Wheels fall off child indecency appeal by 'Happy Bus Driver'

John George Murdoch was unhappy at the child indecency verdicts but a higher court has spurned his appeal.
John George Murdoch was unhappy at the child indecency verdicts but a higher court has spurned his appeal.

FORMER Catholic school teacher and 'Happy Bus Driver' John George Murdoch has lost an appeal against child indecency convictions.

The Court of Appeal in Brisbane threw out the former Toowoomba man's appeal on Tuesday.

Murdoch resigned in 1996 after school authorities interviewed him about indecency claims.

The file stayed with school records 17 years before being passed to police.

Murdoch was well known in Brisbane earlier this decade as an exuberant bus driver.

He inspired a Facebook fan page and won a Lord Mayor's Award for customer service excellence.

Then he faced indecency charges as details about his past emerged.

Murdoch was a teacher and cricket coach in the mid-1990s who "developed a friendship through sport" with a boy who lived near him, Justice Philip Morrison said.

The boy was about 13 when the indecent acts happened.

At Toowoomba District Court last year, Murdoch was found guilty of playing a porn video to the boy.

And he was found guilty of exposing himself to the boy "and/or masturbating".

He was also found guilty of photographing the naked boy.

Murdoch was convicted of three counts of indecent treatment of a child under 16, but acquitted on two charges.

His jail term was suspended but he appealed.

He said the Toowoomba verdicts were unreasonable, unsupported by evidence and inconsistent.

The appeal claimed "implausible matters" in evidence" should have caused jurors to doubt Murdoch's guilt.

Murdoch claimed the trial judge erred in not giving proper directions warning jurors against "propensity reasoning".

The appeal court judgment said the boy, now in his mid-thirties, claimed at trial Murdoch "was always big into dares".

The boy alleged Murdoch "walked out to the cricket pitch, then he came back and he told me he did a crap on the pitch."

The trial heard the boy's mother allowed him to go to Murdoch's house.

The trial heard Murdoch showed the boy's mother a photo of the child naked and allegedly told her: "You're never to tell anybody otherwise I will kill you if you do."

The boy claimed Murdoch once told him: "I'm going to tell everyone at school that you're gay and ... I'll say things about your mother."

A police investigator said the Catholic Education Office made a complaint about Murdoch in March 2013.

That arose during investigations for a Royal Commission into child abuse.

Justice Morrison said the trial was complicated because after the indecencies, Murdoch was in a car accident in May 1994.

Murdoch sustained serious head and brain injuries in the crash.

The appeal was dismissed, and the application for leave to appeal against sentence refused.


Topics:  catholic education office court crime happy bus driver john george murdoch queensland court of appeal royal commission toowoomba

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