Paul Winston BYRNE


Missing Person Paul Byrne

New leads in historical Kiwi sex-murder case

Australian police are offering a $A100,000 ($NZ119,189) reward in a bid to solve the horrific sex murder of New Zealander Paul Winston Byrne.

Mr Byrne, 32, was last seen alive on September 19, 1996, as he left the Rossarden Club in northern Tasmania about 9pm.

Police believe he was subjected to horrific sex acts before being bashed to death.

His body has never been found.


Commander Phil Wilkinson told the Hobart Mercury newspaper new evidence had come forward over the past two months.

"We believe there are members of the community who are in a position to assist and advance this investigation," he said.

The case was investigated in a National Crime Authority and Launceston CIB joint inquiry known as Operation Northcote in 1999-2000.

A member of that operation, Detective Sergeant Mark Lopes, will command a five-man taskforce in the new probe.

"We believe the $A100,000 reward or even the passage of time may make it more likely that people feel more comfortable in coming forward, perhaps to give information on associates they may no longer be involved with," Mr Wilkinson said.

"We feel this is a good time to refocus our efforts."

Mr Byrne had been drinking at the Rossarden Club with locals Michael Marlow and Michael Gibson.

His body has never been found despite a number of searches of disused mine shafts in the Rossarden area.

"We have drained areas and have conducted some pretty intensive searches," Mr Wilkinson said.

Mr Byrne, a New Zealander nicknamed Pucky, has a sister, Lissa, who lives in New South Wales. His 87-year-old father died recently in New Zealand.

"He was in Rossarden less than 12 months before he went missing," Mr Lopes said.

He said that after leaving the club the three men had gone to a house in Schell St, Rossarden, where they continued to drink.

"Everyone left there (the club) very happy," Mr Lopes said.

It is understood Mr Byrne was romantically involved with the female partner of an associate of his drinking partners.

Police believe that after he was subjected to the sexual attacks, Mr Byrne was bashed to death in the Schell St house. It is understood two men then went to a neighbour's to get help to load Mr Byrne's body into a car.

On September 28 a friend, Stephanie Allen of Mangana, went to Mr Byrne's house and found his dog locked inside thirsty and hungry.

The house in which Mr Byrne was drinking was deliberately burnt to the ground within a month of his death.

"The fire significantly impeded our opportunities to search for evidence," Mr Wilkinson said.

Nevertheless forensic scientists obtained substantial evidence before the fire.

Mr Byrne's house in Lee St, some 300 metres away, was also burnt down within 18 months.

Soon after Mr Byrne's disappearance, local man Graham Blair told a newspaper Mr Byrne was well liked.

In 2003, Justice Ewan Crawford referred to Rossarden's criminal past, saying it was a town in which "a number of professional and well-organised thieves reside".

It is the second major reward announced in Tasmania in the past two months.

"These things can yield information quite some time after people's circumstances change," said Mr Wilkinson.

Asked if that was the case with the Thorn murder, Mr Wilkinson said: "We are hopeful that still may happen."




'Plenty of evidence to solve case'


A former detective believes missing Rossarden man Paul Byrne was sexually tortured and killed. He wants the coroner to look into the 15-year-old case and believes there is sufficient evidence for two people to be charged with Mr Byrne's murder. The Sunday Examiner's police reporter, ZARA DAWTREY, reports.

ONE of Tasmania's most troubling missing persons cases should and could be solved, according to a retired former detective who was heavily involved in the investigation.

He has made significant revelations a week after Tasmania Police revealed that there were fresh leads in the 1969 disappearance of 20-year-old Lucille Butterworth at Claremont in the state's South.

The former Tasmania Police detective, highly respected and decorated during and after his long career, says Rossarden man Paul Winston Byrne was murdered and he believes his remains are still at or very near Rossarden.

He will not be named in the interest of protecting his identity due to the sensitive nature of the case.

Byrne, 32, went missing after a night out at the Rossarden Club in September 1996.

Soon afterwards, both his house and the house he was last seen at burned to the ground.

Police have excavated mine shafts at Rossarden and in the Central Highlands over the years, but to no avail.

A $100,000 reward for information about the suspected killing remains on the table today.

"The case of Paul Byrne should've been one the Cold Cases Unit dealt with as a matter of priority," the former detective said.

"I, like many others, am completely disgusted that budget cuts to Tasmania Police have seen this unit disbanded.

"Tasmania Police, from police headquarters down, is overridden with office staff. And absolutely top-notch police officers, investigators, who should be in the field, are sitting in offices tied down by administrative work."

A former member of the Operation Northcote taskforce, formed in conjunction with the then- National Crime Authority to investigate crime involving Rossarden residents more than a decade ago, he said enough evidence existed to allow police to lay charges against at least one, if not both the men he says are responsible for Byrne's murder.

"There is scientific forensic evidence, and I'm talking about blood and flesh samples," he said.

"Both houses were burned down, but the reasons why they were burned down have got to form the basis of the evidence.

"Yes, the houses were burned down, destroyed, and nothing can change that - but the circumstances of those fires and how they occurred, where they occurred and who the residents were, it's all very relevant."

He says the Northcote taskforce was given incredible powers under the NCA, meaning evidence could be obtained overtly and covertly, and did not have to be taken under caution.

"It could be obtained by any means necessary," he said.

The two men who murdered Byrne, he says, are sexual sadists who sexually tortured the former New Zealander before killing him and concealing his body.

"One of the men was openly interested in men and women, sexually speaking," he said.

"I've got no doubt Paul Byrne died a very terrible, very cruel death."

But why was he killed?

"Alcohol and drugs."

The two men and Byrne left the Rossarden Club that night and went to a house. Then they went to a second house and that is where Byrne was allegedly murdered.

"To get rid of the body, they had to have help. They would've been in a bad condition because of the alcohol and the drugs, and they would most likely have needed a hand."

He believes they would not have run the risk of going too far.

"Human nature says they would have been in a fair old state.

"They wouldn't have gone far. The remains might be in a mine shaft ... but my gut feeling is they could be much closer to home than is believed.

"The disappearance of Paul Byrne and the circumstances surrounding it disturb me greatly. There's never been an inquest. The case has never gone before a coroner.

"If that file - as it stood when I was still there - if it went before a coroner, based on the circumstances and the evidence that I know exists, a coroner would recommend charges be laid."

He wants the coroner to look at the file, but most of all, he wants those responsible to be put before the court.

"I see how things work now. A difficult file goes off to the Director of Public Prosecutions and they state `insufficient evidence'.

"Well in this case, I don't accept that. At all.

"We have a jury system where 12 members of society get to decide guilt or innocence, and that's where this needs to go. Let the jury decide.

"And if the file still contains what it did, I have no doubt one or both men would be found guilty."

•Launceston CIB boss Detective Inspector Scott Flude said the case remained open and was under investigation. "I personally have extensive knowledge of this case, as do members of my team, and we are continuing to investigate the suspected murder of Paul Winston Byrne," he said.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Launceston CIB on 63363701. Callers can remain anonymous and a $100,000 reward stands.