The Quest to Find a Murder File.

So what was the next step to investigating the murders? Another friend Katrina, told me about the State Archives and that they are the source for many historical pieces of information.

After countless emails and internet searches I found  the file was at the State Archives of QLD.

“Yes,” the email said, ” We have that murder file. However, you will need to fill out the attached forms to seek permission for access from the QLD police.”

That should be simple, I thought – until I looked at the forms.There were complicated, but  I managed to fill them out,  get my identity verified by my local police station and send them off. This shouldn’t take long.

Wrong.

The file could not be accessed for 100 years. It had only been 65 years – oh dear!

More forms to fill out, until finally the permission came through five months later.

I could view the file at the State Archive of QLD in Brisbane – I had twelve months to do it.

Can’t someone copy it for me? No – the permission meant that I had to fly there and sit in the archives and read over what I needed. I could not copy. I could not  use a dictaphone. But I could take notes.

So I convinced my friend Valerie to come with me. We landed in Brisbane and while she shopped and took in the sights, I locked myself away and read the police investigation of the murders – all under the watchful eye of the archivist.

It took me seven hours. There was a newspaper article about the lead detective in the file – could I copy that? No  – I would need to go the State Library and get a copy from them. My head started to ache – dive into my handbag for pain relief.

The next day, Valerie and I traipsed along to the State Library. We found a room where newspapers were stored on microfiche – how do we find the article?

I said to Valerie, “Let’s leave it. I don’t really need the article.”

But Valerie was persistent and persuasive.

A librarian must have noticed how clueless we looked and asked if she could help. We almost hugged her. She found the article and switched on a massive machine.  Did we have a USB as they don’t provide paper copies?

I was aghast. What would I be doing with a USB? Valerie, in the meantime, dived deep into her handbag and pulled one out. What a life saver! The librarian inserted it into the machine and copied the article for us. It was two minutes to closing time as we scurried our way out of the labyrinth with our prize.

I never did ask Valerie why she happened to have a USB in her handbag.

When someone knows someone, who knows someone, who can help.

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At dinner one night, I was telling my good friends James and Sue about my project and how it had morphed into a book of sorts. James worked for a large fertiliser company and knew someone who had worked on Ocean Island.
“Would you like me to get him to contact you?” he said.
“Could you?”I said excitedly. I could hardly wait.

A few days later, a man named Sam emailed me some information about Ocean Island – its history, its people and the mining.  He told me that he’d mostly worked on Nauru but gave me a name and phone number of someone else who had worked on the island for fifteen years, almost until the mine was closed in 1979.

I was excited and anxious. Now I could find out first hand, rather than rely on books and articles for my information. What would I say to this person? That I was writing a book? That I wanted to know what it was like to live on Ocean Island. That I wondered if he knew about the murders?

I knew if I thought about it too much, that I’d lose confidence and resolve, so the next day, after writing down my questions, I rang.

What a wealth of information I received from this generous man. He spoke to me for over an hour and told me about a group of people who had lived/or worked on all the phosphate islands – Ocean Island, Nauru and Christmas Island. They called themselves ‘The Phosphateers’ and  got together once a year to reconnect and reminisce. Soon, I was the subject of an email trail to everyone who was a phosphateer. Before long, I received responses and names of more people who had lived on Ocean Island during the late 40’s and early 50’s.

I contacted and interviewed a number of them. They’d been children in 1948 and remembered what life was like – fun and carefree. When they reached high school age, they were shipped back to Australia to continue their education at boarding school.

Everyone was only too happy to fondly share their memories and pass on the names of others who might have been able to help.I was lucky to be invited to their annual reunion held in the suburb next to mine – what luck! There, I talked to as many as I could – each generously sharing their experiences and memories – painting a picture for my imagination and my story.

But no- one could remember much about the double murders – it was too long ago. No- one knew my father either.

And even now, when I tell people where my story is set, I still find that someone knows someone who had worked or lived there and they pass on their name.