Bruce Gavin SCHULER


   Murder victim Bruce Schuler.

Murder victim Bruce Schuler who disappeared at Palmerville Station.


  Three people stand in front of a road sign.

On 9 July 2012, 48-year-old Bruce Gavin Schuler went missing from Palmerville Station where he was camping and gold detecting with friends. Palmerville Station is a 1360km2 cattle station, approximately 208km north west of Cairns, North Queensland. Mr Schuler lived in Mareeba with his wife of 27 years, Fiona Splitt. He and Ms Splitt are the parents of two adult children. Mr Schuler was a builder and a small business owner.

Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber were charged and convicted in the Supreme Court of Queensland at Cairns for the murder of Bruce Schuler. The Coroner found Bruce is likely to have died from shotgun wounds. Mr Schuler’s body has not been located. His wife Fiona campaigned for, and achieved “no body, no parole” legislation to be introduced in Queensland.






CITATION: Non-inquest findings into the disappearance of Bruce Gavin Schuler

TITLE OF COURT: Coroners Court


FILE NO: 2012/3968

FINDINGS OF: Nerida Wilson, Northern Coroner


1. I have decided not to hold an inquest into the circumstances of Bruce Gavin Schuler’s death because my coronial investigation has revealed sufficient information to enable me to make findings about his death. I have published these non-inquest findings in the public interest. FINDINGS REQUIRED BY S 45

2. I make the following findings, pursuant to s 45 of the Coroners Act 2003 (Qld):

a. Identity of the deceased - The deceased is Bruce Gavin Schuler.

b. How he died - Bruce Gavin Schuler is likely to have died from shotgun wounds inflicted by Stephen Struber and/or Dianne Rose Wilson-Struber. The precise circumstances of his death are unknown.

c. Place of death - Bruce Gavin Schuler’s body has not been found. He is likely to have died at Palmerville Station, Palmerville, in the state of Queensland.

d. Date of death - Bruce Gavin Schuler is likely to have died on 9 July 2012.

e. Cause of death - The medical cause of Bruce Gavin Schuler’s death is likely to have been fatal shotgun wounds.


3. These findings have been informed by the evidence contained within a coronial brief prepared by the Queensland Police Service. The brief of evidence was prepared by the investigating officer, Detective Senior Constable Alina Bell and Detective Sergeant Brad McLeish. I have also relied on the evidence obtained from the transcripts of the Supreme Court criminal trial R v Struber; R v Wilson-Struber [2016] QCA 288.


4. On 9 July 2012, 48-year-old Bruce Gavin Schuler went missing from Palmerville Station where he was camping and gold detecting with friends.

5. Mr Schuler lived in Mareeba with his wife of 27 years, Fiona Splitt. He and Ms Splitt are the parents of two adult children. Mr Schuler was a builder and a small business owner.

6. Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber were charged and convicted in the Supreme Court of Queensland at Cairns for the murder of Bruce Schuler.

7. Mr Schuler’s body has not been located.


8. On 8 July 2012, Bruce Schuler, Daniel Bidner, Tremain Anderson, and Kevin Groth travelled from Maytown to the Palmer River Crossing. The Palmer River Crossing is situated on Palmerville Station, a 1360km2 cattle station, approximately 208km north west of Cairns, North Queensland.

9. Mr Bidner and Mr Groth travelled to Palmerville Station with Mr Schuler in his Nissan Patrol dual cab utility. Mr Anderson travelled separately on his motorcycle. The men hid their vehicles in a dry creek bed and set up camp in the creek bed to avoid being detected by the station owners. The Palmerville Station owners were Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber. Mr Bidner’s prior recent contact with the owners had been unpleasant, which he described later to police as aggressive.

10. On 9 July 2012 at about 7:30am, the men began gold detecting. They walked along the Palmer River towards the station homestead. Mr Schuler had with him his gold detector, Bose headphones fitted to the detector, a pick, and a Garmin GPS. He was in the company of his dog, ‘Red’. The men separated and were spread out.

11. At around 10:00am, Mr Anderson, Mr Groth, and Mr Bidner, from separate vantage points, saw a tan coloured Toyota utility drive along a track adjacent to the dry gully where Mr Schuler was prospecting.

12. The observations and evidence of Mr Bidner are summarised as follows:

a. He recognised that the vehicle belonged to Stephen Struber and he observed Dianne Rose Wilson-Struber in the passenger seat;

b. He saw Ms Wilson-Struber gesture towards the gully where Mr Schuler was located gold detecting;

c. He observed Ms Wilson-Struber get out of the utility, flip the back seat, and pull out what he later described as a black stick, which he believed to be a long-range rifle;

d. He saw Ms Wilson-Struber move her hand in an up and down motion whilst holding what he believed to be the rifle;

e. As Mr Bidner moved away to avoid the danger, he heard a gunshot; and

f. 10 -15 minutes later, he heard a second gun shot.

13. The observations and evidence of Mr Anderson are summarised as follows:

a. He observed Stephen Struber driving the utility on the track adjacent to where he knew Mr Schuler was prospecting;

b. As Mr Anderson ran from the area, he heard a gunshot;

c. He later heard the vehicle’s engine start up again; and

d. 15 minutes later, he heard a second gunshot.

14. The observations and evidence of Mr Groth can be summarised as follows:

a. He saw the roof of the utility drive towards the area where Mr Schuler was prospecting;

b. He hid and heard a gunshot;

c. He ran, and as he did, he heard a sound he later described as, “like something being thrown into the back of the utility”; and

d. He heard a second gun shot approximately 10-15 minutes later.


15. Mr Bidner and Mr Anderson returned to the campsite at around 11:00am on 9 July 2012. Mr Schuler’s dog, Red, was also there. The satellite phone was locked in Mr Schuler’s vehicle and they did not have the keys to the vehicle.

16. Mr Bidner rode the motorcycle to his property in Maytown and returned in his Nissan utility. By that time, Mr Groth had returned to the campsite.

 17. At approximately 4.30pm, the men left a note on Mr Schuler’s vehicle and returned to Mr Bidners’ property at Maytown.

18. Mr Anderson called Palmerville Station Homestead at 6:16pm and 6:19pm and left a voicemail advising that he had heard shots, and would call the police if he did not hear from Mr Schuler within the half hour.

