Whiskey inquest cop told to cut report

Detective Sergeant Virginia Gray says she was told to remove a chunk of her firebombing report.
Detective Sergeant Virginia Gray says she was told to remove a chunk of her firebombing report.

A police officer investigating Brisbane's deadly Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing was ordered last year to remove a chunk of her report about the early investigations, an inquest has been told.

Detective Sergeant Virginia Gray said she was told to remove everything from the fourth paragraph to about page 27 after meeting her superiors in September 2020.

The cold case homicide officer - with 27 years of policing experience - was tasked with investigating the 1973 attack that killed 15 people for the coroner before the inquest.

She made the claims last week, but the section of her testimony was the subject of an suppression order that was lifted on Wednesday.

Det Sgt Gray said Detective Inspector Damien Hansen told her he had spoken to the coroner the previous day and "his feedback was that that material should be removed ... as they didn't need references to the early investigation".

She added there was a discussion involving Detective Senior Sergeant Tara Kentwell in which Det Sgt Gray said she thought it was "a fairly standard thing that early investigative material is in coronial reports".

"Detective Senior Sergeant Kentwell asked could we have the material in some other way," she added.

She said Det Insp Hanson told her he was unhappy with references relating to the original interview on March 11, 1973 with James Richard Finch who was later convicted over the attack.

"He was unhappy that there was reference to or insinuation that they were verballed," Det Sgt Gray told the inquest.

An emotional Det Sgt Gray said Det Insp Hanson told her "that sort of material shouldn't be included in a report from police ... and that we would leave that to the journalists and police haters".

She sent the amended report as instructed, but later resubmitted the full report believing the information was relevant. Both versions were provided to the coroner's office.

Det Sgt Gray said she was "a little bit confused by the instruction" because she had gone into detail in earlier meetings about what was going to be included in the report.

"There had never been any issue with having early material in or having any references to the interview stuff in so it ... wasn't consistent," she added.

State Coroner Terry Ryan said it was "incorrect" that he had given any direction regarding the content of Det Sgt Gray's report.

"It's not something that I have ever given a direction about in relation to any police report," he added.

Billy McCulkin - whose wife's murder in 1974 may have been connected to the Whiskey Au Go Go attack - said Barbara McCulkin "should have just kept her mouth shut", a woman who befriended McCulkin told the inquest on Wednesday.

McCulkin - who has been implicated as possibly involved in the attack - was a regular at a Brisbane bar where Margaret Curran worked in the 1980s.

Ms Curran told the inquest she tried to help the "sad and morbid" McCulkin, who told her his family had been killed because of something he had done.

"It had something to do with the Whiskey Au Go Go," she added.

"His wife knew all about it and that's why she was killed, to shut her up."

Ms Curran said McCulkin told her Vincent O'Dempsey and another man were responsible.

"He never told me the name of the second fellow - all he said was, he was little and he was a little maggot," she added.

McCulkin also claimed he had been to see the men after the killings.

"O'Dempsey denied that he killed them and the other fellow said, 'yes, we did kill them and we interfered with the children as well."

He said his wife "should have just kept her mouth shut".

The Whiskey Au Go Go inquest was re-opened after the firebombing was mentioned in a trial in which O'Dempsey and Garry Dubois were convicted over the deaths in 1974 of Ms McCulkin and her two daughters.

The trial heard the killings may have been motivated over fears Ms McCulkin would try to implicate O'Dempsey in the firebombing.

The inquest continues.

Australian Associated Press