Nurses murders a dark chapter in Toowoomba's history
IN part four of The Chronicle's Unsolved Crime series, we revisit the murder of Sydney nurses Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans and the high-profile inquest that was held in 2013.
THE murder of Sydney nurses Lorraine Ruth Wilson and Wendy Joy Evans in 1974 will forever be remembered as a dark chapter in Toowoomba's history.
Almost 40 years after the women's bodies were found in bushland near Murphys Creek, a coroner found a gang of men connected through blood, marriage, booze, violence and a sordid appetite for sex were likely to be central to their deaths.
But no one was ever charged in relation to the shocking crime.
A high-profile inquest held in 2013 named seven persons of interest authorities believed were responsible or involved in the double homicide.
But only one of them was named as the likely culprit - Wayne Robert "Boogie" Hilton.
Ms Wilson's brother, Eric Wilson, said he had found solace in the years following the inquest in the knowledge the people responsible had been finally named and shamed.
He told The Chronicle he now had closure after more than four decades searching for truth and justice.
"I would have liked the coroner to go further in his findings but I think naming the person he did was the right decision," he said.
"I had been haunted by their deaths right up until that inquest.
"After the inquest I can honestly say I was not haunted anymore . . . it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was finally at peace."
Alarmingly, a number of people drove by the incident on the Toowoomba Range ignoring the women's frantic pleas when it must have been obvious they were in grave danger.
Ms Wilson, 20, and Ms Evans, 18, disappeared while hitch-hiking from Brisbane to Goondiwindi on October 6, 1974.
They were on their way to pick up Ms Wilson's VW Beetle that had broken down the week before and was being repaired.
The two friends were seen getting into a green EJ Holden with a white roof with two men near the Oxley Police Academy, in Brisbane, about 3pm.
What happened after that remained a mystery until recently.
Bushwalkers found their skeletal remains on June 25, 1976 in a secluded clearing at Hoods Paddock, off Stevens Rd near Murphys Creek - almost two years after they were reported missing.
Forensic testing conducted at the time revealed the two women had been raped, bound, gagged and bludgeoned to death.
The lives of these two fine young women and the happiness of their families were shattered by an unprovoked violent, vicious attack, mounted to satiate the perverse sexual dysfunction of a despicable gang of thugs.
No attempt had been made to conceal the bodies and their personal items were found scattered around near where the bodies lay, including a man's dress ring.
Men's clothing, including shorts and socks, was also located at the scene and placed into police evidence, but was inexplicably destroyed in April, 2010.
The initial police investigation suffered from several other missed opportunities and sloppy work, including a failure to take statements from several people who had seen the women being bashed and forced into a car on the Toowoomba Range.
It was Mr Wilson's dogged and public campaign for justice that finally saw the case blown wide open.
His tireless efforts finally paid dividends in 2012 when Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie ordered a coronial inquest into the two murders.
Seven persons of interest were named for the first time ahead of the inquest the following year in Toowoomba.
Wayne Robert "Boogie" Hilton, Allan John "Shorty" Laurie, Donald "Donnie" Laurie and Larry Charles, all deceased, were named as being persons of interest.
Desmond "Dessie" Roy Hilton, Terrance James "Jimmy" O'Neill and Allan Neil "Ungie" Laurie were the only three of the seven persons of interest named who were still alive.
The inquest made headlines across the nation and heard evidence from 31 people including the three remaining persons of interest.
The inquest heard harrowing evidence about how the pack of booze-fuelled thugs and their associates would regularly abduct young women off Toowoomba streets, force them into their cars and take them into the bush to rape them.
It heard tales of confessions, extreme violence, blood being cleaned out of cars, gang rapes, people boasting about the killings, blood pacts and deathbed confessions.
The report from Coroner Michael Barnes also noted: "As a result of publicity generated by this inquest, a number of women not connected to each other have come forward and made detailed claims of themselves and others being raped and assaulted by members of the Laurie and Hilton families."
As the inquest proceeded, shocking and graphic evidence told a story of a vicious gang who prowled the streets of Toowoomba.
In handing down his findings on June 28, 2013, Mr Barnes concluded if Wayne Robert "Boogie" Hilton were alive today there would be enough evidence to charge him with murder.
Hilton, who was a prime suspect as early as the late 1970s, died in a car crash in June, 1986 after crashing his car into a tree near Texas.
