Paul Winston BYRNE


Missing Person Paul Byrne

'Plenty of evidence to solve case'


A former detective believes missing Rossarden man Paul Byrne was sexually tortured and killed. He wants the coroner to look into the 15-year-old case and believes there is sufficient evidence for two people to be charged with Mr Byrne's murder. The Sunday Examiner's police reporter, ZARA DAWTREY, reports.

ONE of Tasmania's most troubling missing persons cases should and could be solved, according to a retired former detective who was heavily involved in the investigation.

He has made significant revelations a week after Tasmania Police revealed that there were fresh leads in the 1969 disappearance of 20-year-old Lucille Butterworth at Claremont in the state's South.

The former Tasmania Police detective, highly respected and decorated during and after his long career, says Rossarden man Paul Winston Byrne was murdered and he believes his remains are still at or very near Rossarden.

He will not be named in the interest of protecting his identity due to the sensitive nature of the case.

Byrne, 32, went missing after a night out at the Rossarden Club in September 1996.

Soon afterwards, both his house and the house he was last seen at burned to the ground.

Police have excavated mine shafts at Rossarden and in the Central Highlands over the years, but to no avail.

A $100,000 reward for information about the suspected killing remains on the table today.

"The case of Paul Byrne should've been one the Cold Cases Unit dealt with as a matter of priority," the former detective said.

"I, like many others, am completely disgusted that budget cuts to Tasmania Police have seen this unit disbanded.

"Tasmania Police, from police headquarters down, is overridden with office staff. And absolutely top-notch police officers, investigators, who should be in the field, are sitting in offices tied down by administrative work."

A former member of the Operation Northcote taskforce, formed in conjunction with the then- National Crime Authority to investigate crime involving Rossarden residents more than a decade ago, he said enough evidence existed to allow police to lay charges against at least one, if not both the men he says are responsible for Byrne's murder.

"There is scientific forensic evidence, and I'm talking about blood and flesh samples," he said.

"Both houses were burned down, but the reasons why they were burned down have got to form the basis of the evidence.

"Yes, the houses were burned down, destroyed, and nothing can change that - but the circumstances of those fires and how they occurred, where they occurred and who the residents were, it's all very relevant."

He says the Northcote taskforce was given incredible powers under the NCA, meaning evidence could be obtained overtly and covertly, and did not have to be taken under caution.

"It could be obtained by any means necessary," he said.

The two men who murdered Byrne, he says, are sexual sadists who sexually tortured the former New Zealander before killing him and concealing his body.

"One of the men was openly interested in men and women, sexually speaking," he said.

"I've got no doubt Paul Byrne died a very terrible, very cruel death."

But why was he killed?

"Alcohol and drugs."

The two men and Byrne left the Rossarden Club that night and went to a house. Then they went to a second house and that is where Byrne was allegedly murdered.

"To get rid of the body, they had to have help. They would've been in a bad condition because of the alcohol and the drugs, and they would most likely have needed a hand."

He believes they would not have run the risk of going too far.

"Human nature says they would have been in a fair old state.

"They wouldn't have gone far. The remains might be in a mine shaft ... but my gut feeling is they could be much closer to home than is believed.

"The disappearance of Paul Byrne and the circumstances surrounding it disturb me greatly. There's never been an inquest. The case has never gone before a coroner.

"If that file - as it stood when I was still there - if it went before a coroner, based on the circumstances and the evidence that I know exists, a coroner would recommend charges be laid."

He wants the coroner to look at the file, but most of all, he wants those responsible to be put before the court.

"I see how things work now. A difficult file goes off to the Director of Public Prosecutions and they state `insufficient evidence'.

"Well in this case, I don't accept that. At all.

"We have a jury system where 12 members of society get to decide guilt or innocence, and that's where this needs to go. Let the jury decide.

"And if the file still contains what it did, I have no doubt one or both men would be found guilty."

Launceston CIB boss Detective Inspector Scott Flude said the case remained open and was under investigation. "I personally have extensive knowledge of this case, as do members of my team, and we are continuing to investigate the suspected murder of Paul Winston Byrne," he said.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Launceston CIB on 63363701. Callers can remain anonymous and a $100,000 reward stands.