Spear Creek triple murder accused’s admission
A FORMER prison unit commander charged with the 1978 Spear Creek triple murders has now admitted to travelling the same path as the victims into Mount Isa - but denies having ever seen them.
Bruce John Preston, 63, applied for bail in Brisbane Supreme Court today after being charged in April with the murders of Karen Edwards, 23, her boyfriend Timothy Thomson, 31, and their friend Gordon Twaddle.
Justice Elizabeth Wilson refused to grant Preston bail, saying he was an "unacceptable risk" of failing to appear at future court hearings.
Karen, Tim and Gordon were on a "trip of a lifetime" when they disappeared from Mount Isa on October 5, 1978.
They had met in Alice Springs three days earlier and had planned to travel by motorbike - one with a distinctive homemade sidecar that carried Tim's Doberman pup Tristie - across to Cairns and down the east coast, finishing in Melbourne in time for Christmas.
The murders were recently reviewed by the Homicide Investigation Unit's Cold Case Investigation Team, and were the subject of a true crime podcast produced by The Courier-Mail called Spear Creek.
The bail hearing heard the friends were spotted in the company of a fourth person - also on a motorbike - at Frewena and Barry Caves as they approached Mount Isa.
Witnesses described the fourth person as looking similar to Preston and riding a bike similar in appearance to his distinctive Honda with its racing fairings.
The person was spotted with the friends again when they arrived in Mount Isa on October 4, with witnesses telling police they saw the group, including the man with the Honda, outside the Mount Isa hotel.
The court heard Karen, Tim and Gordon checked into the Moondarra Caravan Park that night and were joined by a man - again, similar in appearance to Preston - driving a two-tone Toyota LandCruiser with roof racks.
The court heard Preston's father owned a car matching that description.
The friends were collected from the caravan park the following morning by a man in a LandCruiser.
The driver returned later that day alone and dismantled the campsite.
Karen, Tim and Gordon were never seen alive again. Their bodies were found three weeks later in remote bushland outside of Mount Isa.
The court heard that a BMW motorbike belonging to Tim was later found in Preston's possession. He admitted to stealing it and in 1978, pleaded guilty to a charge of "theft by finding", telling police he had found it abandoned and decided to keep it.
The court heard Preston lied to friends and family, telling them he had bought the motorbike in Adelaide.
Prosecutor Danny Boyle told the court Preston also lied about his movements at the time of the murders, admitting he was also on a motorbike road trip around Australia but insisting he had been in Alice Springs at the time.
"In the 1978 interview he says that he had checked out of a particular caravan park ... on October 3 (and) that he left the caravan park approximately 9.30am," Mr Boyle said.
He said Preston told police he had camped around Alice Springs for a couple more days and returned home to Mount Isa after the murders.
"And then in his more recent interview, he has accepted the fact that he headed straight back to Mount Isa, although he denies any contact with the deceased."
Mr Boyle told the court there were serious concerns that Preston may fail to appear at future court hearings due to his "terror" that if convicted, he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
Telephone intercepts conducted during the cold case review recorded Preston making comments to his wife and son about his fears of going to prison, the court heard.
The court heard that on March 30, Preston was recorded telling his wife he had "never been this scared".
"I'm not going to prison," he said.
"I'd rather walk into the street and blow my head off."
In a call to his son, the court was told Preston said: "You might have a 4WD and a bike and a boat soon."
Barrister Russell Pearce told the court the case against his client was weak and circumstantial.
He said a psychiatrist had found Preston was not a risk of harming himself and the comments were understandable, given Preston had worked as a prison officer at the Goulburn's supermax prison for 30 years.
Justice Wilson said Preston was on a "round Australia motorcycle trip" on his black Honda 750 Four motorcycle with racing style fairings covering its front.
"He was last seen by a friend in September, 1978 in Adelaide and the applicant was intending to ride home to Mount Isa via Alice Springs," she said.
She said "numerous" witnesses had assisted police in tracking the movements of the victims, as well as the fourth man on the distinctive Honda.
"Witness statements placed the victims travelling with a male person matching the description of the defendant from the 3rd of October, 1978," she said.
"These witnesses placed the victims and the defendant travelling together at Frewena roadhouse and Barry Caves roadhouse in the Northern Territory on the 3rd and the 4th of October, 1978."
She said witnesses had also told police Preston had used his father's LandCruiser on the day he returned home from his trip.
In denying Preston bail, Justice Wilson said there was an unacceptable risk he may fail to appear at future court hearings.