Backpacker 'was pushed off bridge by drug addict looking for money'

An Australian man went on trial yesterday accused of murdering the 19-year-old British backpacker Caroline Stuttle, who was pushed off a bridge during a robbery two years ago.

The gap-year student, who was from York, died after falling 30 feet from the Burnett River Bridge in the farming town of Bundaberg, 220 miles north of Brisbane in Queensland.

Ian Douglas Previte is accused of robbery and murder. The Supreme Court in Bundaberg heard that Previte, 32, was looking for money for drugs when he stole the backpacker's bag as she walked back to a campsite after telephoning her boyfriend in England.

"There was an episode of considerable violence on the walkway," said Peter Feeney, the prosecutor, in his opening address. "Previte ignored her screams of terror and forced her over the railing." Mr Feeney said the young woman died instantly when her skull was fractured and her spine severed as she hit the ground below.

Although Mr Previte has pleaded not guilty to murder and robbery, Mr Feeney told the jury of seven men and five women that the former drug addict had confessed three times - once to jail inmates, once to police, and also by writing it on a picnic table in the town.

Ms Stuttle's brother was in court yesterday as the trial began. "We still miss her every day. It gets a little bit easier, but it's still very, very difficult most days," said Richard Stuttle, 27.

Mr Previte arrived for the opening day of what is expected to be a three-week trial with a towel draped over his head as his car was driven through a crowd of reporters. Approximately 100 witnesses, including four from England, are due to give evidence.

Ms Stuttle, who was travelling through Australia with a friend before starting a psychology course at Manchester University, had been working as a tomato picker in Bundaberg for just a few days on 10 April 2002 when she was killed.

Her mother, Marjorie Marks-Stuttle, 56, said she decided not to attend the trial as it would have been "just too hard to imagine" to come face to face with the man accused of murdering her daughter. She said she would be keeping in close touch with her son. "We just hope that Caroline receives the justice she deserves for what was such a horrible and unnecessary crime."

"It has taken such a long time to come to court and the whole experience has been unbelievably distressing for the family. Our lives will never be the same again, but all we hope now is that the person who committed this crime is sentenced for a long, long time. We want to know that the person responsible for Caroline's murder doesn't get the chance to put another family through the living hell we have all had to been through. My daughter was killed over a few dollars."

Since her daughter's death, Mrs Marks-Stuttle and her second husband, David Marks, 58, have set up the Rainbow Foundation Charity to help British backpackers in Australia in Caroline's memory.

Ms Stuttle's father, Alan, who is flying to Australia later this week, described his daughter as a vibrant young woman, full of energy.

"I'm quite relieved that something is coming to fruition and let's hope justice can be done. We have to remember that this man is innocent until proven guilty but if he did kill Caroline we have to make sure he doesn't kill anyone else.

"It's been hell on earth but the important thing is that we don't have a recurrence of this heinous crime."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high