Family of murdered man relieved killers will stay in jail

Luke McAuliffe.
Luke McAuliffe. Contributed

A LOCAL woman whose family was torn apart by Gladstone's drug scene has expressed relief at a court decision that will see her little brother's killers remain in prison.

Kylee Pelling is the older sister of Gladstone man Luke McAuliffe, who was murdered in October 2010 by Rockhampton couple Bradley David Hill and Kerryn Ann Young.

Ms Pelling said she finally felt secure knowing there were no more avenues of appeal for the couple, who were found guilty after their trial in June last year.

"For me, I feel safe now. I know I feel safer that they're (Hill and Young) in there (prison)," she said.

Last Friday the Queensland Court of Appeal upheld the life sentences imposed on Hill and Young, with Justice Philip Morrison finding the jury had every right to reach the verdicts they had arrived at.

While the case may be closed, closure is still a long way off for the grieving family, now left to process the loss of a son and a brother who, Ms Pelling said, they would have walked over hot coals for.

"To me and Mum and Dad, it just gets harder," she said. "Luke was someone who stood by people and trusted people.

"No-one has the right to take someone's life."

For the McAuliffe family, the case which became an obsession has now reached its end, but the pain of knowing the pair who killed Luke via delivery of a lethal dose of heroin remains, meaning forgiveness is still a bridge too far.

"It's hard because Luke just forgave people... we just can't do that," Kylee said.

"I think you deal with it in your own way. Some people can talk about things openly.

"I still find it hard to do that (laugh and remember the good times)."

Luke McAuliffe's family members speak to media outside the Rockhampton courthouse.
Luke McAuliffe's family members speak to media outside the Rockhampton courthouse. Kara Paradies

The family learned things about their loved one in open court that no-one would ever like to discover, but despite the fact Luke was caught up in drugs, he was their family, and his murder has left a void in their hearts.

"We just loved him to death," Kylee said. "I don't know what you can learn out of it. You hope that kids don't do anything that could harm them, but I think that's probably unrealistic.

"I'm just hoping that it does get a bit easier."

After four years of intensity, of nerve-wracking fret over whether Luke's killers would walk free, the rejection of the appeal does bring some peace of mind to a family that has been through their own private hell.

"The appeal was constantly on our minds. It was something that we spoke about every day," Ms Pelling said.

"It just takes so much out of you because every day you've got to know that those people could get out, and now we don't have to worry about that."

Gratitude is a word one would not often attribute to a family member of a murder victim.

But gratitude is all Ms Pelling has for the Gladstone detectives who worked tirelessly to bring Hill and Young to justice.

It just takes so much out of you because every day you've got to know that those people could get out, and now we don't have to worry about that

"The police always kept us informed. They were just so good. They always made sure we knew as much as we could," she recalled.

"We always felt that they were going to catch someone."

Singling out local detectives Matt Columbus and Chris Lindsay for their dogged determination, Ms Pelling extended the family's thanks to all police personnel involved in the investigation, as well as the prosecution team.

"Even up to when we were in Rockhampton for the trial, there were no guarantees but their determination and how hard we could see they were working was there," she said.

"Our family is just so grateful to the entire QPS, of course mostly Matt (Columbus) and Chris (Lindsay), but they've got a team behind them and the DPP and we couldn't fault anyone."

Topics:  crime drugs heroin luke mcauliffe murder

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