Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974.
Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974. Contributed

Was a nightclub torching behind McCulkin deaths?

ON February 23, 1973, a group of "petty criminals" allegedly firebombed a nightclub in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley.

No one was hurt as the Torino went up in flames but just over a week later the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub blew up, killing 15 people.

While the firebombing of the Torino and the Whiskey were not related, the men reportedly behind the first blaze were allegedly concerned the massive police and media focus on the Whiskey tragedy would turn to them.

Crown prosecutor David Meredith told a jury yesterday that those men were Peter Hall, Keith Meredith, Thomas Hamilton and Garry "Shorty" Dubois.

He said they burnt down the Torino on the order of Vincent O'Dempsey and split the $500 payment between them.

Less than 12 months later, on January 16, 1974, Highgate Hill mother Barbara McCulkin, 34, and her daughters, Vicki and Leanne, disappeared.

Their bodies have never been found.

The possible link between the Torino firebombing and the McCulkin murders was revealed shortly after Mr Dubois, from Torbanlea, pleaded not guilty in  Brisbane Supreme Court to one charge of deprivation of liberty, two of rape and three charges of murder.

Mr Dubois, 69, and co-accused Vincent O'Dempsey, 78, are accused of raping the two young girls and murdering their mother.

But the court heard Mr O'Dempsey, from Warwick, will face a separate trial next year for his alleged involvement.

Mr Meredith told the jury that Garry Dubois told his brother Paul that Mrs McCulkin was "blackmailing" Mr O'Dempsey over the fire.

"It is not the prosecution case that Mrs McCulkin was blackmailing," Mr Meredith said.

"The Torino fire was motive to keep Barbara McCulkin quiet.".

He said Mr Hall told police in 2014, that Mr Dubois confessed to him the role he played in ending the lives of Mrs McCulkin and her daughters.

Mr Meredith told the jury Mr Dubois was visiting friends when he invited Mr Hall to "go back" to the McCulkin's home to "have sex" on January 16, 1974 - the same day the mother and her children were last seen alive.

"Mr Hall didn't know Mrs McCulkin or the age of the children so he said he wasn't interested and didn't go," Mr Meredith said.

"Garry Dubois then leaves, apparently with the intention of returning to the McCulkin's place in Vincent O'Dempsey's Charger (a car)."

Mr Meredith said Mr Hall met up with Mr Dubois the following afternoon.

"(Mr Dubois) wasn't himself - (Mr Hall) noticed something about him but didn't ask," the prosecutor said.

"In the next few days Garry Dubois tells him what has happened - the details are quite graphic."

Mr Meredith said Mr Hall told police that Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey "had taken the (McCulkin) girls for a drive".

Mr Hall said that Mr Dubois told him that he "did not know what was in O'Dempsey's head at first".

The girls and their mother were tied up and driven to the bush, the court heard.

Mr O'Dempsey then "took Barbara away and strangled her", Mr Hall allegedly told police.

"(Mr Dubois) could hear the gurgling sounds, (Mr Dubois) said it made him feel sick and it seemed to take forever," Mr Meredith said of Mr Hall's statement to police.

Mr Dubois allegedly told Mr Hall that Mrs McCulkin was not raped although he "thought that would happen".

"(Mr Dubois) said he knew the kids were going to be killed," Mr Meredith said.

"O'Dempsey grabbed one of the girls and insisted (Mr Dubois) rape the other.

"(Mr Dubois) didn't want to, but he was not game to refuse.

"(Mr Dubois) said Vincent then killed the girls.

"He said O'Dempsey asked (Mr Dubois) to kill one of the girls but he couldn't.

"He didn't say specifically how the girls were killed."

The court heard Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey allegedly remained at the scene overnight, digging a hole to "bury their bodies".

Defence barrister Dennis Lynch warned the jury that Mr Hall's evidence was "unreliable". 

EARLIER: A JURY has been told not to rely on a key witness in the McCulkin murder and rape trial.

Defence barrister Dennis Lynch said he had concerns about a statement Peter Hall gave to police in 2014 regarding purported confessions from his client Garry Reginald Dubois, 69.

Mr Dubois has pleaded not guilty to murdering 34-year-old Barbara McCulkin and raping and murdering her daughters Vicki, 13, and Leanne, 11, in January of 1974.

"The central issue is going to be the credibility and reliability of Peter Hall," Mr Lynch told the Brisbane Supreme Court jury on Monday.

"Without an acceptance of the evidence of Peter Hall, the prosecution don't have a case against Garry Dubois.

"Assessment of his evidence will be the most important part of your function."

Mr Lynch described Mr Hall's evidence as being tainted.

The court heard earlier Mr Hall did not give evidence at a previous inquiry into the disappearance of the McCulkins.

Mr Lynch also said Mr Hall had changed his evidence.

He said that the jury needed to make a careful assessment of what Mr Hall would say when he entered the witness box later this week.

