Witness recounts last time she saw McCulkins alive

BARBARA McCulkin wore a navy blue polka dot dress she had sewn herself.

Her eldest daughter Vicki had on her favourite jeans - blue with yellow stars dotted along the flares - a red top with a zipper at the front and a necklace.

Little Leanne matched her pink shorts with  a smock top that "she wore all the time".

Outside their house at 6 Dorchester St, Highgate Hill, was a "yellow" Charger with a black stripe.

In the front yard a man called 'Shorty' petted Ginger Meggs the cat and inside a man called Vince chatted to Mrs McCulkin.

Barbara McCulkin and her three daughters went missing in the 70s
Barbara McCulkin and her three daughters went missing in the 70s


This scene is more than 40 years old, but Janet Gayton on Wednesday painted a vivid portrait of the last day she saw the McCulkins alive on January 16, 1974.

Ms Gayton was giving evidence in Vincent O'Dempsey's murder trial.

Mr O'Dempsey, a 78-year-old Warwick resident, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of murder and one of deprivation of liberty.

The Crown alleges Mr O'Dempsey and his co-accused Garry Reginald 'Shorty' Dubois murdered Mrs McCulkin and her daughters because they feared Mrs McCulkin could link them to a nightclub fire in 1973.

Ms Gayton told the court that Vicki said the men were called "Vince and Shorty" but that she did not recall what Vicki said Shorty's real name was.

She said Vicki and Leanne told her the men were friends of their father.

Ms Gayton said she had crossed the road from her place to the McCulkins' to escort Vicki and Leanne back to her house for her sister Juneen's 10th birthday party.

"It was just a little party at our place, (with) cake," Ms Gayton said.

Court sketch: Vincent O'Dempsey
Court sketch: Vincent O'Dempsey


"We were playing all the time, either at their place or ours."

Straight after her sister gave evidence, Juneen Gayton told the court she saw the two men enter the McCulkin house and that the man called Shorty was carrying a box of beer.

Leanne left the party a couple of hours later because she was feeling ill and Vicki went home about 10.15pm.

The Gaytons watched Vicki walk in the front door of her home, which was "not lit up".

The Gayton sisters, under questioning by defence barrister Tony Glynn, said they did not see the yellow Charger in front of the McCulkin home when Vicki and Leanne left the party.

However, they said it could have been there because a steep hairpin bend in the street meant the view from 7 Dorchester St to 6 Dorchester St was partially blocked.

The court has previously heard on Tuesday that Mr O'Dempsey owned an orange Charger with a black stripe and that it was often parked in front of the McCulkin home.

The court also heard testimony from Vicki and Leanne's late father Billy McCulkin who described seeing his estranged wife early on the day she disappeared.

"It was about 11am. I saw my wife seated on the council bus," Mr McCulkin told police in 1974.

"She waved to me and I waved back to her.

"I mouthed to her 'I might come over tonight'.

"She waved back and seemed to be quite happy."

Mr McCulkin did not go to his family's home that evening, instead he spent the night with another woman because he "drank too much liquor".

He did however drop into Dorchester St on January 18, intending to give his wife $60.

The home was locked up and Mr McCulkin could "not rouse anybody".

He went to the local shop and asked the storekeeper if she had seen Mrs McCulkin or the children.

He was told no.

"I then went back to the house and sat on the front steps waiting for my wife and two daughters," Mr McCulkin said.

Finally, Mr McCulkin broke into the house, finding light on in the lounge and the light switch on in the kitchen "but the lightbulb had blown."

He said the house was undisturbed and two of the family's cats were inside, there was a partially stitched dress was on the sewing machine, six bottles of beer in the fridge and Mrs McCulkin's purse was on the fridge and it contained $8.

"I saw that all my wife's clothes and shoes were in the house and the only thing that was missing was a pair of pink coloured scuffs with a floral design," he said.

The children's clothes were "all intact", their beds were made and "had not been slept in" and there was a letter in the mailbox.

Mr McCulkin told police he and his wife had parted ways but he often visited her and the children.

He said there was nothing to indicate she planned on moving away from the area.

"The reason I left the family home was because I could not get on with my wife and she could not get on with me," Mr McCulkin said.

"I would return sometimes for a few days.

"I remained on reasonably friendly terms with my wife and I supplied her with money."

He said the last time he saw Mrs McCulkin at Dorchester St was on January 15 when she "was in good spirits."

Mr McCulkin said he made enquiries across Australia and New Zealand trying to find Mrs McCulkin and the girls.

Mrs McCulkin's former employer Joseph Toth gave evidence that Mrs McCulkin came to work at least three times with injuries that she said were caused when Mr McCulkin beat her.

The trial before Justice Peter Applegarth continues.    - ARM NEWSDESK

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