19. The police later established that the messages had been retrieved at the Homestead.

20. Mr Groth contacted Bruce Parker who knew the owners of Palmerville Station (Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber) and he asked Mr Parker to call the station. Mr Parker did so at 7:05pm and left a voicemail message.

21. At 7.13pm on 9 July 2012, Mr Anderson and Mr Bidner reported Mr Schuler missing to the Laura Police.


22. A police search for Mr Schuler commenced on 10 July 2012. Special Emergency Response Team members were deployed to the area. Search warrants were executed at the Palmerville station homestead where Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber were located. Both denied seeing anyone on the property in the 48 hours prior, and both denied using firearms the day prior.

23. Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber were arrested for the murder of Mr Schuler. A forensic examination did not reveal any evidence of interest to police. Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber did not participate in a record of interview. They were released without charge.

24. Palmerville Station was declared a crime scene and a large-scale ground, air, and water search was undertaken utilising State Emergency Service volunteers, and Queensland police (including dive squad, stock squad, trail bike riders and general duties officers).

25. The following items were located during the search:

a. Cow pats with tyre impressions consistent with the vehicle driven by Mr Struber on 9 July 2012;

b. Burnt patches of grass where Mr Schuler was last seen;

c. Two pieces of twine containing Mr Schuler’s DNA;

d. Small pieces of metal in blood stained grass;

e. Damaged trees, consistent with recent vehicle damage;

f. A broken termite mound containing marks, consistent with marks matching the undercarriage of Mr Struber’s vehicle in a location where Mr Schuler was last seen;

g. Tyre marks from the top of the gully leading to a fire, approximately 100m from where Mr Schuler was last seen;

h. Mr Schuler’s DNA located on a blood stained leaf, a white film canister, and four partially burnt matches; and

i. Spent projectiles in blood stained grass.

26. The police were unable to account for a .357 handgun or a .22 bolt-action rifle registered to Mr Struber. They were also unable to account for a .22 lever action rifle registered to Ms Wilson-Struber’s brother, George Wilson.

27. Police established that Ms Wilson-Struber made an anonymous telephone call to the Palmerville Station homestead from a payphone in Mareeba three days after Mr Schuler disappeared, whilst the police were conducting a search of the station. Ms Wilson-Struber advised the officer who answered the phone that the police were looking in the wrong spot and that they should be looking “12-15km east”.

28. The police investigation was complex and thorough.


29. On 30 October 2012, the police attended Palmerville Station and arrested Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber. They were charged with the murder of Bruce Schuler and misconduct of a corpse. They refused to participate in a record of interview and were released after a successful bail application before the Supreme Court of Queensland.

30. During the criminal trial, the presiding judge, Henry J, and all members of the jury were taken to Palmerville Station to view the location of where the relevant events unfolded.

31. Mr Struber gave evidence in his own defence at trial. Ms Wilson-Struber did not.

32. On 24 July 2015, Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber were convicted in the Supreme Court of Queensland at Cairns for the murder of Bruce Schuler. They were both sentenced to life imprisonment.

33. Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber appealed their convictions to the Supreme Court of Queensland Court of Appeal. Mr Struber further appealed to adduce new evidence. The joint appeal was heard by Margaret McMurdo P, Philippides JA, and North J on 31 May 2016.

34. On 11 November 2016, the Queensland Court of Appeal delivered judgment dismissing all appeal grounds.

35. Mr Struber sought special leave in the High Court of Australia on 12 May 2017 but he was refused leave to appeal.


36. On 13 October 2015, Mr Schuler’s wife, Fiona Splitt, lodged a paper petition and an electronic petition with a total of around 8,775 signatures to the Queensland Parliament advocating a ‘no body, no parole’ rule.

37. After a number of submissions and a public hearing, the Corrective Services (No body, No parole) Amendment Bill 2017 was passed in the Queensland Parliament on 8 August 2017 and assented on 25 August 2017. The legislation has retrospective effect. 

38. Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber have to date remained silent as to their involvement in the death of Mr Schuler and as to the location of his body.


39. There is no evidence that Mr Schuler returned to the campsite in the creek bed at Palmerville Station. His dog returned to the site without him. Since 9 July 2012, there has been no activity in relation to Mr Schuler’s bank accounts. He has not communicated with his family. Traces of Mr Schuler’s DNA and blood were located in proximity to where two gunshots were heard by three separate people. Mr Schuler’s vehicle remained at the campsite. 

40. Mr Bidner, Mr Anderson, and Mr Groth all saw the vehicle belonging to Mr Struber in the location, and travelling towards the location, where they knew Mr Schuler to be gold detecting. Mr Anderson identified Mr Struber. Mr Bidner identified Ms WilsonStruber. Each of the three men heard two gunshots approximately 10-15 minutes apart.

41. Based on the totality of the circumstantial evidence, it is my conclusion, on the balance of probabilities that Mr Schuler died as a result of injuries suffered after being shot by Mr Struber and/or Ms Wilson-Struber.

42. As there has been a successful criminal prosecution for the murder of Bruce Schuler, and the coronial investigation has revealed sufficient information to enable me to make findings about Mr Schuler’s death, I have decided not to hold an inquest. It seems unlikely that an inquest will result in Mr Struber and Ms Wilson-Struber breaking their silence in relation to the circumstances of Mr Schuler’s death or the location of his body.

43. I offer my sincerest condolences to Ms Splitt and to the Schuler family for their loss.

44. I close the investigation.

Nerida Wilson

Northern Coroner

Coroners Court of Queensland

8 August 2018





Tip-off adds to intrigue of search for prospector in Cape York

Liam Parsons

Friday, July 13, 2012

© The Cairns Post

A CATTLE station manager has been questioned over the disappearance of an experienced gold prospector in Cape York.

The Cairns Post understands the man spent Wednesday night in the Atherton watch-house where he was questioned by police, before being released yesterday morning.

Mareeba resident Bruce Schuler, 48, was reported missing on Monday night by friends after he failed to return from a day out prospecting on the historic Palmerville goldfields, about 150km southwest of Cooktown.

Mr Schuler, who is a licensed prospector, made contact with his family on Saturday night and was last seen about 10.30am on Monday.

Cairns police Insp Peter Mansfield said an anonymous tip-off prompted police to launch an investigation.

