Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne. The family disappeared in January of 1974.
Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne. The family disappeared in January of 1974. Contributed

Leave 'emotion' out of McCulkin murder verdict

A BRISBANE Supreme Court justice has warned the McCulkin murder jury to consider its verdict "dispassionately" and to think about the "reliability" of three witnesses who claimed Vincent O'Dempsey "confessed" to the crime.

The 78-year-old Warwick resident has pleaded not guilty to three charges of murder and one of deprivation of liberty in relation to the disappearance of Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki, 13, and Leanne, 11.

They were last seen alive at their Highgate Hill home in 1974.

In his closing remarks on Tuesday, Justice Peter Applegarth said the jury must consider each charge against Mr O'Dempsey on its own merit.

"You should dismiss all feelings of sympathy and prejudice, emotion should not play a part in your decision," Justice Applegarth explained.

The jury is expected to start considering its verdicts on Wednesday.

Justice Applegarth also warned the jury it must question the reliability and honesty of Crown witnesses Kerri Scully, Warren McDonald and a prison informant who cannot be named.

The trio last week gave evidence Mr O'Dempsey confessed to them that he killed the McCulkins.

"Were they motived to tell the truth?" Justice Applegarth asked.

"Were they under some pressure to tell the truth?"

Justice Applegarth said the Crown alleged the McCulkins left their Highgate Hill home to go for a drive with Mr O'Dempsey and his co-accused Gary Reginald 'Shorty' Dubois on the evening of January 16, 1974.

He told the jury Mr O'Dempsey and Mr Dubois allegedly "deprived them of their liberty" and each of the McCulkins was allegedly murdered "by the defendant".

Defence barrister Tony Glynn on Monday said Mr McDonald, who was Mr O'Dempsey's former friend; Ms Scully, his former lover and the informant were "untrustworthy" because the first was a drug offender, the second a heroin addict and the third was telling lies to get out of jail.

Mr Glynn told the jury Mrs McCulkin's estranged husband Robert William 'Billy' McCulkin had reason to kill his family.

"There is someone who had a real motive, who it would appear hasn't been looked at seriously by either the police or the Crown," Mr Glynn said of the deceased father and husband, in his closing address.

"He is a much more, in my submission, likely candidate than Mr O'Dempsey.

"We know that he's a jealous, violent man."

The Crown alleges a "suspected connection" between the Torino and Whiskey Au Go Go fires in 1973 "would provide a motive for Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey (as a friend of Mr Dubois to) keep Barbara McCulkin quiet."

"It may not sound a sufficient motive or even a sensible one, but there never is for murder," prosecutor David Meredith told the jury during his opening address.

Mr O'Dempsey's trial was separated from Mr Dubois's.

During the past three weeks, the jury heard from 64 witnesses, with the testimony of dead witnesses read to the court.

The trial continues. - ARM NEWSDESK