Another David Murray exclusive;
False confession claims on club bombing ‘untrue’
A retired Queensland detective has laughed off claims that police fabricated a key confession to the Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing.
Evan Griffiths, now 94, is one of few officers still alive who investigated the 1973 Brisbane nightclub blaze that killed 15 people.
Two men — James Finch and John Stuart — were convicted over the fire but suspicions that others were involved are set to be examined in a new inquest.
Mr Griffiths played an important role, as one of six senior officers who said they were in a police interview room when Finch purportedly admitted he lit the fire to help Stuart extort nightclubs.
Finch has always denied confessing and last month repeated his claims that police fabricated his unsigned record of interview.
At his home north of Brisbane, where he lives independently and is still an active member of the community, Mr Griffiths was not surprised by Finch’s protests.
“Oh well, you wouldn’t expect him to say he did (confess), would you?” he said.
Mr Griffiths, a detective sergeant attached to the Brisbane Criminal Investigation Branch at the time of the fire, said Finch “most certainly” did confess to police. “Not to me, but to the team,” he said.
“All those things were put to him. You do it thoroughly, you don’t buggerise around, make up things or anything as you put a statement in.”
Pressed on whether the confession happened, he said: “Well, what did we give in evidence? You couldn’t deny it, you’d be out for all sorts of things, wouldn’t you?”
He said police had been confronted by a “mess” when they attended the nightclub in the early hours of the morning.
He said after the charges were laid “I don’t think we even celebrated, I don’t think we had a drink”.
“There was a team of us and we stuck as a team right through. What you did, you did right according to the law,” he said.
The Queensland government ordered the new Whiskey inquest after Vince O’Dempsey and Garry Dubois were last year given life sentences over the 1974 murders of Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne.
O’Dempsey’s trial was told he murdered Barbara McCulkin because she could have implicated him in the Whiskey fire.
Finch and Stuart maintained throughout their imprisonment they were innocent. After being released on parole and sent back to Britain, Finch admitted he lit the blaze and named the others he said were involved: Stuart, O’Dempsey, Barbara McCulkin’s husband Billy McCulkin, petty criminal Thomas Hamilton and a senior Brisbane detective.
The real motive for the fire continues to be contested.
Asked this week whether O’Dempsey and the other men could have been involved, Mr Griffiths said: “They were all in the background somewhere, they were all mates.”
He said police had not to his knowledge protected any other players. Asked if a specific local detective was corrupt, he laughed: “Don’t want me to answer it, do you? I had no jobs with him. Hit the nail on the head, didn’t you?”
Police had not been in touch with him about the inquest.
“No one’s mentioned it at all. No one’s come anywhere near me,” he said.