Cold case: The ‘Rambo killer’ that wasn’t

THEY called him the "Rambo killer" - a cold-blooded murderer who dressed in fatigues, painted his face and carried out his own war games in Brisbane bushland.

And when police charged a bare-chested Andrew Norrie with the 1985 murder of Tarragindi pensioner Richard Campbell, it seemed the mystery of who attacked the frail old man in his home could be over.

$250k reward: Clock ticking on brutal murder cold case

But Norrie wasn't the killer. The case didn't make it through committal - although he would later be convicted of two other murders.

This week, the Homicide Investigation Unit announced they were conducting a new review of the 34-year unsolved murder in the hope that new forensic technology will lead them to the killer.

The comfit image recently produced by Queensland Police in the Richard Campbell case. Picture: Queensland Police/AAP
The comfit image recently produced by Queensland Police in the Richard Campbell case. Picture: Queensland Police/AAP

The review, which began in 2017, has seen a number of items sent overseas for sensitive DNA testing.

Detective Senior Sergeant Tara Kentwell from the homicide cold case team said Mr Campbell could have been the victim of a robbery gone wrong.

"Back in those days, there were a lot of opportunistic break and enters because people didn't lock their houses," she said.

Mr Campbell was 85 when he died. He'd spent his career driving trains for the Queensland government, mostly around the Longreach and Winton areas.

He was nicknamed "The Flying Flea" for his ability to make up time when his train was running late. After retiring in 1966, Mr Campbell moved with his wife to Pope St in Tarragindi, on Brisbane's southside. She died in 1974. After that, he spent a lot of time at the TAB in Elizabeth St where plenty knew he would come and go carrying cash.

Richard Campbell was found in his Tarragindi home with his hands and ankles tied.
Richard Campbell was found in his Tarragindi home with his hands and ankles tied.

On the morning of Thursday, June 13, 1985, a man made an anonymous triple-0 call saying there had been an accident at the Pope St home.

When paramedics arrived, they found the elderly man's body. He'd been hit over the head with a hammer, his hands and ankles were tied and he'd been gagged with a neck tie and the sleeve of a woollen jumper.

The hammer was on the floor beside him.

The house had been ransacked and Mr Campbell's television had been knocked to the floor.

A man painting the house next door told police he'd seen the killer flee the home shortly before the ambulance arrived.

Andrew Norrie
Andrew Norrie

"I heard the front door slam, turned around and saw a man in his late 20s make a quick dash to the front gate of his house," the witness told The Courier-Mail in 1985.

"He stared at me with a puzzled look and took off … I had no idea that someone had been murdered."

The man was carrying a red airline bag. Early media reports said it was believed the bag contained $2000 Mr Campbell had been saving to pay for his own funeral to spare his family the expense.

Police would later receive an anonymous call from a man claiming to have important information on the murder.

"When there's money … I might come forward," the man said to a detective at Oxley.

A $50,000 reward was offered in late 1985. That reward now stands at $250,000.

Cold case detective Senior Sergeant Tara Kentwell. Picture: Annette Dew
Cold case detective Senior Sergeant Tara Kentwell. Picture: Annette Dew

Detectives want to speak to anyone who recognises the man in a computer generated image created with the help of the painter from the neighbouring home.

The suspect was described as between 18 and 30, about 180cm, solid build with shoulder length dark brown straight unkempt hair. He was unshaven and wearing a brown to tan long sleeve pullover and blue jeans. He was carrying a red sports bag with blue or black carry handles that appeared to be full.

Det Sen Sgt Kentwell said she would encourage the person who called claiming to have information or inquiring about a reward to come forward.

"If that person, or anyone else with information, can come forward, you might help us finally get some answers for Mr Campbell's family," she said.

Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000.

Richard Campbell
Richard Campbell


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