Well, here goes for Lucille’s birthday … another sad birthday Lucille. You would have turned 65 today.
Born on March 18, 1949. Disappeared on August 25, 1969 … and was murdered on the same day. Presuming of course that the man who spoke to me at Buckland, Tasmania on December 2011, was not a serial confessor. But he didn’t seem so. I had checked him out for an hour before we got down to the tin-tacks of his version of Tasmania’s longest-running disappearance mystery.
I believed him. He gave me his email address for further contact, but it did not work. Perhaps he regretted his brave decision to come forward. It is only fitting then that on Lucille’s birthday, I again raise the matter of her disappearance and one man’s confession to having played a major part in it. He was allegedly the driver of the car, who drove straight to a Claremont bus-stop, picked her up and buried her a few hours later.
The owner of the car he was driving was allegedly a high-profile Sandy Bay Football Club player, a heroic icon with so many notches on his holster for games played and contributions to an elitist club in Tasmania’s blue-ribbon Liberal heartland. According to Mike Bingham’s detailed and skilfully researched ‘The Spirit Never Dies’, publication on the club. Its committee really was the Who’s Who of Hobart, with Tom Fitzgerald of Hobart’s iconic retailer, as patron, Ken Austin MHA, president and Doug Plaister, MBE, Hobart’s future Lord Mayor (76-84) , amongst the high-flyers of the executive committee.
Of Lucille, there is little we the public have ever been told. All we know really is that she went to a bus-stop and disappeared. And the rest is speculation. Cops say in media interviews that they have four or five suspects … but no details.
And then out of left field comes a man with a conscience. He seeks me out and tells me his story at Buckland. That he confessed to the police in 1986 of being the driver of a car owned by the Sandy Bay footballer. Of picking Lucille up at the Claremont bus-stop, where she seemed to be waiting for him. The footballer got into the back seat of his car with Lucille. They drove to the nearby Cornelian Bay cemetery. The driver went for a smoke. He came back to the car and saw Lucille’s body under a tartan blanket. He drove to the back-blocks of Kingston. With a shovel in the boot of the car, he dug a grave. He put Lucille’s body into it and drove into the darkness that has haunted Hobart since August 1969. End of story … or beginning?
The real story appears to be a hush-hush code surrounding this attractive 20-year-old’s disappearance. The hush-hush code that indicts us all from politics to that era of footballing community, to the Fourth Estate. Is it really a story of nobody wants to know? You know, let time dilute its importance. What makes me believe so, that it’s always been a hush-hush?
Recently in my little fave pub at Triabunna, I Inquired of a 1969 Sandy Bay footballer, Dave Behrens, who had located to Triabunna and had shared beer-time with. Maybe Behrens could have given an insight into the social-side of the club. Perhaps he may have seen Lucille in the club’s socialising, fund-raising, Sunday booze-up thick of things. Was Lucille known to the club? I trusted my information to another person at the Spring Bay pub about my investigations into Lucille and was astounded at the immediate reaction. He in fact had played against Sandy Bay with the Clarence Football Club, and like most Aussie Rules gladiators, knew his opponents well.
“Oh, everybody knows who murdered Lucille … it was …”
I have raised her name to several players at the time and the name of the alleged murderer. Is there one thing distinctly more silent that Lucille’s unfound grave … is it the silence of a code within?
The name rolls off his tongue as readily as the cigarette that pops between his lips and I am astoundingly bemused. The same name that I believe to have been my piece of valuable and secret serendipity, the name of the alleged killer of Lucille Butterworth, seems to be indelibly stored in the mind of the football community of that time! And how many other communities? The political? The legal? The police? My deductions then become quite realistic … this is just a best-kept secret … and for how damned long?
I have given a copy of the interview to the ABC and also to Will Hodgman, as Opposition Leader but quite a while ago now. I know the ABC to have made some inquiries, but had the same problem as me at making contact with my source, the man who allegedly put Lucille to her grave. Of course there’s no reason for them not to use the interview I gave them. After all, I am one of them and I know the rules of fair and cautious reporting. But not for me to tell Aunty how to go about its bizzo! It probably translates to them as, God forbid, a retired journo trying to reinvent himself? But at the end of the day, there is one thing more than a murder-mystery that has sold billions since the 1859 Wilkie Collins Classic The Woman In White paved the way for this genre.
And that’s how it ends. Who did it?
Well, Lucille, your best chance for the denouement of our greatest home-grown mystery is now. It might be with Premier Will, the new boy at the executive helm. Perhaps he’s been waiting for the right moment … and that moment is now! Maybe Lucille for your birthday, you might be the first cab of the rank, with Will handing the confession-tape to his as-yet-to-be named Attorney General, with his first Executive order, “bring this man who says he buried Lucille before a Coroner … he wants to tell his story … and we want to know!”
Perhaps the police don’t know of my interview. The same man confessed in 1986 but the cops couldn’t find the body. In fairness I probably should presume that that part of the Lucille search never went into the always-open Lucille Butterworth file? Perhaps, like so many influential members of government, including murder-mystery cops, don’t read the Tasmanian Times where the confession was detailed not so long ago ( Find me … ). Perhaps they don’t go online to see if there are any clues hovering about in cyberspace. You only have to Google your name Lucille and presto it’s all there on YouTube.
Hmmm, sounds very naive doesn’t it … Lucille. Have another sad birthday darling girl! At a time of joyous celebrations in the halls of power. Those who know … and there seems to be just so many, may want the opportunity to get it off their minds, before they join you.
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*Paul Tapp entered journalism with The Examiner Newspaper as a 30 year-old cadet in 1975. He worked as police roundsman with ABC Hobart where he won the 1988 Keith Welsh Award for Journalistic Excellence. He also received a special baton from the Tasmanian Police Association for his reporting on many issues of public importance, in particular the growing dilemma of underage drinking, and issues related to internal police politics and rank-and-file morale. He moved for a time as police reporter with ABC Adelaide and moved to the Northern Territory as a press secretary. Tapp moved back to Tasmania for the inquest into the police killing of Joe Gilewicz in 1991, worked for a time in the Liberal Press Secretariat. With Stan Hanuszewicz, he researched the history of two families in Nazi concentration camps, court records of the Gilewicz coronial inquest and produced a book that became central to the flawed 2000 Gilewicz Commission of Inquiry. He is at present finalising his series of exclusive interviews with Hobart’s Dr Geoffrey Boughey, sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his young Fijian wife. Boughey’s view of prison life is the substantive theme of the book, ‘Get Boughey’. Tapp served as a conscript infantry reinforcement with several battalions in South Vietnam in 1967 and lives at Orford in retirement, researching and producing online self-publications on Lulu.com and Kbuuk.com. He lives with his wife Jennifer of 48 years and has four grand-children to his two sons, Randall and Cameron, both of whom live interstate.