with them, but against them.

The missing children were presumed by authorities to have gone “walkabout”. So police instead were sent in to investigate the mission on suspicions of child abuse.

It was the beginning of a botched investigation that meant the accused killer – who police are now certain is the sole person responsible – has never been convicted. (For information on the botched police investigation, please click here.)

In 1991, even the local mission kids – innocent but with a strong sense of the entrenched racism into which they were born – knew something was wrong.

A young child, only a few years older than Evelyn, had come up to Elaine before the protest and pulled her sleeve, telling her “we have to do something”.

“I had to…” Elaine says, tears welling in her eyes two decades later.

“They said we’re radical. But we’ve got to come out and tell these fellas. We need to find the kids.”

That’s how she found herself pointing her finger at that man in blue, a member of a class she had been told all her life to respect.
Clinton was found days later, and Evelyn a few months following, their bodies discarded near marijuana crops planted by the accused murderer.

Colleen – Elaine’s niece – was never found, although her clothes were later fished from a nearby river and she was formally declared deceased by a coronial inquest in 2006.

16-year-old Colleen Walker’s body has never been found. She disappeared from Bowraville mission in 1990.

The white man accused of killing all three children is Jay Hart, a name he has since abandoned. He has a new identity, a new family and a new job in Newcastle – an easy four-hour drive down the Pacific Highway.

His current employment means he has contact with Aboriginal children. Because he was acquitted of the murders of Clinton and Evelyn he remains a free man – innocent until proven guilty.

But to these families on the mission, his presence, his guilt, hangs like a ghost over the mission.

Back in the old days, white men weren’t allowed there, and if they came near, the young girls would be hidden in the houses. They were taught to respect other white men – the policemen – who had the authority and were supposed to be the wielders of justice.

But for Bowraville residents now, it feels as if little has changed. Blackfellas may be allowed in the theatres, and there’s nothing stopping them from buying a sundae in the quaint cafes, but today, the fate of these families is still in the hands of white men. Or at least one white man.

“We three families have had to sit back and wait for this one white man’s decision,” Elaine says.

“And we are still waiting on that white man’s decision.”

In April this year, Ray Jackson, a prominent campaigner for Indigenous social justice – in fact his association is named just that – received an email from the NSW Attorney General’s office.

Greg Smith, formerly the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), had offered to meet with Mr Jackson and Gail Hickey, the mother of Aboriginal teenager TJ Hickey, who died horrifically in 2004 after being chased by police through Redfern.

Mr Smith’s office also unexpectedly offered a 20-minute meeting with the Bowraville families.

“Originally it was to deal with the Hickey family, but somewhere along the line, the minister’s office included the Bowraville mob because I was also involved with them,” Mr Jackson told Tracker.

“I don’t know whether they thought I was officially representing them in some way.

“I was as surprised as everybody else when he said that he’d be meeting with the Bowraville mob.”

Mr Jackson passed the news on to Leonie Duroux – Clinton’s sister-in-law – who began mobilising family members.

It was even more of a surprise for the Bowraville families.

A month earlier, Mr Smith had knocked back the last avenue for justice – an application calling on his office to refer the case back to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

If the Attorney General had referred it, the court would have then decided whether Jay Hart would be re-trialled under the new evidence in the application.

Law firm Allens – working pro bono for the families – argued the evidence fit the requirements of the newly amended legislation that it be “fresh and compelling”.

Hart had been acquitted of the murder of Clinton in 2001 and was also later acquitted over Evelyn’s murder. The two cases were run as separate trials and the juries were not told of the other murders.

All hope seemed lost until 2006, when the double jeopardy principle was overturned in NSW, allowing a person to be retried for a serious crime in certain circumstances.
The amendments were inspired by the Bowraville case and followed intense and dedicated lobbying by the families.

Allens lodged two requests with the former state Attorney General John Hatzistergos, who knocked it back on both occasions.

With the change of government in 2011, the families were presented with the opportunity to petition the new Attorney General.

For 18 months and after two protests on Macquarie St – the latter of which shut down the busy road for several hours – Mr Smith finally decided he did not believe the evidence would be considered “fresh” by a court, and he cast doubt on the probability of the Court of Criminal Appeal ordering a re-trial.

He also did not believe the evidence would lead to a conviction, even if it went to court.

Mr Smith’s decision – which some in the legal fraternity agree is not an unreasonable one – was overshadowed by his dealings with the family.

The Attorney General never informed the families of his decision personally, and his office told sections of the media before the families knew.

The hurt was compounded by deputy premier Andrew Stoner, who’s electorate takes in Bowraville, when he broke a public promise in late 2011 to travel to the mission and deliver the news in person.

The mid-north coast is not a big place. But Mr Stoner is one white man the families say they’ve never seen near the mission.

