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

Cold case McCulkin murder accused refused bail

THE Brisbane Supreme Court has heard a sensational claim that the husband of Barbara McCulkin recorded a confession on his deathbed in 2011 claiming to have murdered his wife and their two daughters in 1974.

The new information was only handed to investigators in the past week.

Barbara May McCulkin, 34, and her two daughters, Vicki Maree McCulkin, 13, and Barbara Leanne McCulkin, 11, vanished from their Highgate Hill home on January 16 more than four decades ago.

All three are believed to have been murdered.

Their bodies have never been recovered.

The new claim was made on Friday during a bail application for Maryborough man Garry Reginald Dubois, 67, who was charged last year in relation to one of the state's most enduring murder mysteries.

Mr Dubois and Warwick man Vincent O'Dempsey, 76, have been charged with eight offences including murder, deprivation of liberty and other offences surrounding the McCulkins' disappearance

Defence barrister Dennis Lynch told the court the case against Mr Dubois hinged on evidence provided to investigators last year.

He said a man, who can only be identified as witness one for legal reasons, claimed Mr Dubois confessed to him in the days after the women disappeared.

"The nature of the case against my client is based on the alleged confession he made to witness one that he was a party to the women's disappearance and murder," he said.

"But witness one's claims are contradicted by witness six's version of events.

"There was a real discrepancy between the two witnesses' version of events and whether my client actually confessed or whether he just had some knowledge of the event."

Mr Lynch told the court another person, witness four, told investigators last year that he and Mr Dubois also had a conversation in the days after the girls disappeared.

He said witness four claimed Mr Dubois told him they would never find the bodies

"Witness four says he and my client had a phone conversation in the days after the disappearance where Mr Dubois confessed," he said.

"There is no evidence to say what Mr Dubois allegedly said in that conversation was in any way a confession.

"Witness four could have made his own conclusions, but it was not based on any confession by my client.

"At the most there may have been a suggestion of some knowledge of the event."

Mr Lynch told the court that in the past week new information had surfaced over the 41-year-old murder mystery.

He said William "Billy" McCulkin, Barbara's husband in 1974, had recorded a confession on his deathbed claiming to have murdered his wife and daughters.

Mr Lynch said William McCulkin's widow went to police on March 15 armed with the deathbed confession and was still speaking with investigators.

"He was known to have been violent towards Barbara and even boasted about giving her a hiding from time to time," he said.

"If anything, statements made by various witnesses shows William McCulkin was allegedly involved in the Whiskey Au Go Go fire and his wife knew about that.

"But there is no evidence my client had anything to do with the fire which has always been mooted as a possible motive."

The court heard Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey were allegedly behind the Torino's Nightclub arson in February, 1973, but were not involved in the Whiskey Au Go Go attack in March, 1973 that killed 15 people.

Crown prosecutor David Meredith said there was more to the case than just the evidence of witness one.

He said there was a very real risk Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey, or associates of theirs, could intimidate witnesses.

"All witnesses have expressed fears if one, or both, are released from jail there could be retributions made against them," he said.

"The Crown and police believe that Mr Dubois will do the bidding on behalf of Mr O'Dempsey.

"Certainly that is the case of witness one who cannot be afforded police protection given his current situation."

Justice Peter Applegarth, in refusing the application, said the evidence suggested Mr Dubois allegedly aided his co-accused in the murders.

He said the McCulkin women were allegedly taken for a drive, tied up and Mr O'Dempsey was the one who murdered them.

"It is allegedly Mr Dubois said to witness one they were then buried and he assisted in their burial," he said.

"He has everything to gain from not having witnesses give their evidence.

"Bail should be refused until there is a better assessment of the prosecution's case." 

Vincent O’Dempsey was charged last November with drug charges including producing, trafficking and possessing dangerous drugs.
Vincent O’Dempsey was charged last November with drug charges including producing, trafficking and possessing dangerous drugs. Contributed

Witnesses names protected in murder mystery

HE names of up to 30 witnesses surrounding one of the state's most enduring murder mysteries have been suppressed.

The witnesses have given statements to police connected with the arrest last year of two men charged with the murders.

The witnesses feared if their names were made public they would be subjected to intimidation and retribution.

Barbara May McCulkin, 34, and her two daughters, Vicki Maree McCulkin, 13, and Barbara Leanne McCulkin, 11, vanished from their Highgate Hill home on January 16, 1974.

All three are believed to have been murdered.

The suppression application was made in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Friday ahead of a bail application by Garry Reginald Dubois, 67, who has been charged with their murders along with Warwick man Vincent O'Dempsey, 77.

The court heard both Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey knew who the witnesses were, but any associates of theirs did not.

Crown prosecutor David Meredith said while the two men remained in jail their communication had been limited and monitored.

He said all witnesses expressed a fear of both men.

"This is a notorious case and anyone with any intimate knowledge of the case could easily work out who the witnesses were," he said.

"Obviously their names will eventually come out at the committal hearing later this year and again at trial, but there will be safeguards in place for that."

Defence barrister Dennis Lynch opposed the application for a suppression order claiming there was no evidence Mr Dubois or any associates would interfere with witnesses.

He said the case should be treated like every other murder case in the state.

"We are jumping at shadows in relation to the alleged interference of witnesses by unnamed associates," he said.

"We do not even know who these so-called associates are or if they even exist.

"To suppress the names would allude to the fact there was something to fear about my client and it is prejudicial."

Justice Peter Applegarth granted the application and ordered all witness names be suppressed until the committal and their affidavits be placed into a sealed envelope marked not to be opened until then.

- APN NEWSDESK.



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