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INQUEST: Coroner names Shandee Blackburn's attacker

UPDATE 6pm: THE family of Shandee Blackburn say the most important thing to come out of the coronial inquest into her death was the Mackay community "can now know the truth".

Shandee's mother Vicki Blackburn said this moment had been a "long time coming".

The 23 year old was viciously stabbed in a frenzied attack by her former boyfriend John Peros more than seven years ago.

She died in a gutter on Boddington St metres from the safety of her home.

But Mr Peros will not be recharged over her death.

"What is apparent is that there was no new or fresh and compelling evidence available for use in a criminal court that is not already known to the police from their investigation involving Ms Blackburn's death available to support any suggestion that Mr Peros should be recharged," Coroner David O'Connell said.

The Central Coroner took three hours to hand down his findings this afternoon at Mackay courthouse.

Vicki, Shannah Blackburn (Shandee's sister) and Paul Beardmore (Vicki's husband) listened to every word from the public gallery inside the Mackay courtroom - while Mr Peros also listened to every word over the phone.

Mr O'Connell found Mr Peros attacked Shandee just after midnight on February 9, 2013 as she was walking home from a work.

Vicki said it was an emotional moment hearing the coroner name Mr Peros as her daughter's killer.

"The last few nights have been difficult, not knowing what to expect," she said.

"We've been waiting for a very long time… it's just nice to hear it actually recognised and to hear those words and… know that everyone can know the truth," Shannah said.

"That's what this was all about."

When asked how they felt knowing Mr Peros was also listening in, Vicki said "I didn't think about him".

"This is about the truth and this is Shandee's story," she said.

"This is part of Shandee's history and legacy and hopefully now that the truth is out there, now we can get something good to come of it."

 

Vicki Blackburn and Shannah Blackburn, Shandee's mother and sister, with Vicki's husband Paul Beardmore, speak after a coroner handed down findings at Mackay courthouse into the 23 year old's death. Picture: Janessa Ekert
Vicki Blackburn and Shannah Blackburn, Shandee's mother and sister, with Vicki's husband Paul Beardmore, speak after a coroner handed down findings at Mackay courthouse into the 23 year old's death. Picture: Janessa Ekert Janessa Ekert

 

The family had "a lot of processing to do" now the findings had been handed down.

"For now, this is just something that is… important for Mackay not just for us," she said.

UPDATE 4.35pm: Central Coroner David O'Connell has named Shandee Blackburns former boyfriend and the man acquitted of her murder as the person responsible for her violent death.

John Peros has been named as the person who hid in the bushes outside the Girl Guides hut and waited for Ms Blackburn to walk by.

Mr O'Connell found Mr Peros ran across the four lanes of Juliet Street and "attacked" her at Boddington Street where she later died in the gutter.

He said "I have no doubt" the vehicle of interest belonged to Mr Peros and he was the one driving it that night.

"He is the person who attacked her and caused her the injuries," he said.

"I realise and appreciate the gravity and ramifications of my findings.

"To my mind this is the only rational conclusion that can be drawn from the whole of the evidence." 

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UPDATE  4.20pm: Coroner David O'Connell has found a white ute captured on CCTV cameras driving around the night Shandee Blackburn was killed was in fact the white Toyota ute belonging to Mr Peros.

Still photos of the vehicle, captured by multiple CCTV cameras near where Shandee was killed, were tendered in the inquest and Mr O'Connell highlighted multiple similarities between it and the ute owned by Mr Peros.

"This is the only logical and reasonable conclusion that I am actually persuaded to on the evidence," Mr O'Connell said.

"It is not some random vehicle with similar features driving down 12th lane.

"It is Mr Peros' vehicle.

"I am very much alive as to the implications this could have - it is not a decision I make lightly or quickly.

"It is the only conclusion I am persuaded to accept.

Mr O'Connell further found "it was Mr Peros who was driving his own vehicle that evening and he is the person driving the vehicle when it was seen in the CCTV footage".

 

John Peros leaves the Shandee Blackburn Inquest on day four.
John Peros leaves the Shandee Blackburn Inquest on day four.

 

UPDATE: 3.55pm: THREE witnesses gave evidence they heard John Peros make comments on Australia Day 2013 that he wanted to harm his former girlfriend Shandee Blackburn.

He had arrived later in the day and the coroner found he had "drunk much less alcohol" and was not as affected.

The court heard the alleged statements had taken the witnesses by surprise because they had never heard Mr Peros speak like this before.

