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In late 1979, under sustained pressure from opposition Labor members, the ruling National Party Government announced that a Coronial Inquest would be convened into the presumed deaths of a number of missing persons connected to the criminal underworld, including the McCulkin Three, Barbara and her daughters Vicki and Leanne.
And suddenly the Mouse began scurrying.
First, in what appears to have been September 1979 – although this cannot be confirmed as the copy is badly time worn and near-illegible – Billy McCulkin made a one page supplementary statement to police. It is near impossible to decipher what it says, and you would need to be familiar with the signature and badge number of the police officer who took the statement to know who he or she may be. I am not, and therefore cannot shed any further light on this particular document.
Then, on 29 October 1979 Billy makes an addendum to the statement he gave 5 years and 8 months ago, on the 5th of February 1974, 3 weeks after his wife and daughters were last seen at their home at 6 Dorchester Street, Highgate Hill.
The addendum begins with Billy accusing Vincent O’Dempsey of the abduction and murder of his ex-wife Barbara and their two children. The only evidence – of that is indeed what you would call it – that Billy offers for his accusation is that Vince was a mate that he had put up at his home when he (O’Dempsey) was released from prison, and therefore as a mate he should have offered to drive him around town to look in every nook and cranny of Brisbane for his missing family.
Of course Billy states, as he so often has since the time more than 6 years ago that he was accused of being the wheel man in the Whiskey Au Go Go murders, puts into the record that he does not have a driver’s licence and could not drive a car. He does not state whether he is actually incapable of driving a motor vehicle because he does not know how, or whether his inability to pilot a four-wheeled chariot is due to not holding a valid license, and as has become customary whenever Billy makes a suspicious statement to the Qld Police the officer taking the statement – a Detective-Sergeant TG Menary – does not ask the blindingly obvious question and seek to clarify the issue.
Nor does DS Menary inquire why Billy is so upset about O’Dempsey not driving him on his fruitless wild goose chase to find the needle in a haystack that is his ex-wife and daughters, who could have been anywhere in Queensland, or indeed the whole wide world, at the time of Billy’s most curious odyssey on the evening of Friday 18 January 1974, and during the daylight hours and early evening of Saturday 19 January 1974..
It would have been a quite reasonable and logical question to ask given that:
(a) On the 18th of January 1974 Billy made no direct contact with O’Dempsey whatsoever, therefore his then friend could neither have been aware of the fact that the McCulkins were absent from their home and Billy was of the view that they were missing, nor could he have offered to assist my way of driving Billy around town as he searched for them, or attempted to give the appearance that he was anyway; and
(b) That when O’Dempsey did become aware that Barbara was missing, which was at some time between approximately 11am and 1pm on Saturday 19 January 1974, he did in fact offer Billy a lift, but his friend knocked him back, telling him that Norman Wild was driving him on that day; and
(c) Other than those 2 particular days, there is no evidence whatsoever that has to this point been given by Billy to the effect that he ever searched for his wife and children again, so transportation by O’Dempsey for a purpose that did not exist would have been an abject exercise in futility.
There is of course a fourth reason that DS Menary may have chosen to question Billy’s conviction that his former mate Vince abducted and killed his wife, on the pure basis of his erroneous claim that O’Dempsey did not offer him assistance. We will examine this fourth reason at some later point, but for now will simply point out that there is a weight of highly credible and corroborated evidence to suggest that Billy did indeed know how to drive, and in fact did so at regular intervals, notwithstanding his absence of a license.
If my assertion is correct – and I can assure you that based on the primary source evidence before me it most decidedly is – then of course Billy is once more lying every time his lips move, but if you have read my 13 album box set produced in the Zillman Waterholes Studio, and mixed in the vacant Karaoke room down at the Bunger over the past 48 hours, you would realise that Billy suffers from an awful aversion to telling the truth that afflicts him to the same degree that a desire for injections of sour brown sugar affect the skeletal once-beauty of a junkie who has just offered you the stomach-churning possibility of blowing into her mangy AIDS-ridden mouth in a syringe-lined alley in Fortitude Valley for the bargain basement price of a single Orange Roughie, which for the benefit of the uneducated is not the tasty Kiwi fish, but rather a diny-di, ridgy-didge Aussie $20 note.
That Billy is incapable of telling the truth is something that we have by now accepted as an immutable truth, so whilst what he is about to tell DS Menary with a straight face would be quite shocking and alarming coming from Honest Joe Handbrake, it hardly raises an eyebrow when related by Billy with his hand held on his heart.
