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. Contributed

McCulkin murder accused feared a ‘mad’ man would kill him.

ONE of the men accused of murdering the McCulkin family yelled "If I talk, I'm dead" moments before he faced court 36 years ago.

Garry Reginald 'Shorty' Dubois also said a "mad" man would do something to ensure he would "never see" his wife again as South Australian police prepared to take him before a 1980 extradition hearing that would return him to Queensland to face drug charges.

Mr Dubois is charged with the murder of 34-year-old Barbara McCulkin and the rape and murder of her daughters Vicki, 13, and Leanne, 11.

The Highgate Hill family disappeared from their home on January 16, 1974.

Mr Dubois, from Torbanlea, has pleaded not guilty in Brisbane Supreme Court to one charge of deprivation of liberty, two of rape and three charges of murder.

His co-accused, Vincent O'Dempsey, a 78-year-old Warwick resident, is scheduled to face trial next year.

Former South Australian police officer James Munro told the jury on Wednesday that Mr Dubois was minutes away from a July 1980 extradition hearing when the accused started making a racket in a court holding cell.

"I heard this loud abusive language coming from the holding cell," Mr Munro said.

"I said 'Hey cut it out Garry, I can hear you'.

"He said 'F**king you don't know him - he's f**king  mad. If I talk, I'm dead'.

"'He's a f**king dog. I'll never see Jan again'." Jan was Dubois's wife.  

Mr Munro told the court it took a crew of special taskforce, major crime and uniformed officers to apprehend Mr Dubois at his Christie's Beach home in SA.

"We surrounded the house," Mr Munro recalled.

"A struggle ensued.

"A (police) shotgun was produced.

"We all struggled together and apprehended him."

Back at the police station, Mr Munro and another police officer, John Attwood, did a short interview with their suspect.

Mr Munro told the jury that Mr Dubois went from talking about the drug charges to saying "F**king murder is not my go".

Mr Munro asked Mr Dubois if he knew Mrs McCulkin's estranged husband Robert William 'Billy' McCulkin.

He replied: "He (Mr McCulkin) fancies himself as some sort of gangster."

"I met them (Mrs McCulkin and her daughters) and hardly knew them," Mr Dubois said.

When asked if he knew anything about the alleged murders, Mr Dubois told the officers: "I don't know anything about it."

"You know me, I don't talk.

"Come on, you know me better than that."

The court has heard that the McCulkins may have had some knowledge of the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub blaze that killed 15 people in 1973.

Crown prosecutor David Meredith told the court last week that Garry Dubois, Mr O'Dempsey and three other men were behind the torching of the Torino nightclub about 10 days before the Whiskey Au Go Go went up in flames.

The accused feared their involvement in the Torino blaze could see them linked to the Whiskey fire.

On Monday Garry Dubois's brother Paul claimed that during a phone conversation, Garry said: "Barbara McCulkin had information on O'Dempsey that he felt could've got him 20 years and this is how he dealt with it".

Mr Meredith has said the prosecution's case is not that Mrs McCulkin was blackmailing O'Dempsey.

However, he said her knowledge of the two fires may have been a motive for her death.

The McCulkins' bodies have not been found.

The trial continues before Justice Peter Applegarth. - ARM NEWSDESK

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