The ghosts of Bowraville

Two children  on the main street of Bowraville mission. IMAGE: Chris Graham.

Two children on the main street of Bowraville mission. IMAGE: Chris Graham.

NATIONAL: Three children were murdered on the Bowraville mission within five months of each other in 1990 to 1991. Only one man stands accused of these crimes, but thanks to a series of spectacular failures in the original police investigation – and a racist and apathetic justice system – he has never been convicted, writes AMY McQUIRE*.

In the old days of Bowraville, in the days of segregated theatres, cafes and pubs, you were told to respect your elders.

That’s what Elaine Walker learned whilst growing up on Cemetery Road, the stretch of street that cuts through the mission on the north coast of NSW.

“Those elders said you had to respect that man in the blue uniform. And that’s the policeman,” Elaine says. “And he’ll abide by you. My grandfather used to say that.”

Time passed and the grandchildren grew to become elders. The racism hung around the mission like a bad stench, but those lessons died.

They were buried deep by a trauma that ripped the place apart – the unsolved murders of three innocent children.

It was February 1991, and this was the first time in her 48 years that Elaine had confronted the men in blue.

Standing unsheltered from the angry weather drenching her hair, Elaine and the rest of the community pushed against the wooden gate of the police station, as their frustration and sorrow spilt over.

Colleen Walker's aunty Elaine Walker at a protest in 1991.

Colleen Walker’s aunty Elaine Walker at a protest in 1991.

In television footage of the day, screened recently on Channel Seven, Elaine can be seen angrily pointing her finger at then Inspector Bob Moore, one of the most senior police officers in the region.

“What kind of man are you? You’re standing there in a blue uniform and you’re just looking at us. You can’t even say nothing!”

Others at the protest yelled: “How many more of our black kids have to go? We need answers!”

From another angle, shot by the ABC, Elaine’s piercing blue eyes pleaded for those answers.

“Why did you stand there and say you wanted information from us when the black people gave you the information?”

He appeared nonchalant, unaffected: “To do this investigation properly we’ve got to have you people on side and working with us. We can’t be apart, we must be working together.”

He said this knowing what the community didn’t – that the “you people” were the ones actually under investigation.

Three children – Colleen Walker, 16, Evelyn Greenup, 4, and Clinton Speedy Duroux, 16 – had gone missing from Cemetery Road within months of each other. But the community believed they knew who was responsible.

There was another white man who hung around the mission – a hulking 25-year-old who supplied the alcohol and the drugs.

At that time, the homicide detectives that many had become close to (they occasionally shared a drink with some of the family members) were not working with them, but against them.

The missing children were presumed by authorities to have gone “walkabout”. So police instead were sent in to investigate the mission on suspicions of child abuse.

It was the beginning of a botched investigation that meant the accused killer – who police are now certain is the sole person responsible – has never been convicted. (For information on the botched police investigation, please click here.)

In 1991, even the local mission kids – innocent but with a strong sense of the entrenched racism into which they were born – knew something was wrong.

A young child, only a few years older than Evelyn, had come up to Elaine before the protest and pulled her sleeve, telling her “we have to do something”.

“I had to…” Elaine says, tears welling in her eyes two decades later.

“They said we’re radical. But we’ve got to come out and tell these fellas. We need to find the kids.”

That’s how she found herself pointing her finger at that man in blue, a member of a class she had been told all her life to respect.
Clinton was found days later, and Evelyn a few months following, their bodies discarded near marijuana crops planted by the accused murderer.

Colleen – Elaine’s niece – was never found, although her clothes were later fished from a nearby river and she was formally declared deceased by a coronial inquest in 2006.

16-year-old Colleen Walker's body has never been found. She disappeared from Bowraville mission in 1990.

16-year-old Colleen Walker’s body has never been found. She disappeared from Bowraville mission in 1990.

The white man accused of killing all three children is Jay Hart, a name he has since abandoned. He has a new identity, a new family and a new job in Newcastle – an easy four-hour drive down the Pacific Highway.

His current employment means he has contact with Aboriginal children. Because he was acquitted of the murders of Clinton and Evelyn he remains a free man – innocent until proven guilty.

But to these families on the mission, his presence, his guilt, hangs like a ghost over the mission.

Back in the old days, white men weren’t allowed there, and if they came near, the young girls would be hidden in the houses. They were taught to respect other white men – the policemen – who had the authority and were supposed to be the wielders of justice.

But for Bowraville residents now, it feels as if little has changed. Blackfellas may be allowed in the theatres, and there’s nothing stopping them from buying a sundae in the quaint cafes, but today, the fate of these families is still in the hands of white men. Or at least one white man.

“We three families have had to sit back and wait for this one white man’s decision,” Elaine says.

“And we are still waiting on that white man’s decision.”


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  1. Dan Bindley
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    the families of the deceased relatives deserve justice as they have waited way too long

  2. Kerri Shannon
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    These people/families deserve the respect and the closure of these terrible crimes. 3 murders which are still unsolved to this day. Where is the justice? Someone needs to do something about this. This is totally wrong!!

  3. Kasha
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Amy THANK YOU for this article – a brilliant piece written with care and immense detail showing respect for these beautiful children! I have strong belief that with the ongoing unrelenting push from these families as well as yourself consistently reporting on this horrendous case/s this man will be put away for eternity!

  4. Posted November 20, 2013 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    so annoying, they havent resolved these cases , reminds me of kempsey, cases are not resolved here as well

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