The Hon. TREVOR KHAN:
My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Will the Minister update the House on the efforts of the New South Wales Police Force in relation to unsolved homicide cases?
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER:
This Government is committed to ensuring justice is served and that criminals are convicted for their crimes. That is why I have today announced a $200,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murder of Maureen McLaughlin. Ms McLaughlin was reported missing on 3 April 1982 by her late father, Raymond McLaughlin, after not being seen since 30 March. It is believed that the 23-year-old Leura woman was last seen at a hotel on Main Street, Lithgow. Previously Ms McLaughlin attended an RSL club on Lurline Street, Katoomba, on 30 March, where she made three separate ATM withdrawals, the last being at 4.37 p.m. She then caught a taxi home to Leura before leaving again a short time later.
Investigations were launched by local police into Ms McLaughlin's disappearance before police received a report from a bushwalker on 13 April 1992 who discovered a body at Lithgow. The body was found in a shallow grave off State Mine Gully Road, with a number of injuries to the head and body. The deceased was later identified as Maureen McLaughlin. A $100,000 reward was offered in 1994 for 12 months, but in that time no-one came forward. Ms McLaughlin's family has been hoping for justice for nearly 20 years. That is why today I have announced this $200,000 reward in the hope it will provide enough of an incentive for someone with information to come forward and to help solve this case.
Detectives involved in this case are committed to conducting a thorough investigation and have dedicated necessary resources in an effort to find closure for Ms McLaughlin's family. Today I met with Jane and Paul McLaughlin, the sister and brother of Maureen McLaughlin. They told me of the heartache they live with every day not knowing what happened to their sister. The McLaughlin's father, Raymond, passed away last year never knowing the fate of his daughter. Today Jane and Paul McLaughlin renewed their promise to their late father to find out what happened to Maureen so that he and she can finally rest in peace. It is my hope that this reward offer will entice members of the public with information about what happened to Maureen McLaughlin to come forward so her family can have closure.
The officers of the New South Wales Police Force's unsolved homicide squad are working hard to reconsider all unsolved homicides referred to it. Once an unsolved homicide investigation commences investigators seek to obtain all relevant documentation at the earliest opportunity. This will include things such as email, banking and telecommunication records. In the majority of cases this type of material will have been obtained in the original investigation and are included in investigation documents. In a small number of cases new information is located and is added to the vast array of information being considered with a fresh set of eyes.
There are 40 active strike force investigations into unsolved homicides in New South Wales, involving six metropolitan and regional unsolved homicide teams totalling 30 investigators. One of the notable achievements of these teams is Strike Force Strathnook, which investigated the 1995 murder of Donna Hicks, a 35-year-old found deceased at Minchinbury with a gunshot wound to the head. In November 2010 a man was charged with her murder.
In another case, detectives from the Western Region Unsolved Homicide Team recently visited Mildura to conduct ongoing investigations into the suspicious death of a man in 1986. Ali Somnez, then aged 44, was last seen alive at a post office in Victoria on 23 January 1986. Three days later fishermen found his body in the Darling River about 20 kilometres north of Wentworth. I think it is fair to say that all members of this House congratulate these officers on the work they are doing and continue to give them total support.