Unsolved crimes that shook the coast

IT'S the stuff of nightmares.

Disturbing cold cases of children who have disappeared, missing women, murdered backpackers - and in some of these cases no justice and resolve for the families of the victims.

From recent high profile cases like the disappearance of William Tyrrell to decades-old murders, here are some of the chilling true crime cases that have taken place right on our doorstep, and where justice is yet to be served.

WARNING: Disturbing content.


LITTLE SPIDERMAN: William Tyrrell went missing from outside his grandmother's house in Kendall.
LITTLE SPIDERMAN: William Tyrrell went missing from outside his grandmother's house in Kendall. Contributed

The disappearance of William Tyrrell

ONE of Australia's biggest investigations in recent history, the disappearance of William Tyrrell still remains shrouded in mystery.

With thousands of calls to Crime Stoppers and a $1million reward on offer, the investigation continues with no trace of William being found.

In September of 2014, the then three-year-old toddler vanished from outside his foster grandmother's remote home on the outskirts of Kendall on the mid north coast.

He was wearing a spiderman suit while playing with his older foster sister when he disappeared within a five minute timeframe.

With large stretches of bushland surrounding the house, a frantic rescue operation began.

SES, police, sniffer dogs, polair and locals all joined in on what would be one of the largest manhunts in Australia.

Specialist police including sex crimes squad began an investigation, Strike Force Rosann.

Police canvassed local residents and examined possible sightings around the state.

A week after he disappeared the search was scaled back as health experts declared it would be almost impossible for the three-year-old to still be alive.

William's foster parents and biological parents, Karlie Tyrrell and Brendan Collins, have been ruled out as suspects.

It was recently revealed there was a history of domestic violence between Karlie Tyrrell and Brendan Collins, leading to William being removed from their care at eight months old.

In late 2017, police revealed 'hundreds' of persons of interest had been eliminated during the year.

There have been several theories put forth to explain the disappearance of William Tyrell, the most significant that he was abducted by an opportunistic stranger. In 2015, police began investigating the possibility he was abducted by a paedophile ring operating close to where the toddler disappeared.

Despite this, search efforts and forensic testing have failed to turn up any trace of William to this day, and his disappearance remains unsolved.


Sharon Edwards disappeared from Grafton in 2015.
Sharon Edwards disappeared from Grafton in 2015. Adam Hourigan

The disappearance of Sharon Edwards

THE circumstances surrounding the alleged murder of primary school teacher Sharon Edwards are yet to be determined as husband John Edwards awaits trial at Cessnock Correctional Centre.

Edwards was extradited from Brisbane in June last year and charged with Sharon's alleged murder.

Mother-of-three and grandmother Sharon was last seen in March 2015, after leaving a Grafton Hotel at around 10.30pm.

Detectives allege Mr and Mrs Edwards had an altercation, which caused her death.

The body of the 55-year-old has not been found.


Ineka Hinkley, 20, disappeared in 1996 and was found murdered near Coffs Harbour.
Ineka Hinkley, 20, disappeared in 1996 and was found murdered near Coffs Harbour. Instagram

The murder of Ineka Hinkley

ON NOVEMBER 6, 1996, Ineka Hinkley's decomposing body was found in bushland near the Pine Creek truck stop near Bongil Bongil State Forest.

She had been strangled and sexually abused.

The 20-year-old musician had disappeared in October 1996 while hitch-hiking her way up the NSW coast.

She had set off from her Eltham home in Melbourne to try her hand at busking in Lismore.

Little is known about her last movements.

In an inquest into her death in May, 2004, Wendy Vorhauer came forward claiming her estranged partner Murray Cavanagh had killed Ineka at Pine Creek.

She claimed he had confessed to the murder during an argument in January, 1997.

However, coroner Peter Rheinverger was suspicious Ms Vorhauer made the claim as revenge on Mr Cavanagh and ruled that there was not enough evidence to charge anyone.

Mr Cavanagh denied meeting Ineka or being involved in her death.

He was never arrested, and could not be found to give evidence in person.

Ineka Hinkley's death remains unsolved.


Rose Howell disappeared while hitch-hiking from Bellingen in 2003.
Rose Howell disappeared while hitch-hiking from Bellingen in 2003.

The disappearance of Rose Howell

ON April 11, 2003, teenager Rose Howell reportedly left her home in Bundagen for Bellingen in 'good spirits' in what would be the last time her family would see her.