"We are seeking assistance from that person to contact us again, we would also like anyone else with information or knowledge of (Mr Schuler’s) movements since Saturday night to contact us," he said.

Insp Mansfield said about 15 police officers and SES volunteers were involved in the search, as well as using a helicopter, quad bikes and officers on horseback.

"We’re obviously hoping that we do find Mr Schuler alive. However, the nature of the information given to us certainly makes his disappearance highly suspicious," he said.

Insp Mansfield said Mr Schuler was near the Palmer River when he went missing, but police were unsure of his exact location.

There are concerns about the difficult and rugged terrain where Mr Schuler went missing.


Gold digger missing, gunshots reported

A PROSPECTOR has vanished without trace on a search for elusive gold, as police investigate reports of gunshots in the remote Palmer River goldfields on Cape York.

Bruce Schuler, 48, thought he had struck it lucky when he took over a gold mining lease near the 1870s ghost town of Palmerville, a historic site of lynch-law hangings, cannibal raids, and untold wealth.

But his disappearance five days ago has baffled police as detectives investigate reports of gunshots in the area.

"We do hope we'll find Mr Schuler alive," Cairns Inspector Peter Mansfield said yesterday.

"It is harsh country, it is some of the hardest country you get anywhere in Australia."

Detectives sought to question Palmerville station leasee Steve Struber and his wife Dianne over the alleged incident but both refused to be interviewed and were released without charge yesterday.

Three fellow gold miners who were prospecting with Mr Schuler told police how they saw the grazier and his wife in the area armed with a rifle and heard two distinct gunshots on the day he disappeared.

Two helicopters, 15 police officers, a large contingent of SES crew, and stock squad officers on horseback and quad bike are scouring rugged terrain with no trace of the missing experienced bushman since Monday.

One fellow miner, who asked not to be named, said he was with Mr Schuler fossicking for gold about one kilometre upstream of the station homestead on the North Palmer River when his mate vanished on Monday.

"We searched everywhere, but have not been able to find neither hide or hair of him ever since," he said.

Mr Struber is notorious for deterring fossickers and tourists from his cattle property over the years, police said.

"Steve Struber has been on a permanent war footing with miners, prospectors and four-wheel-drive enthusiasts for years," Palmer River goldfields expert George Mayer said yesterday.

"He has locked the gates, dug trenches in the road," the fossicker said.

The Palmer River goldfields is harsh Cape York country.

The area is littered with old mine shafts and steeped in 1870s history of the gold rush when it was home to more than 35,000 diggers.

More than 1.3 million ounces of mostly alluvial gold was extracted from the region.

Insp Mansfield yesterday said a major incident room had been set up and a criminal investigation was underway into the "suspicious" missing persons case.

Insp Mansfield confirmed the Strubers had been questioned by investigators about reports of gunfire.

But there has been no sign of a body, he said.

He said it was "not beyond the realm of possibility" the missing gold miner had fallen down a mineshaft.

Mr Schuler's disappearance comes as North Queensland police continue their investigations into the whereabouts of Cairns couple Scott Maitland and Cindy Masonwells.


Aboriginal tracker joins hunt for missing Cape York prospector Bruce Gavin Schuler

AN indigenous police tracker has been brought in to hunt for a gold prospector missing on Cape York.

Queensland police hope the tracker will unearth clues about the fate of Bruce Gavin Schuler, who disappeared on the sprawling Palmerville Station more than a week ago.

The 48-year-old last made contact with his family on July 7 and was reported missing two days later. He'd been prospecting for gold with three other men on the station when he vanished.

Police are investigating reports of gunshots in the area.

Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar says the station is now a crime scene.

"We've got a crime scene warrant up there, for the whole of the Palmerville Station. That's 1200 square kilometres so it's a massive area," he told ABC radio.

Hunt for missing miner Bruce Schuler ends era of trackers

  • Peter Michael
  • The Courier-Mail
  • July 17, 2012 12:00AM
  •  Picture - The Courier Mail

    QUEENSLAND'S last police tracker was brought in to help unlock the mystery of missing gold prospector Bruce Schuler, 48.

    Barry Port, 70, spent three days and nights searching for any sign of Mr Schuler in what he described as some of the most difficult country and conditions he had ever known.

    The Mareeba miner was last seen alive about 10.30am last Monday while in a verbal stoush with a local grazier.

    Three fellow miners fossicking with Mr Schuler about a kilometre from the Palmerville station homestead reported hearing two gunshots. But even Mr Port's hunt for blood, clothing and tracks was not enough.

    He said the extreme difficulty of picking up an old trail was made harder by debris scattered by the down-draught of searching helicopters.

    "It's hard country to track in," said Mr Port, who joined the Queensland Police in Coen in 1981. "It's very hilly.

    "There are lots of broken trees and limbs. They've had the choppers overhead for days, which threw me off.

    "I could not find any signs to follow. We were looking for bootprints, bits of clothing, his pick, shovel or metal detector, stuff like that."

    Two helicopters have been deployed as part of the search involving 15 police, SES crews and stock squad officers on horseback and quad bikes.

    Mr Port's unique tracking skills are a dying art.

    The Lama Lama elder is the final link in the historical chain of indigenous police acclaimed for their skills in finding people lost or hiding in the scrub from famous cases such as tracking down Ned Kelly, to uncovering secret drug crops or missing bushwalkers.

    Coen police's Sergeant Frank Falappi, who works closely with Mr Port, said the tracker, one of three once based in Coen, was impressive to watch.

    "It is a pity no one is following in his footsteps," he said yesterday.

    "I haven't seen anyone his age move as quickly over country as he does.

    "It is amazing what he can see in the landscape. He can see human and animal tracks in the bush that are almost impossible for us to make out, even when he shows us up close. It is a dying art and a terrible shame the tradition of police tracking not be continued."

    Mr Port is the last Queenslander to wear the police tracker badge and epaulets.


    Search for missing man draws a blank

    Liam Parsons

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    © The Cairns Post

    CREWS are continuing to camp overnight in harsh terrain on Cape York as the search for missing gold prospector Bruce Schuler enters its second week.

    The 48-year-old Mareeba man vanished on July 9 after he became separated from three fellow prospectors along the Palmer River, west of Cooktown.

