Court rules: No retrial for Bowraville Murders


After nearly three decades of fighting, what will it take for the families of the murdered children to get justice?

The families of three murdered Indigenous children were devastated when a New South Wales court today ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn past acquittals and retry the Bowraville case.

The Bowraville Murders are known as the highest profile Indigenous murder case in Australia - and despite a suspect and two trials - no one has ever been successfully convicted.

Nearly thirty years on the families of the victims still don’t have the answers or the justice that they’re desperate for.

Over five months from 1990 to 1991 three Aboriginal children went missing from the small town of Bowraville in NSW.

The bodies of 4-year-old Evelyn Greenup and 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux were found close to the town. 16-year-old Colleen Walker’s body was never found.

The murders sparked outrage and grief in the small town - with locals taking to the streets to demand answers.

In April that year, a local Bowraville man (who can’t be named for legal reasons) was charged with murdering Clinton and later charged with Evelyn’s murder.

He was acquitted of the first charge in 1994, leading prosecutors to stop proceeding with the trial for Evelyn’s murder.

Ten years later a coronial inquest recommended the same man be charged again with Evelyn's murder. He was acquitted in March 2006 due to a law known as ‘double jeopardy’ - which prevents someone from being charged with the same crime twice.

It seemed like all legal options had been exhausted, but the families never gave up hope.

In 2006, New South Wales changed its double jeopardy laws to allow a case to be retried if ‘fresh and compelling evidence’ was uncovered. This lead to the re-opening of more than 500 cold cases, including the Bowraville murders.

Last year, with new evidence, the NSW Attorney-General asked to retry the man for the murders of Clinton and Evelyn in a single trial. Families of the slain children have argued that if the three cases were heard in court together, then the similarities would become clear and a conviction would be more likely.

But today those hopes were dashed when it was ruled that the man should not be retried.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman later said he would seek legal advice about getting the case heard in the High Court, saying:

"Today may not be the end of what has been a hard, devastating, distressing road for the Bowraville families and I'll be urgently considering what remedies are available either legislatively or in court in the coming days."



David Shoebridge spoke with Marc Fennell and Jan Fran on The Feed