true crime

How the haunting mystery of the McCulkin murders unfolded.



Feb 23: Garry “Shorty” Dubois and three other men burn down the Torino, a Fortitude Valley nightclub. No one is harmed.

Mar 8: The Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub burns down, killing 15 people. James Finch and John Stuart are arrested soon after. Both convicted of the murder of one victim in October 1973.


Jan 16: Billy McCulkin sees his estranged wife Barbara McCulkin on a bus heading towards the Valley.

Neighbourhood friends Janet and Juneen Gayton see “Vince and Shorty” with Mrs McCulkin at the Highgate Hill house at 6.15pm as well as an orange Charger parked out the front.

Dubois drives the Charger to Peter Hall’s house in Chermside. He tells Hall and friend Keith Meredith he and Vincent O’Dempsey were at the McCulkins’ “on the piss” and he was going back to have sex.

Mrs McCulkin’s daughters Vicki and Leanne go to Juneen’s 10th birthday party across the street. Leanne leaves about 8.30pm and Vicki about 10.15pm.

Jan 17: It’s believed Barbara and her daughters were tied up and driven to bushland near Warwick where O’Dempsey strangled the mother. The girls were both raped and killed before O’Dempsey and Dubois buried the bodies.

Jan 18: Billy visits the Highgate Hill home at 6pm and finds his family have vanished. He spends hours looking for them before filing a missing persons report with police.

Jan 19: Janet Gayton tells Billy she saw “Vince and Shorty” at the McCulkin’s house on the 16th. Billy confronts O’Dempsey and Dubois, they initially admit they were at the house but deny it soon after.


Jan 22: O’Dempsey sells his orange Charger and moves out of his Rosalie flat. Dubois also leaves town.

In late January Dubois confesses to Peter Hall that O’Dempsey killed Mrs McCulkin and made him rape one of the girls.


Feb: Coroner rules Dubois and O’Dempsey be committed to stand trial for the McCulkin murders.

Dubois tells his brother Paul Dubois over the phone that O’Dempsey killed Barbara because she was blackmailing him and “the kids weren’t meant to be there”.


May 5: Charges against O’Dempsey and Dubois dropped because of insufficient evidence.


O’Dempsey tells friend Warren McDonald he killed the McCulkins but “they’ll never get me because they’ll never find the bodies”.


Dubois tells neighbour Trevor McGrath police suspected his involvement in the McCulkin murders but he would be OK because “they’d never find the bodies”. Mr McGrath reports the conversation to police in 2014.


Billy McCulkin dies.

O’Dempsey shows then-fiancee Kerri Scully true crime book Shotgun and Standover detailing the McCulkins’ disappearance and states he was “good for it but they’ll never get me for those murders”.



Jan 16: Family members appeal for witnesses or anyone with any information about the McCulkins’ disappearance to come forward. The Crime and Misconduct Committee hold months of coercive hearings as part of the renewed investigation.

Aug 5: Police search two rural properties near Warwick and offer $250,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.

Oct 18: Dubois and O’Dempsey charged with three counts of murder, two counts of rape and deprivation of liberty.


Nov 7: Dubois stands trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court after pleading not guilty to three counts of murder, two counts of rape and deprivation of liberty.

Nov/Dec: O’Dempsey tells a fellow remand inmate that he “dealt with” Barbara McCulkin but denies killing the children. The inmate makes notes of their conversations over the next few months, including O’Dempsey’s plans to “get at” key witnesses Mr McDonald and Ms Scully.

Nov 28: Jury convicts Dubois of raping and murdering the girls and deprivation of liberty, and finds him guilty of Mrs McCulkin’s manslaughter instead of murder.

Dec: The two rape charges against O’Dempsey are dropped due to lack of evidence.


May 2: O’Dempsey stands trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court after pleading not guilty to three counts of murder and deprivation of liberty.

May 26: Jury finds O’Dempsey guilty of all charges.