Photos above - Ms Birt may have left her
residence at 76 Old Ipswich Road in a 1998 Green Mitsubishi Triton Utility
four wheel drive. It is thought she was wearing the clothing she is
pictured in in the photo above left.
OFFICE OF THE STATE CORONER
FINDINGS OF INQUEST CITATION: Inquest into the death of Dulcie Isabelle Birt
TITLE OF COURT: Coroners Court
FILE NO(s): 2012/1780
DELIVERED ON: 21 March 2014
DELIVERED AT: Brisbane
HEARING DATE(s): 16 January, 24-27 February, 7,13 & 17March 2014
FINDINGS OF: John Lock, Deputy State Coroner
1. Dulcie Isabelle Birt was 31 years of age when she was last seen on the
night of 21 October 2009. She lived at Old Ipswich Road, Riverview along
with her son, Shaun and a boarder, Damien Gill. Although her real name was
Dulcie it is apparent many people referred to her by the name of ‘Darcy’. In
this decision I will adopt her real name of Dulcie.
2. Dulcie had a history of illicit drug abuse including heroin and it is
apparent she was on the methadone program. The evidence suggests she may
have been still using illicit drugs at the time of her death.
3. In the 2-3 months leading up to her disappearance, Dulcie had been in
a sexual relationship with Alwyn Gwilliams (Gwilliams), 40 years of age. Mr
Gwilliams lived in Bundamba with his de facto partner, Vivian King.
4. Ms Birt was initially listed as a missing person. On 25 October 2009,
Mr Gwilliams provided an initial statement to police denying any knowledge
of Ms Birt's whereabouts. The investigation turned into a murder
5. On 8 December 2009, Mr Gwilliams provided a further statement to
police and also participated in a field interview. Mr Gwilliams admitted to
unlawfully killing Ms Birt (in the context of a car accident in bushland at
Riverview) and then disposing of her body at Jacobs Well. Her body has never
6. Mr Gwilliams was charged with murder (with manslaughter charged in the
alternative) and interfering with a corpse. The Crown engaged multiple
forensic crash experts to analyse the damage done to Mr Gwilliams’ car, a
dark green Mitsubishi Triton utility. DNA evidence was also obtained. On the
morning of day one of the trial in the Supreme Court, the Crown accepted
pleas of guilty to manslaughter and interfering with a corpse and the murder
charge was discontinued. On 22 February 2013, Mr Gwilliams was sentenced by
His Honour Justice Byrne to 10 years imprisonment. He was declared a serious
7. It is apparent from the transcript of the hearing before Justice Byrne
that the ultimate Crown submission was that the defence explanation, namely
that Mr Gwilliams was a drunken man, known to the police and who panicked
and disposed of the body, was not to be accepted. However, the Crown
submitted it could not establish by any reliable evidence how in fact Dulcie
came to meet her death. All the Crown Prosecutor could say was that Mr
Gwilliams’ account was demonstrably false.
8. In his judgement dated 22 February 2013, Justice Byrne addressed the
contest between the Crown and defence with respect to why Mr Gwilliams had
lied. It was noted that Mr Gwilliams had been expressly afforded the
opportunity to adduce evidence explaining the lies, but he had chosen not to
9. His Honour did not accept that the instructions provided by Mr
Gwilliams to his legal counsel were a truthful explanation for the lies. His
Honour accepted that after Mr Gwilliams admitted that his conduct brought
about Dulcie’s death, the lies he related (in particular, about how Dulcie
died and where he had disposed of her body) were told because he perceived
that the truth would reveal he had assaulted Dulcie and thereby killed her.
10. His Honour was persuaded that Mr Gwilliams assaulted Dulcie. He held
that Mr Gwilliams’ lies and concealment of the body meant that the true
nature of the assault was to remain unknown. He could not conclude that
there existed an intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. Nor could
he conclude that the killing occurred in a brutal, protracted or degrading
11. Dulcie Birt’s missing person/death status was first reported to
the Office of the State Coroner on 23 May 2012. Issues for inquest
12. A coroner has jurisdiction to inquire into the cause and the
circumstances of a reportable death. If possible I am required to find:- a.
whether a death in fact happened; b. the identity of the deceased; c. when,
where and how the death occurred; and d. what caused the person to die.
13. Importantly in this case there appear to be a number of missing
pieces of evidence, which makes problematic my ability to make the findings
referred to above. Other than that I can be satisfied Ms Birt is deceased, I
could not be satisfied as to how she died and what caused her death. It was
for this reason that I decided to hold an inquest. The scope of the
coroner’s inquiry and findings
14. Apart from the trial/sentencing hearing in the Supreme Court there
were a number of other proceedings within the criminal justice system. This
included committal proceedings in the Magistrates Court at Ipswich where a
number of witnesses were cross-examined. This court has the benefit of the
whole of the investigation material consisting of numerous exhibits,
photographs, CCTV footage, expert reports, recorded interviews, over 200
statements of witnesses and court transcripts from both the committal
hearing and in the Supreme Court. It is evident from the contents of a
number of statements that some witnesses had been the subject of coercive
hearings before the Crime and Misconduct Commission. I do not have
transcripts or other details of those proceedings (with exception to the
evidence of Elaine Hopper for reasons that will become evident), and would
not expect to.
15. It would be an exercise in futility to exclude all reference to the
fact that this matter has already been dealt within the criminal justice
jurisdiction. However it is important to recognise there is a distinction
between coronial inquests and criminal trials. An inquest is not a trial
between opposing parties but an inquiry into the death.
16. The focus is on discovering what happened, not on ascribing guilt,
attributing blame or apportioning liability. The purpose is to inform the
family and the public of how the death occurred. To make clear the
distinction in roles the Coroners Act 2003 specifically states that a
coroner must not include in the findings or any comments or recommendations,
statements that a person is or maybe guilty of an offence or is or maybe
civilly liable for something. The admissibility of evidence and the standard
17. Proceedings in a coroner’s court are not bound by the rules of
evidence because the Act provides that the court ‘may inform itself in any
way it considers appropriate’. That does not mean that any and every piece
of information however unreliable will be admitted into evidence and acted
upon. However, it does give a coroner greater scope to receive information
that may not be admissible in other proceedings and to have regard to its
origin or source when determining what weight should be given to the
18. This flexibility has been explained as a consequence of an inquest
being a fact-finding exercise rather than a means of apportioning guilt. As
already stated, it is an inquiry rather than a trial. If a witness refuses
to give oral evidence at an inquest because the evidence would tend to
incriminate the person, the coroner may require the witness to give evidence
that would tend to incriminate the witness if satisfied it is in the public
interest to do so. The evidence, when given, and any derivative evidence is
not admissible against the witness in any other proceeding, other than a
proceeding for perjury.
19. A coroner should apply the civil standard of proof, namely the
balance of probabilities but the approach referred to as the Briginshaw
sliding scale is applicable. This means that the more significant the issue
to be determined, the more serious an allegation or the more inherently
unlikely an occurrence, then clearer and more persuasive the evidence needs
to be for the trier of fact to be sufficiently satisfied that it has been
proven to the civil standard.
20. It is also clear that a coroner is obliged to comply with the rules
of natural justice and to act judicially. This means that no findings
adverse to the interest of any party may be made without that party first
being given a right to be heard in opposition to that finding. In this
regard Mr Lewis made submissions at the conclusion of his involvement
regarding his client Alwyn Gwilliams. It should be noted that for funding
reasons Mr Lewis was only present for the evidence of his client and Vivian
King. Police investigation
21. The Queensland Police Service (QPS) investigation commenced as a
missing person investigation, and then proceeded into a murder
investigation. Detective Sergeant McQueen
22. Detective Sergeant (DS) McQueen was the lead investigator. He
provided a written statement as well as giving evidence at the committal and
inquest. Alwyn Gwilliams was not the only person of interest in the case but
this changed in the early stages of the investigation.
23. DS McQueen was involved in the engaging of all the experts and gave
evidence concerning the evidence gathered and the extensive searches made.
The decision about the manner in which the criminal proceedings were
concluded was not his and was taken out of his hands. Evidence of Alwyn
Gwilliams given to police
24. Mr Alwyn Gwilliams provided his first statement on 25 October 2009.
At the time this was still a missing person investigation. He admitted he
was with Dulcie until between 9.30 and 10pm on 22 October 2009 when he
dropped her off at her residence at Riverview. He said he did not know where
she was but details the conversations he said he had with Dulcie’s son,
Shaun with concerns about his mother and that she was missing.
