Seeking no parole for killers who hide location of body
THE family of a former Sunshine Coast man brutally murdered while gold prospecting in North Queensland in 2012 is calling for new laws to deny parole for killers who do not reveal where they hid their victim's body.
Bruce Schuler's family has already secured more than 4000 signatures on a petition to the State Government.
Mr Schuler was 48 and living at Mareeba when he went missing in July 2012 while prospecting with friends.
He had grown up on the Sunshine Coast, living opposite Maroochydore High School, and retired early after securing a share of a Lotto win.
A couple on July 24 this year were convicted of his murder after a two-week trial in the Cairns Supreme Court and sentenced to life imprisonment.
They have now indicated they will appeal.
Mr Schuler's sister Tania Blood of Woombye said all the family wanted was to know where his body was buried so they could bring him home and have closure.
The online petition calls on the Queensland Government to introduce laws similar to those already in place in Western Australia that allow no room for parole unless convicted killers reveal the location of the body.
"There should be no leniency where there is no body,'' Tania said. "They said nothing in court. It was the most horrendous two weeks of my life. They were stone cold and just sat there.
"It's heartbreaking. All we want is to bring him home.''
Tania said after Stephen Struber, 58, and Dianne Wilson, 55, the leaseholders of Palmerville Station, were convicted and sentenced police had gone to their cells and pleaded with them to reveal where Mr Schuler's body had been hidden.
But they had remained silent. If allowed, their appeal will be held in Brisbane.
Mr Schuler was prospecting with three mates when he became separated.
The others reported seeing a utility arrive and a woman identified as Dianne Wilson get out with a gun.
They then heard shots but did not see whether it was her, the driver or someone else who had fired.
Later they could not locate their friend and called police who conducted a search of the property. An aerial search was also done, as well as underwater searches of mine shafts and water bodies, to no avail.
Sentencing the pair, Justice Jim Henry said it had been well over a century since the turbulent, sometimes violent days of the Palmer River gold rush.
"That in this day and age, long removed from those frontier days, it beggars belief that station leaseholders could become so detached from standards of civilised behaviour and could've engaged in such cowardly and callous behaviour as this," Justice Henry said.
The Crown relied on circumstantial evidence including a splattering of Mr Schuler's blood near a burnt out section of ground, tyre tracks from Mr Struber's ute and the reports of two gun shots several minutes apart after a vehicle similar to one that Struber owned pulling up in the area Mr Schuler was searching.
Should convicted killers be refused parole if they don't reveal the location of their victim's bodies?
This poll ended on 13 December 2015.
Yes. Families of the victims will never have closure until they have their loved-one returned.
No. Parole eligibility should be based on the current assessments.
That's a really hard call to make.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Mr Struber had confronted the prospectors the week before, ordering them off his property.
Justice Henry found that either Struber or his wife may have fired the first shot to either scare or injure Mr Schuler.
"Once begun, this conduct obviously spiralled out of control with the probably panicked but truly dreadful decision made to pursue and shoot again," he said in delivering the verdict.
"It was surely that callous, calculating behaviour which in the jury's unanimous view elevated this beyond manslaughter to a case of murder.
"Consistent with that dreadful choice you followed through and disposed in some unknown way of the body of Bruce Schuler."
Cross examined under oath, Struber denied being in the area at the time or killing the prospector.
Mr Schuler is survived by his wife of 28 years, Fiona Splitt, and two children.