    The 1200sqkm Palmerville Station remains a crime scene, while aerial and ground crews search for clues to Mr Schuler's disappearance.

    The search party includes an Aboriginal tracker, helicopter, ground crews and police on horseback.

    "We have a crime scene warrant for the whole property," Far Northern Region regional crime co-ordinator Det Insp Bruno Asnicar said.

    "There are certain places we are looking at."

    The case was still being treated as a missing persons investigation, but there were grave concerns for Mr Schuler.

    "It's been a long time and he is a local up there," Mr Asnicar said.

    "He knows the area very well, he was well kitted out with GPS and so forth so it's extremely concerning he hasn't walked out."

    Police have confirmed reported gun shots are being investigated and two people were released from custody after being questioned over Mr Schuler's disappearance.

    Mr Asnicar said the Aboriginal tracker was helping lead crews through the thick bushland and gullies.

    "I believe he is the last tracker we have and he's an absolute expert in tracking people through rough terrain," he said.

    Police chase missing prospector leads

    By Kirsty Nancarrow - ABC

    Posted Thu Aug 9, 2012 9:49am AEST

    Detectives investigating the possible murder of a far north Queensland prospector will attend the state's gold panning championships in Mareeba this weekend.

    It is one month since Bruce Schuler, 48, went missing while prospecting with three other people near Palmerville Station in Cape York.

    Senior Constable Russell Parker says more than 20 police, including the homicide squad, are continuing to piece together events leading up to his disappearance.

    "Anyone that's experienced issues there with the landholders, problems with access and so on, any threats and so on we would like to receive that information from them," he said.

    "To that end, the detectives will be up in Mareeba this weekend.

    "The Queensland Gold Panning Championships are being held there on Saturday and they'll be setting up our mobile police facility."

    Couple accused of murdering missing gold prospector

    By Kirsty Nancarrow - ABC

    A far north Queensland couple is due to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court today, charged with murdering a 48-year-old Mareeba man.

    Bruce Schuler was reported missing by fellow gold prospectors near the Palmer River, south-west of Cooktown in early July, and his body is yet to be found.

    Yesterday, police including officers from the homicide squad, arrested a 55-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman, from Palmerville, in relation to Mr Schuler's death.

    They are in custody and both are due to appear in court today, charged with murder and improper conduct with a corpse.

    Regional crime coordinator Bruno Asnicar says detectives are still trying to find his body.

    "It's involved a lot of police from Brisbane - it's involved every officer, every detective in every section that we have here in Cairns," he said.

    "It's had a lot of scientific and forensic resources allocated to it.

    "We've had the dive squad up here searching rivers and we've had SERT [the Special Emergency Response Team] involved protecting those personnel because of the remoteness of the area and the risk of crocodiles."

    He says there has been extensive land and air searches to try and locate Mr Schuler.

    "That hasn't occurred as of yet - I want to say though that this isn't the end of that either," he said

    "This investigation is continuing - I intend to continue to throw as many resources as I need at this investigation for a considerable period of time yet."

    Cape York couple convicted of murdering gold prospector Bruce Schuler in far north Queensland three years ago

    By Sharnie Kim - ABC


    A Cape York couple have been convicted of murdering a gold prospector, who disappeared on their property three years ago.

    Mareeba man Bruce Schuler, 48, went missing in July 2012 at Palmerville Station, sparking a massive air, ground, and underwater search which failed to find any trace of him.

    Following a two-week trial in the Supreme Court in Cairns, a jury found the station's leaseholders Stephen Struber, 58, and Dianne Wilson, 55, guilty of murder.

    In sentencing the pair to life imprisonment, Justice Jim Henry said: "It has been well over a century since the turbulent, sometimes violent days of the Palmer River gold rush.

    "That in this day and age, long removed from those frontier days, it beggars belief that station leaseholders could become so detached from standards of civilised behaviour and could've engaged in such cowardly and callous behaviour as this."

    It was a murder case without a body or any direct forensic evidence linking the couple to Mr Schuler's death.

    From the outset, the crown conceded it did not know exactly who had killed Mr Schuler or how, but argued there was enough circumstantial evidence to prove one of the couple had, and the other was a party to it.

    "Where did this offence take place? Palmerville, or as [one witness put it], 'Struberville'," prosecutor Nigel Rees told the court.

    "A property that is some 500 square miles in size. The size of some small countries. And probably, probably, one of the largest crime scenes ever declared.

    "You may also think that's enough space to dispose of a body."

    The crown's case rested on the evidence of Mr Schuler's fellow prospectors, who reported hearing two gunshots several minutes apart after a vehicle matching the couple's pulled up in the area they were searching for gold.

    They were on the land without permission, and Struber had confronted one of them about a week prior, telling him to get off his land.

    Justice Henry said the couple may have fired the first shot to scare off, or injure Mr Schuler.

    "Once begun, this conduct obviously spiralled out of control with the probably panicked but truly dreadful decision made to pursue and shoot again," he said.

    "It was surely that callous, calculating behaviour which in the jury's unanimous view elevated this beyond manslaughter to a case of murder.

    "Consistent with that dreadful choice you followed through and disposed in some unknown way of the body of Bruce Schuler."

    The trial heard police found drops of Mr Schuler's blood, burnt patches of grass, and tyre marks matching the Strubers' car in a gully about two kilometres from the homestead.

    Defence argues crown failed to prove Bruce Schuler is dead

    The prosecutor said the couple had demonstrated no remorse through the proceedings, and had denied any involvement in Mr Schuler's disappearance.

    Under cross-examination, Struber said the couple was not in the area the shots were heard, and had spent the day repairing a loader.

    "We weren't there," he repeatedly said on the stand.

    During the trial, the defence attacked the credibility of Mr Schuler's companions, highlighting inconsistencies between what they told the jury and what they told police initially about how well they saw who was inside the vehicle.

    Defence barrister Joshua Trevino argued the crown had failed to prove if Mr Schuler was even dead.

    'Why did you hurt him? Where is he?'

    The court heard Mr Schuler had purchased a mining lease a year prior to his disappearance, and was a loving husband and father of two.

    "You know he was happy, you know he enjoyed prospecting, he had the support of his wife Fiona, and you know he has not been heard from since the 9th of July 2012," Mr Rees said.

