No retrial over Bowraville murders: court | timeline

The man previously acquitted of murdering two children in Bowraville won't face a retrial.
The man previously acquitted of murdering two children in Bowraville won't face a retrial.

Relatives of three Aboriginal children who disappeared in Bowraville nearly 30 years ago say they are "devastated but not down" at the NSW government's failed bid to have a man tried for the three murders.

The 52-year-old man, who can't be named for legal reasons, was previously acquitted at separate trials of murdering two of the children - Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16 - in late 1990 and early 1991.

The NSW government had argued that there was fresh and compelling evidence - relating to the disappearance of a third child, Colleen Walker, around the same time - to justify the overturning of the acquittals and the ordering of a retrial.

Under NSW double-jeopardy laws revised in 2006, a person can be tried for the same crime for which they have already been acquitted provided there's fresh and compelling evidence.

On Thursday, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed the attorney-general's application.

Outside court, Evelyn's aunty, Michelle Jarrett, said they were devastated but not down and "this is just another day".

"We have been kicked in the guts by the court system and the law but we are going to keep fighting," she said.

Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, and Justices Clifton Hoeben and Lucy McCallum found that all of the evidence relating to the murder of Colleen Walker was available to be tendered at the 2006 trial relating to Evelyn Greenup.

There was no other evidence which was both "fresh and compelling" in relation to her murder, they said.

The court then considered whether it could make an order for only one retrial relating to his 1994 acquittal for murdering Clinton Speedy.

But the judges said the attorney-general had conducted his case entirely on the basis that he would only succeed if the man faced a single trial for all three murders.

On the sixth and final day of the hearing, this changed to a submission that an order could be made for one retrial.

But this was rejected by the judges who said it was not open for him to change the case which he had sought to make.

THE BOWRAVILLE MURDERS:

September 13, 1990 - Colleen Walker-Craig, 16, disappears. She is last seen alive walking away from a group of people after a party on the outskirts of Bowraville.

Months later articles of her clothing were found weighed down with rocks in the nearby Nambucca River.

October 3, 1990 - Four-year-old Evelyn Greenup is sleeping at her grandmother's house after a party. Her mother checks on her before going to bed herself, but by the time she wakes on October 4, she is gone.

January 31, 1991 - Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, goes missing following another party in the area.

February 18, 1991 - Clinton's remains are discovered in bushland near Congarinni Road about seven kilometres outside Bowraville.

April 8, 1991 - A local man is charged with his murder.

April 27, 1991 - Evelyn's skeletal remains found in bush near Congarinni Road.

October 16, 1991 - The man is charged with Evelyn's murder.

February 18, 1994 - He is acquitted of Clinton's murder.

March 4, 1994 - Prosecutors decide not to proceed with the other murder charge.

1995 - Changes in laws in NSW mean that much of the evidence that had been deemed inadmissible in the Clinton murder trial would now be admissible.

January 6, 1997 - Strikeforce ANCUD to investigate what have now become known as "the Bowraville murders".

February 9, 2004 - The coroner reopens the inquests into Evelyn's death and the suspected death of Colleen.

September 10, 2004 - NSW Coroner John Abernethy recommends a known person be charged afresh with Evelyn's murder.

March 3, 2006 - The man is acquitted of Evelyn's murder.

2006 - Changes to the double jeopardy laws come into force in NSW to allow an acquitted person to be retried for serious crimes in certain circumstances.

June 4, 2007 - DPP Nicholas Cowdery advises police evidence they have gathered is not sufficient to support a retrial.

October 22, 2010 - Attorney-general John Hatzistergos rejects an application to the Court of Criminal Appeal to re-try the man for the murders of Clinton and Evelyn and for an ex-officio indictment for the murder of Colleen.

February 8, 2013 - The next attorney-general Greg Smith also rejects the application.

November 6, 2014 - An inquiry by the NSW parliament's upper house finds the initial police investigation was flawed and recommends the government consider clarifying laws to allow a single retrial to be held.

June 2, 2015 - Attorney-general Gabrielle Upton recommends a review of the state's double-jeopardy laws.

November 29, 2017 - Six-day hearing starts in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal of now Attorney-General Mark Speakman's application for a retrial based on what is said to be "fresh and compelling evidence" relating to Colleen's disappearance.

September 13, 2018 - The court dismisses the application

Australian Associated Press