Bowraville murders spark renewed protest

Issue 
Rally calls for a Royal Commission into the murder of three Aboriginal children 23 years ago. Photo: Rachel Evans

Aboriginal banners decorated an angry rally in Sydney’s Hyde Park on March 14.

The families of Colleen Walker-Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux rallied with others from Bowraville, west of Nambucca Heads, and Sydney residents, calling for a Royal Commission into the Bowraville children murders.

Twenty-three years ago, four-year-old Evelyn Greenup and 16-year-olds Colleen Walker and Clinton Speedy-Duroux were killed in a five-month period on a street near the Bowraville mission.

Journalist Chris Graham said in an investigative article in Tracker magazine in January that: "A non-Indigenous who was well known around the mission was tried and acquitted of the murder of Clinton, and of Evelyn. No one has ever been tried over Colleen, [whose] body remains missing."

One man has been accused of the three murders. But, due to a flawed police investigation and criminal justice system, he has never been convicted.

Since the murders, the victims’ families have campaigned for justice.

A statement by the family, titled "Royal Commission into the Bowraville Children Murders", said the campaign was gathering support.

But, it said, “late Friday 8 February 2013 a representative of the family received the advice from Mr Andrew Stoner [that] the NSW Attorney-General has formed the view that there is not enough fresh and compelling evidence to proceed with these cases. This decision went against the views of the Strike force investigating the murder, a leading barrister, and legal experts from one of the biggest law firms in Australia, a leading professor of law and her expert team and the state coroner. For 15 years the matter has been investigated by a very experienced homicide detective."

NSW Police Commissioner Peter Ryan set up Task Force Ancud in 1997 to investigate the unsolved murders. Eventually, an inquest in 2004 led to Thomas Jay Hart being charged for the second time for the murder of Greenup.

Despite evidence and two supposed confessions, Hart was acquitted in March 2006.

Then in June last year, important evidence in a secret police report that had not been given at the previous murder trials caused the families to ask the attorney-general for another retrial.

However, then Attorney-General John Hatzistergos rejected the police report and refused the application for a retrial.

The most recent refusal of a retrial by current Attorney-General Greg Smith was the catalyst for the rally.

The protest was addressed by several family members, many in tears.

Aunty Barbara Greenup-Davis said: "Police failed to do their job. Under both laws black and white, murder is murder and justice is justice and that’s what we're asking for, no less."

Greens MLC David Shoebridge supported the call for a Royal Commission and joined the crowd in demanding Smith come down to the rally.

Long-term campaigner against deaths in custody Ray Jackson from the Indigenous Social Justice Association said that "if this had happened to kids in the north shore [of Sydney] these people would have been charged and convicted 20 years ago."

The families are calling the NSW government to order a Royal Commission to investigate the murder, the original police investigation, the committals, inquests, the two failed trials and the subsequent lack of concern shown to the families by the NSW government.

[For more information visit the Facebook page “Justice for the Bowraville Children”.]

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