Bruce Burrell

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Bruce Allan Burrell
Born(1953-01-25)25 January 1953[1]
Died4 August 2016(2016-08-04) (aged 63)
OccupationAdvertising executive
Criminal statusDied in custody
Conviction(s)Murder x 2
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment+ 44 years

Bruce Allan Burrell (25 January 1953 – 4 August 2016) was an Australian convicted kidnapper and double murderer, who in 2006 was sentenced to serve life imprisonment plus 44 years for the 1995 murder of 74-year-old Dorothy Davis and the 1997 murder of 39-year-old Kerry Whelan, neither of whom was ever found, with Burrell not revealing the location of his victims' bodies. Burrell died at the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick, whilst still in prison custody on 4 August 2016, aged 63, from lung and liver cancer.[2]

Legal cases[edit]

Murder of Kerry Whelan[edit]

Kerry Whelan was last seen getting into a Mitsubishi Pajero four-wheel-drive with Burrell leaving the Parkroyal Hotel in Parramatta during May 1997, the day after which Whelan's husband Bernie Whelan received a $1 million ransom note.[3][4] Whelan's body has never been found[4] The kidnap and conviction became one of Australia's most infamous crimes.

Burrell, who had been a friend and former employee of the Whelan family, was charged in 1999, which were subsequently dropped, but re-instated in 2002, after a formal inquest. The first trial in 2005 ended with a hung jury, but Burrell was convicted on the second trial in 2006. Burrell was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and 16 years’ jail for the kidnapping charge.[3] Burrell was unsuccessful in an appeal against his conviction and sentence to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, constituted by the Chief Judge at Common Law, Peter McClellan and Justices Sully and James.[5] The Court of Criminal Appeal discovered it had made factual errors in its judgment and purported to reopen the appeal, heard from the parties before confirming its orders dismissing the appeal.[6] On 31 July 2008 the High Court held that the Court of Criminal Appeal had no power to reopen the appeal after the orders had been formally recorded and that the error in the judgment on 16 March 2007 meant that those orders must be set aside and the matter remitted to the Court of Criminal Appeal.[3][4] The Court of Criminal Appeal, Beazley JA, Grove and Howie JJ dismissed the appeals.[7]

Dorothy Davis[edit]

Dorothy Davis was a 74-year-old wealthy widow living in Lurline Bay, Sydney. On 30 May 1995, Davis left her apartment to visit Burrell's wife. She was never seen again. Burrell was charged with Davis's murder and later found guilty by a jury, stating financial gain as a motive.[8] Burrell was sentenced to 28 years in prison with a non parole period of 21 years.[1] Burrell's appeal against his conviction and sentence was dismissed in 2009.[9] Burrell sought special leave to appeal to the High Court but this was refused.[10]


  1. ^ a b R v Bruce Allan Burrell (No 3) [2008] NSWSC 30 (8 February 2008), Supreme Court (NSW, Australia).
  2. ^ Ralston, Nick (4 August 2016). "Double murderer Bruce Burrell dies without revealing his victims' whereabouts". Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Burrell v The Queen [2008] HCA 34, (2008) 238 CLR 218 "judgment summary" (PDF). High Court. 31 July 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Brown, M (31 August 2008). "Burrell granted new hearing]". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  5. ^ Burrell v R [2007] NSWCCA 65 (16 March 2007), Court of Criminal Appeal (NSW, Australia).
  6. ^ Burrell v R [2007] NSWCCA 79 (23 March 2007), Court of Criminal Appeal (NSW).
  7. ^ Burrell v R [2009] NSWCCA 163 (17 June 2009), Court of Criminal Appeal (NSW, Australia).
  8. ^ R v Burrell - Dorothy Davis - LIAC Crime Library - Research guides at State Library of New South Wales
  9. ^ Burrell v R [2009] NSWCCA 193 (31 July 2009), Court of Criminal Appeal (NSW, Australia).
  10. ^ Burrell v The Queen [2010] HCATrans 141 (28 May 201), High Court (Australia).