FORTY-THREE years after killing Barbara McCulkin and her two young daughters, Vincent O'Dempsey has been named their killer.

A Brisbane Supreme Court jury delivered its verdict a short time ago, bringing to a close one of Australia's enduring murder mysteries.

The jury found the Warwick man guilty of the murder of the 34-year-old mum and the murders of Vicki, 13, and Leanne, 11, on January 16, 1974. 

 

Vincent O'Dempsey
Vincent O'Dempsey

The jury also found the 78-year-old guilty of one charge of deprivation of liberty after hearing evidence from 64 witnesses over three weeks.

O'Dempsey's co-accused Gary Reginald 'Shorty' Dubois was, in November, convicted of the manslaughter of Mrs McCulkin and of raping and murdering Vicki and Leanne.

The jury had heard the men tricked the family into  leaving their Highgate Hill home and going for a drive late on the evening of January 16, 1974.

Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne disappeared in 1974.
Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne disappeared in 1974. Contributed

During the trip they bound Mrs McCulkin and her girls and took them to an unknown bush location.

Once they arrived, the girls were ordered to stay with Dubois while O'Dempsey took Mrs McCulkin a short distance away and strangled her.

Dubois later told a friend he heard gurgling noises as O'Dempsey killed the mother.

Dubois also told a friend that he raped one of the girls at O'Dempsey's urging and O'Dempsey "raped" the other.

 

Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974. Contributed
Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974. Contributed

However, two charges of rape against O'Dempsey were stayed before his  trial started and no evidence was presented about  O'Dempsey sexually assaulting the children at his trial.

The Crown's case was that a "suspected connection" between the Torino and Whiskey Au Go Go fires in 1973 might have provided "a motive for Dubois and O'Dempsey (as a friend of Dubois to) keep Barbara McCulkin quiet."

"It may not sound a sufficient motive or even a sensible one, but there never is for murder," prosecutor David Meredith told the jury during his opening address.

Court sketch: Vincent O'Dempsey
Court sketch: Vincent O'Dempsey

The Crown case hinged around a number of key points: Vicki and Leanne's neighbourhood friends saw men called Vince and Shorty at the McCulkin home hours before they disappeared; O'Dempsey and Dubois skipped town as soon as Robert William 'Billy' McCulkin started looking for his estranged wife and their children and asking questions about their role in the disappearance; and that both men confessed to a range of unconnected people their roles in the killings.

O'Dempsey's former lover Kerri Scully said the accused told her he murdered the McCulkins while they were in bed reading a book in which he featured.

"(He said) I'm good for it but they'll never get me for it," said Ms Scully, who also admitted to having a long-time heroin addiction.

Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne disappeared in 1974.
Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne disappeared in 1974. Contributed

Meanwhile, Warren McDonald claimed he was telling the truth when he said Mr O'Dempsey allegedly revealed he had "several notches on his belt".

"He (Mr O'Dempsey) said 'You need a notch on your gun. When I was your age I had several notches on my gun, you need a kill'," Mr McDonald told the jury.

"He said he killed the McCulkins and Shorty was nothing but a rapist.

"He said they'll never catch me because they'll never find the bodies."

 

Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne disappeared in 1974 from this Highgate Hill home.
Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne disappeared in 1974 from this Highgate Hill home. Contributed

The last witness, the unnamed prison informant, also claimed Mr O'Dempsey confessed to him.

However, a muffled recording of the alleged confession was played to the court but it was impossible to decipher what was said.

The court has yet to release transcripts given to the jury but regardless, defence barrister Tony Glynn said none of the witness's confessions could be trusted.

"Police were so desperate to bring a case against O'Dempsey that they would do business with anybody," Mr Glynn said in his closing arguments.

"Look at the people they have done business with (the  inmate), the lowest form of life that you are likely to come across in our community."

Mr Glynn told the jury Mr  McCulkin  had reason to kill his family.

"There is someone who had a real motive, who it would appear hasn't been looked at seriously by either the police or the crown," Mr Glynn said of the deceased father and husband in his closing address.

"He is a much more, in my submission, likely candidate than Mr O'Dempsey.

"We know that he's a jealous, violent man." - ARM NEWSDESK


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