She was planning a party for her upcoming 19th birthday and spent the morning designing invitations at Bellingen Library.

Sporting a black tank top with dark grey jeans and a distinctive mohawk, Rose left the library with a plan to hitch-hike her way back to her home in Bundagen.

She was last seen hitch-hiking north on the Pacific Hwy near the old turn-off to Perry Hill and Repton.

Some weeks after her disappearance, police received an anonymous letter claiming Rose was dead, but appeals to find the writer have been fruitless.

In December, 2012, a convicted armed robber contacted Crime Stoppers claiming responsibility along with an unidentified accomplice for Rose's disappearance.

A coroner expressed doubts over the confession, believing he may have only put himself forward to get publicity in jail.

Rose would have turned 34 this year, more than 15 years after her disappearance.

To this day no arrests have been made and her whereabouts remain a mystery.


Susan Maree Kiely went missing almost 30 years ago.
Susan Maree Kiely went missing almost 30 years ago.

The disappearance of Susan Kiely

MOTHER-of-two Susan Kiely was last seen leaving a friend's house in Bellingen on December 1, 1989.

It wasn't until a week later when she was reported missing by her ex-husband, Robert Smith of Valla.

After a "hopeless and below standard" investigation, there are several theories behind the then 33-year-old's disappearance.

On December 1, the last day she was seen, Susan saw her daughter onto the school bus.

From there she hitched a ride from local residents and was said to be in 'good spirits', saying she was visiting a friend.

She was dropped off on the corner of Church and Hyde streets and went to her friend's home at 2 Short St, now the site of the Bellingen YHA.

She hasn't been seen since she left the home and her body has never been found.

At a coronial inquest in Coffs Harbour in 2010, coroner Scott Mitchell said the investigation into Susan's presumed death was "hopeless".

He said by the time she was reported missing the "trail had cooled off".

The court heard she had a history of 'moderate domestic violence' and drug and alcohol abuse.

Susan's ex-husband Robert Smith, who reported her missing, told the court he believed she had overdosed on drugs while with her friends and they had hidden and buried her body.

Detective Senior Constable Kelly French, however, told the court police suspected Mr Smith was responsible for her disappearance.

He said Mr Smith would have had to sell his home and provide his ex-wife with $35,000 had she not gone missing, and also brought to light Mr Smith had been violent to Susan in the past.

Susan was also seeking full custody of their two daughters.

A close friend of Susan's, Anne Fitzhenry had another theory.

She told the court Susan was about to go to police with information over the death of her friend, claiming he had been murdered.

However, there was no evidence of foul play over the friend's death.

Ms Fitzhenry also told the court Susan had visited her house three weeks before her disappearance intoxicated with two males.

She said the men were telling Susan they were going to "kill" her "one day".

Around the same time as her disappearance the local council had laid landfill near the house where she was last seen, but the site was never investigated for human remains.

Following the inquest, the Coroner said there was not enough evidence to come to a conclusion about Susan Kiely's fate.


The remains of Lee Stace were found in Yuraygir National Park around a month after she went missing in 1997.
The remains of Lee Stace were found in Yuraygir National Park around a month after she went missing in 1997. Bill North

The murder of Lee Stace

IT'S been more than 20 years since the remains of teenager Lee Ellen Stace were discovered by campers in Yuraygir National Park, and no arrests over her disturbing murder have been made.

On September 2, 1997, the 16-year-old finished her shift at her new job as a check out operator at a Bi-Lo Supermarket in Yamba.

Rather than taking the bus home as usual, she decided to hitch-hike 35km back to her home in Brooms Head.

It was the last time she was seen alive.

Around a month later her remains were found scattered at a secluded camping site at Red Cliff.

The cause of death could not be determined, but evidence showed the murder was violent in nature.

Police said her clothes had been removed, meaning she was likely sexually assaulted.

A lump of timber with traces of her hair and blood found near her remains was later confirmed to be the murder weapon.

A Coronial inquest into her death in 2009 identified three suspects, the main suspect Anthony Charles Apps who is currently serving a sentence for the 2003 murder of Christopher Lamb, and has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

As reported by The Daily Examiner, Apps was 22 at the time, had been convicted of minor crimes and was under investigation (but not charged) over a number of sexual offences.

He lived down the road from Lee.

A $100,000 reward is on offer for information on the murder of Lee Stace.