One witness Charlene Perry alleged Mr Peros "got fairly dark and said something like I f***ing hate that c***".

Ms Perry, who hosted the party, said over the next minute or so Mr Peros "got fairly venomous" about her and said "I knew the relationship had not ended amicably, but I thought he had moved on".

"It was apparent to me he still had hate for her."

Mr O'Connell said he rated Ms Perry as a "very impressive" witness.

He had more reservations about witness Nicole Hutchinson, who was also at the party.

She said she had heard Mr Peros allegedly say "something like I hate that c***".

Mr O'Connell noted the statement should be approached with caution because it started with "something like".

In a third statement, she said Mr Peros allegedly said "he hated her and wanted to stab her".

"I'm not prepared to accept that this memory is her own," Mr O'Connell said, noting the addition of "and wanted to stab her" which had been absent in the first two statements.

The third witness, Liam Aleman was also at the Australia Day party and claimed he heard Mr Peros allegedly say "I hate her and would love to stab the c***".

Mr O'Connell said, "I do not accept that he (Mr Aleman) was so affected as to not to be able to remember what was said".

"I accept the evidence from Mr Aleman," Mr O'Connell said.

Mr O'Connell said there were certainly slight variations to what they said they had heard but stated "hatred" and "wish to subject her to harm" was "remarkably consistent".

 

 


The court heard all three witnesses had been taken by surprise by the comments as being out of character - all three considered Mr Peros a friend.

Mr Peros denied he made such a statements.

"I find that he did make the statements attributed to him," Mr O'Connell said, adding it had been six months after they broke up and two weeks before her death.

"The heart of this statement was that Mr Peros still had hatred for Ms Blackburn."

Mr O'Connell rejected the assertion the three may have colluded against him.

 

Shandee Blackburn
Shandee Blackburn

 

 

UPDATE 3.30pm: Coroner David O'Connell found John Peros, who was acquitted of Shandee Blackburn's murder after a trial, had difficultly moving on after his relationship with Shandee ended in early in 2012.

The court heard he saw two mental health professionals to deal with issues that arose after the break-up.

Mr O'Connell said for anyone who sought that help, it "clearly suggests the person has or had some lingering issues".

He found Mr Peros did have some significant issues dealing with the break-up even though he was the one who instigated it. 

Mr Peros had no criminal or domestic violence history and at the time had worked as a diesel fitter.

He lived alone about 700 metres from Boddington Street.

The pair were in a relationship from mid-2011 until the end of 2011 - it resumed in early 2012 before it ended for good.

 

 

Shandee Blackburn (middle) with her sister Shannah (left) and her mum Vicki.
Shandee Blackburn (middle) with her sister Shannah (left) and her mum Vicki.

 

 

UPDATE 3.10pm: Coroner David O'Connell has dismissed 10 of the 13 persons of interest police identified in the Shandee Blackburn mystery.

But he said William Daniel, Norman Dorante and John Peros were "much more central" to the inquest.

In his findings, the coroner dealt with Mr Daniel and Mr Dorante together as they had been seen together in the vicinity of Boddington Street the night Shandee was killed.

"What was evident was they were in no rush," Mr O'Connell said.

"They were not carrying anything in their hands."

Mr Blackman later said Mr Daniel made a second confession while eating noodles in a bedroom.

The court heard Mr Blackman had asked him if he had been involved and Mr Daniel said "yeah I did it".

Mr O'Connell said Mr Blackman was "very unimpressive as a witness of reliability and credibility" as he had given contradictory evidence on even the simplest of issues.

Mr O'Connell said he had "no hesitation at all" in finding the first confession known as the "street confession was simply not said by Mr Daniel".

He also said he had "very grave reservations" if even the noodle confession occurred but if it did, it was a "false claim … to try and enhance his street cred".

Mr O'Connell also rejected claims that Mr Dorante had been involved in Shandee's death.

"I have no doubt in my mind that he was not the one who killed Ms Blackburn," he said, adding he was not the one taxi driver Mr Pandher saw and was clearly "not the running figure".

 

 

UPDATE 2.55pm: Coroner David O'Connell said a person captured on CCTV footage running across Sydney Street seemingly towards where Shandee Blackburn would have been walking was the person who attacked her.

"The person moves with surprising agility … at great pace or speed," he said, adding he could not determine if they were male or female or what age.

"They move with determination."

Ms Blackburn was stabbed about 12.15am on February 9, 2013.

"It occurred very quickly and with considerable force," Mr O'Connell said.

