The Crime Intelligence Report of Detective-Sergeant Basil Hicks into the disappearance of the female members of the McCulkin family now takes a strange twist, for up until this moment the time sequence has been confined to his curiously odd meeting with Billy McCulkin at the Ampol servo at Waterworks Road, the Gap, on Sunday January 20 1974, and DS Baz has related details of the recollections of Janet Gayton, the young 13-year-old neighbor of the McCulkin’s from across the road who says she saw two men at the family’s residence on the evening of 16 January who she was told by her friend Vicki McCulkin were a couple of her dad’s mates named Vince and Shorty.
Now though DS Baz takes us to the next day, Monday the 21st of January 1974, and although we do not learn how Billy departed from the petrol station the previous day and who drove him home, we do learn that the policeman goes to Barbara McCulkin’s now vacant home at 6 Dorchester and meets with Billy. DS Baz does not tell us the time he arrived at and left the house, which is shoddy police work even on the kindest interpretation, but he does reveal that it was on this particular day that he spoke to young Janet Gayton, not the previous day as we had earlier been led to believe.
On this Monday summer’s day on which TV entertainer Rove McManus and controversial internet mogul Kim Dotcom entered the world from their mother’s womb, Billy tells DS Baz an offbeat little tale that is to resonate across the next 40 years.
He says that Barbara had an operation about a month ago on her stomach and breasts. It was in fact a boob job, a rather unusual procedure back in those days, particularly for a struggling snack bar attendant on the minimum wage and living in a rented cottage.
That in itself is somewhat puzzling, but it’s what Billy tells DS Baz next that is even more interesting, for he says that when he broke and entered the house on the previous Friday night – and, as we are soon to learn, on several times since over the following days – he noticed hanging in the bathroom a surgical bra that Barbara wore post-op to alleviate breast pain.
DS Baz makes the most unusual observation in his crime report that the bra was apparently washed by Barbara on the 16th of January, and thus hung in the bathroom. It is a seemingly innocuous piece of information, but ask yourself this question: how could either DS Baz or Billy have had any idea that Barbara had washed the bra on that date when
- By Billy’s reckoning he had not been in the house between the 8.00pm on the 16th and 6.00pm on 18th of January (or 7pm, based on whether you believe Billy’s first or second version of events;
- DS Bazza had not been in the house at all by his reckoning until the 21st of January;
- The bra would have long dried prior to either of these dates;
- There is no recorded witness who had seen Barbara washing her bra or indeed any other items whatsoever.
A cynic would suspect that Basil has thrown the bra washing date in offhandedly in order to further pinpoint and cement the date of her disappearance, even though there is to this point – or ever – any evidence whatsoever that the McCulkin’s disappeared from their home on the 16th of January 1974, other than evidence from a 13-year-old girl of dubious parentage that no-one came out of the house when she stood out the front and whistled on the morning of the 17th.
I am a self-professed cynic. An ancient Greek named Diogenes is my favorite figure from antiquity, and I regard him as one of my heroes. But I don’t reckon you need to be a fully-blown doubter to question this part of Billy and DS Baz’s tale, particularly when you learn that next the missing woman’s estranged husband – who in the real world would the prime suspect in the disappearance of his family – tells the police officer that he has known since he was 8-years-old that his former spouse owned two of such brassiere’s, and would never have left her home without wearing one and taking the other with her.
This is too is a most curious statement when you stop for a moment to break it down. Billy has asserted without any evidence that the bra he saw hanging from the bathroom rail was washed by Barbara on the 16th of January, yet earlier he has told DS Baz that he in fact saw his one-time, and now abandoned, dream girl on a bus in the Valley at about lunchtime on the very same day, and that at the time of the claimed sighting she was travelling in a direction away from his home.
Assuming that Barbara had not washed the surgical brassiere prior to boarding the vestibule – and given that Billy has just told DS Baz that she never leaves home without both bras – and then accepting for a moment the alleged evidence of Janet Gayton that she saw two man enter Mrs McCulkin’s home at 6pm that evening, and adding in the later police hypothesis that these two men murdered she and her children, a rather important question is left hanging in the air.
When in fact, during the short window between returning to her home from wherever she traveled that day and the men arriving at her home, did Barbara McCulkin in fact wash the said item of intimate ladies apparel?
And where is it?
DS Baz makes no mention of asking Billy to provide him with the bra, and there is no record of him taking it into evidence or producing it as an exhibit at the later coronial hearing into the family’s disappearance.
So where on earth is the bloody bra? Was there ever even a bra as described by Billy hanging in the goddamn bathroom at all?
And why would a woman carry a spare bra in her bag anyway? None of the hundreds that I have been intimately acquainted with over the course of my 4 decades as a lover of the female form have ever had a spare packed in their purse unless they were planning an overnight stay.
So why did Barbara McCulkin, if of course she did at all?
Why didn’t DS Baz ask Billy this simple question?
What was Barbara doing at lunchtime on a council bus heading away from her home anyway? Where was she going, who did she see? And who was looking after his kids as she made her to sojourn to destinations unknown?
Why didn’t DS Baz ask anyone any of these rather basic investigative questions? He was, after all, a rather highly regarded and presumably skilled detective.
And why have the media unblinkingly accepted this hocus-pocus wholesale and holus-bolus for the better part of 40 years, and why do they continue to do so today?
Questions, questions, questions.
But no bloody answers.
Two men are sleeping in 2m x 3m cells tonight, deprived of their liberty and denied the warmth of their family’s embrace. Soon they will be on trial for their lives.
They deserve answers, just as the McCulkin’s do.
Why have we been told so many lies for so long?