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The first witness is called to take the stand. He is an elderly gentleman named Graham Ogden, and he is Barbara McCulkins brother and thus the uncle of Leanne and Vicki.

Garbed in a short sleeved white shirt with black fleck, long green trousers – the right leg is shorter than the left, and rides up his calf slightly, perhaps it’s simply his gait -thick, sensible woolen socks and velcro-strap hush puppies Mr Ogden looks just like any chap of his vintage you’d find every day down at the Geebung RSL enjoying the outstanding $12.50 Seniors 2 course lunch with a drink thrown in (don’t forget to show your card).

He’s stone deaf though, as quickly become apparent when Mr Meredith asks his first question, which is regarding where Mr Ogden lived in 1974.

‘What’s that?’ the kindly old gentleman asks, leaning forward in the box and cupping his ear.

Mr Meredith raises his voice a couple of notches as he puts the question to Mr Ogden again. But Mr Ogden still can’t hear him, so Mr Meredith tries again, projecting his voice as loud as he possibly can without screaming, and this time the witness hears him.

‘In 1974 I lived at Lord Byron Parade in Strathpine’ Mr Ogden advises the court.

George Gordon Byron! One of my favorite poets! I can’t resist.

 

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

 

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o’er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express,

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

 

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!

 

My yearning for a splash of romantic poetry sated, we return to the action and response to a question from his examiner Mr Ogden tells the court that the last time he saw or spoke to his sister and nieces was in June 1973 (about seven months before she and the girls disappeared).

Mr Lynch QC deputises his junior, whose name I didn’t catch, to ask a few questions of Mr Ogden, but unfortunately the female barrister’s timbre is of a pitch that the near deaf as a post Mr Ogden can’t hear, so after a couple of failed attempts Justice Applegarth jumps in and in a necessarily raised voice asks the witness the question that the defense counsel was attempting to put, which was whether Mr Ogden liked his brother-in-law Billy McCulkin.

The answer is firm. No he did not.

Why not?

Because Billy was a wife beater who bashed Barbara regularly.

Uh-oh.

I don’t imagine this is what the prosecution were expecting or wanting to hear when they called Mr Ogden.

The defense is not at all unhappy with the answer though, and with Billy tarred black they rest and Mr Ogden is free to depart.

He is replaced in the witness box by another Mr Ogden, to wit his brother Neville, who looks very much like him which is not I guess surprising given that they share common DNA.

Neville sports the classic public servant attire of the seventies, lock light colored sturdy woolen socks pulled high to just below the knee, dark shorts to the thigh, a short sleeved shirt the mirror of his brother’s, only in black with white flecks rather than the other way around, and of course the regulation velcro-fastened Hush Puppies.

Unlike his brother Neville’s hearing is fine, and he tells the court that he lives in Maryborough and has done so since at least the 70’s. The last time he saw Barbara was at her father’s funeral on 22 June 1972 and he neither spoke nor saw her ever again after that date. He is not asked why he hadn’t spoken to his sister or his nieces for over 18 months prior to their disappearance, and in the absence of a question doesn’t offer any explanation.

He confirms that Barbara had a close friend in Maryborough named Alice Gaston (now deceased) who she contacted regularly, confirms that Barbara had never contacted Ms Gaston at any time since the date of her disappearance and alleged murder, and is dismissed. He’s come all the way from Maryborough for a mere 60 seconds in the box but has performed his civic duty admirably.

The Crown obviously called these chaps to bed down the fact that Barbara and the kids were dead, but given that this fact never seemed in dispute it’s turned out to be a risky gambit and now we have her husband in the frame as a wife basher, so I guess Mr Meredith is the best judge of whether the positives of the short evidence outweigh the negatives. I certainly have an opinion on the matter, but shall keep my own counsel.

Speaking of, is that my Council Bus I see from the window trundling down the road? The day’s over, so I scoot.

Tomorrow’s witness list looks interesting. It should be a fascinating day. Hope you enjoyed the coverage.

See you then.