A meeting with the Attorney General meant the families were given a brief window to present their case, and perhaps seize on the compassion of a father.

The meeting didn’t go well.

Clinton Speedy Duroux as a young child and a plaque set up in his memory at the site his body was found in 1991. Clinton was 16 when he was murdered on Bowraville mission. IMAGE: Chris Graham
Clinton Speedy Duroux as a young child and a plaque set up in his memory at the site his body was found in 1991. Clinton was 16 when he was murdered on Bowraville mission. IMAGE: Chris Graham

At its core this story is about the stealing of three young lives. The families say race should not bias how we understand the universal pain of burying your children. But they now feel maybe that was too much to hope for.

Clinton’s father Thomas Duroux still lives in the same house on the corner of the mission.

When he walks down the stairs in the morning he cannot escape the park across the road, where there are plaques commemorating the loss.

The events of 1990-1991 are with him most days.

When he first heard about the new evidence – a witness statement by a white truck driver – and the last reasonable chance to put Jay Hart back on the stand, Thomas felt a glimmer of hope.

“You’re thinking finally the white man is on our side for once. And then you find out it can’t be used.”

Thomas laughs his characteristic laugh – courageous, but laced with sadness.

“It knocks you around.”

The night before the meeting he jumped on the train, arriving in Sydney at 7am for the 20-minute slot allotted to the families.

Later that afternoon he would again catch the train and arrive home close to midnight – walking back up those stairs, bitterly disappointed at yet another setback after two decades of campaigning.

Thomas was joined at the meeting by Leonie and his niece Jasmin Speedy, who represented Clinton’s mother June Speedy.

Mr Smith appeared with his Chief of Staff Damien Tudehope and Aboriginal affairs minister Victor Dominello’s Chief of Staff, Verity Lomax.

Jasmin says Mr Smith was “arrogant from the get go”, mistaking Thomas for someone else. To add insult to injury, throughout the brief meeting, the Attorney General occasionally referred to Jay Hart – the accused murderer – as Thomas.

It was only the beginning.

Mr Smith told Clinton’s family that when he used to work at the office of the DPP, he stuck his neck out to recommend for the prosecution of Jay Hart over Evelyn’s murder, despite the case not being strong.

He also spoke about the evidence the families wanted to take to trial. It’s referred to as the ‘Norco Corner evidence’ where a local truck driver saw an unconscious Aboriginal youth lying on the road in front of a white man matching Jay Hart’s description. The evidence was not used in Clinton’s trial.

Mr Smith told the families the evidence would have been disqualified. As a career prosecutor, he said he knew how the system worked and there was an unlikely chance of the court sending it to trial.

If the Court of Criminal Appeal knocked back the submission, the families would lose any further opportunity to put Jay Hart on the stand again if new evidence arose, or in the event he confessed.

After discussing the evidence and his decision, Mr Smith refused to back a Royal Commission into the original botched police investigation – seen by the families as one of the last avenues for justice.

But it was when the issue of Aboriginality arose that the meeting turned icy.

Jasmin Speedy told Tracker: “We tried to tell Greg Smith that this is about race. He said in no circumstance is it about discrimination against Aboriginal people and I said yes it is.

“…I just slammed the table. I said ‘how dare you say that?’ I got fired up.

“If these were three white kids, some poor bastard would have been locked up even if he didn’t’ do it. They would have put someone behind bars to shut the case.”

Leonie – who is white but a prominent campaigner for the families – told Mr Smith that as non-Indigenous Australians “we can’t dispute what the families feel and take away from them what they have gone through.

“It was the families view that racism played a part in the investigation,” she said.

At that point, Leonie asked Mr Smith if he suggested the families should just walk away.

“He answered that in some ways it was probably the best thing to do,” Leonie says.

“He advised that other people walk on and move on with their lives and we had been fighting for a long time.”

Jasmin asked him what he would do if these were his kids.

“He said he’s spoken to lots of people who were family members of murder victims and some of them let go,” Leonie says.

Jasmin continued to ask Mr Smith if he could walk away from three kids who had been murdered, when their murderer was still out living
in the community, and working with Aboriginal children.

At that point, Mr Smith asked Jasmin if she had had grief counselling. He turned to Thomas and asked the same question, and then advised that he would probably need more.

“When he said I should see someone for grief counselling, I was just going to get up and walk away then,” Thomas told Tracker from Bowraville.

“I was just going to get up and walk away because the only thing we really want is justice – not grief counselling or something like that.

“I don’t know (if he’d say that to anyone else).”

After the meeting – which the families say delivered more pain than answers – the Hickey family and Mr Jackson went in to meet Mr Smith.

That meeting was described by Mr Jackson as more positive, but the Attorney General asked him to stay back.

“He said it was of a personal nature,” Mr Jackson told Tracker.

