The three killings took place in the rural timber town of Bowraville on New South Wales' Mid North Coast region. There were several similarities between the disappearances that led police to believe that they were committed by the same killer:
- The murders 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 blunt force trauma to the head.
- All three victims disappeared after parties in the Aboriginal community in Bowraville, in an area known as The Mission.
There were three victims in the series of killings. The first person to disappear was 16-year-old Colleen Walker, who was reported missing on 13 September 1990. 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.
Victim 1 – Colleen Walker
The first victim, Colleen Walker, was last seen alive at a party in The Mission, in the Aboriginal community, on 13 September 1990. The last positive sighting of Colleen was walking away from a group of people at the party. She was reported missing to the police the following day by her family. Despite the family being sure that something terrible had happened, the missing persons report was not taken seriously by police; no search parties were formed and no formal police action was taken.
Walker's body has not been found, although her weighted down clothes were later found by a fisherman in the Nambucca River. Much media commentary assumed Walker was from Bowraville, but she was visiting family and friends and was from Sawtell.
Victim 2 – Evelyn Greenup
Two-and-a-half weeks after the disappearance of Walker, 4-year-old Evelyn Greenup disappeared after a party at The Mission, on 4 October 1990. She was last seen by her mother as she was put to bed some time 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.
Greenup's skeletal remains were found six months later in bushland near the side of the road, about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from Bowraville. 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-Duroux
Approximately three months after the disappearance of Greenup, 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux went missing after a party at The Mission. He was last seen leaving the party on his way to a house to sleep.
Speedy-Duroux's remains were found about two weeks later by farmers who were collecting wood.
Investigation and prosecution
In spite of two trials and a coroner's inquest, no one has been successfully prosecuted for the murders.
Arrest of Thomas Jay Hart
On 8 April 1991, a local Bowraville labourer, 25-year-old Thomas Jay Hart, was arrested for the murder of Clinton Speedy. Hart was well known in the Aboriginal community in Bowraville, and often attended the parties at The Mission.
On 16 October 1991, while on bail awaiting trial, Hart was arrested and charged with the murder of Evelyn Greenup. Despite a strong circumstantial case, Hart was acquitted of Speedy's murder by a Supreme Court jury on 18 February 1994, the third anniversary of the discovery of his body.
After the acquittal on the Speedy case, prosecutors did not proceed with the trial against Hart for the Evelyn Greenup murder.
Evelyn Greenup trial
In 1997, the New South Wales Police Commissioner Peter Ryan set up Task Force Ancud, to continue the investigation into the unsolved murders. In February 2004, an inquest was held into the murders, and as a result Thomas Jay Hart was charged again, this time for the murder of Evelyn Greenup.
The trial was conducted in February 2006. The prosecution provided strong evidence including two supposed confessions made by Hart. Despite the evidence and confessions, Hart was acquitted on 3 March 2006.
The murders, and the fact that to date 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 Hart 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 Colleen Walker.
In November 2011 bones were found believed to be Colleen Walker-Craig but they were DNA tested and turned out to be animal remains.
In 2006, changes were made to double jeopardy legislation in NSW opening the way for retrial of any person acquitted of a life-sentence offence if "fresh and compelling evidence" was uncovered. On 8 February 2013, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, Greg Smith, chose to re-try all three cases in separate trials. The families of the three children have called for a Royal Commission to enquire into the conduct of the police investigation.
Facebook pages have been set up for victims families: Justice for Colleen Walker-Craig.
Submission to Attorney-General
In May 2016 The Australian newspaper released a weekly podcast examining the murders of the 3 children. Narrated by crime reporter Dan Box, the podcast resulted in significant national attention being placed on the three unsolved murders.
In May 2016, the detective-inspector leading the investigation made a submission to the Attorney-General calling for a retrial of the prime suspect based on new evidence.
9 February 2017 police laid a murder charge against a man previously tried and acquitted of the murders of Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux. A decision on whether the case can continue is reliant on the outcome of an application to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal by the Attorney-General regarding a re-trial.
- Australian Story – Truth be Told – Transcript, 2006-09-04, abc.net.au
- Lone cop to tell inquest name of killer suspect, By Alex Mitchell, 2004-02-08, The Sun-Herald
- ABC Radio National – Background Briefing: 20 July 1997 – The Ghosts Of Bowraville
- Aborigine murder case is re-opened, By Kathy Marks, 14 May 2005, independent.co.uk
- Accused spoke of killing girl, court told, By Natasha Wallace, 2006-02-07, The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Reward of $250,000 to solve deaths of Evelyn Greenup, Clinton Speedy-Duroux and Colleen Walker, 2007-02-05, NSW Police Force
- Crimes (Appeal and Review) Amendment (Double Jeopardy) Bill Crimes (Appeal and Review) Amendment (DNA Review Panel) Bill Archived 30 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine., 2006-09-27, PARLIAMENT OF NEW SOUTH WALES
- "Bowraville murders:New evidence to be used in application to retry suspect". ABC News. Australia. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
- "Bowraville murders: Man charged for second time over deaths of Aboriginal children 9 February 2017". ABC. Retrieved 9 February 2017.