Miscarriages of Justice


This matter is back in the news again following claims by a former truck driver who recently contacted Ted Duhs following the publication of his book Crucial Errors in Murder Investigations by Bond University Press in 2012. The situation is outlined in the following letter from Ted Duhs to The Courier Mail chief crime reporter Kate Kyriacou.

Dear Kate

Re: Information relating to the disappearance of Sharron Phillips 8 May 1986

About a month ago I was contacted by a former truck driver who now lives at Strathpine in Brisbane’s north. He said that he had read or had been told about my book Crucial Errors in Murder Investigations which includes a chapter relating to the Sharron Phillips case, and he said that he had information relating to her disappearance on the night of Thursday 8 May 1986. I went to his address in Spitfire Avenue, Strathpine, and talked to him for an hour or more about his claims.

He said that In May 1986 he had been engaged in using his truck in an operation to remove the overburden from a coal mine in the West Moreton area. Because of traffic considerations, work always started in the very early morning. On Friday 9 May 1986 he arrived at work at the mine site in his truck at around 3 am. The map which I enclose with this letter shows a dirt track which led from Redbank Plains Road to the mine site. The truck driver said that this dirt track went down an incline then ascended up to the dump site. As he approached the dump site around 3 am on that Friday morning he said a green and white (or blue and white) HR Holden station wagon came roaring out from the dump site. He said that there were three or four young men in the Holden station wagon, and they left at a ‘million miles an hour.’

Over the following weekend the media carried news of Sharron Phillips disappearing from her Nissan Bluebird sedan which had run out of petrol on Ipswich Road between Wacol Station Road and the Migrant Centre on Ipswich Road, about two hundred metres further on in the Brisbane direction.

On Monday 12 May, which was his next working day, this truck driver was discussing with his truck driver mates, the coincidence of Sharron’s disappearance at about midnight on the previous Thursday night and the young men in the HR Holden station wagon which came roaring out from the dump site at about 3 am on the Friday morning. The truck driver and his mates went up to the dump site and there they saw the car’s tracks still visible. They also saw that something had been dragged from the car to the cliff face and apparently thrown over. Since no cars ever went up to the dump face (only trucks went there) the truck driver and his mates regarded this as suspicious. They surmised that the HR Holden station wagon may have had something to do with Sharron Phillips’ disappearance. They thought that Sharron may have been abducted by the young men in the green and white (or blue and white) HR Holden station wagon at midnight on Ipswich Road near Wacol, dealt with in some way, killed and thrown over the edge of the cliff face into the mine below. The truck driver told me that they tried to give this information to the police on Monday 12 May (and also at a later date at Inala Police Station) but the police that they reported it to, declined to act on this information. By Monday 12 May there would have been two days of dumping since they saw2 the HR Holden station wagon leaving at about 3 am on the Friday morning. When I spoke to the truck driver in June 2013 he was convinced that this is what happened to Sharron Phillips back in May 1986.

I told him that I would firstly attempt to get permission to read the Sharron Phillips Inquest file in order to see if that Inquest file contained any reference to a green and white (or blue and white) HR Holden station wagon.

I was able to read the file at the Office of the State Coroner on Monday 21 July 2013.

This Inquest file is classified COR/88 0173/1. The coroner was W.J.Randall. One of the witnesses called before the Inquest was a man called Robert John Brown. Mr Brown gave evidence that he saw Sharron Phillips, whom he knew, being bundled into a car on Ipswich Road near where her yellow Nissan Bluebird had run out of petrol. Mr Brown was asked the colour and make of the car in which he said he saw Sharron in company with the young men. Mr Brown said it was a green Valiant sedan. At this point in the Inquest, Sharron’s father, Robert Alexander John Phillips, asked Mr Brown a question. Sharron’s father said, could the vehicle in which you say you saw Sharron with these young men, be a green Holden van with tinted windows? Mr Brown answered, “Not a van, no”.

I do not know why Sharron’s father asked this question about a Holden station wagon. But given what the truck driver told me about the HR Holden station wagon it may be worth following up. The truck driver said that the area where the coal mine was would be very different today compared to what it was like in 1986. However, he was confident he could still locate the spot he was talking about when Sharron disappeared.

I went to Roma Street Police Headquarters last Wednesday to try to contact a detective who might have been able to help but although I left my contact details I haven’t yet heard from him. Hence, I am relaying the truck driver’s information to you in your capacity as chief crime reporter for The Courier Mail.

I asked the truck driver if he had any objection to my passing on his story and his contact details. He said that he had no objection. His name is Tony XXXXX. He lives at XX XXXXXXXX XXX, XXXXXXXXXX, and his mobile number is 04XX XXX XXX.


Ted Duhs

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