Case of Bowraville Murders

2021-01-19 21:17:11 Written by Zohra afreen

September 13, 1990: Colleen Walker-Craig, 16, vanishes after being seen walking away from a group of people after a party at The Mish.

Colleen's family reported her missing to the regional police, who are not eager in filing a missing person's report and rather insist Colleen "went walkabout". No legal police action was taken in searching for Colleen.


October 3, 1990: Evelyn Greenup [who is also Colleen's cousin], 4, is sleeping at her grandmother's house after a party at The Mish. Evelyn's mother checks on her before going to bed. Sometime during the night, her grandmother hears her scream briefly but goes back to sleep. The next morning, Evelyn is missing from her room.

Evelyn's family reported her missing to the regional police, and earned a likewise apathetic response as Colleen's family. According to one of Evelyn's family members, the police officer said to her, "What do you want me to do about it?", that Evelyn "went walkabout" and said her it was time for him to go home for the day.


January 31, 1991: Clinton Speedy-Duroux, 16, goes missing after another festivity at The Mish. He was previously seen sleeping in regional man's Jay Hart's caravan, who lived near The Mish.

Clinton's family reported him missing and earn the same uninterested responses as the Colleen and Evelyn's family. Clinton's family conduct their search instead.


February 18, 1991: Clinton's remains are discovered in bushland around Congarinni Road, about seven kilometres outer Bowraville. He had undergone from infiltrating injuries to his head. Stuffed down the front of his trousers was a pillowslip, later inferred to belong to Hart.


April 27, 1991: Evelyn's remains are discovered in bushland, also around Congarinni Road and with penetrating injuries to her skull.


Around this time, Colleen's clothes are discovered by a fisherman, burdened with rocks, in nearby Nambucca River. Her corpse has never been discovered.


Eventually, adequate scrutiny was given to the cases and police started to focus on Jay Hart.


The Suspect

Jay Thomas Hart moved to Bowraville when he was a teenager. He had family links to the region and lived in a caravan outside the house inhabited by his mother and step-father. Hart worked at Bowraville's canning factory by day, and by night he wasted a lot of time at the nearby Mish, which from his caravan was just backtracked through meadow away.


While Hart didn't have many friends in "white" Bowraville, at The Mish he was known as The King, who frequently came to parties with alcohol and marijuana. He was especially famous with the dependents, as he would provide them with the alcohol which they otherwise couldn't get for themselves.


At one point, Hart had a partner - Alison Walker - an Aboriginal woman who lived in The Mish, and together they had a son. For a time, Alison and Hart resided together at The Mish. According to Alison, Hart was a calm man while sober but had a varied personality when drunk. He tended towards violence - one time while she was pregnant, he endangered to shoot her and repeatedly clobbered her. She finally took Joshua with her and shifted to Queensland, while Hart shifted into the caravan on his mother's property.


Hart became sceptical when it was noticed he was present at every festivity and was one of the last people glimpsed with all three victims.


Relationships with the victims


Colleen was Alison's niece, so Hart knew her well. Colleen's friend Patricia Grainer recalled one time in July 1990, Hart asked herself and Colleen to his caravan to watch music videos, drink and sleep. Hart offered his double bed to the girls while he folded out his dining table as a second bed. In the morning, Colleen said Patricia that during the night, Hart had attempted to have sex with her but she was eligible to fight him off.


Colleen then stayed for a time with her aunt Muriel in Sawtell, a village around 60km north of Bowraville. When Colleen was next in Bowraville in September 1990, Hart again argued that Colleen spends the night in his caravan. Colleen took a male friend for safety.


The next day - September 13 - Colleen schemed on staying at a party at The Mish until midnight, then Marje Jarrett - whose home was near the party - was going to take her and two friends to Macksville to catch 3 trains to Goodooga, where they would meet up with some other friends. Hart again asserted that Colleen stays the night, but she fended him off, saying him that she was going to Goodooga. Colleen then walked down a laneway near Marje's house - and that was the last time she was noticed.


Three weeks later, there was another party at The Mish, this time three doors up from Marje's home where Rebecca Stadhams lived with her mother, Patricia. Hart again was there. Evelyn's mother, Rebecca, originally took her three children - Aiden, Aaron, and Evelyn - to their father's house, but after he was too intoxicated to look after them, she pulled them back to Patricia's house and took all three children back into her room to sleep.