At that time, maxi taxi driver Jaspreet Pandher was turning from Boddington Street onto Juliet Street and saw a man and a woman fighting over what he believed was a handbag.

Mr O'Connell rejected any idea there had been a third person at the scene.

UPDATE 2.40pm: Shandee Blackburn "was merely metres from arriving home safety" when she was attacked and stabbed to death on Boddington Street near the corner of Juliet Street.

Mr O'Connell found the 23-year-old was "assaulted by a single person who took her by surprise, delivering a number of stab wounds".

One wound damaged her larynx, which Mr O'Connell determined must have happened early on in the assault as nearby residents said they heard no noise that night.

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The court heard the first noise a nearby resident heard was a "coughing noise".

"What is evident is that Ms Blackburn was taken by surprise by the attack," Mr O'Connell said.

A pathologist said the wounds to Ms Blackburn had been inflicted very quickly and with maximum force, labelling it a very vicious attack.

Mr O'Connell said he could readily accept the wounds were targeted to the head, neck and chest area.

"What is clear is the assault was a very deliberate and targeted assault," he said.

"In no way did the evidence indicate this was some random attack by some random person."

 

Shandee Blackburn.
Shandee Blackburn.

 

UPDATE 2.20pm: THE delivery of inquest findings into Shandee Blackburn's death is under way. 

Coroner David O'Connell began his findings with a reminder that inquests were "simply an attempt to establish facts".

He said his findings were 66 pages in length.

John Peros and his solicitor have phoned in to listen to the findings.

Mr O'Connell said the main issues of the inquest "were directed to how she died".

The probe also explored where consideration should be given to increasing electronic surveillance of high-risk areas through installing more CCTV facilities or upgrading existing equipment as well as installing more street lighting.

Another issue was whether employers operating late-night licensed venues should offer transport for staff working late shifts where they did not have access to safe and secure transport.

The court heard 53 witnesses gave evidence at the inquest last July.

 

 

The Coroner has shut down a claim John Peros' barrister Craig Eberhardt made that the inquest heard the same evidence as a Mackay Supreme Court trial jury, which acquitted him of murder.

"With respect, that assertion is plainly incorrect," Mr O'Connell said, adding an inquest is "more comprehensive than a supreme court trial".

Mr O'Connell said every inquest had the benefit of receiving evidence not permissible in a trial.

He commented that Mr Peros himself gave evidence, which was the first time he had given evidence in court.

Mr O'Connell said he had the opportunity to assess Mr Peros' "credibility and reliability".

UPDATE 1.40pm: Shannah Blackburn and Vicki Blackburn, Shandee's sister and mother, and Paul Beardmore, Vicki's husband, have arrived at Mackay courthouse to hear Coroner David O'Connell hand down his findings into the 23-year-old's death.

Mackay Coroners Court has heard John Peros, who was acquitted of Shandee's murder after a trial, has phoned in to listen to the findings.

INITIAL: CENTRAL Coroner David O'Connell will hand down his finding into the death of Shandee Blackburn at 2pm today.

The Mackay community knows the heartbreaking story well.

The 23-year-old was walking home after a shift at Harrup Park Country Club when she was violently killed on Boddington Street, not far from where she lived with her mum.

A Coroners Court heard she was stabbed up to 25 times and left to die in the gutter just after midnight on February 9, 2013 - more than seven years ago.

 

Shannah Blackburn and Vicki Blackburn, Shandee's sister and mother, and Paul Beardmore, Vicki's husband, arrive at Mackay courthouse to hear Coroner David O'Connell hand down his findings into the 23 year old's death. Picture: Janessa Ekert
Shannah Blackburn and Vicki Blackburn, Shandee's sister and mother, and Paul Beardmore, Vicki's husband, arrive at Mackay courthouse to hear Coroner David O'Connell hand down his findings into the 23 year old's death. Picture: Janessa Ekert Janessa Ekert

 

 

No one has been convicted of the shocking crime that spread waves of fear across the region and sparked calls for improved safety initiatives.

During a two-week inquest in July last year the man acquitted of her murder - her former boyfriend John Peros - was named by two lawyers as the person most likely responsible for her death.

Mr Peros was charged with murder in September 2014 and acquitted by a jury after a trial in March and April 2017.

He has consistently denied any involvement in her death.

Today, more than 12 months since the inquest, Mr O'Connell will reveal his findings after poring over the voluminous case that featured more than 700 exhibits including statements, recorded interviews, CCTV footage, photos, diagrams and maps.