Third Party to Murder
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Double Murder Mystery
This two-part book is the result of my ongoing investigation into the deaths of two women near Atherton, north Queensland, in 1991. The book is a chilling narrative of a murder mystery that continues to grip the nation, and proves once again the adage that sometimes “truth is stranger than fiction”.
The bodies of best friends Vicki Arnold, 27, and Julie-Anne Leahy, 26, were found in bushland by a group of young trail bike riders after the women had been missing for two weeks. Julie-Anne was behind the wheel of her four-wheel drive vehicle, held upright by a seatbelt wrapped tightly around her neck. She had been shot twice in the head, slashed across the throat, and savagely battered by a large rock. She was staring straight ahead. Vicki was slumped between the front passenger seat and the dashboard, her feet protruding from the open doorway. Her upper body was sprawled across the seat, almost touching her friend, her hand resting on a sawn-off rifle. She had been shot three times – in the left thigh, upwards through the jaw, and behind the right ear.
Despite a highly complex death scene, police decided on the spot that Arnold had murdered Leahy and then killed herself.
One year later a coroner agreed with the police that the case was a murder-suicide. But the case refused to go away, and over the next seven years public pressure and my first book on the crime led to several investigations and a Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) inquiry. In 1999 a second inquest was held, but despite fresh evidence uncovered by independent investigators a year earlier, a murder-suicide finding was again handed down.
But in September 2005 a former police officer who was one of the first to arrive at the death scene revealed to me that a double murder probe didn’t go ahead because a senior officer decreed that no overtime would be paid on such an investigation. My reporting on this revelation resulted in front page news across the country and a 60 Minutes special television report on the case which attracted the largest viewing audience for the year.
Yet another investigation – the seventh – was ordered, and In October 2010, the Member for Mulgrave, Curtis Pitt, addressed State Parliament, calling for a third inquest which he said was “a matter of public interest…to make sense out of long-time confusion and to seek answers for a family still grieving.”
Subsequently, a third inquest was ordered into the deaths of the two women, and, 20 years after the crime, this was held in Cairns, before State Coroner Michael Barnes, in 2011.
At the time of this writing, his findings have yet to be handed down.
Third Party to Murder: The Sequel is a compelling study into a crime that criminologist Professor Paul Wilson has stated:
“One does not have to believe in a conspiracy to suggest that there is something badly wrong with the way in which this case has been handled. Having spent a great deal of my professional life in analysing and writing about miscarriages of justice, I have no doubt whatsoever that Robert Reid has uncovered yet another miscarriage.”