“… He was indignant that I had set up the Bowraville families with false hope of a case being reopened. I said in no way had I set up any expectation with the families whatsoever.

“We didn’t even know they were getting a meeting, let alone me having anything to do with it…. I’m helping them but I have never raised any expectations that anything positive would come out of his office. He didn’t like that.”

Jasmin tells Tracker she was amazed at the arrogance of Mr Smith.

“I went in there thinking we were going to get some sort of answers. But I knew in the back of my head we were just another tick on the box for him.

“It’s not really about helping and supporting the cause for justice for these three kids. It was never about that.”

Muriel Craig Walker told Tracker from her home in Sawtell – about an hour from Bowraville – she felt she couldn’t go to the meeting, and in the end was glad she didn’t.

“He could have shown a bit of compassion towards the family,” she tells Tracker. “And he could have spoken to them in another manner.”

“I don’t want to hear apologies. I want to hear someone say we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that. What’s the use in apologising? That’s not going to heal me. Or make me feel better.”

Tracker requested an interview with the Attorney General, a request that was refused. Mr Smith’s media adviser, Geesche Jacobsen, questioned Tracker on the relevance of this story, on the grounds that it ‘happened a long time ago’.

Four-year-old Evelyn Greenup was murdered on the Bowraville mission in the 90s. No one has been convicted over the crime.
Four-year-old Evelyn Greenup was murdered on the Bowraville mission in the 90s. No one has been convicted over the crime.

Diane Greenup – Evelyn’s first cousin – has all but given up on politicians. “[The Attorney General] is just trying to do his duty,” Diane told Tracker.
“He wants to sweep it under the mat and leave it there, hopefully no body will keep stirring it up.

“He hasn’t come to this community. None of the politicians from around here have come into this community.”

But Bowraville hasn’t given up. If they can’t get the evidence to court, the next step is to look at the double jeopardy legislation. If the evidence is not “fresh”, they want the legislation re-worded.

“(The accused) could have been arrested and charged years ago,” Diane says.

“But because of the botched police investigation, that can’t happen. This fresh and compelling evidence – well we need to get on that and change the wording of that.”

Clarice Greenup – Diane’s mother and Evelyn’s aunty – agrees. The double jeopardy laws were changed with Bowraville in mind.

“But it didn’t work for us did it?” she says.

One politician who stands out among his peers on this issue is Greens MLA David Shoebridge.

He has consistently campaigned for the families, and is now pushing for a parliamentary inquiry into the double jeopardy laws.

He acknowledges there are concerns amongst the legal fraternity about touching the principle, but he can’t understand why other
politicians are shying away from the case.

“I genuinely can’t understand that,” Mr Shoebridge tells Tracker.

“When you talk to the families and you go and talk to the community there is such an obvious need that political representatives do all they can to help them, to not put roadblocks in their path or refuse their legitimate calls for some kind of substantive justice.

“In many ways the double jeopardy laws are laws that cause me deep concern from a civil libertarian perspective – I find it intellectually challenging to balance the general principle of finality in criminal proceedings and the substantive need for justice.

“But if I can overcome these difficulties and advocate for some form of justice, it goes to show that any politician, regardless of political stripes should be able to see why it’s needed to help the community.”

Mr Shoebridge wants a parliamentary inquiry, but at the time of press, was unable to secure the support of the crossbenchers or Labor. Greg Smith, for the record, is also not supportive of an inquiry.

Mr Shoebridge finds it “shocking and unfathomable” that any politician would tell the families of these murdered children to “move on and get over it”.

“I don’t pretend to know the mind of the Attorney General… I do accept that he has a personal view that the application for a re-trial is not sufficiently strong. But the fact is, the law allows for that decision to be made by the Court of Criminal Appeal. If only the Attorney General gives his consent, that would remove the concern from the family and community that this is a political decision, rather than a clinical legal position.”

There are other white men the families have also come to trust. Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin is one of them.

The re-investigation of the Bowraville murders landed on his desk in 1997, and it has been his tireless work and dedication to the families that has pushed the case this far.

He stresses he does not want to give the family false hope. But like the families, he can’t move on. He’s dedicated a large portion of his working career to them and still visits Bowraville to this day, recently returning to the community with the head of homicide Mick Willing.

However, the support is not forthcoming from NSW Police more generally. Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has not visited the community, nor formally responded to official letters from the families.

Colleen Walker’s mother Murial Craig Walker holds a picture of her daughter. IMAGE: Chris Graham.
Colleen Walker’s mother Murial Craig Walker holds a picture of her daughter. IMAGE: Chris Graham.

Muriel, Colleen’s mother, tells Tracker last year he sent her a two sentence email. “He did reply back to me… he said he was sorry for what happened and there was nothing else he could really do.”

But Detective Inspector Jubelin is not one to give up.

