• The family of murdered Noongar woman Stacey Thorne say their hearts are still broken, 15 years after her murder. (NITV The Point: Kearyn Cox)Source: NITV The Point: Kearyn Cox
Stacey Thorne was murdered in 2007 but the man originally accused of the crime walked free last year. Fifteen years on, her family doesn't want her story forgotten.
Karen Michelmore, Kearyn Cox

The Point
10 Aug 2021 - 12:50 PM  UPDATED 7 Sep 2021 - 4:45 PM

TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains distressing content and images of a First Nations person who has passed.

Hayley Thorne wears a simple photo on a chain around her neck.

It reads "My baby sister Stacey", below a wide grinning face.

"It's important to show people how much we loved her," the Noongar woman tells NITV's The Point.

"We are not going to forget about her, we are not going to give up on her.

"We just want justice for her, that's all."

The family was not allowed to wear the chains, or t-shirts bearing Stacey's face and their calls for justice inside WA's Supreme Court.

So Hayley Thorne tucked the tag inside her shirt, close to her heart.

Family "numb" after murder acquittal

The court hearing, late last year, was a fresh trial for the man jailed over the murder of Hayley's younger sister Stacey, 15 years ago.

Scott Austic had won an appeal amid allegations police had possibly planted evidence against him. He was acquitted in the subsequent second trial and walked free late last year. 

The decision stunned Stacey Thorne's family.

"We were there in court when they said he was not guilty," Hayley Thorne says.

"We felt all numb. We didn't believe the verdict.

"We didn't want to leave that courthouse."

The decision has brought their raw pain back to the surface. Along with endless questions, but few answers.

They say they haven't heard from the police since late last year, but want Stacey's case to be made a priority, with a new Cold Case investigation.

"She was a beautiful lady, she had a heart of gold ... We miss her dearly," Hayley Thorne says.

The family is supported by human rights lawyer and Noongar woman Hannah McGlade, they've also called for the public release of WA's Corruption and Crime Commission report into the police investigation of the case.

They're also backed by a petition with thousands of signatures which they hope will soon be tabled in WA Parliament.

Stacey's aunty Charmaine Thorne says the family will never give up searching for justice.

"I know that it's going to be very hard to find new evidence," Charmaine Thorne says.

"But we are still praying to try to find that, and maybe it will come to us one day, but we are not going to give up."

WA Police has declined to answer questions from The Point, but say the investigation is ongoing. 

Meanwhile, the Corruption and Crime Commission says it doesn't intend to make the 2013 report into the original police investigation public.

'The beautiful person she was'

Stacey Thorne was five and half months pregnant when she was stabbed 21 times in her home in December 2007.

Her family says they were hurt by the way she was portrayed in the aftermath of her death.

"They kept on telling us we weren't allowed to talk to the media,"  Hayley Thorne says.

"We had to keep quiet, because it might jeopardize the court, but in the long run it didn’t matter."

Stacey's family want her to be remembered as the happy-go-lucky and beautiful auntie, sister and niece she was.

They say she worked at the local school and was always there for family.

"She was a beautiful lady, she had a heart of gold," Hayley Thorne said.

"We miss her dearly."


Urgent calls for national, state inquiries

Stacey's family was one of a number of families, friends or advocates of murdered or missing First Nations women who rallied for change on the weekend.

Stacey's sister Brenda Thorne says it was a remarkable event.

"We needed something like this especially for the ones that have been left behind, the family members that are still in mourning," she says.

"We get to mourn together, and grieve together."

Hannah McGlade called for both an urgent national and WA state inquiry, into the high rates of violence against First Nations women.

"This is a grave human rights situation, and government can't just look away, we as Aboriginal people can't look away," she says.

"We have all come together to say that enough is enough and that we want change to happen."

Just like Black Lives Matter, Ms McGlade hopes the international social movement Say Her Name will help drive change.

"That's what we are doing here today, saying her name was saying she's important, and the family's important," she says.

"We want justice for Stacey, they've dropped it. As if she didn't matter."

The buck stops here

It was a day of healing as much as a call to action.

"We're converting the suffering to action, to healing here today," Dr McGlade says.

 Acclaimed artist Francine Kickett held art healing workshops, where the women contributed their stories to banners calling for change.

"I just think this is so important for our women, to have that acknowledgement in society, and to be more empowered," Francine Kickett says.

"We now have a job, a duty of care to our next generations, to our daughters, to our grand daughters.

"The buck stops now, this is our time to make a stand and have a voice."

 For Brenda Thorne, it won't end here.

"It is important to stand up for all the black women who are being murdered, who are missing, and they need a voice," Brenda Thorne says.

"We are their voices. They can't stand up for themselves, so we are there to stand up for them."

If this story has upset you please reach out to Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 131114 or contact your local Aborginal Medical Service.

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