Bryan Hodgkinson's family hope the inquest will bring them closure after more than 30 years.
Bryan Hodgkinson's family hope the inquest will bring them closure after more than 30 years.

Rapist to give evidence in cold-case cabbie murder

A MAN who says he was at the Sugarland Tavern in 1988 when Paul Vincent Sutherland raped a woman has given potentially groundbreaking evidence in a coronial inquest into the 1987 murder of Bundaberg cabbie Bryan Hodgkinson.

Witness Wayne Michels said he had confronted Sutherland at the pub on the night of the rape when another man known by the nickname Mick the beard "pulled a knife" on him.

Sutherland, who will appear as a witness when the inquest continues tomorrow, was sentenced to nine years in prison for the rape and was released on parole in 2006.

Mr Michels claimed he and Sutherland had had another heated altercation three months prior to the Sugarland Tavern rape, at a work Christmas party, which ended in employer Harvey Dingle pouring a bin filled with cold water over the pair to diffuse the brawl.

This evidence was backed by witness Jamie Dingle today, who added he'd recalled another occasion when Sutherland came to work on his parents' farm "with blood all over him".

Mr Michels's evidence suggested Sutherland and Anthony Bruce "Mick" Beer were known to each other - a detail that could prove pivotal in the cold case murder of cab driver Mr Hodgkinson.

The then 48-year-old was found riddled with stab wounds, head injuries and cuts at a quarry near Goodwood on September 10, 1987.

Bryan Hodgkinson.
Bryan Hodgkinson. Contributed

In April the Coroners Court of Queensland heard Mr Hodgkinson had driven Mr Beer and Gary Rasmussen on the same night he died.

His death was one of three gruesome Bundaberg deaths that occurred within six months of each other.

Though her body was discovered a few hours after Mr Hodgkinson's, police believe Paula Peters was the first of the three deaths by about a week. Her body was found bound in a bondage position in a burned cane field.

Sutherland was sentenced to 11 years in prison for her manslaughter, after being found not guilty of murder by a jury.

The third death in the horrific series, like Mr Hodgkinson's, remains unsolved some 30 years later.

Twenty-one-year-old preschool teacher Teresa Smith was found dead in her apartment after being bound, raped and with her head in a bucket of water on February 1, 1988.

At today's inquest Mr Michels said he knew of several times Sutherland had made lewd comments towards and about the school teacher.

Mr Michels said he'd had a number of interactions with Mr Rasmussen, who died of a drug overdose in 1993.

He claimed his daughter, who often spent time at Mr Rasmussen's nephew's home, was the reason he had been "threatened a lot" by the man over the years.

At today's inquest, Mr Michels also alleged Rasmussen and Beer had once "chased him with a baseball bat".

In 2009 Mr Beer was charged with accessory after the fact to Mr Hodgkinson's murder, robbery with violence, unlawful use of a car and wilful damage after his ex-partner provided police with information that led to a breakthrough in the case.

But, in 2010, Magistrate Neil Lavaring found there was not enough evidence to commit him to trial.

The coronial inquest into the 1987 murder was restarted on April 17 this year and was adjourned to today, after being on the back burner since 1998.

No one has ever been charged with Mr Hodgkinson's death.

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