“During the reinvestigation which has run for over 15 years we have attempted to obtain all available evidence and explore every investigative opportunity,” he told Tracker earlier this year.

“I am sorry for the families that we have not been able to find them justice. It does not sit well with me as a NSW Homicide Detective that a person responsible for murdering three children has not been called to account.

“To say these three murders are not linked is to ignore the facts. Three children all known to each other living in the same street in a small country town were murdered over a five-month period.

“Their bodies and or the clothing they were wearing at the time of their disappearance were all found in a similar location on the outskirts of town. These murders should have been solved.”

It is 22 years on from that first protest outside Bowraville police station, but the families are busy preparing for another. It will begin in Hyde Park and finish in Macquarie Street outside the NSW Parliament House on November 21. The protest starts at 10 am.

It’s a sign that the strength of these families is still a long way from exhausting. They are still battling against a crippling complacency – this time shown by the national media, the public and our state parliamentarians.

Peter Smith, Councillor for the Mid North Coast region knows that first hand – he’s the Councillor who extracted a promise from Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner in 2011 that Mr Stoner would visit the community of Bowraville to deliver the news of a review of the case personally. It never happened.

Councillor Smith said the community was owed an explanation.

“Please pick up the phone Andrew, and ring me and tell me why you didn’t keep your promise to the community of Bowraville. They want to know, and I want to know.”

“The NSW Government needs to treat the people of Bowraville the way they would themselves expected to be treated, and the way any community which has suffered a significant trauma should be treated.

“What’s stunning to me is that this should even have to be pointed out.

“I’d ask people reading this story to ask themselves one simple question: Would this have happened if it was three non Aboriginal kids? I think the answer is pretty obvious.”

For their part, the resolve of the community remains unbowed – they will keep on fighting. This is about three kids and their families who are haunted by ghosts.

Colleen, Evelyn and Clinton have not left them, but the memories that should contain the beauty of their short lives are instead tainted by the circumstances of their death, and the enduring injustice that surrounds it.

And it is not only the ghosts of their children – it is the crushing presence of Jay Hart. It has stunted the future of a community which, instead of thriving, is tormented by the continual failures of a criminal justice system and a strong belief that there are two laws in this country – one for the blacks and one for the whites.

The families don’t want to see these ghosts – they want the large familiar shape of Jay Hart to materialize on the witness stand. They want him before a jury again – one last opportunity for justice; one day in court in exchange for those countless days at the cemetery.

Muriel Craig Walker doesn’t have a grave over which to mourn nor lay flowers. She is still looking for Colleen, whose remains have never been found.

“Most likely when I die, the kids and the grandkids will keep looking for Colleen.”

She breaks down in tears mid-sentence.

“I’m so lucky because of my children… we are close.”

She’s tired, and occasionally sick, but she is still strong in her conviction that something needs to be done.
Evelyn Greenup’s mother Rebecca Stadhams told Tracker earlier this year that “sometimes you do get tired”.

“But then you kind of look at (the kids’) faces and the pictures and you know you can’t give up. It’s wrong to give up. We’re still fighting for Evelyn.”

Diane Greenup doesn’t believe anyone would give up if faced with the same circumstances.

“If (Greg Smith)’s kids were taken the way our kids were taken he’d be still fighting. He’d fight with every ounce of his body to get justice for his child,” she says.

And Thomas Duroux also stays defiant, despite the two decades of sorrow that should have broken him.

“While it’s still dragging on we are never going to give up. There’s no way in the world.

“No way in the world.”

* Amy McQuire is the editor of Tracker.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

There are a myriad of ways you can assist the community of Bowraville in their campaign for justice:

1. Attend the protest at NSW Parliament House on November 21st. Protestors will be assembling at the northern end of Hyde Park at 10 am.

2. If you can’t attend the protest, wear red, yellow or black on November 21st as a show of support for the Bowraville community.

3. Organise a local activity in your community – it can be a community gathering or protest. The offices of NSW Parliamentarians are a good place to stage the protest.

4. Write to your local NSW parliamentary member, and ask them why the Bowraville community have been treated so poorly. If your letter goes unanswered, write again and then ring.

5. Write to the NSW Commissioner of Police. Address your correspondence to Commissioner of Police, Andrew Scipione, 1 Charles St, Parramatta NSW 2150. You can also send an email to the Police Commissioner at the following link: http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/contact_us

6. Contact your local newspaper, or radio or TV station and ask why they aren’t covering the Bowraville Murders more comprehensively. It doesn’t matter where you live in Australia – this is a national news story and should be covered by all media.

7. Write to Tracker Magazine with a message of support for the Bowraville community. We’ll pass on your message. You can email us at trackeralc.org.au or write to Tracker magazine, 33 Argyle St, Parramatta NSW 2150.

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