Dulcie Birt: addicted to heroin, in a violent relationship
DULCIE Birt was portrayed as a woman struggling to beat heroin addiction and caught in a violent relationship that she was unable or unwilling to leave on the first day of an inquest into her death.
The mother-of-three was last seen alive on October 21, 2009, at her home on Old Ipswich Rd at Riverview.
Her eldest son Shaun Birt, who was 16 at the time, reported her missing three days later but it was not until February 17, 2010, that police arrested and charged Ms Birt's former lover, Alwyn Gwilliams, with her murder.
Despite extensively searching bushland near Ms Birt's home, partially draining the Greenlakes open cut mine and thoroughy going over Jacobs Well waterways where Gwilliams claims he let Ms Birt's body go, police have been unable to recover her body or determine a cause of death.
Gwilliams, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison last year, claims his 31-year-old girlfriend died when his ute hit a tree while four-wheel driving.
He was drunk, panicked and disposed of the body.
Coroner John Lock yesterday heard how one of Ms Birt's closest friends, Soona Faulkener, had begged her to walk away from the destructive relationship.
"There was something that just wasn't right about Ally (Alwyn Gwilliams) and I warned her about him," Ms Faulkener said.
"He was very controlling and possessive and paranoid, he didn't trust her and hit her often. He showed all the signs I saw on a domestic violence poster and I showed it to her.
"She knew, she just didn't know how to get out of it."
Ms Faulkener, who lived a few houses away from Ms Birt, said that she saw bruises on her friend's face and body on a number of occasions in the three months Ms Birt had been seeing Gwilliams.
She said she remembered Ms Birt telling her Gwilliams took her out to the bushland and "tied her up with rope to teach her a lesson".
Ms Faulkner stopped briefly to compose herself while telling the counsel assisting the coroner Emily Cooper, about how she comforted Ms Birt after she had suffered a miscarriage.
"Dulcie was standing there holding her stomach and there was blood everywhere," Ms Faulkener said.
"She told me Ally had punched her in the stomach because he didn't believe it was his baby. She was still bleeding on the day she disappeared."
Ms Faulkener said she found it strange that Ms Birt had left with Gwilliams late on October 21, 2009, without taking her purse and phone because she was rarely without her phone even when it was broken.
Ms Birt's son Shaun said this fact made him more concerned too.
"It didn't matter where she went she wouldn't go without her phone," she said.
Mr Birt told the court his worry grew when he learnt his mother had missed an appointment to visit her two other children - something else she wouldn't normally do.
He called Gwilliams who told him he was on his way to see a solicitor and had not heard from his mum.
Two days later Mr Birt and his friend Damian Gill, who also lived at the Old Ipswich Road property, bumped into Gwilliams in the bushland near their home while out riding motorbikes.
"He was in the green ute and he seemed wary and anxious," said Mr Birt.
"He looked a bit dirty and didn't want to stick around."
When questioned about his recollection of the day Ms Birt went missing and the period preceding it, Mr Gill said he often saw the result of the violent confrontations between Ms Birt and her lover.
"One day Ally would treat her like a princess and the next day she would be like a piece of dirt on the ground," he said.
"I saw the bruises and the marks on her face and even a black eye once.
"In the week she went missing they had a fight after one of her old drug dealers called Shaun and threatened him.
"He was screaming at her saying 'how would you like it if I cut your head off and left it on your drug dealer's doorstep?'"
Earlier in the day the coroner heard from Detective Sergeant Heath McQueen, the officer in charge of the investigation, who said Gwilliams had deliberately tried to mislead the police on multiple occasions even when witness statements, CCTV footage and banking records contradicted him.
Det Sgt McQueen said suspicion was raised further when Gwilliams hired a lawyer two days after he was first questioned.
"I thought it was strange to employ the services of a lawyer for someone who had said he had dropped her off at home early in the evening," he said.
The inquest continues.