Defence throws doubt on sisters’ testimony in McCulkin trial

BODIES NOT FOUND: Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974.
BODIES NOT FOUND: Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974. Contributed

A DEFENCE barrister has called into doubt the evidence of two sisters believed to be among the last people to see Vicki and Leanne McCulkin alive 42 years ago.

Dennis Lynch on Tuesday urged a Brisbane Supreme Court jury to be careful when considering the evidence of

Janet Gayton and Juneen Gayton, who were neighbours and friends of the McCulkin girls at the time they disappeared.

Mr Lynch's client, Garry Reginald 'Shorty' Dubois, 69, is charged with the murder of 34-year-old Barbara McCulkin and the rape and murder of her 13-year-old and 11-year-old daughters.

The Highgate Hill family disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974.

Mr Dubois, from Torbanlea, has pleaded not guilty in Brisbane Supreme Court to one charge of deprivation of liberty, two of rape and three charges of murder.

His co-accused, Vincent O'Dempsey, a 78-year-old Warwick resident, is scheduled to face trial next year.

The Gayton sisters previously told the court they saw men called "Vince" and "Shorty" at the McCulkin home on the day the family disappeared.

They remembered the date because it was Juneen's 10th birthday and there was to be a party that evening.

Mr Lynch said on Tuesday that there were discrepancies between statements made to police 42 years ago and the women's testimony at this trial.

He told the jury that he wasn't "criticising" the Gaytons, but "people can make mistakes or, over time, can confuse circumstances."

"You'd be very cautious before simply acting on the basis of their recollection … a recollection 40-plus years later of a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old."

Mr Lynch also urged the jury to carefully consider the evidence of Peter Hall who told the court Mr Dubois confessed that Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey took the trio to the bush.

Mr Hall had told the court that once there, Mr O'Dempsey separated Mrs McCulkin from her daughters then strangled her to death.

The witness said Mr O'Dempsey then raped one of the girls and convinced Mr Dubois to rape the other child.

Mr Hall said Mr O'Dempsey murdered them both and the two men buried their bodies in a location that has not been revealed.

"You simply couldn't be satisfied with the evidence of Peter Hall, couldn't be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he's reliable," Mr Lynch said.

On Monday, Mr Lynch accused Mr Hall of making up the story to "save his own neck" because of his involvement in the firebombing of the Torino nightclub in 1973.

The court had heard Mr Hall appeared before the Crime and Misconduct Commission in 2014 and denied any knowledge of the crimes but he changed his testimony at the committal hearing into the McCulkin deaths last year.

Crown prosecutor David Meredith on Monday told the jury that the Gaytons' testimony was not impacted by time.

Mr Meredith also said Mr Hall had nothing to gain other than clearing his conscience by giving evidence at the trial.

Justice Peter Applegarth has started summing up the case for the jury. - ARM NEWSDESK

Topics:  brisbane supreme court editors picks mcculkin murders murder

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