Sydney nurses Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans were murdered in the Murphys Creek area in 1974.
Sydney nurses Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans were murdered in the Murphys Creek area in 1974. The Chronicle Archives

Retired cop tells inquest of ‘bloodcurdling’ screams

RETIRED policeman Ian Hamilton relived before a packed Toowoomba courtroom the night he heard the "bloodcurdling" screams of two women believed to have been nurses Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans.

The then traffic cop said he and a fellow officer were on duty the night of October 6, 1974, when they were called out to a report of screams coming from thick bushland on the Toowoomba Range about 9pm.

The caretaker of a youth camp then nestled into the Range escarpment told the officers of hearing the screams.

Mr Hamilton said shortly after arriving at the "saddle" about half-way up the up section of the Range Highway, he too heard the screams.

"It's the only time I've experienced the hairs standing up on the back of my neck," he told the court.

"It was the most bloodcurdling screams I've ever heard in my life.

"They were obviously in desperate trouble."

Unfortunately, due to that night being very windy and the contours of the Range, Mr Hamilton said pinpointing just where the screams were coming from had been very difficult.

The screams could be heard for 30 to 40 minutes before they faded and ultimately stopped, he said.

Police searches that night and in the days after failed to find any trace of the women.

The bodies were found in 1976 in bushland off Murphys Creek Rd about four to 5km from where Mr Hamilton and his fellow officer had heard the screams that night two years earlier.

The evidence came on the first day of a third coronial inquest into the deaths of the two Sydney-based nurses.

The pair had travelled to Queensland for a short holiday, but Ms Wilson's Volkswagen Beetle had broken down in Goondiwindi so they hitch hiked to Brisbane where they stayed with Ms Evans's sister in Camp Hill for a few days before setting off to hitch hike back to Dubbo, Ms Wilson's car to be picked up later from the Goondiwindi repair shop.

Though her sister was against the pair hitch hiking, they said they would be careful and set off.

That was the last their families ever heard from them.

Bushwalkers found their skeletal remains in a paddock off Murphys Creek Rd in June 1976.

No-one has ever been charged with their murders and a $250,000 reward offered upon conviction of those responsible remains outstanding.

However, barrister Craig Chowdhury, assisting the coroner, told the court a lot of information had come to light in the past 15 years or so and a number of "persons of interest" identified.

This coroner's inquest hoped to determine the exact circumstances of the deaths of the two nurses and, if possible, identify those responsible, he said.

Four persons of interest, including Allan John "Shorty" Laurie, Wayne Hilton, Donald Laurie and Larry Charles had since died.

Three others, Desmond Roy Hilton, Allan Neil Laurie and Terrance James O'Neill would be called to give evidence at the inquiry later this week.

Police inspector Kerry Johnson, who was handed the cold case file dubbed "Operation Murphy" in 2004, gave evidence.

He told the court he and another detective had interviewed Desmond Roy Hilton in May 2008.

A recording of that interview was played to the court but, unfortunately, much of the tape proved difficult to hear and no transcript of the interview was as yet available.

However, during the interview Des Hilton is heard telling detectives of Donny Laurie, Wayne Hilton, Terrence O'Neill and Larry Charles arriving at his then home in North Toowoomba.

Des Hilton said he was asked to clean out the car the group was travelling in, which he had done a number of times before.

He said the group had a reputation back then for bashing people.

He claimed he was told they had given a couple of girls "a hiding" at the bottom of the range and were going back to check on them.

Later Donny Laurie had returned and washed his hands, saying he had blood on them, he said.

The inquest continues.

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