Justice Comes in Different Ways
1 May 2014: 29 years in
Another motel room. Another comfortless bed, wardrobe, table and single chair, a bar fridge and a big television.
In the bathroom, I’m lying in the motel bath, staring up at another motel ceiling. I’ve spent all night getting in and out of this bath, or pacing up and down between the wardrobe and the bathroom door, trying to stay awake so I can memorise what I need to say later today, after the dawn, when I’ll be the first witness called to give evidence at a new State parliamentary inquiry into the three Bowraville murders.
The public hearing will be at the council chambers in Macksville, near where my motel is and just down the river from Bowraville itself.
This is my chance to make people listen. In my head, I run through the things I must remember to say when I give my opening statement: mistakes were made in this investigation; not all victims are treated as equals; I believe we already have the evidence to convict the serial killer responsible. I can’t stand up in front of the inquiry and read this out with my head bowed, looking down at a piece of paper. I want the Members of Parliament to look at me directly, which means speaking without notes.
I need to hit this point, then that point: could these murders have been solved? Yes. Should they have been solved? Yes. I still think they can be.
I listen to the night-time silence, broken only by the electric hum of the bar fridge. For years now, it feels like the murdered children’s families have been ignored, not just by the police force, who are content to let this triple murder case be run by myself, Jerry Bowden and Bianca Comina in what little time we can steal from other investigations, but also by the State Government, who have now turned down three requests to have the case sent to the appeal court, and by the media, who print articles listing notorious unsolved murders across New South Wales, with no mention of the Bowraville children. Sinking back I let the bath water close over my face.
Another eight years have passed now since 2006, when I rediscovered the Norco Corner evidence about an unconscious teenager lying on the road outside Bowraville and the white man standing over him.
I think back to how, on the strength of that evidence, in 2007, we applied to the State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to send the case to the appeal court.
It was refused four months later. In February 2010, using the lawyers who agreed to work for the Bowraville families without payment, we sent an application to the State’s 237 Attorney General, asking for the same thing.
Eight months later, in the October, he refused to. Remembering how I felt back then, tension runs down my neck and into my shoulder muscles, unhelped by the hot water. Eight months later, in June 2011, we tried again, after a different Attorney General was appointed.
This time, it took him more than a year and a half to respond, during which time, the children’s families had marched in protest outside the State Parliament, but no one seemed to notice. In February 2013, that Attorney General refused to send the case to the appeal court.