25. Mr Gwilliams provided a second sworn statement about six weeks after
Dulcie died. The statement was prepared by his lawyer and sworn on 8
December 2009 and provided to police. The matters raised in his second
statement can be summarised as follows:
a. He and Dulcie had been drinking together;
b. They decided to go for a drive and a swim;
c. With Dulcie seated in the passenger seat, he drove his 4WD into the
bushland across the road from her house;
d. Neither of them wore a seatbelt;
e. They were going pretty fast when he hit a dip, lost control of the
vehicle and it hit a tree;
f. He felt something hit the left hand side of the car;
g. He came to a sharp stop into another tree;
h. He saw Dulcie slumped forward in her seat;
i. Blood was coming from a bad cut on the left hand side of her head;
j. There was blood on the dashboard;
k. He got her out of the car and performed CPR until he heard a gurgling
noise coming from her;
l. She was not breathing, had no pulse and could not be resuscitated;
m. He put her body on the tray of the utility;
n. His vehicle was stuck, and he had no jack;
o. He went to his mother’s house and borrowed her car to tow his ute out;
p. He told his mother what had happened and she said they had to call the
police but he did not want to on the basis the police would not think it was
an accident and he had been drinking.
q. Afterwards he returned his mother’s car to her; r. He then took the
lifeless Dulcie to Jacobs Well and put her body in the water there; s. That
he had not been thinking straight because he was intoxicated;
t. That he loved Dulcie and did not mean to kill her; and
u. That he would cooperate with Police and show them where he placed
26. Mr Gwilliams then took part in a lengthy field interview at the
bushland area and then at Jacobs Well. He told police he had not argued with
Dulcie that night. He said they were both drinking and he was an eight or
nine out of 10 intoxicated. He had previously driven to this area to swim a
number of times with Dulcie but was having difficulty recalling where they
were. He said he had got his mother’s car to pull the utility out. He took
the utility back and then went and got a green Commodore at his house, took
Dulcie to Jacobs Well in it, drove back and jumped on his pushbike to pick
up the 4wd utility.
27. He also told police about the route he took to Jacobs Well, but
unconvincingly. He showed police where he put her in the water and made
reference to this being an area where he fished and had taken Dulcie before.
He pointed to some mangrove trees and said he was that close to them he
could touch them when he let her go. He had waded out to waist height.
28. He said he told his sister, Vicki the next day but no-one else. He
told her to get rid of the Commodore. Other investigation evidence
29. As a result of Mr Gwilliams’ evidence, the police investigation
obtained various civilian statements from family members and friends,
forensic evidence and expert evidence from forensic crash experts, an
engineer and a tidal expert. What can generally be said about the evidence
is that witnesses, particularly from the Gwilliams family and their cohorts,
have been reluctant to cooperate with the police during the investigation.
Most of them gave multiple statements and it was not until they were called
before the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) that their statements
became more fulsome. I hesitate to suggest that by being more fulsome they
were also more accurate and truthful. My distinct impression is they were
generally not being totally candid or truthful at the CMC or in this court.
I formed a distinct impression some of those witnesses know more than they
are prepared to acknowledge.
30. It is also evident the wider Gwilliams family are well known to the
police and are well aware of police methods of investigation. There is
evidence many of them were speaking to each other about their evidence
during the investigation and encouraging some to say nothing to police.
Alwyn Gwilliams had been particularly active in the week prior to the
inquest and had been in contact with a number of family members giving
evidence, some of whom he has not been in contact with for some years. He
would be aware of course that any conversations with him in prison would be
recorded so I accept it is unlikely he said anything of particular note.
However, a number of witnesses expressed concerns about their fears of
possible retribution about giving evidence at the inquest. Understanding the
criminal associations of the various family members and their propensity
towards violence, I accept those fears are well founded.
31. Of some note is the evidence of a bushwalker who was walking in the
Riverview bushland on the Saturday after these events. She came across a
small pond which was accessible from a dirt track that began opposite Dulcie
Birt’s house. There were recent tyre marks in the mud leading into and out
of the pond. A small tree nearby had been knocked over into the water.
32. Another witness was driving home from work close to midnight on 22
October 2009. He was travelling along Old Ipswich Road, Dinmore past St
Peter Claver College. His attention was taken by lights in the bushland in
the area opposite Child Street and saw a vehicle parked with its headlights
on high beam. The vehicle was a one tonne utility with a tray back that
looked similar to a Hilux or Rodeo shape. It was parked on a 35° angle. He
was unable to see the colour. Some days later he saw police vehicles in the
area and because what he had seen was at an unusual time of night he
33. Another witness was driving a truck on either Friday 23 or Saturday,
24 October 2009 to collect water from the Trans-Pacific landfill, which is
commonly referred to as the old mines area on New Chum Road. It was about
6:30am when he saw a vehicle heading towards him on the other side of the
fence. It came within 100m from him and he had a clear and unobstructed view
of a dark green single cab tray back utility. He thought it was odd that it
would be there at that early time, which to his mind usually means they were
hooning around or there is trouble.
34. The witness continued to drive out onto New Chum Road and as he was
approaching Pottery Road the same utility that had been in the mines area
was now on Pottery Road and he could see it was definitely a dark green
Mitsubishi Triton tray back utility 90’s model. The tray had no sides and
there was nothing in the back area. On 29 October 2009 he saw an article in
the local newspaper indicating that police were looking for information on
the same vehicle he had seen that day and he contacted police.
35. On 25 October 2009 a Scenes of Crime officer took photographs of
Alwyn Gwilliams particularly showing scratches on the left side of his face
as well as scratches and bruising on his right and left arm and bruises to
his back. Gwilliams said that he got the scratches at work. However a number
of his workers state that they do not recall him having any injuries from
his workplace at the time. Furthermore, a number of witnesses, including
child safety officers who were present in the park at the contact visit on
the afternoon of 22 October 2009 have no recollection of Gwilliams having
any scratch marks on his face. Forensic inspections of various motor
vehicles Motor vehicle belonging to Mr Gwilliams’ mother, Elaine Hopper
36. The car belonging to Mr Gwilliams’ mother, Elaine Hopper, was
examined. It is a white Daewoo Nubira. There was no major damage. The engine
exhaust pipe and transaxle oil pan had recently been damaged. A small rock
was lodged in the front section of the oil pan. The floor pan and subframe
showed indications that the vehicle had been driven off-road.
37. The inspector considered that using a snatch strap or like device and
under good traction conditions the vehicle may be capable of providing a
short jabbing tow which may be enough to nudge or move a stuck 4WD so that
it could gain traction for self propulsion. If a long recovery tow was
required the vehicle alone would not be able to gain enough traction for
self propulsion and four-wheel-drive recovery.
38. The front tyre tread showed no signs of tread scuffing or scarring
from wheel spinning. The inspector was unable to give an accurate assessment
as to whether the vehicle had been used for towing a stuck 4 WD. Samples
taken from the vehicle did not lead to any partial or full DNA profile
matches. Mr Gwilliams’ utility
39. Mr Gwilliams’ dark green Mitsubishi Triton utility was forensically
examined by scientific and other officers. The examination found as follows:
a. A partial DNA profile matching Dulcie was found on the front driver’s
side quarter panel. A full DNA profile matching her was located on the vinyl
flooring under the front driver’s side edge of the passenger seat and on the
passenger side adjustment lever. These small stains tested positive for
b. The utility had sustained minor damage – in fact the limited extent of
it was not consistent with a fatal car accident. Damage to a steel bullbar
was isolated to one area, suggesting impact with some thin, solid, hard
object at low speed. The soft wood of a tree would not make such a mark.
There was no major damage to the undersections of the vehicle such as would
be consistent with a serious impact.
c. The front left-hand upper section of the tray had been forced back
slightly through impact. The left drop side of the tray was missing. A
collision analyst (John Ruller) concluded that the damage to the rear tray
support post and tray was consistent with a low speed impact to the left
upright support post with an object similar to the end of a piece of timber
d. There was slight scuffing to the left hand side of the bullbar that
may have indicated a brush with a tree;
e. The broken tree discovered by the bushwalker near the pond was
consistent with a glancing blow. Little force would be required to push that
tree over to the position where it was found;
f. There was damage to the passenger side running board; and a dent in
the underside. This was consistent with contact with a solid object on the
ground, such as a tree branch or uneven ground. The damage to the passenger
side of the tray uprights was consistent with an overhead projection, such
as a tree branch, having been clipped by the moving vehicle when being used
g. There was damage to the hinge on the passenger side of the tray, which
indicated that the passenger side gate and the rear gate of the tray were in
place at the time. The tray upright had struck the top of the passenger side
gate, which forced the gate rearwards – the damage was consistent with low
speed impact. The damage to the support post on the tray was not present
whilst Mr Gwilliams was at work on Tuesday, 20 October 2009. CCTV footage of
Mr Gwilliams’ Triton motor vehicle being driven around Ipswich on 21 October
2009 also does not appear to show any damage to the tray upright and the
tray had rear and left and right sides. h. The rear and right side tray
sides were later found in Gwilliams’ garage. If the left side tray came off
in the bushland it would have been located during the extensive searches
that were carried out. Green Holden Commodore
40. Mr Gwilliams’ second statement is strangely silent as to which car he
used to move Dulcie’s body to Jacobs Well. He told police during the field
interview that he had taken the body to Jacobs Well in the boot of his green
Commodore. He claimed that the vehicle had been at his place at Bundamba on
the night of the death. He said he used his pushbike to go back afterwards
to get the 4WD utility.
41. Alwyn’s father, John Gwilliams stated to police that the Commodore
was in fact at his place at Gailes until around about 29-30 October when Mr
Gwilliams took it away (to sell to his sister, Vicki and Chris Fulton).