Jasmine Morris, who also went by the name Jasmine Moore, disappeared in 2009.
Jasmine Morris, who also went by the name Jasmine Moore, disappeared in 2009. Contributed

The disappearance of Jasmine Morris

Eight years after her disappearance Jasmine Morris' bank accounts remain untouched as her whereabouts is still a mystery.

The then 19-year-old was last seen by her brother outside a South Grafton Bi-Lo on October, 2009.

According to police, there was no particular reason for her to disappear.

Soon after she went missing several sightings were reported from Woody Head to Coffs Harbour, however they failed to turn up any leads.

After the case was re-opened in 2013, a tip-off saw police launch an extensive search of a farm in South Grafton with an excavator used to dig up evidence.

No clues or trace of Jasmine were found.

She is described as being of Aboriginal appearance with an olive complexion, around 155cm tall, weighing approximately 55kg with black hair and brown eyes.

She was last seen wearing a long black skirt, purple top and thongs.

Colleen Walker, Clinton Speedy-Duroux and Evelyn Greenup. Photo: The Australian
Colleen Walker, Clinton Speedy-Duroux and Evelyn Greenup. Photo: The Australian

The Bowraville Murders

THE murder of three children, Colleen Walker, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, who disappearence from the small Coffs Coast community has remained one of New South Wales' most high profile cold cases.

A decision on the landmark test case to re-try the man suspected of the child murders almost 27 years ago is expected to be handed down this year.

Late last year the Court of Criminal Appeal adjourned to consider whether there is fresh and compelling evidence to justify quashing the man's previous acquittals.

In December, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal heard evidence about this who previously was found not guilty of murdering two children in separate trials.

The man, cannot be named for legal reasons has also been linked in court to the disappearance of a third.

All three went missing from Bowraville, on the NSW mid-north coast, over five months in 1990 and 1991.

As Chief Justice Tom Bathurst made clear the court will not determine whether or not the man is guilty.

It's role is to judge whether the evidence is "fresh and compelling", and whether it is in the "interests of justice" to overturn those not-guilty verdicts and order a retrial.

To take the interests of justice first, this case illustrates the wider difficulty with prosecuting old crimes.

Twelve potential witnesses have died in the years since the disappearances of Colleen Walker, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16.

Two more have short-term memory problems, the court heard.

Then there is what the man's lawyers called "conscious or unconscious contamination" - essentially, whether a witness's account has been contaminated by rumour or suspicion over the years since.

"A pattern emerges whereby witnesses make very serious misconduct allegations and when pressed ... say they heard about the allegation or were told about it ... or they said they had a suspicion or a feeling," barrister Julia Roy told the court.

Prosecutor Wendy Abraham QC argued that these issues could be dealt with by a judge.

The man's lawyers said this case had already gone through two trials, inquest hearings and a parliamentary inquiry before it was sent to the appeal court, and this represented "the relentless persecution of an individual by the vast resources of the state".

Ms Abraham told the appeal judges: "You're dealing with the murder of three children. The interests of justice dictate a retrial take place."

The legislation says there must be "fresh and compelling" evidence to order a retrial, and "fresh" evidence is that which has not been "adduced" in court.

Ms Abraham said evidence about Colleen's disappearance satisfies this.

She was the first to go missing but her body was not found; no one was charged over her disappearance, so evidence about it could not have been heard in court.

The man's lawyers disagree.

The judges must decide whether "adduced" means "admitted", "available", "tendered" or something else; so much depends on its meaning.

The 51-year-old man in question was acquitted of Clinton's murder in 1994 and of Evelyn's murder in 2006.

He has never been charged over Colleen's murder.

Lawyers for the Attorney-General have argued the evidence shows only one person was responsible for the Bowraville murders.

Wendy Abraham QC told the court all three children disappeared before the first body was found.

She said Evelyn's and Clinton's remains were found in the same area of roadside scrub and Colleen's clothes were found dumped in the nearby Nambucca River.

The 51-year-old accused serial killer - who cannot be named for legal reasons - was again charged in February this year with the murder of Evelyn Greenup, aged four, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, who disappeared from the northern NSW town in the 1990s.

No one has ever been charged with the disappearance of 16-year-old Colleen Walker, who went missing in September 1990.

Relatives believe the children's suspected murders were not properly investigated at the time because of racism and were devastated when told their children had simply gone "walkabout".

The white man they always suspected of killing their children also lived in the small Bowraville community.

Last year, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione apologised to the families of the victims and acknowledged the initial police investigation was inadequate.

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