Bowraville murders may be linked by sexual motive, court hears

Leonie Duroux, sister-in-law of one of the victims, speaks outside the Supreme Court in Sydney on Wednesday. Photo: AAP
Leonie Duroux, sister-in-law of one of the victims, speaks outside the Supreme Court in Sydney on Wednesday. Photo: AAP

The unsolved murders of three Aboriginal children on the NSW mid-north coast more than 20 years ago may be connected by a pattern of sexual interest in sleeping people, a court has heard.

On Wednesday, the NSW Supreme Court began a hearing into the deaths of Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Colleen Walker, 16, who disappeared from the town of Bowraville over a period of five months starting in late 1990.

A man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found not guilty of murdering Evelyn and Clinton in two separate trials but was not charged over the murder of Colleen, whose body has never been found.

The latest hearing will determine if there is enough fresh and compelling evidence to overturn the man's acquittals and order a retrial where all three matters are heard together.

Crown barrister Wendy Abraham, QC, said the man, who was then 25, was the only person who had been near all of the victims the last time they were seen alive. All of the children had been involved in incidents where sleeping people had their pants pulled down in the middle of the night.

The first victim, Colleen, had been subject to sexual advances from the man several weeks before she disappeared. She was sleeping in the man's caravan with her 15-year-old friend and the pair woke up to find the man in bed with them. Colleen later told her friend he had been "mauling" her through the night, pulling her pants down.

Colleen was last seen at a party on Cemetery Road in Bowraville on September 13, 1990, when she walked down the side of a house to grab some paperwork for a friend. A witness saw the man walking down the other side of the same house.

Although her body has never been found, her clothing was found weighed down by rocks in a bag in the Nambucca River.

Three weeks after Colleen disappeared, Evelyn went missing following another party on the same road. The man had been seen standing in a hallway outside the bedroom where the four-year-old was sleeping with her mother. The next morning, Evelyn's mother awoke to discover her pants had been pulled down and her daughter was gone.

The final victim, Clinton, disappeared in the early hours of February 1, 1991, after sleeping in the man's caravan with his girlfriend Kelly following a party. Kelly woke early in the morning to find the man, who had also been in the van, and her boyfriend were gone. Clinton's shoes - which he wore everywhere - remained near the bed, and her pants and underwear had been removed.

Clinton's body was later found with damage to his jaw consistent with a "king hit".

Ms Abraham said one explanation was Clinton woke up and was hit when he saw what happened to his girlfriend.

She said there were many factors linking the victims, including the times they disappeared, where their bodies or clothes were found, and similar injuries.

"That does give rise to an inference that all three were murdered, that it was the one person who murdered them, and that it was the respondent," she said.

Justice Lucy McCallum said the "pattern" linking the victims was "sexual interest in people who are asleep".

The court heard four witnesses, some of whom did not know each other, were later told similar details by the man about the alleged murders.

Leonie Duroux, the sister-in-law of Clinton, was flanked by more than a dozen supporters as she walked into court on Wednesday morning.

"This is what we've been waiting for," she said. "This is what we've been fighting for, a chance to have all these cases heard together. We hope we get the best outcome, otherwise we're not going away."

The hearing continues before Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, Chief Judge at Common Law Clifton Hoeben and Justice McCallum.