Family fights for truth in Bundy cold case murder
BRYAN Hodgkinson had been driving a taxi for less than 18 months when a passenger violently slit his throat one mild spring night in 1987.
His Bundaberg family were cane farmers but doctors had told Mr Hodgkinson, a chronic asthmatic, he would die young if he kept working in the fields.
At 46, he began driving a cab but his family never dreamed it would stop him living to see his 50th birthday.
The investigation into the young father's death has been fraught with disappointment for his surviving relatives. Charges laid years after the killing were dropped in 2010.
Following sustained lobbying by Mr Hodgkinson's sister, Doris Hillier, the Queensland Coroner reopened the inquest into his death last month.
"I was sick and tired with ringing the detectives. I thought: 'This is my brother and I've tried and tried and tried and everyone has just pushed me aside' so I took a chance and rang the Coroner's office in 2016," Ms Hillier said from her South Kolan home.
"Then I wrote to him but heard nothing back, so I wrote another letter and just after Christmas (2017) they told us there would be an inquest.
"I've always said that while the same blood that ran out of Bryan's body runs through my veins I will never stop fighting for justice."
Ms Hillier and her daughter Jodie feel it is bittersweet that a man they believe knows the truth about Mr Hodgkinson's death has claimed privilege and asked to be excused from giving evidence at the inquest to avoid self-incrimination.
The family has been told it is likely Anthony Bruce Beer, who was once charged over the death, will be offered immunity from criminal prosecution if he agrees to give evidence when the inquest resumes in June.
A spokesman for the Coroner's Court of Queensland confirmed Mr Beer had claimed privilege at the inquest under the 1958 Coroner's Act, but declined to comment about offers of immunity from prosecution.
In 2010, charges of accessory after the fact to murder, robbery with violence, unlawful use of a motor vehicle and wilful damage against Mr Beer were dropped when a magistrate found there was insufficient evidence to commit him to stand trial.
"As soon as we heard that it might be an option to compel him to say what happened to uncle Bryan we decided we'd do it," Jodie said.
"I don't think the murder is ever going to be solved now because the person who did it is probably dead.
"Police had their chance to solve it and they lost it. If we can just find out the truth of what actually happened that night then that will give us some closure."
Mr Hodgkinson's body was found dumped off a dirt road by a bus driver taking children to school near Bundaberg more than 30 years ago.
The father-of-three had been stabbed and bashed, and his throat was cut. He had been reported missing a night earlier when he failed to return home from work at midnight.
His cab was found abandoned a few blocks from home, with bloodstains on the boot and passenger rear door, about 30km from where his body was dumped.
He was last seen at a taxi rank in the centre of Bundaberg.
"I remember it as though it happened 10 minutes ago," Ms Hillier said. "I was getting the kids ready for school. Mum rang me and said Bryan was due home at midnight from his night shift and he hadn't arrived.
"(Mr Hodgkinson's wife) Elaine had phoned the taxi office, the hospital, and the police. Later, we went driving around Queens Park to see if we could find Bryan's cab.
"Police found his taxi quite far from his body and when I got there I saw all the blood on the back bumper bar and I was screaming to open the boot because I thought Bryan could be trapped in there."
No one has ever been charged or convicted of Mr Hodgkinson's murder.
"There was no motive, he was loved all around Bundaberg," Ms Hillier said.
A man suspected of delivering the fatal blow to Mr Hodgkinson died more than 20 years ago.
During the inquest another man, Gary Spann, who claimed to be a close friend of Mr Hodgkinson, said he believed the 47-year-old was killed because he photographed a bondage party in the area shortly before his death.
It was connected to another murder at the time.
Mr Spann claimed cults and Satanism were rife in Bundaberg in the 1980s and that the murder of Paula Peters, who was found dead and bound in a freshly burned cane field on the same day Mr Hodgkinson's body was found, could have been linked to his death.
Mr Hodgkinson's family hit back at the claims saying he never took his camera out at night and was not a close friend of Mr Spann.
A Queensland Coroner's Court spokesman has urged anyone with genuine information to come forward.
No one has ever claimed the $250,000 reward offered for information about Mr Hodgkinson's death.