Families Left 'Heartbroken' After Verdict
The NSW Attorney General is seeking legal advice after a retrial was rejected by the state's highest court.
There was silence in a courtroom as a retrial bid for a man, previously acquitted of murdering two children and suspected of murdering a third in the small NSW town of Bowraville, was thrown out.
Silence turned to tears and anger as the families of the three Aboriginal children took in the news -- another crushing blow in their near three decade-long fight for justice and a "clear" sign "our kids mean nothing".
Colleen Walker, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, disappeared from the same road in Bowraville over a five-month period in 1990 and 1991.
A 52-year-old man, who cannot be identified due to legal reasons, was tried for the murders of Clinton and Evelyn but acquitted in separate trials in 1994 and 2006.
He was also a suspect in the disappearance of Colleen, whose clothing was found weighed down by rocks in a bag in the Nambucca River. Her body has never been found, and he was never charged.
But the families of all three children have consistently maintained the deaths are linked and, with fresh evidence, argued the suspect would be more likely convicted if the cases were heard together.
That came to a head on Thursday, where an application made by the NSW Government for the suspect to face a retrial and a new trial over the murder of Colleen, was rejected by the state's highest court.
"I'm just so livid," said Renolla Jerome, Clinton's aunt and one of about 50 family members who made the journey to Sydney for the judgement.
"I'm just so heartbroken. Is all of this because we have no f------ money?
Noelene Skinner, Colleen Walker’s cousin, said justice would have prevailed.
"Like any other family, they just want justice and it's not happening," she said.
"The detectives said if it was three kids from the North Shore, it would have been solved years ago. It's very heartbreaking."
Why was it rejected?
In May 2016, the former Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton made the state's first ever application to the Court of Criminal Appeal for the retrial of an acquitted person.
It came against the state's revised double-jeopardy laws -- a rule that prevents a person from facing a criminal trial more than one time. These laws were changed in 2006 to allow a person to be tried again with "fresh and compelling" evidence.
But the court did not accept there was enough evidence to link all three deaths.
Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, and Justices Clifton Hoeben and Lucy McCallum, found that all of the evidence relating to the murder of Colleen was available at the 2006 trial relating to Evelyn. There was no other "fresh and compelling" evidence in relation to her murder, they said.
In handing down the decision, Chief Justice Bathurst recognised the deaths were "tragedies" for the family.
"We know that the grief and loss remains fresh in your minds."
"We recognise the stress that the deaths of these children and the subsequent investigations have caused the families involved," he said.
Following the decision, Attorney-General Mark Speakman said he would seek legal advice over making a special leave application to the High Court.
"I will continue to ensure that the families are supported and kept closely informed," he said.
Noelene Skinner said the families won’t give up.
"They have fought too hard. These are their babies.," she said.
"They won’t give up at all."
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