    Mr Schuler's wife of 28 years, Fiona Splitt, read a victim impact statement out in court, saying her world had stopped after her husband was murdered "and then discarded somewhere unknown like a piece of rubbish".

    "How could someone have so little regard for human life? What sort of evil must live inside of someone that could be this immoral and depraved?" she said.

    "Why did you hurt him? Where is he? How do I ever stop this nightmare from tearing my heart and mind apart?

    "I will not rest until we find Bruce and bring him home.

    "No-one deserves to be disregarded like he's been. We deserve the opportunity to say goodbye properly, to lay him to rest. Until we bring him home our family will truly not have any closure."

    The case behind the Far North murder of Bruce Schuler

    IN a murder mystery which harks back to the wild days of the Palmer River gold rush, a couple who slayed a gold prospector and hid his body deep in the Far North Queensland outback have been sentenced to a life behind bars.

    Cape York graziers Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber have been found guilty of murdering miner Bruce Schuler on their vast Palmerville Station, after finding him fossicking up a dry gully on their property three years ago.

    Presiding judge Justice Jim Henry said their “cowardly, callous” killing was a return to the tumultuous days of the late 1800s gold rush, which occurred on the same rugged country where Mr Schuler was shot dead on July 9, 2012.

    With no trace of Mr Schuler ever found and no witnesses to his killing, his daughter conceded her family “may never know” what happened to the 48-year-old father of two.

    But a jury has now determined Mr Schuler was shot dead and his body discarded somewhere on a 130,000ha property which spans a “river of gold.”

    “It has been well over a century since the turbulent and sometimes violent days of the Palmer River gold rush, that in this day and age, long removed from those frontier days, it beggars belief that station leaseholders could become so detached from the standards of civilised behaviour and could have engaged in such cowardly, callous behaviour as this,” Justice Henry said.

    Principal Crown Prosecutor Nigel Rees admitted he could not say exactly who played what part in Mr Schuler’s demise, and built his case on circumstantial evidence to ultimately have the co-accused convicted.

    In a two-week trial in the Cairns Supreme Court, the jury heard about a gold strike, the boom of gunfire, missing weapons, a missing body and flecks of blood found on a rock.

    The jury was taken on a two-night trip to view key locations on Palmverville – described by Mr Rees as “probably the largest crime scene ever declared” – and told about a Croc Hole, Cannibal Creek, empty mine shafts from a foregone era, and a ghost town to the east.


    The trial hinged on the testimony of three gold prospectors – Daniel Bidner, Tremain Anderson and Kevin Groth – who were on a fossicking expedition on “Struberville” with Mr Schuler when he vanished.

    In handing down two life sentences to the Strubers yesterday, Justice Jim Henry speculated on the doomed gold digger’s final moments.

    “This probably began with one of you shooting and intending to hurt, or at least scare off a prospector who you perceived to be a trespasser,” he said.

    “Once begun, this conduct obviously spiralled out of control, with the probably panicked, but truly dreadful decision, to pursue and shoot again.

    “Consistent with that dreadful choice, you followed through and disposed in some unknown way of the body of Bruce Schuler.”

    Before Struber and Wilson-Struber, aged 58 and 53 respectively, were locked away for life, a final plea was made for them to give answers to the family of the man they killed.

    “Whether there are earthly remains of Bruce Schuler to now be found is solely within your knowledge, as is the whereabouts of those remains,” Justice Henry said.

    “It remains within your power to bring closure to the Schuler family ... by revealing the whereabouts of their loved-one’s remains. For as long as you do nothing about that, you continue to affirm your detachment from the civilised standards of our society.”

    Family of murdered gold prospector Bruce Schuler launch petition to deny parole to killers who don’t reveal body location

    THE family of murdered gold prospector Bruce Schuler has launched a petition to keep killers behind bars unless they disclose where their victims’ remains are.

    Mr Schuler’s body has not been found since he vanished while prospecting on the Palmerville Station more than three years ago.

    Graziers Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber were found guilty of his murder in July, but have subsequently appealed their convictions.

    Mr Schuler’s widow, Fiona Splitt, launched the petition in the Queensland Parliament on Tuesday, which is called the “No body no parole rule”.

    In the petition, Ms Splitt said she was calling for an amendment to the Corrective Services Act 2006 to make it impossible to obtain parole without disclosing the location of the victim’s body.

    “By making parole contingent upon the location of the body, it is hoped that this may give some closure to the victim’s family and provide incentive for prisoners to co-operate with police and other authorities,” she said.

    By last night the petition had already received more than 250 signatures.

    Daughter Lisa Schuler said her mother had driven the idea, but their large extended family was right behind it.

    “We’ve pretty much been left in the dark for three years,” she said.


    “We just want to spread the word and get everyone on board. And it’s not just for us, but for other people involved in the same situation.”

    Police searched the 130,000ha station during the murder investigation following Mr Schuler’s disappearance in July 2012.

    The accused couple was on bail throughout legal proceedings and the land remains private property, so his family has been unable to enter and conduct its own searches.

    Ms Schuler said that if granted access, they had a large group of family and friends who had offered to help with a search.

    A date is yet to be set for the appeals.

    To sign the petition, click here.

    Seeking no parole for killers who hide location of body

    Bruce Schuler murder: Stephen Struber, Dianne Wilson appeal against convictions

    By David Chen - ABC


    A couple convicted of murdering a gold prospector in far north Queensland are appealing against their convictions.

    The Supreme Court in Townsville is hearing new evidence over the 2012 murder of Bruce Schuler, 48, near Cairns.

    Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson, both in their 50s, were last year found guilty of killing Mr Schuler on Palmerville Station.

    His body was never found.

    A Senior Constable has been giving evidence this morning, revealing inconsistencies with tyre track measurements taken by police at the time.

    He told the court he could not be sure if tracks made on the rough terrain were from one vehicle or more.

    Far North Queensland woman leads bid for legislation after husband’s murder

    FIONA Splitt feels like she has climbed a giant mountain, but Everest still stands in front of her.

    FIONA Splitt feels like she has climbed a giant mountain, but Everest still stands in front of her.

    The Cooktown woman, whose husband Bruce Schuler was murdered on a remote Cape York station five years ago, has been the heart and soul of a two-year grassroots push to have “no body, no parole” legislation introduced in Queensland.

