The Bowraville murders is the name given to three deaths that occurred over five months from September 1990 to February 1991 in Bowraville, New South Wales, Australia. All three victims were Aboriginal. All three victims disappeared after parties in the Aboriginal community in Bowraville, in an area known as The Mission. A local labourer, who was regarded by police as the prime suspect, was charged with two of the murders but was acquitted following trials in 1994 and 2006. On 13 September 2018, the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal decided that the man could not be retried for the murders. On 22 March 2019, the High Court of Australia refused an application by the Attorney General of New South Wales to bring an appeal against that decision.
The killings took place in the rural timber town of Bowraville in New South Wales' Mid North Coast region. The first person to disappear was 16-year-old Colleen Walker, who was reported missing on 13 September 1990; her body has not been found. The second to disappear was Walker's cousin, Evelyn Greenup, on 4 October 1990. The third victim was 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux on 1 February 1991.
Several similarities between the disappearances that led police to believe that they were committed by the same killer:
- All took place within the short time frame of five months.
- All three victims were Aboriginal.
- Autopsies of the two bodies that were found, indicate both suffered trauma to the head.
- All three victims disappeared after parties in the Aboriginal community in Bowraville, in an area known as The Mission.
Victim 1 – Colleen WalkerEdit
The first victim, Colleen Walker, lived in Sawtell and was in Bowraville visiting relatives. She was last seen alive at a party in the Aboriginal community of The Mission, on 13 September 1990. She was seen walking away from a group of people at the party and the following day her family reported to the police that she was missing. Despite the family believing something terrible had happened, the missing person's report was not taken seriously by police; no search parties were formed and no formal police action was taken.
Victim 2 – Evelyn GreenupEdit
On 4 October 1990, four-year-old Evelyn Greenup disappeared after a party at her grandmother's house. She was last seen by her mother as she was put to bed sometime during the night. The next morning she was gone from her bed. Her grandmother later recalled hearing her cry out in the night but did not think much of it at the time.
On 27 April 1991, Evelyn Greenup's skeletal remains were found in bushland near Congarinni Road. An autopsy could not conclusively determine the cause of death, but noted that a skull injury was "consistent with a forceful penetration by a sharp instrument".
Victim 3 – Clinton Speedy-DurouxEdit
On 31 January 1991, 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux went missing after a party at The Mission. On 18 February his remains were discovered in bushland near Congarinni Road about seven kilometres outside Bowraville.
Investigation and prosecutionEdit
Arrest and acquittalEdit
On 8 April 1991, a local Bowraville labourer was arrested for the murder of Clinton Speedy-Duroux. He was well known in the Aboriginal community in Bowraville and often attended the parties at The Mission. On 16 October 1991, while out on bail awaiting trial, the man was arrested and charged with the murder of Evelyn Greenup. Facing a circumstantial case, he was acquitted of Speedy-Duroux's murder by a Supreme Court jury on 18 February 1994, the third anniversary of the discovery of Speedy-Duroux's body. After the acquittal, prosecutors did not proceed with the trial against him for the murder of Evelyn Greenup.
Evelyn Greenup trialEdit
In 1997, the New South Wales Police Commissioner Peter Ryan set up Task Force Ancud to continue the investigation into the unsolved murders. On 9 February 2004, the NSW Coroner John Abernethy reopened the inquests into Evelyn Greenup's death and the suspected death of Colleen Walker. On 10 September 2004, he recommended a known person be charged afresh with Evelyn Greenup's murder. As a result, the Bowraville labourer was charged again, this time for the murder of Evelyn Greenup. The trial was conducted in February 2006. The prosecution produced two supposed confessions made by the man, but he was acquitted on 3 March 2006.
The murders, and the fact that no one has been convicted of the crimes, is a source of pain and bitterness in the Aboriginal community in Bowraville.
After the acquittal of the suspect in 2006, the NSW Police Minister raised the reward to $250,000 for information leading to the conviction of the persons responsible for the murders. The previous reward was $100,000, and it was only for information related to the disappearance of Colleen Walker. In November 2011, bones were found believed to be Colleen Walker but they were DNA tested and turned out to be animal remains.
Application for a retrialEdit
In 2016, the detective inspector leading the investigation made a submission to the NSW Attorney General calling for a retrial of the man based on new evidence. In the same month, the man said in an interview that he welcomed a retrial.
On 9 February 2017, police laid a murder charge against the man previously tried and acquitted of the murders of Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, and the NSW Attorney General applied to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal for a retrial.
The Attorney General's application was heard by the Court of Criminal Appeal beginning on 29 November 2017. The Attorney General needed to identify "fresh and compelling" evidence in order to have the man's acquittals quashed and to obtain an order for a retrial. On 13 September 2018, the Court dismissed the application, concluding that none of the evidence was "fresh and compelling" and that the man therefore could not be retried for the murders. The Court concluded that most of the evidence relied upon was not "fresh", because it was available to be tendered or brought forward prior to the earlier trial of the man for the murder of Evelyn Greenup.
On 22 March 2019, the High Court of Australia refused an application by the Attorney General for special leave to appeal against the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal, concluding that there was no reason to doubt the correctness of that decision.
- Dan Box, Bowraville, Viking, 2019.
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