The court also heard from Mrs McCulkin's brothers Graham, Neville and Barry Ogden.

Graham Ogden said he "knew" Mrs McCulkin's husband Robert William "Billy" McCulkin had assaulted his sister Barbara.

Mr Ogden told the court he didn't like Mr McCulkin.

Brothers Barry, now deceased, and Neville Ogden said they had not seen their sister since their father's funeral on December 27, 1973.

Mrs McCulkin's friend Alice Gaston gave police a statement to police before she died.

That statement was read out in court on Monday.

In the statement, Ms Gaston said Mrs McCulkin asked to come and stay at her Maryborough home about a week before the alleged murders.

Ms Gaston said she had known Mrs McCulkin for 28 years and their daughters were close friends.

"We frequently corresponded," Ms Gaston said in the statement.

?She would come to Maryborough and stay with us.

"A week before she disappeared, she asked if she could come and stay.

"I said she could but I have not heard or seen her since.

"I'm of the opinion that if Barb was alive she would have written or come to see me.

The trial continues. 

EARLIER: TWO young girls were raped shortly after their mother was dragged into nearby bush and strangled to death, a Brisbane court has heard.

Crown prosecutor David Meredith told a Supreme Court jury that Garry Reginald Dubois, 68, described in "graphic" detail to a man called Peter Hall how 34-year-old Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki, 13, and Leanne, 11, were allegedly murdered 42 years ago.

Mr Hall is listed to give evidence during Mr Dubois' trial over the coming weeks.

Mr Dubois has pleaded not guilty to one deprivation of liberty, three murder and two rape charges.

His co-accused, Vincent O'Dempsey, 76, is yet to face trial.

Mr Meredith told the jury today that Mr Dubois invited Mr Hall to "go back" to the McCulkin's home to "have sex" on January 16, 1974 - the same day the mother and her children were last seen alive.

"Mr Hall didn't know Mrs McCulkin or the age of the children so he said he wasn't interested and didn't go," Mr Meredith told the jury.

"Garry Dubois then leaves, apparently with the intention of returning to the McCulkin's place in Vincent O'Dempsey's Charger (car)."

Mr Meredith told the court that Mr Hall met up with Mr Dubois the following afternoon.

"He (Mr Dubois) wasn't himself - (Mr Hall) noticed something about him but didn't ask," the prosecutor told the court.

"In the next few days Gary Dubois tells him what has happened -  the details are quite graphic."

Mr Meredith said Mr Hall told police that Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey "had taken the (McCulkin) girls for a drive".

Mr Hall said that Mr Dubois told him that he "did not know what was in O'Dempsey's head at first".

The girls and their mother were tied up and driven to the bush, the court heard.

Mr O'Dempsey then "took Barbara away and strangled her", Mr Hall told police.
"He (Mr Dubois) could hear the gurgling sounds," Mr Meredith said of Mr Hall's statement.

"He (Mr Dubois) said it made him feel sick and it seemed to take forever."

Mr Dubois allegedly told Mr Hall that Mrs McCulkin was not raped although he "though that would happen."

"He (Mr Dubois) said he knew the kids were going to be killed," the court heard.

"O'Dempsey grabbed one of the girls and insisted that he (Mr Dubois) rape the other.

"He (Mr Dubois) didn't want to, but he was not game to refuse.

"He (Mr Dubois) said Vincent then killed the girls.

"He said O'Dempsey asked (Mr Dubois) to kill one of the girls but he couldn't.

"He didn't say specifically how the girls were killed."

The court heard Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey allegedly remained at the scene overnight, digging a hole to "bury their bodies."

 

EARLIER: BARBARA McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne were allegedly killed over a Fortitude Valley nightclub fire.

Crown prosecutor David Meredith revealed the possible motive in his opening address during the Brisbane Supreme Court trial of Garry Reginald Dubois, 68.

Mr Dubois, of Torbanlea, is charged with three counts of murder, two counts of rape and one count of deprivation of liberty.

Mr Dubois has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, which relate to the deaths of the McCulkins.

The court heart Mr Dubois is charged alongside Vincent O'Dempsey, 76.

Ms McCulkin, 34, Vicki, 13, and her sister Leanne, 11, were last seen at their Highgate Hill home on January 16, 1974.

Mr Meredith told the court that Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey and two other men were allegedly paid $500 to burn down the Torino Hotel in February, 1974.

"The Torino fire was motive to keep Barbara McCulkin quiet," Mr Meredith told the jury.

Not guilty plea in McCulkin rape and murder trial

A MAN has pleaded not guilty to all charges relating to the deaths of 34-year-old Barbara McCulkin, and her daughters Vicki, 13, and Leanne, 11.

Garry Reginald Dubois a short time ago pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder, two counts of rape and one count of deprivation of liberty.

Mr Dubois is sitting in the dock with his arms crossed as Justice Peter Applegarth addresses the jury.

Garry Reginald Dubois a short time ago pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder, two counts of rape.


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