The family of an Aboriginal teenager who was found dead on train tracks in regional New South Wales in the late eighties have made a desperate plea to the police to post a reward to encourage anyone with information to come forward.
Mark Haines, 17, was found dead on the train tracks outside of Tamworth in north-western NSW in 1988 in mysterious circumstances.
The initial police investigation into Haines’ death has been widely criticised as lax and the family have remained steadfast in their belief that he met with foul play.
“We know our boy was murdered, he would never have gone out to those tracks willingly and then somehow laid down to be struck by a train. None of it makes sense,” Don Craigie, Mark’s uncle, told NITV.
In 1988, Tamworth police, who are part of the Oxley Local Area Command, failed to take potentially crucial evidence from the scene of Haines’ death, including a towel that was found under his head.
A stolen Torana was found nearby, Mark's family allege the police failed to fingerprint it and left it exposed to the elements for at least six weeks.
New witnesses came forward in early 2016, leading to the case being reopened. Since then it has largely remained stagnant and the Oxley LAC has under fire from David Shoebridge, NSW Greens MP, for being “lazy”.
“Cursory, uncaring, amateur, they would be the descriptions I’d give to the investigation. Young Aboriginal man, boy, found dead on railway tracks, convenient solution - he must have taken his own life or just laid down and been killed by a train,” Shoebridge told NITV, adding that, “If this was a white boy, there would be outrage at the lack of care taken in that initial investigation.”
On Tuesday, Shoebridge and Craigie met with detectives in Tamworth handling the case before demanding that they post a reward for any information that could to an arrest in the 29-year-old case.
“I’m back in Tamworth with Mark’s family and community to make a call for the police to issue their own reward for information to lead to a successful prosecution,” Shoebridge said.
“The family have been shouldering too much of the burden for too long and it really is time for the NSW police to step and put the state's money up for information. It shouldn't be the responsibility of the family.”
The Cold Justice series, a joint investigation by NITV and BuzzFeed News into the death of Haines and the subsequent police investigations over the past three decades which aired earlier this year on NITV, saw several new leads come forward.
“We are already seeing the impact of Cold Justice, with a number of fresh witnesses already having come forward with potentially crucial details about Mark’s death,” Shoebridge said, before adding that the case was a “litmus test on whether the justice system has an appetite to solve historical Aboriginal injustice.”
Craigie, Haines’ uncle, told NITV that his family just desperately wants closure.
“We call on the police to post a reward, we know Mark has been killed and we have been ignored by the police for too long. Do the right thing, post a reward and if anyone in the community knows something please come forward, we want our boy to rest in peace. It’s torn our family apart,” Craigie pleaded.