Eddie Murray Death in Custody Inquiry Uanita Nielsen Murder Investigation

About this Item
SubjectsPrisons and Prisoners; Police Integrity Commission; Missing Persons; Murder
SpeakersRhiannon Ms Lee

Page: 9783

    Ms LEE RHIANNON [11.12 p.m.]: In June 1981 Eddie Murray, a 21-year-old Aboriginal man from Wee Waa, New South Wales, was detained for being drunk and disorderly. Less than an hour later he was dead. There was an inquest and subsequently an inquiry by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. However it was not until 1997 that his body was exhumed and significant new evidence was revealed. Eddie had suffered a fracture to his sternum, and a forensic pathologist determined that this had most likely occurred immediately prior to his death.

    In 2000 the then Minister for Police, Paul Whelan, referred Eddie's case to the New South Wales Police Integrity Commission. In the three years that the Police Integrity Commission held the case, it managed to procure just nine documents, ordered the creation of only four more, and talked to 11 people. The family of Eddie Murray remained dissatisfied with the nature of what the Police Integrity Commission described as a "preliminary investigation". The Police Integrity Commission has not released a publicly accessible report on its inquiry. The New South Wales Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission has deemed that the Police Integrity Commission's investigation and decision not to allow material about its investigation to be made public fall within its statutory right. I urge the Minister to recognise that justice is about more than statutory obligations. Sometimes it is about intention as well.

    In 1987 the then New South Wales Attorney General, Terry Sheahan, told the Murray family that "if any fresh information came to light in relation to the death of Eddie Murray it would be acted upon". In 2000 Paul Whelan told the Murray family that if the Police Integrity Commission declined to carry out a full investigation into Eddie's death, that would not be "the end of the road" and that other avenues of inquiry were possible. I asked the Minister for Justice, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship, representing the Minister for Police, 27 questions about this investigation. His response was a 150-word, three-paragraph brush-off.

    The Murray family is only asking for a full and thorough inquiry into the death of their son, who died while in the care of the State. What form of justice is the New South Wales Government prepared to offer the Murrays? Is it a tokenistic display conducted by a body that is supposed to offer the New South Wales public confidence in the police force? Or is the New South Wales Government prepared to live up to its capacity and previous promises and finally provide the Murray family with the justice they deserve? I have lodged a further series of questions on this matter and the Police Integrity Commission's handling of it. Once again the response from the Minister verges on insulting. Eddie Murray died 23 years ago this month. Surely it is time for his family to get some justice.

    The twenty-ninth anniversary of the murder of Juanita Nielsen falls on 4 July. That is the day when in 1975 she was last seen at a Kings Cross nightclub. Despite several police investigations, her body has never been found and her killers have never been identified or punished. Speaking at the 2003 Juanita Nielsen Memorial Lecture, which I host annually, Rae Francis stated:

    In its bald outlines, her story does not sound so different to those of the many other women who every year in Australia disappear without trace. But Juanita was different. Her disappearance was not some random act of misogynistic violence. All the evidence suggests that her death was deliberate, premeditated and ultimately condoned by the police and the State.

    We should remember Juanita as she would have liked to be remembered: as someone who died for a cause—that is, a cause fighting greedy developers, one that the Greens are proud to actively promote. Twenty-nine years later Juanita is not just another woman who was murdered and forgotten. Concern endures even though the original cause, the fight to stop development on Victoria Street, is over. It endures even though Frank Thiemann, the developer who lost more than $3 million because of the action of residents like Juanita, and members of unions like the Builders Labourers Federation are dead. It endures despite many inquiries, royal commissions, and thousands of written words.

    The inability so far of the New South Wales police to solve this murder is disturbing. The case has been reopened, but the Minister for Police will not publicly disclose its progress. Canberra journalist Peter Rees, with the help of long-term collaborator Arthur King, in their book Killing Juanita, have put together what is so far the best account of the whole matter. They think they know who murdered Juanita Nielsen; they quote a person who claims to have been a witness to the killing. For Juanita, for her struggles to save Sydney's urban environment, and for the rights of all people, the current investigation must solve this murder.