    Yesterday, her wish was granted when the State Government announced its introduction later this year.

    But, with Mr Schuler’s body still missing, she now needs the law to have its desired effect.

    Palmerville Station grazier couple Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber were convicted of his murder in 2015, although Struber is currently contesting his conviction in the High Court.

    Wilson-Struber lost her Court of Appeal bid last year and has no other legal avenues.

    “Hopefully, when they get told in jail (about the new legislation) they tell us where Bruce is so we can bring him home,” she said.

    “It’s a relief to know and it’s helping myself and my family, but we just want to find him.”

    Attorney-General and Justice Minister Yvette D’Ath said stakeholders would be consulted to draft the legislation, which would be introduced later this year.

    Her spokeswoman said it was yet to be decided whether it would work retrospectively, which would include Mr Schuler’s case.

    Ms Splitt said she hoped she would be included as a stakeholder to push the case for a retrospective ruling.

    Former solicitor-general Walter Sofronoff led the parole review and met Ms Splitt last year to discuss the hardship she faced being unable to put Mr Schuler to rest.

    Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said victims’ families such as Ms Splitt’s had been a cornerstone to the law’s introduction.

    “(It) is designed to help victims’ families and to provide a strong incentive for offenders to co-operate with authorities,” she said.

    Ms Splitt began her campaign with a petition to the State Government which garnered close to 9000 signatures.

    “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she said.

    “I did think it was going to be a big hurdle to jump and the only way we got there is because everyone … helped me.

    “I’m just glad. I’ve done it for personal reasons but … it will help other people who have gone through what we have.”

    QUEENSLAND will become the fourth state or territory to introduce “no body, no parole” legislation when it comes into effect later this year.

    South Australia led the way in 2015, followed by the Northern Territory and Victoria last year.

    The NT legislation was primarily targeted at Bradley Murdoch, who is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of English backpacker Peter Falconio.

    Queensland’s legislation is yet to be drafted and consultation with stakeholders is set to begin soon.

    Cooktown widow Fiona Splitt has actively campaigned for the legislation since Cape York couple Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber were convicted of murdering her husband, Bruce Schuler, at their Palmerville property.

    Mr Struber is currently appealing his conviction in the High Court.

    Ms Splitt said she wrote to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk frequently during her campaign, begging her not to let Queensland be the last to introduce the legislation.

    Ms Palaszczuk said the Sofronoff review recommended Queensland adopt a model similar to South Australia’s, which focused on prisoners co-operating with investigations.

    “We agree with the findings of the Sofronoff review that ‘withholding the location of a body extends the suffering of victims’ families and all efforts should be made to attempt to minimise this sorrow’,” she said. “A system similar to South Australia’s, which focuses more broadly on co-operation with the investigation, has the potential to provide more benefit to the community in incentivising co-operation of all kinds.”

    New South Wales is also considering bringing the law in.

    Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the legislation would be introduced later in the year.

    “We know there are a number of jurisdictions across Australia which have legislation, or are in the process of introducing similar legislation,” Ms D’Ath said.


    Schuler’s body still missing six years later

    THE widow of murdered prospector Bruce Schuler has spent the past six years clinging to hope that his remains will be found.

    THE widow of murdered prospector Bruce Schuler has spent the past six years clinging to hope that his remains will be found.

    “Where is he? Why isn’t he here? They are never-ending questions,” Fiona Splitt said.

    On July 9, 2012, exactly six years today, the 48-year-old went missing while prospecting on Palmerville Station in Cape York.

    Landowners Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber were convicted of his murder in 2015 and, despite numerous appeals, they remain in jail.

    “I know in my head what has happened but in my heart, because there’s been no closure, I’m still half-expecting him to walk through the door,” Ms Splitt said.

    Last week her hopes were raised after police received a report about possible human remains at the bottom of a mine shaft about 15km from Palmerville station.

    Detective Sergeant Brad McLeish said a miner had lowered a Go Pro camera to the bottom of the shaft and seen what looked like a human skull. However, after searching the site, nothing was found.

    “You do get your hopes up but I’d rather have a bit of hope than no hope, if it means bringing Bruce home,” she said.

    Police have had no help from his killers despite the “no body, no parole” laws, which Ms Splitt fought for, now being in place.

    “I’ve looked both of them in the eye and said, you will die in jail unless you tell us where the body of Bruce Schuler is, and they just flat-out refuse,” Sgt McLeish said.

    “Struber just looks cold and dead in the eyes and repeats, no comment, no comment, no comment.”

    Sgt McLeish said the search for Mr Schuler’s body would never end and encouraged anyone with information to come forward.

    Ms Splitt believes the grazier couple shot her husband and dumped his body.

    “The worst horror scene movie you’ve ever seen, they’re characters out of that,” she said.

    She last saw Mr Schuler nine days before he went missing. “If I’m not thinking about him, I’m talking about him. But it hasn’t gotten easier, it’s gotten worse,” she said. “I still haven’t been issued a death certificate so I can’t do anything with the properties we have. I just wish they’d come forward and tell me where he is so we can put him to rest.”

    She urges anyone with information, no matter how small, to contact police.



    Mysteries still unsolved in murder of Bruce Schuler

    WHY won’t the killers talk?

    How many other dead bodies are there? Why did they resort to murder?

    Was it purely territorial? Did they have something to hide like a secret outlaw bikie drug laboratory?

    Or was it more macabre and did the husband-and-wife hillbillies simply like to hunt and terrorise humans?

    Did the deadly duo, ultimately, get caught taking a scalp in a thrill kill?

    Convicted murderer Dianne Wilson-Struber – the now jailed outback Cape York cattle station owner found guilty of stalking, executing and disposing of the body of missing gold prospector Bruce Schuler – does not look evil.

    But, by all accounts, she liked to ride shotgun, carrying a Winchester lever-action .22 rifle on her lap.

    Her husband Stephen Struber, on the other hand, has the wild deranged appearance of a modern-day bearded bushranger.

    Known as a brutish “enforcer”, the grazier and bush mechanic wielded a fearsome reputation, driven mad and lawless by isolation and adversity, his dark eyes hard as flint in a thousand-mile stare.

    He wore a .357 handgun revolver on his hip.

