Judgement day looms for Bowraville murders retrial

It’s been nearly 10 months since the families of the three murdered Bowraville children last made the journey down to Sydney on their decades-long quest for justice.

If it is, it would be the first time in NSW State legal history that a once acquitted murder suspect would go back to court for the same matter; a move that sets a new precedent under double jeopardy law.

But then the laws were changed back in 2003 under the Carr Labor Government to amend the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 (NSW) to allow a person to be retried for an offence if there was “fresh and compelling evidence of guilt”. 

The families believe there is if all three matters are held as one trial for the first time.

No one has ever been convicted for the murders of Colleen, 16, Evelyn, 4, and Clinton, 16, in the early 1990s, despite police, legal experts and the victims’ families saying they know who was responsible.

A white man who was close to the indigenous community and who now lives at Lake Macquarie, was tried for two of the crimes but acquitted. 

In 2016 NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton stepped in to ask the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal to hold a retrial.

"After careful consideration, I have decided that there should be no further delay in bringing this matter to court," Ms Upton said at the time.

And this Thursday the long hard wait could finally be over.

Evelyn’s aunt Michelle (Lulu) Jarrett said the Stadhams family is planning to head south tomorrow to prepare for the judgement which will be read out from 9.30am the next day.

Lulu with a picture of her four-year-old niece Evelyn.

Lulu with a picture of her four-year-old niece Evelyn.

She said an audiovisual link will be televised in courtroom one of the Coffs Harbour Court House for people who aren’t able to make the journey to Sydney.

She has been advised by Aboriginal Affairs that the process could take three hours to complete.

“It seems like these last days since Friday when we heard about the date being set have been going on forever,” she said.

I’m a bit excited and happy that it’s happening after so long. But I’m also a bit anxious too. I’m trying to stay positive – that’s the only way I wanna think.

Lulu said she hasn’t planned for the possibility of a ‘no’, because if she did she wouldn’t be able to keep herself together to support her sister Rebecca; Evelyn’s mum. 

“Bec just wants to get this over and done with,” she said.

She said the other families are all relieved to finally be at this point.

This Thursday, September 13, marks the 28th anniversary since 16-year-old Colleen Walker went missing.

Lulu said it’s also the anniversary of the day the families buried Colleen’s aunty, Elaine Walker – a steadfast campaigner for justice for the children.

“And it’s also Colleen’s uncle’s birthday too. We’re trying to see that as a good omen,” Lulu said.

The families are preparing for a debrief – regardless of the outcome – over in Parliament House, organised by Greens MP David Shoebridge.

Many commentators have speculated that this might be the last chance the families have to see justice served, with time taking its toll on the recollection of witnesses, and some having passed on.

“They say it’s the end of the road. But we can always appeal to the High Court after this. The parents need some kind of closure. Hopefully we get a murder trial and the full story – not just pieces,” she said.

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- Nambucca Guardian