So it’s around 7pm on Friday 18 January 1974, and Billy McCulkin – having committed a B&E into his former marital home at Highgate Hill, stealing 2 cheques totaling $380, and finding absolutely nothing to whatsoever suspicious except for a missing pair of fluffy slippers – become alarmed that his ex-missus aren’t home early on a Friday evening in the school holidays.
He hails a cab down at the corner, jumps in and travels to Yeronga to talk to Carolyn Quiller, who looked after the kids while the ex was in hospital getting her boob job. The travel time by my best guess is about 10 minutes, so allowing time for the walk to the corner and for a cab to drive by and stop to pick him up, the time’s now around 7.15pm.
Billy leaves the cab waiting outside the Quiller’s house and pops inside to have a chat to Carolyn and her hubby, whose name we still don’t know and won’t find out. But based on the death notice below I’ll hazard a guess and say his name might be Colin, which of course would mean that Carolyn’s maiden name wouldn’t be Quiller, but as you read on you’ll come to realise that nothing surprises you in this crazy story.
Anyway, the Quiller’s don’t know where Barb and the kids are, so Billy leaves, and hops back into the waiting cab. Allowing 5 minutes for the chat, the times now approximately 7.20pm.
He then directs the cab driver to take him down to St Catherine’s Terrace in the bayside suburb of Wynnum, some 28 km away, to see his sister Eileen and her boyfriend Ron Crouch. Even on today’s good roads it is a 35 minute trip, so Billy arrives around 7.55pm, and asks the pair if they know where Barb and the kids are.
Of course they don’t, but Ron offers to drive Billy back to Brisbane to look for them. For some unknown and unstated reason Billy knocks the offer of a free lift back, preferring to pay the lavish fare to return to Highgate Hill and meet Ron and Eileen there, so he jumps back in the cab and off he goes.
Allowing the same 5 minutes for the chat we gave him at the Quiller’s, and another 35 minutes for the taxi ride, it’s now 8.40pm when he gets back to 6 Dorchester Street. He pays the taxi driver – he doesn’t say how much – breaks in again, and waits a while for his sister and her bloke to arrive, which they duly do. They have a bit of a talk about what to do next, and Billy decides they’ll go to Red Hill Skating rink to look for the kids, because he’s seen a note on a blackboard on the front door with that name on it (well that’s what he says at this stage in proceedings anyway).
It’s got to be about 9pm by this stage when they jump into the car and head across the river and up to Red Hill, and it’s an easy 15 minute trip, so I have them arriving about 9.15pm. Billy goes inside and looks around but can’t see the kids – another 5 minutes minimum – then goes back out and into a phone box, where he rings a bloke with a familiar name on phone number 57 1591, which if you played soccer at Prentice Park like I did as a kid and found a dead glue sniffer in the public dunny at the field, you’d know was a Lutwyche phone number.
Billy was able to ring the number without the benefit of a white pages or directory assistance, and was able to tell Commissioner to be Redmond that the number was attached to a premises at 518 Lutwyche Rd, Lutwyche, inside which was a massage parlor named the Polonia, operated by a man of his acquaintance with the very familiar name of Vincent O’Dempsey.
If you recognise the name well that’s because Vincent ‘Vince’ ‘Dempsey is one of the 2 blokes presently banged up in the Brisvegas Pentridge charged with the McCulkin murders.
Now it is very important, for reasons that will become as plain as the nose on your face in later stories, that Billy knew the phone number, name and address of Vince’s knock shop off the top of his head.
It’s not as important, but interesting anyway, to know that Vince leased the premises from a very well known figure on Brisbane’s northside, a bloke named Vic De Pasquale, who owned the Nanda pasta company, lived in a massive white mansion on the top of the hill in Beams Road, Carseldine, drove a red Porsche, and sponsored the Norths Devils footy team.
The staff at Nanda Pasta the day world champion boxer Primo Carnera, the ‘Ambling Alp’ (in checked shirt) came to visit. Look at the size of his fists.
The De Pasquale bit’s not in this statement, and it’s not important to this particular story, but I’ve thrown it in anyway just to show you how bloody smart I am and how good my local knowledge of history and prominent citizens is, and to give you a bit of food for thought, because what I’ve just told you is smack bang on true and correct.
Anyway, Vince is not there, so Billy speaks to a ‘girl (he) knows as Cheryl Evans’ and asks if she’s seen Barb, who is clearly known to the hooker on the other end of the phone. Why is Billy ringing a brothel and asking a prostitute if she’s seen his wife?
Yeah, good question isn’t it? Sorry though, I don’t have a fact based answer for you, but I reckon we can both hazard a guess hey?
Moving right along though, Billy jumps back in his sister’s car, it’s now around 9.30pm, and they head off to Strathpine to see Barb’s brother Graham Ogden.
I’ll never cease to amaze you with my knowledge of Brisbane’s north, because I can tell you that Strathpine is out past the old pedophile playground of St Paul’s, and is a 40 minute drive from the Red Hill Skating Rink – now burnt to the ground, just like St Paul’s should be – any day or night of the week. So by the time they arrive at the Ogden’s it has to be 10 past 10 in the pm, as sure as phile follows pedo.
Billy has a chat to the Ogden’s, and they don’t know where Barb is either, so having travelled from the centre of Brisbane to the deep south-east, and then all the way north past the city limits and into Pine Rivers all in the space of a tick over 3 hours with stops along the way – you can see how conservatively generous to Billy I am being in my time estimates can’t you? – he jumps back into Eileen and Ron’s car at what must be no earlier than 10.20pm and they drive him into the Federal Hotel on St Paul’s Tce (irony there), where it is not humanly possible that he arrives any earlier than 11pm.
At the very, very earliest. Lock that in.
Police Commissioner Rod Redmond must have had an assistant who was damn good at maths when he assumed the top job, because you can only assume that he could not count.
You see he didn’t bat an eyelid when Billy told him he arrived at the Federal, grabbed his new missus Estelle, told her he couldn’t find Barb and the kids, and then had a drink or two while he waited for her to finish work.
And what time did Billy swear that Estelle finished work that Friday night of the 18th of January 1974?
Houston, we have a problem.
A f*cking huge problem.