Call for Rockhampton murder case to be re-opened

Updated March 09, 2017 18:04:34

An advocate for an Aboriginal man jailed for murder in Rockhampton almost a quarter of a century ago is calling on the Queensland Government to re-open the case, after new evidence surfaced that may support the man's innocence.

Kevin Henry, from Woorabinda in central Queensland, was given a life sentence for the murder of a 36-year-old Aboriginal woman in 1991.

She was found on a mud bank in the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton. Her name has been concealed for cultural reasons.

Henry was charged in a joint trial with three other women.

The women each received three to four years jail for grievous bodily harm after perpetrating a brutal assault on the woman the night before she was found.

The assault took place at a former alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre, Toonooba House, which sits on the banks of the river.

While several witnesses saw the three women assault the victim, there has never been any suggestion Mr Henry was involved in the assault.

Instead, police allege he murdered the woman by placing her in the river, where she drowned.

But Henry has always maintained his innocence.

A new investigation led by Martin Hodgson, a senior advocate for the Foreign Prisoner's Support Service, has raised fresh doubt about Henry's guilt.

Mr Hodgson claims a new witness statement, buried for more than 10 years, cleared Mr Henry and instead named two other men, who have since passed away.

He said the statement was not the only piece of evidence that supported Henry's innocence.

"I think the key thing that everyone looks for is, does the person have an alibi?" Mr Hodgson told ABC Local Radio.

"And Kevin Henry has an alibi, and we have multiple witnesses who are able to attest to his whereabouts throughout the entire night, and particularly in the crucial 15-minute window [when the crime was alleged to have taken place]."

Advocate points to lack of forensic evidence

Mr Hodgson said there was no forensic evidence linking Henry to the crime.

"There was never DNA collected, as people might imagine these days, but in terms of blood and hair samples, clothing samples, things like that, there is absolutely nothing that connects Mr Henry to the crime," he said.

"There's also no witnesses that connect Mr Henry to the crime at all.

"And our new investigation has also shown that the timeline that police proposed, and more crucially, where the body was placed in the water, also make Mr Henry's alibi even more watertight.

"There's just no chance he would have had to ever been involved in the way they suggest."

Call for pardon from Governor

Mr Hodgson is now calling on Queensland's Attorney General to re-open the case, or for a Governor's pardon.

"Mr Henry is an innocent man, and we would very much welcome the opportunity to present the evidence on his behalf," he said.

"Mr Henry has been eligible for parole but has been continuously knocked back, and under Queensland law he's exhausted the appeals process.

"The reason the appeals all failed was because it was based only on the Privacy Act, and not on the new information that's come to hand."

Mr Hodgson said it was important the police took a further look at the case and "look at who the real suspects could be, because ultimately after 25 years, the victim hasn't had justice either".

Henry is currently serving his sentence in the Capricornia Correctional Centre.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Yvette D'Ath told the ABC she had not received any correspondence in relation to Henry.

As the power to grant a pardon resides with the Governor, a petition for the exercise of that power must be submitted to the Governor, the spokesperson said.

The Queensland Police Service has been contacted for comment.

Amy McQuire is an ABC presenter who also co-hosts the investigative podcast Curtain with Martin Hodgson. They have been investigating Kevin Henry's case over the past year.

Topics:courts-and-trials, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, rockhampton-4700

First posted March 09, 2017 17:15:12

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