Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974.
Barbara McCulkin (right) and her daughters Vicky (left) and Leanne (centre) disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974.

Sisters' testimony may be key to McCulkin murder trial

A SUPREME Court justice has highlighted the importance of 42-year-old identification testimony presented to the jury in the McCulkin family murder and rape trial.

Justice Peter Applegarth told the jury on Tuesday that an "essential part of the Crown's case” was proving co-accused Garry Reginald 'Shorty' Dubois and Vincent O'Dempsey were at the Highgate Hill home of Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki, 13, and Leanne, 11, on the evening they disappeared.

The McCulkins were last seen alive on January 16, 1974.

Mr Dubois, 69, has pleaded not guilty to one charge of deprivation of liberty, two of rape and three charges of murder.

Mr O'Dempsey, a 78-year-old Warwick resident, is scheduled to face trial in May next year.

"A big issue is ... who was present at Six Dorchester St (Highgate Hill) on the night of January 16, 1974,” Justice Applegarth told the jury.

"Has the prosecution satisfied you that it was Mr O'Dempsey and the defendant (Mr Dubois)?

"Because that's really an essential part of the Crown's case on every count.

"It leads into the alleged deprivation of liberty because if they (Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey) were there, they are candidates for having taken the McCulkins away.”

Justice Applegarth said the jury had to be satisfied that witnesses Janet Gayton and Juneen Gayton - who were friends of the McCulkin sisters - were right when they said they saw men called 'Vince' and 'Shorty' at the house.

They remembered the date because it was Juneen's 10th birthday.

"(You have to be satisfied) that they were the 'Vince' and 'Shorty' who Vicki McCulkin is alleged to have named to the Gayton girls,” Justice Applegarth said.

"If they were there, then did the McCulkins leave their residence with Mr O'Dempsey and the defendant?”

Defence barrister Dennis Lynch, in his closing arguments, questioned the reliability of the Gaytons' testimony.

"You'd be very cautious before simply acting on the basis of their recollection ... a recollection 40-plus years later of a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old,” Mr Lynch said.

Mr Lynch also urged the jury to carefully consider the evidence of Peter Hall who told the court Mr Dubois confessed to him that Mr Dubois and Mr O'Dempsey abducted the trio.

Mr Hall told the court they drove to the bush where Mr O'Dempsey separated Mrs McCulkin from her daughters then strangled her to death.

The witness said Mr O'Dempsey then raped one of the girls and convinced Mr Dubois to rape the other child.

Mr Hall said Mr O'Dempsey murdered the children and the two men buried all three bodies in a location that has not been revealed.

Mr Lynch accused Mr Hall of making up the story to "save his own neck” because of his involvement in the firebombing of the Torino nightclub in 1973.

Mr Lynch also said Robert William 'Billy' McCulkin might have killed his wife and children because he feared they could link him to the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub fire that killed 15 people in 1973.

Crown prosecutor David Meredith said the Gaytons' testimony was not impacted by time and Mr Hall had nothing to gain other than clearing his conscience by giving evidence at the trial.

Justice Applegarth is expected to continue his address to the jury on Wednesday. - ARM NEWSDESK