By this time, the party was nearly over, but Hart was still around. At one point, Patricia begged him to leave after seeing him peer into one of the windows in the house. Not long after, Patricia listened to a cry from Evelyn, a bang, then silence. Meanwhile, another lady in the house saw Hart leave Rebecca's bedroom in a hurry - almost running towards the front door. She attempted to catch up but lost sight of him.


The next morning, Rebecca glanced she had a horrible hangover - more than common - and that her pants had been pulled down. Evelyn was missing, and neither of the other kids - who were playing when she woke up - knew of Evelyn's whereabouts. Rebecca started searching for Evelyn, knocking on doors at The Mish, then heading up towards Bowraville town.


While Rebecca was searching for Evelyn, Hart returned to the home and told Patricia he had spent the night on the couch, although no-one recalled seeing him there.


In December, Clinton came from Tenterfield to stay with his father at The Mish. He began a relationship with Kelly Jarrett, who was good friends with Colleen.


End of January, at the end of another party, Hart asserted that Kelly comes to his caravan. Kelly declined to come unless Clinton was there, so Hart invited them both in. At around 3 am, the three of them were in the caravan seeing music videos - Clinton lying on the double bed, Kelly and Hart drinking. Hart said that he would fold out the dining table while Clinton and Kelly could sleep on the double bed.


Around 4:30 am, Hart's stepfather arose to get ready for work. He saw the light still on in the caravan and complained to Hart's mother about the electricity bill. Not long after, both left for job.


Around 5 am, two delivery drivers were passing a corner about 200m from the house when they noticed a white man standing over a prone, barefoot Aboriginal person. When they stopped to ask if the man needed help, the man told them that he had already called the police and that the person on the ground had fallen asleep.


At 8:40 am, Kelly arises in Hart's caravan after an unawares deep sleep. She notices she is missing her underpants and shorts.


The Trials


Due to the holdups in beginning the investigations, a lot of information was lost - for instance, Hart's caravan, where Clinton was last noticed alive, wasn't searched for months, and in the meantime, Hart had cleared the interior. There was a tiny drop of blood discovered on the bedhead which was recognized as human blood, but the sample was so minor that the procedure of analysis also destroyed the sample.


Hart was finally arrested and tried - with circumstantial information - for Clinton's killing in 1994. Initially, the police needed to charge Hart for both Evelyn and Clinton's killings. Nonetheless, before the prosecution started, the judge overseeing over the case - Justice Badgery-Parker - sanctioned that evidence for both Clinton and Evelyn's would be so prejudicial that a reasonable prosecutor would be impossible. Rather, the prosecution focused on Clinton's killing as though it was the only killing that happened, and the jury was not knowledgeable of Colleen or Evelyn, or Hart's behaviour beforehand.


During the prosecution, the defence emphasised Kelly and the other witnesses' state of intoxication, weakening their credibility. There was also a component of culture clash - for instance, in Aboriginal culture, the default way of addressing someone was with their eyes downcast and long hush were common. In Western culture, that was inferred negatively as a further sign of unreliability and evasiveness.


Hart's alibi was that he organized for a workmate to pick him up just before 6 am. Not liking to be late at work and not discerning his workmate, Hart instead went into the home at around 5:45 am and asked his mother if he could have the car keys. He made it a short length down the road before turning around because he didn't feel well, and went back inside the caravan to have a cup of tea. At 6:20 am, Hart made it to work, visibly drunk. Two hours later he returned home with another workmate to drop the car back to his mother.


Hart was acquitted.


In 1997, a strike force was set up to reinvestigate the killings. In 2004, a coronial inquiries est was held, and Hart was accused again - this time for Evelyn's murder.


The second prosecution in 2006 was held similarly to Clinton's trial, where no indication from the other cases was heard. Again, likewise to the first prosecution, there were cultural issues with the Aboriginal witnesses.


Hart was again acquitted.


The Aftermath


Due to NSW's double jeopardy laws, Hart cannot be attempted again for the case, unless in special situations [i.e.if fresh evidence was found].


The police and the state prosecutor understand that Hart should be tried again, but this time for all three cases so that all the evidence could be used. Nonetheless, all tries at appeal have failed, with the latest attempt rejected by the High Court in 2019.