What happened to Mark Haines?

Returning documentary, Cold Justice is Australian investigative journalism at its finest. 

The series explores the cold case of Gomeroi teenager Mark Haines, whose death still remains a mystery almost three decades after. 

Tracing back Mark's final moments and hearing from witnesses with new leads, Cold Justice tells an eerie and eye-opening Aboriginal Lives Matter story. Presented by host Allan Clarke, Cold Justice takes Australia on a journey to find out #WhatHappenedToMark.

What happened to Mark Haines?

On 16 January 1988, 17-year-old Mark Haines was found dead on railway tracks outside of his hometown, in Tamworth in regional north-western New South Wales.

On the night of his disappearance, the Gomeroi teenager had said goodbye to his girlfriend at 3:30am after walking her home.

A train driver discovered his body on the tracks three hours later. Despite massive head trauma, there was only a spot of blood - the size of a 50 cent piece.

A stolen car was found near Mark's body, along with items scattered along the ground. None of this potential evidence was fingerprinted, nor collected, and the attacker or attackers have never been found.

A coronial inquest into Mark's death returned open findings, failing to identify what caused Mark's injuries.

Mark's mysterious death has remained a cold case for the majority of the last 29 years, and his family have always maintained that he was murdered.

The night before

On Friday 15 January 1988, intermittent showers swept across the vast Gomeroi traditional lands in north-west NSW, as Mark set out for a night with his friends.

Mark leaves his Aunty Barb’s house that evening with his cousin Leah Craigie and her boyfriend Raymond Irvine.

The three make their way across the train tracks that divide Coledale, the Aboriginal community, from the rest of town… These are the same tracks he would later be found dead on.

After 10:30pm Mark and his girlfriend, Tanya White, spent a few hours at Dominos nightclub, before leaving at around 2:00am.

At 2:30am Mark escorts Tanya home to South Tamworth. They walk past a woman's house who would later give a statement claiming that some time between 3:20am and 3:30am on the night of Mark's death, she heard a very distressed man begging to be "left alone".

A former resident in the area gave a statement in 1988 claiming that some time between 3:20am and 3:30am, on the early morning that Mark would later be found dead, she heard a very distressed man begging to be "left alone".

Soon after she heard a car "flying" up the street, turning the corner so fast she thought the vehicle would roll. Instead, she heard it screech to a halt around the corner, a the same spot Tanya said goodnight to Mark.

Tanya told the inquest her and Mark did not fight that night and that Mark jogged off in a happy mood.

The morning of

At 6:30am the driver of a train travelling from Tamworth to Werris Creek sees what he thinks are rags on the track. As he gets closer he realises it's a human body and pulls on the emergency brake.  

Part of Mark’s skull had been sheared off by the train and he had several deep cuts across his body. However, he was relatively untouched by the 200 tonne train. Despite such severe injuries, the people first on the scene all said there was very little blood around the area.

However, even more strange than the lack of blood near Mark's body, was a towel found underneath the teenager's head.

Another anomaly was the lack of mud on Mark’s shoes and clothes, despite each side of the train tracks being surrounded by wet muddy dirt caused by heavy rains the night before.

1.5 kilometres from the location of Mark’s body, was the stolen Torana. Originally, police failed to fingerprint the vehicle or take it into evidence and the family claim the car was left at the crime scene for at least six weeks before eventually being removed.

This, along with other potentially crucial evidence reported to have been left at the scene by investigators especially poorly. 

The Theories

From the beginning, local police, who are part of the Oxley Local Area Command (LAC), pursued the theory that Mark had stolen a car (despite not being able to drive), crashed it and then laid down on train tracks in the pouring rain and the darkness.

However, the police theory is desputed by several witnesses who came forward at the time claiming that Mark had likely been murdered over his knowledge of criminal activity in the community. 

Members of Mark's family have always maintained he met with foul play - whether his death was an accident or was a straight out murder case, remains a question.




New Evidence

Mark's family are deeply unsatisfied with the way the Oxley LAC have handled the case.

NSW Greens MP and barrister, David Shoebridge, began reviewing Mark's files and became passionate and committed to helping Mark's family find justice. 

In a bid to raise the profile of the cold case, Shoebridge quoted Mark's uncle during a speech, stating:

“It is sad but no-one cared about a dead Aboriginal teenage boy in Tamworth in the late ‘80s.”

A local woman came forward with a startling revelation that her son drove the car that took Mark's body out to the train tracks. Six months after Mark's death he took his own life and allegedly left three notes detailing the crime.

The information given by that woman saw the case reopened.

Mr Shoebridge returned to state parliament and lobbied to have the case given to the elite State Crime Command’s Homicide squad.

On the 29th anniversary of Mark's death in January this year, the family and Mr Shoebridge staged a protest outside the local police station.

The State Crime Command are now conducting a full review of the Oxley LAC's investigations into Mark's death over the past 29 years.

If they find any of their investigations inadequate in any way, they will take on the case.

The family say this is their last hope of finding out #WhatHappenedToMark


The special investigation that got Mark Haines' cold case reopened returns tonight, #ColdJustice 9:00pm on NITV (Ch 34).