42. The Commodore was forensically examined. There were no blood stains
in the boot consistent with a body having been transported in it. The
absence of blood in the boot is surprising if it was used at all. Vicki
Hopper’s evidence is that when the car was provided to her and Chris, the
carpet in the boot had been cut out and Mr Gwilliams had asked her to put
petrol through the boot before the police found it.
43. By John and Gwilliams’ accounts, the Commodore was either at Bundamba
or Gailes on the night of 21 October 2009. Bundamba is 6km from the bushland;
Gailes is 15km from the bushland.
44. If Mr Gwilliams’ account is to be believed, after returning his
mother’s car to her house, he then returned to the bushland on foot, after
which he walked to get the Commodore. He then drove the Commodore to the
scene of the accident, put Dulcie’s body in the boot and then drove the 70km
to Woongoolba and disposed of the body. He then drove back to his house at
Bundamba in time to arrive by about 6am and then went and got the 4WD
utility from the bushland. He did all of this whilst heavily intoxicated and
presumably, given the crash which occurred earlier, in an impaired state to
Evidence of other witnesses
45. Damien Gill was a boarder at Dulcie’s house. He provided three
statements to police. He was aged 17 at the time. He said he was a friend of
Shaun Birt, and they met in 2008 around the local Riverview area. Eventually
he came to live with Dulcie and Shaun at 76 Old Ipswich Road, Riverview.
Shaun was living with Dulcie in the six months leading up to her death and
they met ‘Ally’ (Mr Gwilliams) about 2 ½ months before the death.
46. He said Ally would be at the house almost every night and Ally and
Dulcie were in a relationship. Ally would often leave early in the morning.
Damien thought that Ally was the nicest guy he had seen Dulcie with as he
would help him and Shaun with their bikes and paid attention to them.
47. Ally and Dulcie would argue, and there were two serious arguments
that Damien could recall. The first fight was serious with a lot of loud
voices and resulted in Dulcie being assaulted by Ally giving her a massive
48. The second fight happened on Wednesday night 21 October 2009. Shaun
and Damien got home between 6pm – 7:30pm and he could hear them arguing. It
was just firm talking at first and then got worse with them both yelling.
The boys went to their rooms and turned the music on but it was not loud
enough to fully drown out the yelling.
49. Damien says he could hear Dulcie crying; and from what he could hear
the fight was about Dulcie lying to Ally and something about Ally getting a
phone call from one of Dulcie’s drug dealers. Damien heard Ally say ‘Dulcie
if you don’t answer me I will smash the window’. He then heard smashing
glass. Damien left his room and saw Dulcie sitting on her bed crying. She
asked to be left alone. Damien looked through Dulcie’s front bedroom window
and could see out into the yard. He saw Ally sitting in his utility and the
light was on in the vehicle.
50. He then heard Ally call out to Dulcie ‘come downstairs, we’re going
for a drive’ and Ally repeated it. Dulcie walked out of her room, told Shaun
and Damien that she loved them and then he saw her get into the passenger
side of Ally’s utility and they drove off going towards Redbank. The time
was at about 9:30 – 10pm.
51. In his second statement he added further detail about Gwilliams and
the argument he was having with Dulcie about ringing her drug dealer. He
made reference to him yelling ‘don't you understand what I have just done’.
He then yelled ‘how would you like me to cut your head off and let blood
drip all over his doorstep’.
52. Shaun Birt was Dulcie’s son and he lived with her. He also confirms
there was an argument on the night of Wednesday 21 October 2009, which
Damien Gill gave detail about. Shaun’s evidence was not as clear as that of
his friend Damien in respect to his recollection of these events.
53. He said that he had seen her with bruises on her arms and legs but
she would not say how she received these. There were incidences where there
was lots of yelling and arguing between the two of them although he had not
personally seen any physical violence. The arguments were usually about his
mother allegedly lying to Ally about her using drugs and other things.
54. On the night of 21 October 2009 he recalls that Gwilliams left the
house at some point and he went to bed and his mother was watching movies.
He did hear some glass breaking but any further discussion did not sound
heated. The argument was coming from outside. He says he then heard the
passenger side of the utility open up (it had a distinctive sound) and
presumed his mother had gone out.
55. He said it was not unusual for Ally and Dulcie to go for a drive when
they were having a fight so he did not think anything of it when he heard
the car start up and drive away. He went back to sleep and was woken up
later in the night by the dog barking. He said he saw Dulcie walking into
her room and he asked her if she was going to bed to which she said that she
was. That was the last time Shaun saw Dulcie. He cannot recall exactly what
time it was but it was still Wednesday night.
56. Shaun confirmed that he used his mother's telephone to make a number
of telephone calls to his foster sister Katie Hayward between 8:48 and
10:17pm. He says he does not recall making any calls to Gwilliams on his
mother’s phone that night. Records indicate calls were made from Dulcie’s
phone to Gwilliams at 9:08:36 (35 seconds) and 9:48:52 (01:34 seconds). He
does not recall receiving any telephone calls from Gwilliams at 10:19, 11:23
and 11:44, which appear to have been made to his mobile number.
57. The next morning he woke up just before 10am and he walked into
Dulcie’s room. The door was shut as usual. He opened the door and Dulcie was
not there. The bed was made and her phone was on the dresser. Her purse was
on her bed with her little black bag. He said it was unusual for his mother
to have left the house without her wallet and her mobile telephone. A number
of witnesses (Faulkner, Gill) gave similar evidence.
58. Both Shaun and Damien were riding their motor bikes on 24 October in
the bush near the Riverview School when they came across Ally in his
utility. Ally said he had come from Redbank Plains and was cutting through.
Vivian King (Gwilliams’ de facto partner)
59. Vivian King provided two statements to the police with the second
statement being largely more detailed and forthcoming than the first. It was
said that in early 2009 (although the details of the date are somewhat
unclear) Vivian was involved in a traffic accident, which left her with an
acquired brain injury, and she required ongoing medical treatment however
she was able to work as a cleaner. She was not called to give evidence at
the committal (as she was deemed unreliable by the prosecution because of
her brain injury). She was called to give evidence at the inquest and she
largely confirms aspects of the statements that she provided. Although her
evidence was considerably muddled at times and it may be difficult to place
a great deal of reliability on all aspects, in my view there was a ring of
truth about what she had to say.
60. A summary of Vivian’s evidence as contained in the statements is as
a. She had been with Gwilliams since 2001; they began contact with each
other whilst she was incarcerated at Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre;
b. She had often suspected Gwilliams of having an affair but could never
c. She also confirms that Gwilliams had been violent towards her in the
past. She recalls an incident only weeks before the death when the two of
them had a fight and he pulled up behind a building at West Ipswich, pointed
to some bushland behind the building and said ‘that's where they'll find you
d. In her second statement she provides information about Gwilliams’
movements after the disappearance of Dulcie and also conversations with
e. She said before the police took the utility she saw what she thought
was blood in the front passenger area. Ally said it was mud. He later
cleaned the car. After the vehicle was taken by police she asked what was
going on and he said they must not have found his DNA as he had used a
f. She learnt about a missing woman and another male. He told her he had
killed them. She later saw a story on television about the missing man and
Ally said he was the person he had killed.
g. He also told her he had gone to the missing woman’s house and broken
her neck and had trouble burying it because the body was hard. He told her
that initially Dulcie’s body was in bushland near Dinmore.
h. He then moved it to the Durack area – left early one morning to make
sure the body wasn’t sticking out or showing – he said it was in a cave (in
her evidence she confirms this relates to mines).
i. Gwilliams had also said that the body was at the Willowcrest Kennels
where Vivian used to work and where everyone rides their bikes.
j. She also said every time Gwilliams had returned from moving the body
he told her how his hands had stunk.
61. Soona Faulkner was Dulcie’s best friend, and lived down the road. She
provided three statements and was cross examined at the committal. She
describes what she knew of the history of Dulcie and her relationship with
Gwilliams. This suggested a number of incidents of domestic violence and she
describes the injuries Dulcie would present with including fingermarks on
her arms, bruising around her neck and jaw and bloodied gums. She had
personally seen extensive bruises to her chest, back and thighs whilst
Dulcie was in the shower. Dulcie told Soona that he hit her when he got
angry with her. She could see that Gwilliams was very possessive and
controlling of her and she told Dulcie, when showing her a domestic violence
poster, that this was the same pattern of violence and control he was
62. Dulcie told her that she thought he was following her at times and
she recalls an occasion when Gwilliams admitted this to her (Soona). He used
to abuse her and called her a slut. Soona recalls a conversation Gwilliams
had on the phone with her when he was rambling about other men and said
something like ‘I'm gonna kill the bitch. I had enough’. She recalls that he
said this in a very intense manner.
63. She recalls a previous altercation described to her by Dulcie when
Gwilliams took her into the bush and tied her up. The Friday before Dulcie
went missing, a person she knows as Gary left his car at her house whilst he
rode his motorbike in the bush. When he came back he had a rope with him
that he found in the bush behind the school. She took it because she wanted
to show Dulcie in case it was a rope he had used on her. The rope was
analysed by police and a sample of brown coloured hair on the length of rope
provided by Soona Faulkner showed a partial DNA profile match to Dulcie.
