POLICE failed in their duty to seek justice for three children murdered at an Aboriginal community 24 years ago and the law should be changed to allow a retrial of the prime suspect, a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry has found.
NSW MPs were brought to tears as they relived the deaths of Colleen Walker-Craig, 16, Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, and Evelyn Greenup, 4, who disappeared from Bowraville in the state's north-east in the early 1990s.
The chief suspect was tried and acquitted for two of the murders but the cases were never heard in the same court at the same time.
The Committee for Law and Justice has called for legislation changes to allow all three deaths to be considered in conjunction.
It also called for a retrial application to be lodged and considered by an independent party, such as a "retired senior judge or senior prosecutor from another jurisdiction".
Family members of the murdered children filled the public gallery as Parliamentary Secretary Catherine Cusack outlined the inquiry's findings.
"As our report shows, a perfect storm of mistakes - some through prejudice, others well-meaning - have combined to deny these families justice and closure," she said.
"Because the crimes against them are so terrible and the legal complexities have compounded and raced like a virus, infecting the evidence against the alleged offender, many people have become afraid of facing the issues, frightened by the scale of the injustice and disempowered by an impervious system."
Ms Cusack said Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin led a small team which had the courage to face the families and work with them to press their case.
"Having been treated so poorly by the police when they attempted to report their children missing, and having been hindered by mistakes in the initial investigation, one might wonder if these families blamed, or even hated, the police," she said.
"This is most assuredly not the case.
"Their attitude is overwhelmingly one of sadness, not anger, about what has happened.
"They want the police to succeed in solving the crimes against their loved ones."
The three children vanished from the same street in Bowraville over a five-month period.
A local labourer, Jay Hart, was tried and acquitted of two of the murders but not Colleen's, which never went to court because her body has still not been found.
The inquiry recommended a memorial be built in Colleen's honour at Sawtell.
"Her family have told us of a special place near the beach that she loved to visit," Ms Cusack said.
"And while it cannot heal their grief or end their search, it will give her family an opportunity to hold a ceremony and have a place dedicated to her memory, somewhere special, for them to go."
- APN NEWSDESK
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