10 biggest exclusives to make Gympie headlines in 2020
Alleged murders, skeletal remains and controversial council revelations were among some of the exclusive stories broken by The Gympie Times this year.
As the year’s end approaches, look back at 10 of the biggest and most talked about stories to make headlines in 2020.
Alleged murder at Amamoor
The death of Michael Zanco at Amamoor in March, allegedly after he suffered an “execution-style” gunshot wound to the head, sparked a police investigation and led to the arrests of three men.
A murder investigation and intense land and air search were launched before Kalabe John Steven Saurine, 19, Nathan John Caulfield, 33, and Trent Edward Dyhrberg, 33 were eventually charged with one count of murder and one count of attempted robbery each.
A woman, 28-year-old Alyce Maree Burgess, was also arrested and charged with being an accessory after the fact to the murder.
The four will reappear in Gympie’s courts next year.
The discovery of skeletal remains in Kybong scrubland in October opened the door on a puzzle that has yet to be solved.
Clothes, shoes and other items were found alongside the human remains on land near the Gold Nugget.
A subsequent search of nearby land with shovels uncovered a femur and jawbone which was confirmed to be human and most likely belonged to the same person who was believed to have been a woman.
Police said a search of the state’s 450 unsolved missing persons database had turned up no matches.
Hartwig cleared of misconduct
An extraordinary 36-page report cleared Mayor Glen Hartwig of a misconduct complaint made in the wake of a letter to The Gympie Times which criticised the previous council’s leadership.
Mr Hartwig was accused by an anonymous complainant of breaching the State’s Councillor Code of Conduct over the letter.
The report ultimately found Mr Hartwig’s criticism and letter was not “unnecessary or irrelevant”, was in the public interest and “very much” part of his duty as a councillor.
Truth of Fredman exit revealed
Three years of controversy over the departure of former council head engineer Bob Fredman ended in May when a leaked letter revealed he had been initially sacked.
The letter, signed by former CEO Bernard Smith, advised Mr Fredman the council was exercising its right “to terminate your employment” due to several problems identified in a review of the council’s water and sewerage services.
Councillors and the community had repeatedly challenged claims Mr Fredman had resigned from the council in late 2016 after almost 40 years of service, claiming this only happened after he was given his marching orders.
The water review itself was not made public until The Gympie Times secured its release under Right to Information laws.
Coronial inquest into Beenham Valley death finally heard
A three-day coronial inquest into the suspicious 2014 death if Wolvi mother Kirra McLoughlin uncovered a wealth of information and accusations during the testimonies of almost 30 witnesses.
The inquest came after years of pressure for a formal investigation into Ms McLoughlin’s death, in which an autopsy found 105 bruises or signs of injury.
Disgraced dentist pleads guilty to indecent assault
Prominent Gympie dentist Jebson John Pidgeon Herrod pleaded guilty to a string of assault charges this year, while 15 others were dropped.
The former Beachmere resident, 36, pleaded guilty to nine counts of unlawful assault occasioning bodily harm, indecent assault and assault occasioning bodily harm, at Mothar Mountain near Gympie between July 12, 2014, and August 25, 2015.
He will be sentenced early next year.
Council’s financial skills damned
THE financial shortcomings of the council were laid bare in a brutal, and at times scathing, review of the organisation by a global accounting body.
A report compiled by CPA Australia revealed a staggering number of systemic issues inside the council when it came to financial management, including a lack of visible consequences for decision making and a reluctance to accept accountability.
CPA rated the council 1.7 out of 4; the average for other councils it reviewed was 2.2.
Plans unveiled for ‘landmark’ aged care centre
Plans to build a “landmark” four-storey, 108-bed aged care centre near Gympie Hospital were unveiled in a move developers said would be a “catalyst” for the medical precinct if approved.
Along with accommodation in serviced rooms, it will also boast a salon, day spa, outdoor areas and a lounge, dining and activity room on each level.
However some concerns about the centre’s impact on an already overcrowded parking problem could threaten the project.
Council CEO resigns
An overhaul of councillors at the March election was only the start of big changes in Gympie Regional Council, with former CEO Bernard Smith leaving the building soon after following nine years in the job.
Mr Smiths’ resignation was accepted by councillors in late April, ending a controversial term highlighted by projects including the Mary Valley Rattler and the Gympie Aquatic Centre.
Real estate fight over ‘secret’ credit card
The owner of recently wound-up Gympie Regional Realty has been ordered to pay a former manager more than $23,000 in termination payouts following a civil tribunal.
Debra Bettina Mason took the once prominent Gympie business to civil court following her resignation in July last year, claiming she had not been paid the full $38,000 negotiated.
Lawyers for the realty had argued they should not have to pay amid claims of a “secret” credit card in Ms Mason’s name and funded by company money.
However Magistrate Chris Callaghan rejected claims the realty had been misled into signing Ms Mason’s termination agreement, and said claims of fraud had failed to be proven.