The Bowraville murders were a series of killings that took place over a period of 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. The prime suspect, a local labourer, was charged and tried twice - in 1994 and 2006 - but was acquitted both times. On 13 September 2018, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal decided that the prime suspect could not be retried for the murders. On March 22, 2019, the High Court of Australia confirmed this 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 September 13, 1990; her body has not been found. The second to disappear was Walker's cousin, Evelyn Greenup, on October 4, 1990. The third victim was 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux on February 1, 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 Walker
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 September 13, 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 Greenup
On October 4, 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 April 27, 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-Duroux
On January 31, 1991, 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux went missing after a party at The Mission. On February 18, his remains were discovered in bushland near Congarinni Road about seven kilometres outside Bowraville.
Investigation and prosecution
Arrest and acquittal
On April 8, 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 October 16, 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 February 18, 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 trial
In 1997, the New South Wales Police Commissioner Peter Ryan set up Task Force Ancud to continue the investigation into the unsolved murders. On February 9, 2004, the NSW Coroner John Abernethy reopened the inquests into Evelyn Greenup's death and the suspected death of Colleen Walker. On September 10, 2004, he recommended a known person be charged afresh with Evelyn Greenup's murder. As a result, the Bowraville labourer, Jay Hart, 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 March 3, 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.
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. The families of the three children called for a Royal Commission to inquire into the conduct of the police investigation.
Facebook pages were set up for victims' families: Justice for Colleen Walker-Craig.
Application for a retrial
In 2016, the detective-inspector leading the investigation made a submission to the NSW Attorney-General calling for a retrial of the prime suspect based on new evidence. In the same month, the prime suspect said in an interview that he welcomed a retrial.
On February 9, 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.
On November 28, 2017, a hearing began at the Court of Criminal Appeal. On 13 September 2018, the court decided that the prime suspect could not be retried for the murders.
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- Aborigine murder case is re-opened, By Kathy Marks, 14 May 2005, independent.co.uk
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- 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
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- "Bowraville murder case set back as NSW Government loses bid to have man face trial". ABC News. Australia. 22 March 2019. Retrieved 22 March 2019.