64. It is also apparent that Dulcie had fallen pregnant and Gwilliams was
the likely father. Soona had seen a positive pregnancy test. It appears she
was likely to have been present when Gwilliams brought Dulcie to her house
whilst she was having a miscarriage. Dulcie had told her that Gwilliams was
not happy about her being pregnant and that he kept asking her how she knew
it was his and that he didn't trust her.
65. She also details the various phone calls received from Dulcie on 21
October 2009. There had been a number of text messages sent about Faulkner
wanting $15 from Dulcie for the purchase of some rum (in evidence revealed
as homebrew). Soona last spoke to Dulcie at about 8pm on Wednesday night 21
October 2009. Telephone records indicate that two calls were made from
Dulcie's telephone to her at 10:15 and 10:17, which she did not pick up. She
then made a call at 10:17:51 to Dulcie but there was no answer. She then
received an unusual and short text message from Dulcie’s phone at 10:34:54
saying ‘I am not coming home’.
66. Vicki Hopper was Gwilliams’ sister. She provided three statements and
was cross examined at the committal. At that time she was in a de facto
relationship with Christopher Fulton. In her first statement of 31 October
2009, she details the events of 24 October 2009 when Alwyn Gwilliams arrived
at her place in the middle of the day with his green utility and asked if
she could look after the motor vehicle for a few days as the taillights were
not working. At the same time he requested she send a message to their
mother asking her to pick him up. He had never dropped his motor vehicle at
her house before. The utility was put in their garage.
67. On the following day around 5:30pm she was walking away from the
house when she received a telephone call from Lea Raynor saying that
detectives were coming over to the house and for her to move the motor
vehicle out of the driveway and onto the road. By the time she got back to
the house police were present and the vehicle was being placed on the back
of a tow truck. She said she did not know what had happened to Dulcie.
68. In her second statement taken on 5 December 2009, she conveniently
now remembered that the messages sent to her to move the motor vehicle
included also telling the police that she did not know where it was or why
it was there. She says that she had seen a newspaper article with a
photograph of the utility and of Dulcie in the motor vehicle. She asked
Gwilliams what was going on and he said it was an accident and it wasn't
meant to happen. She said she had not spoken to him about the matter again
but had her own suspicions that he was involved.
69. In this statement she also talks about arrangements she made with him
to buy his green Commodore for $1000. He said he had left it at Wacol. The
next day they drove to Wacol into a small side street, which she thought was
strange but she took the car and drove it home even though it had no plates
on it. Gwilliams told her that his half sister, Evelyn had owned the motor
vehicle. A few days later she noted that the carpet of the boot was gone.
The car was seized by police.
70. Her third statement was taken from evidence she gave at a Crime and
Misconduct Commission hearing on 12 December 2009. She said she had not lied
in her previous statements but had left some things out because she didn't
want to get herself or her brother into trouble.
71. In this statement she refers to an occasion when she gave Dulcie a
lift and noted she had a big black right eye. Dulcie said that Gwilliams had
given this to her. She also recalls a conversation between Gwilliams and
their mother about him having punched Dulcie because she had been seen with
another man and that Gwilliams had said he was jealous.
72. She also stated that she had not been fully open with police
surrounding the events of 24 October 2009. She says that in the early
afternoon she heard banging on the garage door and heard her brother yelling
out to open the door. She did and he drove his utility in and yelled at her
to shut it. She asked why and he said he had an accident and to contact
73. She saw her de-facto Christopher Fulton talking to Gwilliams about
getting rid of the car if he (Gwilliams) rang them later that night to get
rid of it. He asked Fulton to burn the car. The car smelt a lot like petrol.
Christopher Fulton agreed to burn it. Gwilliams told her that he had an
accident and eventually said that Dulcie was with him and he hit a tree and
she broke her neck. He said he tried to resuscitate her. He said they were
bushbashing in Riverview and were both drunk. She told him she did not want
the car left there. He said he would pick it up but police arrived before he
74. She asked him where the body was but he did not say. She asked him
why he did not take her to hospital or to the police and he said that they
wouldn't believe him because of his record and he would go to jail. She
thought that the body must still be in the bush. He had dirt scuff marks on
him like he had been in the bush. Gwilliams had told her not to go to the
75. She then states that Lea Raynor rang her telling her to get the car
and push it down the road or out of the way but just get it out of the
garage. Raynor said the detectives were following them. Vicki then took off
away from the house and was walking across the road when she saw them
arriving in her mother's motor vehicle with the police behind them and she
76. She then told Gwilliams that she had told the police that she had
purchased the green Commodore from him. He said to her that she may as well
say goodbye to the car and that she should flush the boot with petrol before
the police get hold of it. She said the boot had no carpet in it. It had
been cut out. Gwilliams had previously thrown a spray bottle into the boot
and it smelt like deodorant. She asked him why she should clean the boot out
with petrol and he said because there were ‘bloody clothes and shit in
there’. She asked him if he had used this vehicle also and he denied this
but she was still suspicious. She also states that Gwilliams had not
threatened her but he did say not to talk to the police or tell them
anything. Gwilliams later telephoned her and had a conversation about her
having spoken to the police and he was apparently not happy.
77. In her evidence at the inquest she confirmed the injuries and the
black eye that Dulcie said Gwilliams gave to her. She told Dulcie that she
should not put up with that and to get out but Dulcie said she loved him.
78. In relation to the events of 24 October 2009 she again gave a
slightly different version until her last statement was put to her. She
agreed that he arrived at her house banging on the door and yelling to open
up the garage. She said her brother looked scruffy and messy and thought he
may have been in the bush.
79. In evidence she gave relatively consistent evidence based on her last
statement although she also included additional information that he told her
the body was at Jacobs Well. She was unable to explain why this had not been
included in any of her previous statements. It was suggested to her that she
must have believed that Gwilliams was trying to hide the motor vehicle and
she believed that was the case.
80. In relation to the green Commodore she said that the arrangement to
purchase it was made after the police had taken his utility and she had
given police the first statement. Gwilliams told her to give it a good clean
and to flush the boot out with petrol. She agreed she was suspicious that
there was no carpet and that this vehicle had also been used.
81. She stated she had not been in contact with Gwilliams for years but
last week a request had been made for her to be placed on his prison
telephone list. She had not spoken to him yet. Her mother told her that he
had tried to get in contact with her.
82. Christopher Fulton, Vicki Hopper’s defacto, provided two statements
and was cross examined at the committal. He also gave evidence at the
inquest. At the time he was in prison and gave evidence by video link.
83. He said Alwyn had brought the green Mitsubishi Triton over on 24
October 2009 and Gwilliams asked him to burn it when he told him to. He
84. Interestingly, in his evidence his agreement to burn the vehicle
seems to be based on the fact that although he suspected it had been used in
some crime, such as a ram raid on a chemist for drugs (which apparently he
was okay with), it was not until he saw news reports that this may have been
a vehicle police were looking for in relation to Dulcie’s death. He now
takes the view that Ally was trying to set him up for a fall. This vehicle
was then seized by the police. Fulton was apparently interested in buying
the vehicle from Alwyn also but when it became unavailable Gwilliams sold
them the green Holden Commodore around 14 or 15 November 2009. They paid
$1000 a day later. Vicki said that Gwilliams had wanted her to clean the
boot out with petrol. Vicki did not want the utility because she had known
Dulcie’s body had been in it.
85. Elaine Hopper is Gwilliams’ mother, and the owner of a white Daewoo
Nubira allegedly used by Gwilliams to pull his utility out from where it had
bogged. She provided four statements to police and was cross examined at the
committal. In her first statement provided on 28 October 2009 she states
that it was on Friday, 23 October 2009 early in the night that she received
a telephone call on her mobile from Ally telling her that Dulcie was
missing. She got a call from him a few hours later to say that Dulcie had
just rung although she had not spoken and it was just that her name came up
on his screen. He later told her that it was the police ringing her phone.
In this statement she makes no reference to Gwilliams coming to her house on
the early morning of 23 October to borrow her car.
86. In her second statement given on 5 December 2009 she said Ally told
her he had killed Dulcie in a bush bashing accident with a tree and hit her
head near the windscreen. She encouraged him to go and tell someone what had
87. In her final statement Elaine Hopper gives effect to the CMC coercive
hearings and states that in her previous three statements she was not fully
forthcoming to the police. It could therefore be presumed the last statement
is the most accurate and all other inconsistent evidence found in earlier
statements is false. The alternative scenario is that what she said in her
first statement is the most accurate and the following statements are simply
building on a story to support her son and his version that it was a car
88. She says she found out something had happened on 21 October 2009 when
Ally told her he had an accident and killed Dulcie. He had attended her
residence at 12 to 12.30am and asked to borrow her car to tow his vehicle
out of the bush. She could smell alcohol on his breath and he admitted he
had been drinking. He later returned with her car and told her about the
accident. She says she encouraged him to go to the police on the basis it
was an accident. She denied that she sat down with her son and worked out a
story to show it was an accident.
