A man accused of the murders of three Aboriginal children on Bowraville mission “denied making admissions” of guilt to an informer, his defence lawyer said in a hearing to determine whether the man will face a retrial.
In 1990-1991, three Aboriginal children — Colleen Walker, 16, Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, and Evelyn Greenup, four — went missing within months of each other in Bowraville on the NSW Mid North Coast.
The man — who cannot be named for legal reasons — was acquitted in separate trials over the deaths of Speedy-Duroux and Greenup.
No-one has ever been charged over Colleen’s death. Her body has never been recovered, and she was declared deceased by a coroner in 2004.
The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal will decide whether there is “fresh and compelling” evidence to quash those two acquittals, and allow for a retrial for all three deaths, including Colleen’s.
The prosecution began its submissions yesterday, with Wendy Abraham QC telling the court the case would partly rely on evidence surrounding the disappearance of Colleen, as well as the evidence of four informants who she said the man had confessed to when in prison.
She said although she accepted there were issues with informer evidence, “the strength” in evidence comes from there being four of them.
But the man’s defence lawyer Mark Ierace SC told the hearing today “it doesn’t carry its weight.”
Ierace told the court police had used one informer, who alleged the man had previously told him about one murder, to try and extract an “electronic” confession from the man.
In the conversation, Ierace told the court, the man had “freely admitted” to smoking cannabis to the informer, but had not admitted guilt.
“He had every opportunity and reason for him to admit it, and then he didn’t," Ierace told the hearing. "He maintained he was innocent and he had never told anyone else (about his guilt).”
Ierace also said that in the case of two informers “there was clearly communication between (them)”, with one informer warning the man that the other was a police informant.
He also said that one informer had approached police after watching a piece about Bowraville on former TV show Australia’s Most Wanted, and that the facts obtained in the alleged confession were either known inside prison, or were detailed in the television program.
Abraham yesterday told the hearing the application “couldn’t succeed on informer evidence” alone and conceded the evidence’s “strength comes from the fact there’s four of them.”
She said the evidence was “independent with no evidence of collusion”.
She told the hearing yesterday that if the evidence surrounding the death of Colleen Walker is not considered by the court as “fresh”, the informer evidence could be taken into account to consider whether the evidence is “compelling”.
The families have waited over a decade to send their application back to the Court of Criminal Appeal, which will consider whether the man will be tried again over the three deaths.
It followed the historic overturning of the double jeopardy principle in NSW in 2006, which allows for a retrial in the case of “fresh and compelling” evidence.
The defence will continue its submission tomorrow.