    Now, for the first time, Wilson-Struber has spoken out in a jailhouse interview about the true-crime murder mystery that made international headlines and was likened to horror films Wolf Creek and Deliverance.

    “We didn’t kill anyone,” Wilson told crime writer Robert Reid for his new book Murder on the River of Gold.

    “We weren’t there,’’ she said. “We didn’t do it.”

    She spoke to Reid inside Townsville Correctional Centre’s women’s prison, four years into a life sentence, the first time she has broken her silence.

    She told him she believed by talking openly it might rectify an “injustice” and uncover fresh evidence that would lead to a re-examination of the Palmerville Station murder.

    “Everybody up there has guns,” she told Reid.

    She was convinced a fallout over drugs produced by rival miners was behind the disappearance of father-of-two Bruce Schuler, 48, who was shot dead prospecting with a metal detector in a gully near the Palmerville Station homestead in 2012.

    His body has never been found and is believed stashed in a limestone cave, possibly with other slain victims, in a lost world known as the Conglomerates.

    “They’re on the dole and growing dope and we were always having trouble with them on our place,” Wilson said.

    She dismissed persistent claims among Palmer River locals about large numbers of gas bottles seen going into Palmerville, with the implication the gas was used in an illicit large-scale meth laboratory, either by themselves or outlaw bikie gangs.

    “We weren’t making drugs, that’s ridiculous.

    “Yes, I am angry, very angry, but I don’t show it. There’s no point. But if they want me to say I murdered him, I refuse, because I didn’t do it.

    “Don’t you think I would show them where it (the body) is if I knew?”

    The No Body, No Parole rule, inspired by a four-year campaign led by Schuler’s widow Fiona Splitt, means unless she directs police to where the victim’s body is buried, she will stay in prison until she dies.

    “Well, I can’t say where he is because I don’t know.”

    Reid, who eyeballed her, said: “That’s bullshit.”

    “I told her she was a bloody good liar,” he tells Insight.

    To understand the violent tensions between prospectors and graziers, it helps to know the “gold fever” history of the Palmer River goldfields and the wild, harsh and unforgiving landscape of central Cape York.

    Explorer James Venture Mulligan, who led the world-famous Palmer River gold rush in 1873, said: “It is a poor place … for God’s sake do not attempt to come, as people caught out in that direction without rations must perish.”

    Within a year, about 15,000 diggers were on the Palmer goldfields – 10,000 of them Chinese – and under frequent attack by fierce tribes of Aborigines, who resented the invasion of their lands; Maytown became the focal point.

    Lured by the promise of untold wealth, it proved to be one of Australia’s largest and richest alluvial gold deposits where still today big gold nuggets can be picked up in the dry gullies of the “River of Gold”.

    The original township of Palmerville survived as a pastoral leasehold, covering about 1360sq km and was won in a government ballot by Wilson’s father in 1964; she lived there from the age of two.

    In his new book, Reid, 79, a former north Queensland correspondent for The Courier-Mail who also penned The Search, on the murders of Vicki Arnold and Julie-Anne Leahy at Cherry Tree Creek in 1991, speaks to locals and police.

    He reveals at least 20 instances of intimidating behaviour by Struber and his wife that escalated over two decades from a bitter feud into a reign of terror that spills over into violence, bloodshed, threats, gunshots and, finally, murder.

    At the heart of it was a frontier pastoral family in a private war with gold prospectors who they believed were trespassing on their country.

    Fossickers using metal detectors would burn off grass on their cattle property, and take whatever gold they found.

    No body. No murder weapons. No eye witnesses. No confessions. It was a hard case to put together to convince a jury beyond all reasonable doubt.

    Lead investigator Detective Sergeant Brad McLeish, renowned as a straight-talking lawman, told of the circumstantial murder case.

    Fellow prospectors Dan Bidner and Tremaine Anderson gave evidence they saw the Strubers pull up in a farm ute. They heard two shots.

    But a small burnt out patch of blood splatter, later confirmed in DNA tests to be of Schuler’s blood, was the only trace to be found.

    “I believe Dianne fired the first shot,” McLeish, of the Cairns CIB, said.

    “The second shot, the execution shot, was a different sound.

    “Struber had another option. He could have pointed the finger at Dianne and walked away as a witness, but he didn’t. She was known to hold the gun and he could easily have pointed the finger at her, and because he didn’t, makes me think he fired the second shot, a revolver shot, the execution shot, more than likely from the revolver he wore on his hip.

    “And of course that revolver is missing, and the Winchester .22 she used is missing, and they’ve gone missing because those bullets will be in Bruce’s body.

    “If they fired the first shot deliberately at him, they’ve wounded him, they still could have walked away, but they followed up with the chase 100 metres down the creek, the execution shot, and the body disappears.

    “There’s no doubt they put the body on the back of the ute and lit the fire to get rid of traces of blood. Who fired the second shot? We don’t know.”

    He described Struber as an “absolute bully” with a history of domestic violence towards Wilson. Both of them “strange individuals, cold and emotionless”.

    “Dianne is a victim of her upbringing. She kills a beast, takes it back to the house and cuts it up. That’s how she’s lived. She’s a hard, hard woman. To look at her hands, she’s got the hands of a man who has lived off the land.”

    He said the body could’ve been dumped “five hours away, ten hours away” from the property in a cave, mineshaft or a shallow grave given the window of time the pair had to cover their tracks.

    McLeish also told Reid he could not rule out the possibility the Strubers had killed before, and where Schuler’s body is, there could be more. And that is the reason why they won’t talk, he suspects.

    “They are only rumours. There’s talk of a murdered backpacker up there, and talk about an older body that’s been there for years, but we don’t have any reports of missing people in that area for decades,” McLeish said.

    “I still believe in Struber’s mind he is not going to tell us where Bruce’s body is, because when we do find Bruce’s body, we’re going to find a bullet hole directly in his forehead, and probably find the bullet and gun that killed him.

    “He knows he executed him, and knows that when we find the body, we’ll find evidence of that execution, and therefore in his mind, it will 100 per cent put the nail in his coffin.

    “When Palmerville Station is sold, there will be a thousand people up there searching for Bruce. Struber knows that. He’s basically running the show from prison, still controlling the finances and the cattle, and still in charge.”