89. In this final statement she expresses her concerns and worries that
Gwilliams intentionally hurt Dulcie and that she isn’t sure if Gwilliams is
being truthful. She also stated in the statement that she was not sure if
Gwilliams was being truthful to her and the fact that he didn't go straight
to the police made her curious about what had really happened. When he said
he was going to Jacobs Well she knew he had moved her and this also made her
suspicious. When those parts of her statement were put to her during
evidence at the inquest she stated that those statements were lies and that
this was completely untrue. When asked whether or not she had read her
statement, which presumably also met up with evidence she provided to the
CMC, she stated she did not read it and although parts of it were true this
part was again lies.
90. DS McQueen was recalled to give evidence about how the statements
were prepared. He confirmed the statements were based on the evidence
provided at the CMC hearing and she had certainly appeared to have read the
statement. In addition, the recording of the CMC hearing in relation to this
portion of the evidence was played in court, and clearly supports that this
was the evidence she provided to the CMC.
91. John Gwilliams is Gwilliams’ father. He provided two statements to
police and was cross examined on a very specific point at committal. In his
final statement he gives effect to the CMC coercive hearings. He admitted in
his evidence that the family were no strangers to police. In relation to his
son he agreed that Alwyn had been doing a lot of drugs in his younger years
as well as drinking a lot. He could also be violent at times if provoked or
affected by drugs or alcohol. He was aware he had been violent towards a
former girlfriend and was jailed as a result.
92. He then details the admission by Gwilliams that he killed Dulcie by
hitting a tree and panicking. He also said he had never heard anything about
Gwilliams having any guns but some months prior to Dulcie going missing
Gwilliams had told him that Dulcie dobbed him in about having a gun and
police searched his place and found some bullets. He was asked some further
questions at the committal hearing and he stated that the reference should
have been to Gwilliams’s partner, Vivian and not Dulcie having dobbed him
93. John Gwilliams also stated that he had a conversation with his
daughter, Evelyn (who was in jail for armed robbery) about Alwyn Gwilliams
wanting to buy her green Commodore that had been sitting in his yard. Alwyn
had apparently made a deal with her that he would pay $800 for it at $100 a
week. The first time Alwyn took the car out of the yard was on Thursday 29
or Friday, 30 October 2009 and he had a conversation with Evelyn about the
car on 31 October. This was because the police had seized Alwyn’s Green
utility that day. In his evidence John Gwilliams confirmed this as his
evidence and he certainly recalls that the motor vehicle was collected by
his son during the day and certainly not at night or in an early morning
94. Lea Raynor is Gwilliams’ other sister. She also provided two
statements to police. She knew Dulcie through her mother and had become good
friends with her over a period of 12 months but they had a falling out three
months previously. Nevertheless, she saw Dulcie five times in that period
and on two occasions she was with Gwilliams. On 25 October 2009 she went
with Gwilliams for a drive in her mother's car. At that time Gwilliams told
her that the police wanted his car in relation to Dulcie being missing.
95. In her second statement, again after the CMC hearing, she agreed that
she had not disclosed her full knowledge of the incident when she gave her
first statement. Gwilliams told her they were bush bashing and driving
around when they had an accident and Dulcie died. HE said she had a heart
beat but was not breathing. He said he had not called an ambulance because
he was scared and had been drinking.
96. She also agreed she had not given a truthful account in her first
statement about certain text messages she sent. In her second statement she
agrees she was told by Gwilliams to send a text message to Vicki and Chris
Fulton telling them to get rid of the car because the cops were on their
way. At the committal hearing she agreed with the suggestion the text was on
the lines of getting the car out of the garage and putting it on the road
and not about getting rid of it. The purported reason for this was that
Chris Fulton was a drug user and her sister’s partner and she did not want
police going through the house and finding anything that shouldn't be there.
I do not place any real reliability on this explanation.
97. In her evidence she also added that he had taken the body to Jacobs
Well and he had told her not to tell the police anything. She was asked
whether she was suspicious of any of these things and she said only that he
had moved the body and not that it was an accident.
98. With respect to the calls and text messages made to Vicki she again
put a gloss on this on the basis that he was trying to protect her.
99. She was also another person who spoke to Gwilliams on the telephone
from prison the week before the inquest.
100. Ian O’Halloran was dating Gwilliams’ brother Michael at the time. In
his first statement made on 20 November 2009 he gives evidence about a
heated argument between Tamatha (Gwilliams sister) and Gwilliams one night
about three weeks previously. The argument appeared to revolve around a
motor vehicle that Gwilliams wanted back because it was his and that Evelyn
should not have sold it. In his statement, which he confirms in his
evidence, he said Gwilliams said ‘I’ll make sure what happens to youse is
what I did to Dulcie’ and Gwilliams admission that he had picked her up from
her house and took her to Green Lakes and killed her.
101. Tamatha Gwilliams rang Ian last week saying that she hoped he was
not going to get involved in the court case.
102. Tamatha Nicole Gwilliams was also a sister of Gwilliams. She also
provided two statements, the second one based on her evidence at the CMC
hearing. In her first statement she said she had heard from her parents that
the police had found Dulcie dead and that her brother was wanted. She had
also heard from others on the street that other people had not heard
anything about Gwilliams being involved in the disappearance of Dulcie other
than what her father had said and this was from police coming to the house
to try and find Gwilliams. She also had seen the newspapers and a picture of
Gwilliams’ green utility. She gave evidence that she spoke to her sister and
her partner (who are both in jail) and she told them that police had come to
her parent's house and told them they had found Dulcie in bushland with a
shot gun wound to the head and that Gwilliams was responsible. She recalls
saying to them on this occasion and at other times that she did not think he
had done it. She was aware that the police had searched her parents’ house
for guns previously but she did not know if Gwilliams had or owned any
weapons or had access to them.
103. In her second statement she said she had met Dulcie once in early
October 2009. She had read about the missing person in the newspaper. She
saw Gwilliams on 26 October 2009 around 7:00am when he came to her house.
Gwilliams accused her of something related to money she owed for a car. It
is apparent that she was purchasing a silver Holden Gemini from Gwilliams by
instalments. She then asked him if he knew anything about Dulcie's
disappearance. He told her something about his green utility and that
someone had found his tray or something and they kept saying it was missing.
Gwilliams said in relation to Dulcie that he loved her and would really miss
her and hoped they found her alive. He said he had dropped Dulcie off at
home at 10:30pm and had given her $300 because her boyfriend was sending
threatening messages. He said he and Dulcie had never argued.
104. She recalls receiving a call from Gwilliams early in November 2009
where he told her she did not need to provide a statement to police because
she didn't know Dulcie.
105. On 22 November 2009 she received a telephone call from Gwilliams
saying that he had seen a statement where she had dobbed him in. She denied
this and said he had the wrong statement.
106. Tamatha Gwilliams was not able to be personally served with a
summons to appear at the inquest. I was however, satisfied after hearing
evidence from DS McQueen that she was intentionally avoiding service and she
knew she was to appear at the inquest on a particular date, time and place.
A warrant was issued for her arrest to be brought to court to give evidence.
107. She was brought to court on the warrant and I heard her evidence on
17 March 2014.She was generally uncooperative. In particular she denied any
conversation took place between her and Gwilliams as suggested in the
evidence of Ian O’Halloran and denied he was ever present on the day
alleged. Evidence of Alwyn Gwilliams given at the inquest
108. Alwyn Gwilliams took an oath and gave evidence. He did not claim any
privilege against self-incrimination. This was the first occasion Gwilliams
has ever given evidence in court about the events that took place in 2009.
109. He identified the two written statements he had signed. He had known
Dulcie Birt for 15 years. She had been a previous lover many years ago and
then more recently. They both used drugs such as cannabis, amphetamines,
cocaine and ecstasy. She also used heroin. He said he was trying to help her
get off this drug. He said the other drugs were not as addictive as heroin.
He also described their alcohol habits and that she drank every day
including bourbon, beer, and rum. He seemed to suggest the two of them could
drink more than a carton of beer together in a normal session.
110. He denied that they ever argued. He said there were some
disagreements with helping her get off heroin and referred to a particular
disagreement about him giving her $250 to pay a gas bill. He denied they
argued about her having relationships with other men. He stated he was
sleeping with other women.
111. He denied ever having an argument with Dulcie whilst Shaun or Damian
were home. He denied having ever hit her.
112. In relation to the allegation of Dulcie telling witnesses that he
had hit Dulcie and given her a black eye he stated the witnesses were wrong
and Dulcie would never have said that. He was asked if he had ever seen her
with a black eye and he stated he had only seen her with a bruised cheek.
113. He denied ever having said to Soona Faulkner words to the effect
that he was ‘going to kill the bitch and he had enough’.