You see Billy, like most involved in the schemes, scams, cons, crimes, assaults, arsons, murders, mashups, bricks, burglaries, verbals, violence, cover-ups and other carry-ons that occurred in and around the center of Brisbane during the period 1973-1975 had assumed that the dust had settled, the danger had passed, and duration of the decade would be Drambuie and diamonds.
And so, like many, he had become lazy and sloppy, to the point that he had slipped his missing ex-wife Barbara’s diamond engagement ring – which was almost certainly hot to the touch when first acquired and like a heat bead in a barbeque had remained so ever since – upon the finger of his new love Estelle Long, the gangster moll he had picked up at a Mock Auction after she had done a 17 year stint as the NSW-mafia-associated gambling figure Paul Meade’s mistress, until she became too long in the tooth and her undoubted supine-in-the sack skills could no longer compensate for her increasingly deep wrinkles, and Meade traded her in for a new model and Billy inherited his old ride.
If only he had sprung for a new diamond ring from one of the many fences with whom he was associated around town, or got off his by now lazy cop-protected arse and stolen one himself, all would be apples right now for Billy. But a career crim’s like a leopard in that they never change their spots, an so when Billy popped the question to Estelle over a pot pot of XXXX heavy (him) and a chilled glass of Ben Ean (her), he slipped the hot diamond onto her time and handjob-worn finger, and as sure as Beautide will win the Miracle Mile at Menangle this Saturday night he forget to mention the provenance of the chunky rock to Estelle, who wasn’t in the habit of asking questions anyway.
Thus Estelle had been sporting the rock all over town, and wearing it proudly whilst she dealt them off the arm at various Brisbane watering holes, and more than likely it glittered with the reflection of the moon as she pulled a few third arms or legs in sparsely lit locales around town over the past few years, and then all of a sudden the Coronial Inquest was called and Billy immediately knew that he had a problem. Or if he didn’t then, he did five minutes later when his mates in blue uniforms pulled him aside and told him so.
‘Oh Sh*t’ thought Billy, what’s a bloke to do?
And then, like Archimides in the bath in Gorgeous George’s ancestral home town of Wogville all those centuries ago it hit him like a lightning bolt and he shouted ‘Eureka!, and high-tailed it into the CIB in the city.
And thus his addended statement was born, and suddenly after almost six years he remembered that despite breaking into Barb’s place on 11 separate occasions in a 30 hour period, and noticing all manner of things such as beer in the fridge, and missing pink scuffs, and 2 juicy cheques, and a blown light bulb in the kitchen, and Barb’s purse with 8 bucks in it on the fridge – each observation and present or missing item faithfully recorded in his statement to the coppers – he had somehow overlooked mentioning that he has discovered Barb’s engagement ring and filched it.
If of course that is what he has truly done, rather than re-acquiring the expensive piece of gold and rock by far more sinister means, a possibility that by virtue of his silence he has left open to inference by hard-nosed Geebung-bred cynics such as myself.
At this moment on 29 October 1974 Billy adds nothing more about his discovery of the ring other than to say that upon performing a break and entry into his former wife’s house – a repeated crime for which he was curiously never charged, the police assuming I suppose that it is quite normal and reasonable for convicted criminals known to have both a propensity for violence and ready access to firearms to bust into their ex’s house without reasonable cause – he discovered the engagement ring and a cosmetics bag, which has not been mentioned in his previous statement either.
Just to throw the cat among the pigeons and feed it a few red herrings too, Billy talks about his kids money boxes, and the fact that Barb always bought a morning paper and makes a great play of the fact that when he broke in at 7pm on the 18th of January 1974 there was in the house no newspaper dated 17 January 1974.
This may seem quite innocuous to the unsuspecting eye and mind, but allow me to pose you three simple questions.
- Was Barbara in the habit of retaining for an extended period of time each morning newspaper that she bought, or like most people did she throw it in the bin or use it to wrap the veggie peels when it had served its enlightening purpose, and she had cracked the cryptic crossword?
- If so, why didn’t Billy check the bin to see if it was there?
And here’s the clincher:
- Billy had not by his own reckoning been to the house between 8pm on Tuesday 15 January and 6pm on 18 January. Why then was he so concerned about there being no paper dated 17 January? Why was he not concerned about the absence of a paper dated 16 January? And even more importantly, why did he seem to have no concern about there not being a paper dated 18 January? After all, he was going to the races the next afternoon. Didn’t he want to read the form?
Archie reads the form. Closely.
Answer the above questions for me in a rational and logic manner if you can.