But Mr Barnes found there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Desmond "Dessie" Roy Hilton, Terrance James "Jimmy" O'Neill and Allan Neil "Ungie" Laurie who were still alive.
Mr Barnes said undoubtedly more than one person abducted and killed the two women, but the identity of those responsible, except for Wayne Robert "Boogie" Hilton, could not be established with sufficient certainty.
"The lives of these two fine young women and the happiness of their families were shattered by an unprovoked violent, vicious attack, mounted to satiate the perverse sexual dysfunction of a despicable gang of thugs," he said.
"It is more likely than not Wendy Evans and Lorraine Wilson tragically stumbled into this putrid pool of miscreants and were killed by them.
Many residents were not aware of the nature of this shocking crime and several women came forward to confirm they had been victims of brutal rapes.
"Alarmingly, a number of people drove by the incident on the Toowoomba Range ignoring the women's frantic pleas when it must have been obvious they were in grave danger.
"With the failure of any of those people to even attempt to intervene, went the girls' last chance of survival."
Mr Wilson told The Chronicle the process had gone as far as it could and it was time to move on with his life.
He said on reflection in the years following the inquest, he felt his sister and her friend had finally been given a voice.
"It was a long fight to get justice for my sister and her friend," he said.
"The process itself was extremely draining as has been the past 40 years.
I think the coroner did a fantastic job wading through the lies and bullshit to get to the truth.
"We are happy we had our day in court because I honestly believed we would never have it.
"I think the coroner did a fantastic job wading through the lies and bullshit to get to the truth."
Mr Wilson said he did not hold any ill feeling toward people who had remained silent until the inquest, especially those who had seen the two women being assaulted on the Range almost certainly before being driven to their eventual death.
"I do not hold any malice towards the witnesses who eventually came forward and gave evidence after so many years," he said.
"They have had to live with that.
"I understand it was two different times and you cannot compare the two."
I would suggest that Toowoomba is not that type of community anymore. Toowoomba has matured as a community since then.
Members of the Laurie families in the years following the inquest have gone to great lengths to discredit the coronial findings.
Allan Neil "Ungie" Laurie underwent a lie detector test on September 5, 2014 in a bid to clear his name.
He passed with a reading of 96% after replying NO to the following questions:
• Did you have any involvement in the deaths of Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans?
• Do you know for sure who killed nurses Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans?
Judy Laurie, who is Allan Neil "Ungie" Laurie's sister-in-law, told The Chronicle the inquest had created a huge problem for them.
She said she believed "Ungie" had nothing to do with the two murders, despite the evidence presented to the coroner.
Ms Laurie went as far as to implicate two other members of her extended family in the double murders.
The Chronicle contacted Wayne Robert "Boogie" Hilton's daughter, Tracy Hilton, but she declined an interview request.
Desmond "Dessie" Roy Hilton, Terrance James "Jimmy" O'Neill and Allan Neil "Ungie" Laurie now no longer live in the Toowoomba region.
Toowoomba Chronicle editor-in-chief Steve Etwell said the story was Toowoomba's and the nation's biggest story during the entire inquest.
He said the shocking revelations aired at the inquest stunned the community.
"As the inquest proceeded, shocking and graphic evidence told a story of a vicious gang who prowled the streets of Toowoomba," he said.
It is more likely than not Wendy Evans and Lorraine Wilson tragically stumbled into this putrid pool of miscreants and were killed by them.
"Many residents were not aware of the nature of this shocking crime and several women came forward to confirm they had been victims of brutal rapes.
"Questions were raised about how these criminals were allowed to roam the streets.
"In fact, there were still people in Toowoomba who were believed to have been involved."
Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio said the massive publicity at the time surrounding the inquest had a negative impact on the city.
He said even though the city had been painted in a negative light it had come a long way since the dark days of the 1970s.
"I would suggest that Toowoomba is not that type of community anymore," he said.
"Toowoomba has matured as a community since then.
"I think society has moved on since then. That does not mean this sort of thing will never happen again. Sadly every day you turn the television on you will find something terrible."
Toowoomba Regional Council rejected a plan last year to erect a memorial in one of the city's gardens honouring the two slain nurses.
It said plaques dedicated to individuals were not considered appropriate in the public park context and other alternatives should be sought to remember the two nurses.
Mr Wilson said the decision was a "kick in the guts", and he felt his sister and her best friend had once again been silenced.