The aftermath of the Whiskey Au Go Go fire in Fortitude Valley in 1973.
The aftermath of the Whiskey Au Go Go fire in Fortitude Valley in 1973. Contributed

Man admits to part in 70s nightclub fire

4:30PM : STUNNING revelations about who caused a nightclub fire in Brisbane in the 1970s were revealed at court this afternoon when a man admitted to being behind the arson, along with two other men who are accused of murdering Barbara McCulkin and her daughters.

Peter Hall, a former associate of Warwick man Vincent O'Dempsey, 77, and Torbanlea man Garry Reginald Dubois, 68, told a committal hearing in Brisbane this afternoon that he was involved in the arson of the Torino nightclub in Brisbane in 1973.

He also told the court Mr Dubois and two other men, were also involved in burning that nightclub.

He said it was arranged through Mr Dubois, via Mr O'Dempsey.

A month after this fire 15 people were killed in a fire at the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub in Brisbane and Mr Hall told the court he was concerned at the time that he was concerned he would be accused causing this blaze.

People died after two 18-litre barrels of petro were used to start the fire. Two men were later convicted of this.

"(I was concerned) only on the basis if they found out we did the job at Torino so they may have thought we had something to do with that too," Mr Hall said in court.

Mr Hall said police never questioned him over the Torino fire.

The court heard the Attorney General had signed a letter saying Mr Hall would not be prosecuted for anything he said during evidence at the committal hearing, except if it was proved he had committed perjury.

There were concerns the witness told different evidence when he appeared at a Crime and Corruption Commission hearing compared to what was included in his witness statements.

But Prosecutor David Meredith told the court they did not intend to prosecute Mr Hall based on anything in his witness statements.

Mr Hall is expected to be cross examined tomorrow.

Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974.
Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974. Contributed

WHEN Garry Reginald Dubois was arrested in South Australia in 1980 he denied killing the McCulkins and was later heard ranting in a cell about a "mad dog", a court was told.

Mr Dubois, 68, and Vincent O'Dempsey, 77, are accused of murdering Barbara McCulkin and her two daughters in January 1974.

In 1980 Mr Dubois was extradited from South Australia to Queensland and police officers who arrested him gave evidence at a committal hearing in Brisbane today.

Retired police officer John Attwood said Mr Dubois was being held in a cell before he was extradited in 1980 and he denied murdering the McCulkins.

The court heard a warrant had been issued for Mr Dubois's arrest for drugs and murder charge.

"He said something about 'I don't mind doing time for a bit of dope... but not f***ing murder' I think those were his exact words," Mr Attwood told the court.

Mr Attwood also said he heard Mr Dubois call another man, who he claimed murdered the McCulkins, a "mad dog".

Another retired police officer, James Munro, who helped arrest the man said Mr Dubois was agitated at the time.

Mr Munro said he heard Mr Dubois say "the other fella was a mad crazy person and that he wasn't guilty of murder".

"He was very agitated and that type of thing." Mr Munro told the court.

The committal hearing continues.

Vincent O’Dempsey. Photo Warwick Daily News
Vincent O’Dempsey. Photo Warwick Daily News

11:30 AM:  Man warned about Vincent O'Dempsey

A MAN was drinking and smoking marijuana with two others when he started making fun of murder accused Vincent O'Dempsey being colour blind, a court has heard.

It was then that one of the other men, Tom Hamilton, told him that Mr O'Dempsey had allegedly killed the McCulkins.

One of Mr O'Dempsey's acquaintances, Douglas Meredith, told a committal hearing this morning that he had been told that Mr O'Dempsey killed Barbara McCulkin and her two daughters.

Barbara and her daughters, aged 13 and 11, vanished on January 16 1974.

Mr O'Dempsey, 77, and Garry Reginald Dubois, 68, have been charged with their murders.

Mr Meredith gave evidence this morning about how he had stayed with Mr O'Dempsey in early 1974 in Newcastle, in NSW.

Mr Meredith said he asked Mr O'Dempsey at the time about the McCulkins, who were missing, and that Mr O'Dempsey told him they had probably gone to a relative's house.

Mr Meredith said he noticed Mr O'Dempsey timed himself whenever he took his shirt off to sun bake while fishing.

He said this was because Mr O'Dempsey was colour blind and couldn't see if he was burning or not.

This observation he told to two other men a night they were drinking and smoking marijuana together.

It was then that he was warned about Mr O'Dempsey's past and how he'd killed the McCulkins, he told the court.

"I think what it was meant to be as a warning, don't sort of muck about taking the p*** out of him or something," Mr Meredith said.

The hearing continues.

McCulkin case: Accused's associate to give evidence

A WARWICK man will continue giving evidence in court this morning as part of a committal hearing for two men charged with murdering Barbara McCulkin and her two daughters 41 years ago.

Warren McDonald yesterday started giving evidence and told the court that he and Vincent O'Dempsey, 77, were cultivating marijuana near Warwick when Mr O'Dempsey admitted to killing the McCulkins.

His evidence is likely to continue this morning at Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Mr O'Dempsey and Torbanlea man Garry Reginald Dubois, 68, who grew up in Mackay, are accused of murdering Barbara McCulkin and her two daughters, aged 11 and 13, in 1974.

Yesterday in court Mr McDonald said while he and Mr O'Dempsey were cultivating marijuana together, they were talking in a car when Mr O'Dempsey told him "you need another notch on your gun".

Mr McDonald said Mr O'Dempsey then confessed to killing the McCulkins.

A committal hearing is being held this week at Brisbane Magistrates Court where it is expected some witnesses will be cross examined.

More than 80 witnesses are involved in the case.

The hearing, which started yesterday, is expected to continue until Friday.


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