The scene of the Whiskey Au Go-Go firebombing
The scene of the Whiskey Au Go-Go firebombing

Time for truth about fire tragedy

LAST year, on Friday, June 2, Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath issued a formal statement from her office ordering a fresh inquest into the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub tragedy that killed 15 innocent people in Brisbane in 1973.

D'Ath's decision came the day after criminal Vincent O'Dempsey, from Warwick, was sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of Barbara McCulkin and her two daughters, Vicki and Leanne, in 1974.

During the sentencing hearing, O'Dempsey read a handwritten speech, proclaiming his innocence in the McCulkin murders.

He also said he had nothing to do with the Whiskey atrocity.

The Whiskey Au Go-Go ablaze on March 8, 19873
The Whiskey Au Go-Go ablaze on March 8, 19873

That crime has remained a vortex of conjecture since the club was torched in the early hours of March 8, 1973.

While criminals John Andrew Stuart and James Finch were found guilty of burning the Whiskey, talk has never stopped that there were others involved in the crime, including corrupt police.

Late last month O'Dempsey's appeal against his conviction, and that of his co-accused, Garry Reginald Dubois, from the Fraser Coast, were heard, the judges reserving their decisions.

While it was understandable that nothing about the Whiskey could be raised before the appeals had been heard, the Attorney-General's three-sentence press release about ordering a new inquest was made almost 14 months ago.

In the release she reiterated: "There is no doubt there is significant public interest in getting answers in relation to the Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing in 1973 in which 15 people died."

The interior of the Whiskey Au Go-Go after the blaze
The interior of the Whiskey Au Go-Go after the blaze

That is an understatement.

News Queensland has learned that dozens of people have been interviewed by police in their preparation for the inquest.

But just like the Whiskey tragedy itself, rumours have circulated over the past year that police did not have sufficient resources to deal with the work required for the coroner.

One minute the word is that a crack team of detectives has been attached to the inquest.

The next, police sources say that the team tasked with the Whiskey has been reduced to a bare minimum.

Meanwhile, those lucky enough to have survived that terrible night, and the families of the victims, have been waiting patiently for the fresh inquest to finally be heard.

How is this situation any different from the previous 45 years, each one of those years riven with the belief that the full story of the Whiskey had yet to be told?

Barbara McCulkin and daughters Leanne and Vicki disappeared from their Highgate Hill home in 1974.
Barbara McCulkin and daughters Leanne and Vicki disappeared from their Highgate Hill home in 1974.

Some of those waiting for the inquest have given up hope that it will even happen. Others are quietly patient. Meanwhile, "significant public interest" remains on hold.

Make no mistake, if the truth behind the Whiskey is ever revealed it will expose a cover-up of monstrous proportions, involving both police and members of the underworld.

Here was a conspiracy that held tight for almost five decades.

But enough is enough.

It is incumbent upon the Attorney-General and the government to at the very least inform the community of the state of this new inquest.

Many thousands of Queenslanders want and need to know.

And the fifteen souls who perished that night deserve, at the very least, that mark of respect.



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