114. He denied ever taking Dulcie to the bush and tying her up as alleged
by Soona Faulkner. He denied ever punching her in the abdomen at a time when
she may have been pregnant. He agrees he did take her to Soona Faulkner’s
house one night when she was bleeding heavily but said this was from her
having a menstrual period and soon after Dulcie had been involved in a motor
115. He denied having assaulted Dulcie on the night she died.
116. He was given a description of the assault he had caused to a
previous partner as a result of which he was convicted of torture and
assault. He had pleaded not guilty and was convicted by a jury. The torture
account took place in a lonely place, a quarry, in the night-time where he
had stripped her naked and while she was lying naked on the ground in a
fetal position he kicked her repeatedly all over the body, face and head
causing her severe pain. He then squeezed her throat with his hands until
she fainted. He then applied force to her head and pushed her head against
the car window injuring her. He then beat her on the back while she lay
naked on the ground. He then pulled her by the hair to the car and put her
head under the front wheel and threatened to finish her off. The sentencing
judge referred to the attacks as being of the utmost brutality. He agreed he
was convicted of this offence but in relation to the description of events
he stated he did not do those things.
117. He denied making any of the statements referred to in Vivian King’s
118. He denied making the threat to Tamatha as set out in the evidence of
Ian O’Halloran to the effect that he would make sure what happened to them
was the same as what happened to Dulcie. He denied that he was angry with
Tamatha about repayments for the motor vehicle or that he banged on their
door and told them to get outside.
119. He stated his father was incorrect when he said that the green
Commodore was with him on the night when Gwilliams alleges he took it from
his own house and took Dulcie's body to Jacobs Well. He seemed to suggest
his father was tricked by the police when he said that.
120. He suggested one reason why he did not even go to police as
suggested by his mother was because he knew he would be going to jail and he
wanted to set things up for Vivian before he did so.
121. In relation to the events of 21 October 2009 he largely gave
evidence based on the statements he had provided but with some rather
interesting and very significant additions.
122. He agreed he picked Dulcie up from the park after her visit with her
children. They then went back to Dulcie's house where he suggests in a
half-hour period they had sex, took some cocaine and had a couple of cans of
alcohol. Damien and Shaun had not come home at this time. He says he then
left to see Vivian and do some of her jobs or drive her to her jobs but he
could not recall precisely. He said he was gone for a few hours and apart
from also taking Vivian to work he saw another woman with whom he was also
having a sexual relationship.
123. He then went back to Dulcie's house and at this stage Shaun and
Damien were there. He denied he had any argument with her or that he told
her to stop lying. He denied that he broke a window or that any glass was
broken. When he left she was going to bed. He then realised he had left some
clothes and his phone charger and agrees he did a U-turn at some traffic
lights. He could have telephoned Dulcie at 10:24pm. He was 5 to 10 min away.
She brought his clothes and charger down to the car and they had some drinks
in the car. He agreed that if she was usually going out she would have taken
her telephone and wallet with her.
124. It was her suggestion that they go for a swim in the bush. He was
sure that it was not Green Lake, which is the one the police drained and
thinks it is more likely to be a lagoon named Aqua Lake. They are
approximately 500m apart. It would normally take 10 min to drive there but
was not sure about this night.
125. He denied the evidence of Damien Gill and the reference/threat to
cutting Dulcie's head off and letting the blood drip over the drug dealer’s
126. He said he did not recall making a telephone call to Shaun at
10:19pm but suggested he could have been ringing to apologise to Shaun
because of the way his mother was carrying on, as he felt sorry for him. He
does not recall other telephone calls to Shaun at11:23 and 11:34pm but
agrees that Dulcie was with him at that time.
127. He confirms that they were both very intoxicated at 7/8 on a scale
out of 10. Neither of them was wearing seat belts. He was not travelling
very fast and did not get past third gear and his estimated top speed would
have been 30 to 35 km/h. He states he slammed the brakes on and the car
stopped then skidded. He now says he did not bang front on to any tree but
skidded and stopped such that the tree may have hit the left-hand side of
the vehicle. He recalls there may have been a tree leaning on top of the
128. He originally started laughing about what had happened and then saw
Dulcie was leaning forward with her head either under the dashboard or in
line with the dash. She did not respond and he pulled her back into the seat
and thought she was unconscious. He was shown paragraph 17 of his second
statement where he stated he couldn't pull her back and said this was wrong.
He stated the head was forward but the body was upright. He stated that she
did not appear to have been breathing at this stage. He took her out of car
and on to the ground near the back wheel. He tried to get a pulse on both
wrists with no result. He could not hear breathing. He listened to her heart
and believed he could hear a heartbeat. He states he performed CPR as well
as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. At no time was her breathing laboured or
heavy in any way. He states he did hundreds of CPR compressions.
129. He stated he had not noticed anything about her head or any blood.
130. He had difficulty opening up the side tray of the utility but
eventually got it open. He then put Dulcie up onto the tray and it was
somewhat of a struggle. He stated that it was dark but the headlights and
parking lights were on. He could see she had a graze or cut on her head,
which he thinks was on the left top forehead but he was not sure. There was
not a lot of blood to be found.
131. He stated he was in shock, which is why he did not get her checked
out by a professional or telephone for an ambulance. He was scared of going
to jail as he was intoxicated and on drugs and he had clearly caused the
accident. He wanted to look after Vivian as no one else was there to do
132. He then decided to go and get some help but the wheels of the four-wheeldrive
were spinning. He is not sure but he may have locked and unlocked the wrong
wheel hubs. The car was not bogged in mud but he could not get it out.
133. His mother's house was closer than his house and he ran to his
mother's house. This would have been 500m to a kilometre away. He does not
recall how he got in but presumes his mother was in bed. He asked to borrow
the motor vehicle and initially she did not wish to give it to him because
he had been drinking. He then he told her it was a matter of life and death
and then about what had happened and that Dulcie had died in a collision.
She told him to ring the ambulance or call the police. He suggests he did
not give her the full details of what happened on that occasion. He also
says he did not talk to her or see her when he returned with the vehicle
134. He had no trouble finding the utility vehicle as it was on the same
track. He used a snatch strap from the utility and tried to pull it out but
the utility did not move. He then decided to give it a big yank and the
vehicle moved a bit. He then got into his own car and was able to move it.
135. He then took his mother’s vehicle back to her house but did not
speak to her and just left the keys. He then ran back to the bush and found
the utility vehicle again quite quickly. He says he then drove around in the
bush with Dulcie on the tray in the utility. He was thinking about what to
do. He believed she was dead. He had not seen any vomit on her.
136. He then went over to the western side of the bush. In completely new
evidence to what was contained in his statement or in the field interview he
says he then placed the body down a gully. He says he then went back home
and got his Commodore at Bundamba but does not recall how he got there. In
relation to why none of this was written in his statement provided by his
solicitor he suggested he had given his solicitor this information and he
had not read the statement. He also told his solicitor about having used the
Commodore that evening but that also had not made it into the statement.
137. He says that after he returned with the Commodore he took her out of
the gully and put her in the boot. He was not sure what he was going to do
but ended up driving out to Jacobs Well where they used to camp. He made
reference to the fact that he did not just go to the one spot but appears to
have been to a few other spots that night before cutting across to Rocky
Point. He stated he waded out in the water and carried her out to waist
height and let her go. He stated that the police tricked him into saying
that where he had placed the body was close enough to some trees that he
could touch them.
138. He stated he was under the influence of alcohol at the time he
attended the walk-through interview. He had not told his solicitor or the
police that he was intoxicated.
139. He said the body did not sink and he decided to just turn back to
the shore and did not look back. He stated he said a prayer to God to
forgive him and make him strong.
140. He says he then drove back and dumped the car at Wacol at an
industrial area and hoped it would get stolen. He stated he then hitched a
lift from the highway back to Bundamba near the station and then walked
home. He then got his bike and went into the bush and grabbed the 4WD and
drove it home.
141. He stated he had received no injuries from the accident other than a
sore left hand. He was unsure as to what happened to the passenger side tray
side and stated it must have fallen off in the bush. He agreed he saw Damien
and Shaun in the bush on the Saturday. He stated he had driven to the house
to see Shaun and then heard motorbikes in the bushland and knew they were
likely to be there and drove in. He stated he wanted to see Shaun to give
him some food and money. He denied he had already been in the bushland and
that he had been seen earlier that morning or the previous morning at around
142. He denied he had hidden the body. He denied having been in the bush
that morning when he took the 4WD to his sister, Vicki's house. He denied
having told his sister and Chris that he would ring them that night about
the motor vehicle being burnt. He stated he told the police where the motor
vehicle was but denied asking Lea to send any messages about getting rid of
the motor vehicle.
143. He stated he had cleaned the utility. He noted something on the
passenger door and pulled over and saw some skin and blood and sprayed and
wiped this down. He suggests he also then took the vehicle to a car wash.
144. John Ruller is a very experienced road crash investigator and
collision analyst. He provided a statement and gave evidence at the inquest.
He based his report on the statements of Gwilliams to the effect that
neither Dulcie nor Gwilliams were wearing a seat belt and both had been
drinking heavily. He also noted the evidence of Gwilliams that he was
travelling at speed down a track in bushland and struck a dip and lost
control of the vehicle. He states that they hit one tree and he recalls
something hit on the left-hand side of the vehicle and they then came to a
sharp stop, into another tree. He also noted that the evidence of Gwilliams
was that when the vehicle had stopped, there was a tree lying on the vehicle
on the left side.
