Lucille Butterworth was last seen at a bus stop in Claremont in 1969. (www.missingpersons.gov.au)
A new witness has reignited the investigation into the disappearance and suspected murder of Hobart model Lucille Butterworth 50 years ago.
- Lucille Butterworth disappeared in August 1969 on her way to a fundraising event
- In 2016, a coroner found Geoffrey Charles Hunt had strangled her but police said there was not enough evidence to lay charges
- A new witness believes he heard Mr Hunt talk about dumping a woman’s body
In one of Tasmania’s most notorious cold cases, 20-year-old Lucille Butterworth vanished from a bus stop in Claremont near Hobart on August 25, 1969.
Her body has never been found.
The witness, now aged in his 60s, has given police a detailed statement in which he claims that as a child he overheard a conversation between two men on a farm in southern Tasmania.
He believes one of the men was Geoffrey Charles Hunt.
He claims the man spoke about dumping a woman’s body on the outskirts of Hobart near Granton.
In 2016 a coroner found Lucille had been strangled by Geoffrey Hunt but no charges were ever laid. (ABC News: Emilie Gramenz)
In 2016, a coroner found Mr Hunt had strangled Ms Butterworth but the Director of Public Prosecutions said there was not enough evidence to lay charges.
Mr Hunt, who now lives under a different name in the state’s north-west, denied any knowledge of what happened to Ms Butterworth when he gave evidence at the inquest.
The new claim has reignited the investigation because there are details in the man’s statement which correspond with times, places and events surrounding the disappearance.
Deputy Commissioner Scott Tilyard said “it would be inappropriate to comment on matters under inquiry”.
It is understood there are no plans at this stage to dig at the site named in the witness’s statement.
The site is just a few hundred metres from an area near Granton where police dug for Lucille Butterworth’s body in 2015.
The witness statement has been sent to a detective in the north-west of the state for further investigation.
‘It ate him away’
Ms Butterworth’s only surviving sibling John Butterworth described it as “a fantastic breakthrough “
“I really hope that they [the police] pursue it … vigorously, most vigorously,” he said.
Lucille’s brother John Butterworth with his daughter Kate Jessop and her baby Isla Lucille. (ABC News: Greg Nelson)
But while they are happy there is renewed hope of finding her body, the family is angry police have had the witness statement for more than six months and are yet to put the allegations to Hunt.
Ms Butterworth’s eldest brother Jim campaigned for justice right up until his death.
His daughter Kassie-Lee McDiarmid said the not knowing what happened broke his heart.
“It possessed dad’s life even the last couple of months was all about Lucille — it ate him away, really, it destroyed him,” she said.
“I’m excited that we might finally get some answers but I’m also a little bit sad that we’ve since found out that prior to dad passing away in April, police actually knew about this evidence or this information and did nothing about it, so dad could have had the peace he wanted in passing.”
Investigation concerns persist
Coroner Simon Cooper was highly critical of the police handling of the investigation before a new team took over in 2011.
After the findings, Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine apologised to the family for the inaction of police in the past.
A roadside memorial has been established for Lucille Butterworth near New Norfolk where police conducted a dig in 2015. (ABC News: Jack Tegg)
But the Butterworth family said now that the investigation team had been disbanded, those delays and deficiencies in following up key leads, such as this new witness statement, have returned.
“[It’s] disgusting,” Mrs McDiarmid said.
“They did it to the family once, they’ve now done it again. They apologised for their mistakes previously but there’s no apology for this. This needs to be followed up properly.”
John Butterworth agreed.
“It’s disappointing … and certainly for modern era police I think that’s disappointing,” Mr Butterworth said.
“It was disappointing enough with the older era police withholding evidence and information from us all those years ago.”
Police continue to receive leads
The ABC understands that in the past 18 months police have received about 15 information reports relating to the case but this is the only one resulting in a detailed statement being sought and given.
Deputy Commissioner Tilyard said: “Tasmania Police periodically receives information in relating to the Butterworth case from time to time” and that “all information that is received is assessed as to whether further police inquiries are conducted”.
Police are not commenting on why it has taken so long for the witness to come forward.
Last month was the 50th anniversary of the disappearance of Lucille Butterworth.
Her brother John said he has watched his mother, father and brother all die, tortured by not knowing what happened and the surviving family need answers.
Mr Hunt is on parole for the 1976 rape and murder of Susan Knight. His parole period ends in July 2020.