Aborigine murder case is re-opened

Bowraville, nestling in lush hills on the New South Wales coast, is a town haunted by grief. The unsolved murders of three Aboriginal children in the early 1990s weigh heavy on the small community, as does racism so entrenched that the homegrown Ku Klux Klan is active in the surrounding area.

Bowraville, nestling in lush hills on the New South Wales coast, is a town haunted by grief. The unsolved murders of three Aboriginal children in the early 1990s weigh heavy on the small community, as does racism so entrenched that the homegrown Ku Klux Klan is active in the surrounding area.

Now, nearly 15 years on, police have made a breakthrough, charging a local man with killing the youngest child, four-year-old Evelyn Greenup.

Evelyn's cousin, Colleen Walker, 16, vanished in September 1990 after a party at the Mission, an Aboriginal reserve on the fringes of Bowraville. A month later Evelyn disappeared. Then in February 1991 a 16-year-old boy, Clinton Speedy, went missing. Two weeks later his body turned up in bushland a few miles away.

Evelyn's remains, together with one of her pink shoes, were found in the hills too. Both she and Clinton were killed by blows to the head. Colleen's family have never had a body to bury. Only her clothes were discovered - weighed down with rocks in the Nambucca River, near the former cedar milling town.

For a decade and a half, one man has been in the frame: Jay Hart, a white labourer who lived in a caravan near the Bowraville mission and - unusually for a town with a history of racial tensions - socialised frequently with local Aborigines.

Hart, now 39, was charged with Clinton's murder but acquitted in 1994 for lack of evidence. Soon afterwards a charge of murdering Evelyn was dropped. Bowraville - where the pubs and cinemas were once racially segregated - erupted in riots as black residents stormed through the streets, venting their anger and frustration.

This week, Mr Hart was charged once again with killing the four-year-old. Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin, head of a taskforce set up in 1997 to re-investigate the case, visited Evelyn's mother and grandmother before announcing the new charge. "There is a lot of sadness, but they appeared satisfied that there has been some progress made."

For the other families, the agony goes on. Mr Hart will never stand trial again for killing Clinton. And, in the absence of a body, Colleen is not officially deemed murdered.

It is not clear what new leads have emerged in relation to Evelyn. But at an inquest last year into Colleen's death, Mr Hart was named as the killer of all three children by the inspector, who described the case as an "open wound".

The inquest heard that Mr Hart had a history of violence and sexual abuse. All three children went missing after drunken parties at the Mission. Clinton was last seen, together with his girlfriend, Kelly Jarrett, in Mr Hart's caravan. Kelly told police that when she woke up in the morning, Clinton had vanished and her underwear had been removed.

The three deaths were "strikingly similar", said DI Jubelin: "There is only one person at all the locations prior to the children's disappearances. That person is Jay Hart."

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