145. In summary his evidence is as follows:
a. He inspected the green utility and the alleged crash scene at the
bushland at Riverview.
b. An examination of the vehicle failed to locate any damage consistent
with the vehicle having a full on impact with one or more trees. There was
slight scuffing to the left side of the bull bar which may have indicated a
brush with a tree.
c. There was a slight indentation in the metal of the front bull bar
forming like a wave – the soft wood of a tree would not make such a mark in
the metal and was likely due to impact with a sharp object.
d. The damage to the left side sidestep was of a minor nature and would
result in little discomfort to any passenger sitting in the front passenger
seat. There was also mud caked under the sidestep when he examined it which
had been there for some time suggesting the impact pre-dated further driving
which attracted the mud.
e. Further, the damage to the upright of the tray would have been of a
minor nature and again, anyone sitting in the front passenger seat would
have felt little effect from such a contact.
f. The roof showed no contact damage – had a tree been struck and then
fallen onto the roof it would be expected there would at least be a scuff.
g. Inspection of the interior of the vehicle failed to locate any area
which showed evidence of occupant contact damage.
h. No damage or scuff marks were found on the dash in front of the
i. In such a situation of an unrestrained person involved in a collision
as described, a person will very often be found crumbled up under the dash
as their whole body would be forced forward, not just the upper portion as
described by Gwilliams.
j. Examination of the scene revealed only one tree (photo 20) consistent
with having been involved in a crash with a vehicle. The physical evidence
at the site of the tree shows that it was a glancing blow only and would
have taken little force to push the small tree over.
k. The track was rough, the ‘y’ and ‘z’ G forces do not appear to be
excessive – the occupants of the vehicle would be uncomfortable but not
146. Mr Ruller concluded that in his opinion:
a. There is no damage to the Mitsubishi utility consistent with the
vehicle having been involved in a significant impact with one or more trees,
which would have resulted in a sudden stop.
b. There is no evidence seen along the track which would indicate a
vehicle had veered off the track and impacted one or more trees in the
manner described by Mr Gwilliams.
c. There is no damage or scuffling within the passenger compartment of
the vehicle consistent with occupant contact. Paul Tutin – Mechanical
147. Paul Tutin is a mechanical engineer who was engaged by police to
examine the Mitsubishi Triton utility on 4 November 2009. He was
specifically asked to consider damage on the vehicle and his opinion as to
an explanation of how the damage was sustained. His evidence can be
summarised as follows:
a. There is no evidence to suggest that the damage observed was the
result of a collision with another vehicle on the open road.
b. There was significant degradation of the paintwork consistent with its
age and that it had been used extensively in an off road capacity such as
scratching from foliage with such events occurring on a number of occasions.
c. Other than wear and tear, the only significant but minor accident or
impact damage was confined to the running board and the tray on the
passenger side of the vehicle. The passenger-side door lock was missing but
given the rust seen this occurred sometime previously.
d. The damage to the passenger side running board was a dent in the
underside and is consistent with contact with a solid object on the ground,
such as a tree branch or uneven ground, when the vehicle was being used in
an off-road capacity.
e. The damage to the passenger’s side of the tray uprights of the vehicle
is consistent with an over heard projection, such as a tree branch, being
clipped by the moving vehicle whilst the vehicle was being used in an
off-road capacity. He was unable to identify a timeframe for when the damage
occurred. The impact would not have been at a fast speed, and the most
likely scenario which fits the damage pattern is as follows – ‘The vehicle
was being driven off-road at a low speed through country where overheard
branches or projecting objects were present on the off-, or passenger’s side
of the vehicle. On travelling under one of these branches/projecting
objects, the top left hand corner of the aluminium upright on the
passenger’s side of the tray clipped a branch/projecting object that was
approximately 1.75m above the ground, leaving a witness mark on the upright.
As the vehicle continued to move forward, the branch/projecting object
caused the top of the upright to move rearwards as the upright rotated in
excess of 12 degrees allowing the branch/projecting object to slide over the
top corner of the passenger’s side upright. The consequence of this impact
was that the passenger’s side corner upright rotated about the top retaining
bolt in the sub frame of the tray, fracturing the bottom bolt hole in the
sub frame rail.’
Sgt Darryl Morrison (Forensic Crash Unit)
148. Darryl Morrison is a sergeant with Queensland Police and a very
experienced Forensic Crash Unit (FCU) investigator. He observed the
Mitsubishi Triton on 3 November 2009. The vehicle was in a generally poor
condition with the painted surfaces dirty, scratched, and faded with a
number of minor dents. He reported the left side upright support post on the
tray had been pushed rearward and was about 18cm out of alignment on its
normal position. There was a crack to the base of the adjacent upright
support post. Brackets on the left side attached the drop down sides were
bent. There was a rectangular mark or print on the left upright support post
commencing about 7cm down and 6cm in length. He was of the opinion this
impact is most likely with an object similar to the end of a piece of timber
about 6cm wide.
149. This motor vehicle had also allegedly been involved in a motor
vehicle collision with a red Mazda sedan and a silver Mazda sedan on 2
September 2009. He also observed an area of damage on the lower portion of
the driver’s side contained areas of red paint smears. He was also shown a
number of photographs of a red Mazda sedan parked so its front panels are
adjacent to the driver's door of the Triton utility.
150. Sgt Morrison also assisted other officers to survey an area of track
in the bushland off Riverview and prepared a survey map. He also drove the
utility on this area of track on three occasions also utilising a Vericom
accelerometer which measures acceleration in G forces. Utilising a video
camera on the windscreen he drove the Triton utility on the area of track on
three occasions at low comfortable speeds and at a higher speed. He also
drove the utility to several locations on the section of track and placed
various wheels of the vehicle into larger ruts or holes and then drove the
vehicle out of these holes.
151. In summary his opinion is as follows: a. He opines that the nature
of any damage suffered by a vehicle in an impact is speed dependant. b. He
concludes that the damage sustained by the vehicle on the passenger side was
consistent with a low speed impact. c. He reviewed the track as well as the
side swipe traffic incident involving silver and red Mazda sedans. d. The
damage to the utility in the area of the lower driver’s door and the
arrangement of the panels and fixtures on the right rear utility section was
consistent with having been caused in the traffic accident as described on 2
September 2009. e. The damage was minor in nature and would not be
sufficient to inflict life threatening or fatal injuries upon the occupant
of the utility. f. On each of the two occasions he drove the vehicle at
comfortable speeds he experienced no discomfort. On the third occasion he
drove he experienced a minor level of discomfort when negotiating rough
sections of track.
152. Sgt Anthony Nelson is a member of the Gold Coast Water Police and
the Search and Rescue Coordinator for the South West Region. He has 10 years
experience with the Water Police. He was involved in the potential search
and rescue for Dulcie’s body in Jacobs Well.
153. Sgt Nelson viewed the video footage of the field interview conducted
with Gwilliams at the area of Jacobs Well where he stated he disposed of
Dulcie’s body. He referred to the official Queensland Tide Tables 2009 and
was able to establish the high and low tidal heights for that period and was
able to perform calculations when the tide height would be of an equivalent
level to the heights calculated for 21 and 22 October 2009. Similar tide
heights were likely to occur on 15 January 2010 and 27 January 2010. He was
able to confirm his measurements within a few centimetres from actual tidal
depths recorded at Rocky Point by Maritime Safety Queensland.
154. He attended on both those days and during the course of 15 January
2010 a series of experiments was conducted utilising a dummy. On 27 January
2010 a number of other measurements were made. In summary the findings were
as follows: a. He was able to establish that at all times relevant to the
interview provided by Gwilliams on 8 December 2009 there was dry land at the
location nominated by him as where he released the remains of Dulcie into
the waterway: In the video field interview Gwilliams was very specific about
the location and pointed out a particular mangrove tree he was able to
almost touch. For Gwilliams to release the body at chest height as he stated
he would had to have been at a distance of 43 metres from the edge of the
mangroves. b. Due to the fact that tidal movement is a vertical movement of
water and any horizontal movement is determined by local factors including
the composition and nature of the sea bed, he reached the conclusion that if
the remains of Dulcie had been placed in this location, there would still be
evidence of those remains within a short distance: In effect the body when
released would have floated back to shore. In his experience the body would
have been located the next day given this is a main thoroughfare for marine
activity. He considered it unlikely marine predators would have taken the
body and has never had an event where a body has been taken by a shark in
these shallow waterways. c. He opined that it was categorically not possible
for Gwilliams to have released the remains of Dulcie at the time and
location as he claimed during the interview. He further opined that, based
on water movements and tidal heights, there was no likely area at that
location to conduct further searches for the remains. d. He opined that the
version provided by Gwilliams in relation to the disposal of Dulcie at
Little Rocky Point on 22 October 2009 is not possible.
