Murdered nurse's cries for help went unanswered
ON what was probably the evening of her death, a distraught Lorraine Wilson had knocked at the back door of a Toowoomba woman's home seeking refuge from her tormentors.
Norma Sperling told the inquest into the deaths of Ms Wilson, 20, and her friend Wendy Evans, 18, that she had been preparing dinner one night in 1974 when she heard a knock on her back door and woman's voice calling out, "is anyone home".
Mrs Sperling said she found Ms Wilson standing in her laundry and asked if she could help her.
Ms Wilson asked if she could stay there a while as she was trying to get away from some people with whom she had been at a party at Picnic Point.
Mrs Sperling said she asked Ms Wilson if she would like her to call police, but the young woman said "no", and that she just wanted to stay there a while.
Mrs Sperling told Ms Wilson she could go out the back way and down a lane if she wanted to get away from the people, but she said Ms Wilson said, "they would find her anyway" and left.
A short time later Mrs Sperling heard a scream and looked out a window to see a man struggling with Ms Wilson, who was resisting, near a car and another woman in the back seat apparently struggling with another man.
Her husband arrived home and they discussed the incident which her husband put down to a "domestic".
When about two weeks later she saw a photograph in The Chronicle of the two girls who by then had been reported as missing, she recognised the women straight away.
Asked by counsel assisting the coroner, Craig Chowdhury, if she had called police, Mrs Sperling said she hadn't because her husband told her not to.
"He told me not to get involved," she said.
"I didn't want to go against my husband's wishes."
However, after discussing it with family and friends, she eventually came forward in 1989 and made a statement to police.
Sydney nurses Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans disappeared while hitch hiking from Brisbane en route to Sydney after a short holiday in Queensland in September/October 1974.
Their remains were found almost two years later in thick bushland off Murphys Creek Rd at the foot of the Toowoomba Range.
Their hands had been tied with cord and they had been clubbed to death.
No-one has ever been charged with their murders.
The third inquest into their deaths hopes to identify those responsible for the murders and three "persons of interest" have been called to give evidence at the inquest this week.
A number of people have told the inquest of coming across two young women struggling with a group of men half-way down the Toowoomba Range Hwy on or about the relevant time.
Vivian Murphy and his wife Rose (known as Debbie) had been driving from Dalby to Redcliffe either early in the morning or early evening when they drove down the Range Hwy.
Mrs Murphy said an obviously frightened woman being chased by a man had run out in front of their car.
The woman had waved her hands toward them and said "help, help", she told the inquest.
Mrs Murphy said she, too, was frightened, and for her children, so told her husband not to stop but to drive on to Helidon where her husband reported the incident to a police officer who said he would alert Toowoomba police to send a crew down to have a look.
Mrs Murphy said she had contacted police on a number of occasions in the ensuing years when the case would surface in the media but police did not appear interested.
Police eventually took her statement in 2005.
Retired farm machinery salesman Melvin Oliver was driving to an appointment with a Lockyer Valley farmer when he came across three people near a black Holden car parked at the side of the Range Hwy.
As he slowed, he saw a woman sitting on the ground with her hands tied behind her back and a man standing with a woman whose hands he was tying up.
At the time, Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (now USQ) students were playing out a number of pranks in the city and Mr Oliver said he thought the scenario before him was just another such performance.
He thought that if the girls were in any trouble they could call to him but they did not and he drove on.
About 100m down the highway he saw a grey 1963 EJ Holden at the side of the road with men looking back up the road.
He said the grey car followed him and came alongside his car at which point two men leaned out of the window yelling "pull over".
He sped away and his pursuers turned off at Withcott he said.
Though he had intended to go to Gatton police, because he had seen nothing in the media about the incident in the days following, he did not.
He came forward after a police appeal for information in 1989.
Younger brother of "person of interest" deceased Allan John "Shorty" Laurie, Walter Laurie, told the inquest he was just 10 in 1974 when his brother and friends had a party at the Lauries' then Cannon St home in Rangeville.
In his adult years, he had been involved in a number of car accidents and was "smashed up".
He had sustained head injuries and since had trouble with his memory and spoke with an impediment.
However, referred to a police statement he made in 2000, Mr Laurie said he recalled a Kingsley Hunt bringing two "Goondiwindi girls" to the party.
He thought his brother and (fellow "persons of interest") Wayne Hilton, Jimmy O'Neill, Donny Laurie and Larry Charles had been at that party which moved to a paddock at Murphys Creek about sunset.
He said he had gone with his parents to the paddock.
He said his brother and mates often took girls to bonfire parties in the bush. He remembered the two girls having sex with men but, asked who was having sex with who, he said: "It was like a gang bang, I don't know which one's which".
Referred to his 2000 police statement by Mr Chowdhury, Mr Laurie agreed saying one of the women had stood up and said "no more, no more" and "that's enough".
He also agreed he had told police that the girls had begged the men to stop.
Mr Laurie said he had asked his brother what he was doing and his brother had told him to mind his own business and struck him, knocking him off the log on which he had been sitting and leaving him concussed.
His brother and father then got into a fight before his mother came from the car parked outside and he had gone home with his parents.
However, Mr Laurie said he couldn't say if the two women on that occasion were the two missing nurses.
Retired saw mill operator Neil Shum told the inquest Wayne Hilton had worked with him at the Highfields Saw Mill in the 1970s.
He said Hilton was a good worker but used to "hit the grog a fair bit" with his friends.
However, he said Hilton had been sober when one day he had accompanied him on a timber run in a work truck.
He said a photograph of two vehicles involved in the police investigation had appeared in The Chronicle.
Hilton told him that "they're on to us", meaning the police, and asked if Mr Shum had heard of the murder of the nurses at the bottom on the Range.
Mr Shum said when he answered he had, Hilton said he and a brother had done that and asked Mr Shum's advice.
Mr Shum told Hilton if it was him, he'd give himself up to police as quickly as possible.
Hilton had said, "I can't do that".
Hilton died in 1986.
Mr Shum said he only knew one brother of Hilton and that he couldn't have been involved because he later found out that brother had been in jail at the time.
However, he later found out Hilton referred to an uncle as brother, he said.
The inquest continues.