Fron­tier town in drug fear

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - DAVID MUR­RAY

CO O K T O W N ’ S bo o m i n g drug trade is be­ing scru­ti­nised as po­lice seek a motive for the sus­pected murder of mum- oftwo Donna Steele.

Res­i­dents have told of ram­pant ice and mar­i­juana use in the fron­tier town, as po­lice call for wit­nesses to come for­ward re­gard­less of their criminal past.

Al­most a week af­ter the dis­cov­ery of Ms Steele’s body, wrapped and float­ing in a creek, de­tec­tives are swarm­ing the town in search of an­swers.

Their pres­ence has gen­er­ated both re­lief and trep­i­da­tion in the com­mu­nity.

At a ru­ral prop­erty down the road from where Ms Steele’s body was found, a land­holder com­plains about how the area has changed.

It’s not drugs he’s wor­ried about – it’s the ever- grow­ing num­ber of po­lice in re­cent years.

“I come up here about 13 years ago to re­tire. We had a bit of free­dom in them days but we’re los­ing it now,” he says.

He’s 71 but de­clines to pro­vide his name, ex­plain­ing: “I’m hid­ing from the govern­ment.”

An­other long- time res­i­dent says that in an area where many fam­i­lies have been af­fected by ice, peo­ple are as­sum­ing a drug link to the case in some form.

She says there are “labs all over the place” and re­counts a “mas­sive ex­plo­sion” from a sus­pected drug lab that rocked the coun­try­side last year.

“I be­lieve drugs are a part of this whole busi­ness. Drugs have al­ways been in this com­mu­nity,” she says.

Donna Steele.

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