Prof Anthony Ansford
155. Professor Anthony Ansford is a very experienced forensic
pathologist. He was engaged by the lawyers representing Alwyn Gwilliams in
the criminal proceedings. He was asked to address a number of specific
questions by them, but gave more detail in his evidence. In summary his
evidence was as follows:
a. Professor Ansford opined that if the vehicle had been involved in a
crash sufficient to directly cause Dulcie’s death he would expect
significantly more damage and possibly a large amount of blood.
b. There were no reports indicating a significant amount of blood was
found in either vehicle.
c. He would also expect a large amount of blood in the utility if Dulcie
had been seriously assaulted before or while she was in the vehicle –
however other scenarios of killing such as strangulation would not reveal
d. Other possible scenarios include a low impact collision with a tree or
other object (sufficient to damage the side drop tray) could have caused an
unrestrained heavily intoxicated person to collide with the interior of the
vehicle with sufficient force to cause loss of consciousness rather than
death. The minor injury to the head would support this hypothesis. She may
have then remained unconscious due to a combination of alcohol and the head
blow and aspiration or inhalation of vomit in her unconscious and
intoxicated state was also likely to have occurred. Gwilliams may have then
mistakenly considered that she was dead and placed her in the water where
she subsequently drowned.
e. Alternatively, she may have died prior to immersion in the water due
to the combination of a relatively minor head injury producing
unconsciousness and intoxication, leading to death from possible inhalation
f. In his evidence he stated that if she was knocked unconscious her
breathing would become noisy rather than simply stopping or becoming
inaudible. It would be obvious that she was still alive. If she aspirated
vomit into her lungs whilst she was unconscious this would cause her death
relatively quickly but he would expect this to be more than a few minutes
and more in the order of 20 to 30 min.
g. If she had been placed in water (whether in a lake or open water) he
would have expected the body to sink but it would have come to the surface
in a 24 hour to two day period, unless it had been weighed down.
h. In a situation where there was evidence of minimal blood loss, minimal
head injury, minimal damage to the motor vehicle, and the driver
experiencing no injury he would consider it highly unlikely for all of those
things to have come together to cause her death. He had never seen a case
with those similar circumstances where death had occurred.
Used car safety ratings – RACQ
156. Mr Steve Spalding, the Executive Manager of Technical and Safety
Policy at RACQ has also been approached as part of the inquest to provide
information. He was provided with a brief overview of the matter and asked
to address the issue of the durability/overall safety of the subject vehicle
(a 1998 Mitsubishi Triton utility) when involved in a crash, particularly a
crash said to involve a fatality.
157. Mr Spalding provided a response which essentially summarises a
number of key statistics which the RACQ use in order to assess the overall
safety of a vehicle. RACQ recommends the use of the 2013 Used Car Safety
Ratings (UCSR) results for a 1998 vehicle. The UCSR are prepared by Monash
University under the direction of Associate Professor Stuart Newstead and
supported by a steering group comprised of stakeholder representatives from
various Australian and New Zealand transport departments and motoring clubs,
plus the Transport Accident Commission and the Federal Department
Infrastructure and Transport.
158. The 2013-2014 UCSR brochure shows the rating for a 1996 to 2006
Mitsubishi Triton MK Model as offering four stars of protection for the
driver. The star ratings range from one being ‘very poor’ through to five
being an ‘excellent’ rating.
159. The actual calculated crashworthiness (CWR) for the vehicle is
2.92%, representing an average of 2.92 seriously injured or killed drivers
per 100 police-reported crashes. For context, the average CWR in the 2013
results for utilities is 3.44% and for all rated vehicles is 3.85%.
160. Essentially, Mr Spalding’s evidence confirms that the subject
vehicle has a high safety rating. Conclusions Lies which can be proven
161. With respect to his and Dulcie’s drinking on the Wednesday night, Mr
Gwilliams maintained that he and Dulcie had consumed the best part of two
bottles of spirits and pre-mixed cans of rum – on a drunkenness scale of 1-
10 he put his condition at 8 or 9. There is little evidence he and Dulcie
were drinking much at all before they left.
162. On his account, Mr Gwilliams falsely denied having had an argument
with Dulcie on the Wednesday night.
163. In daylight, Mr Gwilliams took police to the bushland opposite
Dulcie’s house but was unable to locate the area where he claimed the
accident had occurred, however, he was able to find it twice in the night
time; once after he allegedly borrowed his mother’s car, and then again,
when he revisited the scene after returning her car.
164. Mr Gwilliams told police that he had definitely knocked a tree over
and that there was no water around where it happened. There was one felled
tree in the area that was consistent with being knocked over by a vehicle,
but the damage to the tree was not consistent with Mr Gwilliams’ version.
The small tree that had been pushed over near the pond sustained only a
165. Mr Gwilliams’ took police to Little Rocky Point, Woongoolba – an
area he referred to as Jacobs Well – and told them that this was where he
had put Dulcie’s body into the water. A consideration of tidal heights at
Little Rocky Point indicated that Dulcie’s body could not have been released
from Little Rocky Point or any other location within 2km to the south or 1 ½
km to the north of that place.
166. Mr Gwilliams described Dulcie as slumped over, with her head on the
dashboard. However, the expert evidence is an unrestrained passenger is more
likely to be found crumpled under the dash as the whole body is forced
forward. Further, Mr Gwilliams did not sustain any injuries that night
despite him also not being restrained by a seatbelt.
167. The impact with the tree was not of sufficient force to throw Dulcie
forward and break her neck. Indeed the findings in relation to the blood in
the utility are also inconsistent with what Mr Gwilliams told police. The
blood that was found in and on the utility was located in positions where
blood was unlikely to have been deposited in a vehicle accident.
168. Soil samples taken from the four wheel arches of the utility were
mineralogically similar, suggesting a common source. Those samples were
compared with control samples taken from the track in the Riverview bushland
along which Mr Gwilliams said he had driven before the accident, from a lake
in that bushland area, and from Woongoolba. None of the wheel arch samples
had similar mineralogical features to any of the control samples.
169. Mr Gwilliams knew the area of Jacobs Well, having been there several
times when he was young. He told police he and Dulcie had been to the place
two or three times. It seems unlikely he would be mistaken as to where he
placed Dulcie’s body in the water.
How she died
170. Dulcie Birt was in a sexual relationship with Alwyn Gwilliams. Alwyn
Gwilliams had a history of relationships with women characterised by
domestic violence. Her relationship was no different. There is ample
evidence of arguments between the two and resultant violence on her. The
connection with these events and the bushland area is chilling given the
previous conviction of torture of another woman in bushland. There is some
evidence he may have taken Dulcie into the bush and tied her up with a rope
on a previous occasion. He made threats to Vivian and others implicating the
bushland as a place he would utilise.
171. Dulcie died in the late evening of 21 October 2009 or early morning
of 22 October 2009 in the Riverview bushland. There had earlier been a loud
vocal argument between the two and he smashed her bedroom window. Gwilliams
then left and Dulcie was seen by her son going to bed. Gwilliams then
returns and is seen in CCTV footage doing a u-turn at a set of lights. This
appears to correspond with a telephone call he made to her at 10:24pm and it
may very well be he was returning to get his phone charger. It is apparent
that despite the argument she went somewhat voluntarily down to the vehicle
but because she did not take her telephone and purse she was expecting to
return. It is unknown if she voluntarily got into the vehicle or was
otherwise coerced. It is likely that she left the house around the time she
sent the text message to Soona at 10:34pm.
172. There may have been a minor motor vehicle crash and she may have
been injured, but those injuries did not kill her. What is most likely is
that she suffered some other form of assault by Gwilliams following on from
the argument. The nature of the assault cannot be ascertained at this stage
but it is likely this caused her death. The recovery of her body may assist
in reaching a conclusion on this issue. It may not.
173. It is most likely the body was initially placed in the Riverview
bushland. It is a vast and largely inhospitable place. Gwilliams was seen in
that area on a number of occasions after 22 October 2009 at night or in the
early morning. He may have moved the body from where it was initially placed
or made further efforts to hide the body. I suspect the missing left hand
side tray has played a part in hiding the body. The story of taking the body
to Jacobs Well that night has been shown to be a fabrication, most likely to
confuse the investigation and to impede the discovery of the body in case it
assisted in revealing the truth.
174. It is most unlikely the 4WD was bogged as alleged by Gwilliams.
Gwilliams did not utilise his mother’s small sedan to move the vehicle that
night and he did not go to his mother’s house that night. The subsequent
stories about the vehicle accident were concocted by Gwilliams and his
family members and particularly his mother have assisted in its
perpetuation. Gwilliams did not use the green Commodore that early morning
to take the body to Jacobs Well. This again was invented to impede the
175. I am satisfied Dulcie Isabelle Birt is deceased and has died as a
result of the direct actions of Alwyn Gwilliams in some form of undetermined
Findings required by s. 45
Identity of the deceased – Dulcie Isabelle Birt
How she died – Dulcie Isabelle Birt died in the Riverview Bushland as a
result of a form of assault perpetrated by Alwyn Gwilliams. The precise
nature of the assault and how it caused her death cannot be determined on
the available evidence. It is most unlikely she died as a result of injuries
sustained in a motor vehicle crash. Her body has been disposed of and hidden
by Alwyn Gwilliams.
Place of death – Riverview Bushland, Riverview, Queensland
Date of death– Between 21 and 22 October 2009
Cause of death – Consequences of an undetermined assault
I close the inquest.
John Lock Deputy
21 March 2014