Key witness death will not delay inquest – Brisbane Times (7 June 2021)

From Tony Moore;

The death of a second key Whiskey Au Go Go witness will not delay the start of a new inquest into the firebombing mass murder, the Queensland Coroner’s Court insisted after convicted killer Garry Dubois was found dead in his cell on Monday.

But a spokesman for the court said Dubois’ death could still have an effect on proceedings, which would examine the 1973 events that resulted in the deaths of 15 people.

“The impact, if any, that Mr Dubois’ death will have on the inquest will need to be considered,” a spokesman for the court said.

Dubois, a convicted killer and rapist, died early Monday morning in his Maryborough Correctional Centre cell.

“Mr Dubois was not scheduled to give evidence during the two weeks of sittings commencing 14 June 2021,” the court spokesman said.

“Further sittings will be scheduled later in 2021.”

The new inquest into the March 1973 firebombing of the Fortitude Valley nightclub, on the corner of St Pauls Terrace and Amelia Street, began in April.

It was ordered in June 2017 after Dubois and Vincent O’Dempsey were handed life sentences over the 1974 murders of Barbara McCulkin and her daughters, 13-year-old Vicki and 11-year-old Leanne.

At their separate trials, the courts were told the pair murdered Mrs McCulkin due to fears she might try to implicate them in the bombing.

Both denied being involved.

Whiskey Au Go Go researcher Geoff Plunkett said Dubois’ death meant the inquest had lost another key witness.

Mr Plunkett wrote The Whiskey Au Go Go Massacre in 2018 after gaining exclusive access for five years to formal police records, transcripts and interviews from the investigation.

“My initial thought is that again we lost a major player who well could have had vital information,” he said.

“It is inconceivable that Garry Dubois, who participated in Mrs McCulkin’s murder and is convicted of the [daughter’s] rapes as well, did not know the reasoning why they did it.

“[Convicted Whiskey Au Go Go bomber James Richard] Finch has died recently, and now we have lost another one who must have had vital evidence.

“He could have been brought before the coroner and compelled to give that sort of evidence.”

Two criminal hardmen, Finch and John Andrew Stuart, were convicted of one count of murder from the firebombing in 1973, but there has been decades of speculation that other people were involved.

Finch died in England earlier this year, the first day of the new inquest heard on April 29.

Stuart was found dead in his Boggo Road prison cell on January 2, 1979.

Mrs McCulkin’s estranged husband, Billy McCulkin, died in 2011.

Mr Plunkett said it was almost 50 years since the Whiskey Au Go Go was firebombed, at 2.08am on Thursday, March 8, 1973.

“It’s a reflection that almost 50 years on, a lot of the [alleged] major players like [Billy] McCulkin, Finch and Stuart are not here any longer,” he said.

“It should have been investigated as early as 1975, when [Port News editor] William Stokes nominated the people allegedly behind the fire.”

Stokes was subsequently convicted of the murder of boxer Thomas Hamilton and served 16 years, although he still denies the charge.

Hamilton was a member of Brisbane’s Clockwork Orange gang, of which Dubois was also a member, evidence at his 2015 trial showed.

The gang was accused of firebombing Brisbane’s Torino nightclub earlier in 1973.

O’Dempsey has repeatedly denied he was involved in any Brisbane nightclub fires.

Stokes is listed to give evidence at the new Whiskey Au Go Go inquest.