    Expressions of interest for Palmerville Station close on Thursday, with an asking price of about $4 million.

    Widow Fiona Splitt wants closure.

    She hopes to ask the new owners for permission to explore the property for some trace her slain husband.

    She hopes the sale of the family property, the publicity around the new book and the no body, no parole laws will be enough to get Wilson to confess her guilt.

    “I just want to know where Bruce is,” she tells Insight.

    “All I want to do is bring him home.”


    Palmerville Station search for murdered man's remains reopens with road signs erected at remote property

    ABC Far North
    By Kristy Sexton-McGrath

    Three people stand in front of a road sign.

    A widow still searching for the remains of her husband, murdered on a remote cattle station in far north Queensland, has launched a new campaign in a bid to bury him.

    Huge road signs calling for information about the whereabouts of 48-year-old Bruce Schuler have been erected on dirt roads leading into Palmerville Station, west of Cairns, where he was murdered while gold prospecting in July 2012.

    His wife, Fiona Splitt, along with her son Bruce Jnr and Schuler's sister Tracey Holland put up the four signs over the weekend after getting permission from the police, Department of Transport and Main Roads, and the Cook Shire Council.

    It would have been Schuler's 56th birthday on Sunday.

    "Hopefully someone will come forward with some real information," his widow said.

    The signs feature a photograph of Schuler wearing the clothes he was last seen in, along with his gold prospecting equipment.

    Mystery still surrounds gold prospector's murder

    Schuler, a retired builder, had been gold prospecting in a dry gully on Palmerville Station with three friends when he disappeared.

    In July 2015 at the Supreme Court in Cairns, the station's owners, Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber, were found guilty of his murder and with interfering with a corpse.

    It was a murder case without a body or any direct forensic evidence linking the couple to Schuler's death.

    The trial heard police found drops of Schuler's blood, burnt patches of grass, and tyre marks matching the Strubers' car in a gully about two kilometres from the homestead.

    The Crown's case rested on the evidence of Schuler's fellow prospectors who reported hearing two gunshots several minutes apart after a vehicle matching the Struber's pulled up in the area where they were searching for gold.

    The prospectors were on the Struber's land without permission, and one of them had been confronted by Stephen Struber about a week prior and was told him to get off his land.

    No body, no parole

    Ms Splitt and her daughter Lisa Schuler successfully campaigned for the introduction of "no body, no parole laws" in Queensland.

    Under the laws, Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber will serve out their life sentences in jail unless they reveal where Schuler's body is.

    However, the pair have always denied they murdered the man.

    Mystery sparks book

    Veteran Queensland investigative journalist Robert Reid, who lives in far north Queensland, has spent more than two years trying to work out where Bruce Schuler's body might be.

    He has written a book, Murder on the River of Gold, and spoke with Wilson-Struber — who grew up on Palmerville Station — at the Townsville Women's Correctional Centre.

    "She knew I was writing a book and I asked her if she would talk to me in the interest of fairness and about her childhood on that station," Reid said.

    "I was officially able to visit her in prison and I asked her what did she did with the body.

    "She told me 'I wasn't there, Robert'. [And] I said 'you keep saying that you didn't do it, but if you did do it, you're a bloody good liar'."

    Reid said he shared the views of police that the Strubers removed Schuler's body and disposed of it somewhere away from Palmerville Station.

    Families asked to bring toothbrush, photos to build missing person database

    Families of missing persons are getting their own annual day, as they are asked to contribute DNA samples to a national database and help identify 500 sets of remains.

    Kate Kyriacou Courier Mail


    Families of missing people are being asked to bring their loved ones’ toothbrushes, hairbrushes, dental records or photos to an event that hopes to solve the mysteries behind 500 sets of unidentified human remains.

    On August 1, the Australian Federal Police and Queensland Police Service will launch the first Family of Missing Persons Day, marking the start of National Missing Persons Week.

    The event, to be held at the State Library of Queensland from 10am to 4pm, is part of a massive project to create national databases that can link missing person information with unidentified human remains.

    National Missing Persons Co-ordination Centre co-ordinator Jodie McEwan said while many families had already provided the relevant samples to police, there were still cases with missing information.

    “This information is critical for us to update the national databases which we will be matching the unidentified human remains against,” she said.

    “So that will include DNA samples from close biological relatives of missing persons, which we will be able to take on the day.

    “We are also asking them to provide any personal items of those missing people … things such as toothbrushes, baby teeth or wisdom teeth, details of doctors or dentists, any sort of medical X-rays or medical records that haven’t been provided before and just ensuring that the correct physical information is recorded with police.

    “Even things like photographs of the missing person smiling so we can look at teeth and things like that.”

    Ms McEwan said they anticipated they might hear from some families who had never formally reported their loved one as missing.

    “This is an opportunity for people, particularly if they are unsure, to come forward and on the day speak with police and actually provide a missing persons report for the first time, which will allow their missing loved one to be considered in the program,” she said.

    Fiona Splitt, whose missing husband Bruce Schuler was murdered nine years ago, encouraged people to come forward.

    Mr Schuler was prospecting for gold on Palmerville Station in north Queensland when he was shot and killed by the property’s then owners, Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber.

    His body has never been found and Ms Splitt hopes that prospectors – who are now returning to the property – will keep their eyes open for anything unusual.

    Ms Splitt said it would mean everything to have her husband’s remains found and identified.

    “That’s what I consume my life with – trying to find out how I can find him,” she said.

    Associate Professor Jodie Ward said they were in a race against time to match some of the older unidentified bones with missing people.

    “There’s a number which are over 50 years old,” she said.

    “Some of them are going to be quite challenging to get a good quantity and quality of DNA from – but I think that coupled with new DNA technologies that we are hoping to employ, it will hopefully give us the best chance of being able to identify these remains than we’ve ever had before.

    “It’s so crucial that we get families coming along.”

    Homicide Detective Superintendent Craig Morrow said investigators from the Missing Persons Unit and Disaster Victim Identification Unit would be attending the Brisbane event.

    “I would encourage families missing a loved one to register and attend the event, as this is an excellent opportunity to provide samples and photos, update the database and speak with police, all of which may assist in bringing families much-needed answers,” he said.

    The event will also feature presentations from experts and ambiguous loss trained counsellors will be there to support families.