Qld. police politics ruin murder investigation
This looks very much like a coverup of police links with criminals
THE investigation of a brutal double murder on the Gold Coast was compromised by internal police politics, a former detective who worked the case claims.
A jury took just three hours in September to acquit two men of the 1999 murders in Springbrook of Ann-Maree Kropp and Christopher Nancarrow after a month-long trial - the culmination of 12 years of police work and two separate investigations - leaving the victims' families in despair.
Paddy Fenely, a former Gold Coast CIB detective sergeant, said he and a colleague were just weeks away from making arrests in January 2007 when they were "raided" by officers from homicide, who ordered them to drop the case and have no further contact with the victims' families.
Two men were arrested nine months later, leading to their trial and acquittal this year. "As far as I'm concerned they've just blown it," Mr Fenely told The Courier-Mail.
DNA alleged to be from the suspects was found at the scene, but no motive was established.
However, Mr Fenely said promising lines of inquiry suggesting the murdered couple had been recruited by a drug ring linked to Nomads bikies planning to supply methamphetamine to truck drivers in Murwillumbah appeared not to have been pursued by the officers who took over the case. "I had four people independently tell me the same story," Mr Fenely said. "We were never given the chance to look at that."
Mr Fenely said that, on January 23, 2007, a group of homicide officers "raided our office, with a direction that the investigation had been determined to be a cold case and files were to be handed over to homicide and we were to have no further involvement".
Mr Fenely claims there had been no grounds to declare a cold case and the move was driven by a push to use a controversial strategy in which police directly befriend criminals and get them to admit to former crimes. This is instead of the traditional method of using informants to introduce undercover police to existing criminal networks.
"I said 'righto, we'll go along with your system'," Mr Fenely said. "[But] I was against it. "Their system wasn't working after about six months, it got nowhere, so we said 'righto, let's wrap it up, we know who our two suspects are, work towards going and locking them up'.
"We argued that 'you've had your time, the families need closure, we know who the suspects are, we've identified them', and they wanted to continue to run, which they still did - continue their covert strategies - after we got the boot.
"I said 'these families have waited long enough and they don't need to wait any longer' and they said 'well they've waited this long and they can wait longer again'."
One of the officers who took over the case, Detective Sergeant David Nicoll, told the Brisbane Magistrates Court in 2008 that Gold Coast CIB had been removed from the investigation because of concerns they may have failed to fully probe the possible involvement of a former colleague who lived next door to the murdered couple.
The man, an ex-Gold Coast CIB detective, pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was jailed less than a month after the Springbrook murders.
Calls made on the day the couple are thought to have been killed from the former officer's house to the home and business of one of the men accused of the murders have never been explained.
One highly placed police source said homicide had taken over the investigation because of "sensitive issues that remain within the service". "There was a whole range of reasons, (the corrupt officer) was one of them," the source said.
The parents of Ann-Maree Kropp wrote to Commissioner Bob Atkinson in 2007 demanding to know why the Gold Coast officers had been removed. Then-Deputy Commissioner Dick Conder replied simply: "Members of the Homicide Investigation Unit have carriage of this investigation following previous extensive inquiries conducted by (the Gold Coast detectives)."
Changes to Queensland's double-jeopardy rules in 2007 mean people acquitted of murder can be retried if "fresh and compelling" evidence emerges.