Suspect sold murdered nurse's ring for alcohol

Desmond Roy Hilton, one of three persons of interest called to give evidence, leaves Toowoomba court on the fourth day of the inquest into the unsolved murders of nurses Lorraine Wilson, 20, and Wendy Evans, 18.
Desmond Hilton leaving the Toowoomba Courthouse after giving evidence at the inquest into the deaths of Sydney nurses Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans. Bev Lacey

UPDATE: THE coronial inquest into the deaths of two nurses near Toowoomba in 1974 heard "person of interest" Desmond Roy Hilton had once told police suspect Donald "Donny" Laurie had taken a ring from one of the slain girls and sold it at a Toowoomba hotel for beer.

The inquest also heard Hilton had told police he had been asked to clean blood from the back seat of a car driven by men suspected of being responsible for the murders.

Like some earlier witnesses, Desmond Roy Hilton claimed he couldn't recall a lot of the events of the 1970s or the statement he made to police in 1989 or what was said to a CMC hearing on the murders in 2010.

His barrister Steve Kissick sought to have his client claim "privilege" on questions that might incriminate him and lead to him being charged with being an accessory after the fact.

Mr Kissick later produced a medical certificate advising that his client had been diagnosed and treated for a condition that affected his memory.

However, Coroner Michael Barnes ruled against Hilton being able to claim privilege.

Good friends Lorraine Wilson, 20, and Wendy Evans, 18, had travelled to Queensland from Sydney for a short holiday in September/October 1974.

After Ms Wilson's car broke down near Goondiwindi, the girls hitch hiked to Brisbane where they stayed with Ms Evans' sister and family for a few days.

Despite pleas for them not to hitch hike, the pair decided to hitch back as they had to be back at work at St George Hospital in Sydney the next week.

They were never seen alive again. Their skeletal remains were discovered in thick bushland at the foot of the Toowoomba Range off Murphys Creek Rd in June 1976.

A pre-inquest hearing identified seven "persons of interest" including Allan John "Shorty" Laurie, Wayne "Boogie" Hilton, Donald "Donny" Laurie, and Larry Charles (who are all deceased) as well as Allan Neil "Ungie" Laurie, Terrence James "Jimmy" O'Neill and Desmond Roy Laurie, all of whom gave evidence at this week's inquest.

Desmond Hilton told the court he had been an alcoholic in the 1970s, but hadn't had a drink since 1994.

In his earlier police statements, Hilton had referred to an incident early one Sunday morning in 1974 when Alan "Shorty" Laurie and Allan Neil "Ungie" Laurie had turned up in a car at his then Waverley St home followed by Terrence "Jimmy" O'Neill and Larry Charles in a second car.

Hilton told police in the statement that he was told to clean what looked like blood smeared across the back seat of the car.

He told police the smeared blood on the back seat "looked like somebody had been dragged across it".

However, Hilton told the inquest he didn't recall the incident.

He said the Lauries used to go kangaroo shooting and that, if it was blood, it could have been from kangaroos put in the back seat.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Craig Chowdhury challenged Hilton in that in no police statement had he ever said anything about kangaroos.

In his previous statements, Hilton had said he had been told that Sunday morning that the two girls had been given a "good hiding" at the bottom of the Range and that they had been left there.

Asked by Mr Chowdhury why he would clean blood from the car for the Lauries, Hilton said he had cleaned out their car on a number of occasions and would probably have done it for beer.

Asked had he thought, while cleaning blood off the seat, of asking if the women were alright or thought to contact police, Hilton replied "No. I was just a complete alcoholic and all I worried about was a beer bottle".

In his signed police statement, Hilton had also said Donny Laurie had taken a ring from one of the girls and had sold it for beer at the Fiveways Hotel in Toowoomba.

He said Donny Laurie and Boogie Hilton had always been worried about being arrested for the murders.
Hilton agreed he had heard a story of Wayne "Boogie" Hilton taking carpet out of the boot of a car and burning it, but he hadn't seen this happen.

Wayne Kelly, counsel for the Commissioner of Police, suggested Hilton's apparent poor memory during his evidence at the inquest had been to protect other people.

"I'm not protecting anyone," Mr Hilton said.

At a 2010 CMC hearing, Hilton had told of an incident in Toowoomba when he was in a car with Ungie and Shorty Laurie and a girl named Margaret.

He said Ungie and Shorty wanted to have sex with the girl but she didn't want to be in it.

Not long after they pulled up at Echo Valley that night, he had seen the pair having sex with Margaret in the back seat of the car and she was crying.

He said the sex had been forced.

Mr Chowdhury told Coroner Michael Barnes that there remained one more witness to give evidence to the inquest, but the witness was unable to attend this week.

He submitted that the inquest be adjourned to Brisbane. Coroner Barnes therefore adjourned the inquest to a date to be fixed to take the final witness's evidence.