Aboriginal body seeks retrial

AUSTRALIA’S largest Aboriginal body has called on the NSW Government to reconsider "fresh and compelling evidence" surrounding the murders of three Aboriginal children at Bowraville two decades ago.

In late 1990 and early 1991, Colleen Walker, aged 16, her four-year-old cousin, Evelyn Greenup, and 16-year-old Clinton Speedy all disappeared from the Bowraville Mission over a six-month period.

The bodies of Evelyn and Clinton were found in bushland in early 1991, both with head injuries.

Colleen’s body has never been recovered, although her clothing was found weighted down in the Nambucca River. Police charged a local man with all three murders but he was acquitted in two separate trials.

Earlier this month a Freedom of Information request from the children’s families uncovered a secret police report which found "fresh and compelling evidence" in the cases.

Bev Manton, chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, called on Attorney-General John Hatzistergos to immediately review the decision not to pursue fresh charges against the prime suspect.

“It is an extraordinary case, yet it’s failed to capture the imagination of the people of NSW like other cases, such as the disappearance of Samantha Knight,” Ms Manton said.

“Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder why that is.

“I find it hard to accept that there hasn’t been enough evidence to convict someone. It certainly isn’t a result of a lack of co-operation from Aboriginal people.”

The relatives were dealt a crushing blow in October when Mr Hatzistergos decided not to use new double jeopardy laws to permit a retrial. Mr Hatzistergos explained the Crown Advocate, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Solicitor General, all formed the view there was no reasonable prospect of success.

“I can’t bring myself to read the letter to our solicitors fully - it makes me too angry,” Leonie Duroux, the sister-in-law of Clinton Speedy-Duroux, told the Advocate.

“We are still digesting it, but it’s not over yet – as far as we are concerned we are going to continue,” she said.

A coroner’s inquest in 2004 found Colleen Walker was likely murdered, linking all three killings. Double jeopardy says the same person cannot be tried twice for the same crime, but relatives of the children pushed for changes to the law.

The 2006 law change in NSW allowed a new trial of an acquitted person for the same crime only if there is "fresh and compelling" evidence.

In 2007, despite what police said was a compelling case based on fresh evidence, the Director of Public Prosecutions ruled the man would not be re-tried.

The family decided to apply to the Attorney-General, hoping he would use different legislation and send the matter to the Court of Criminal Appeal. But that hope has now been dashed.

A member of the team helping the Bowraville families said another hope is that a new Attorney-General takes office after the March 2011 state election.

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