Tradie’s stun­ning claim 38 years af­ter crimes that shook the Coast

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - ALEXAN­DRIA UTTING

A RE­TIRED tradie has dropped a bomb­shell 38 years af­ter the Bal­a­clava Rapist who ter­rorised the Gold Coast and Tweed went to the next level of evil and shot a man dead.

Frank De Michiel has told how a man who vis­ited his home for Christ­mas drinks sneaked back late one night and was crouch­ing be­side his wife. Spooked, the in­truder bolted. Mr De Michiel re­alised the man matched de­scrip­tions of the killer and alerted po­lice, but heard noth­ing back.

“I KNOW who the bal­a­clava killer is,” a male voice whis­pers down the phone.

“He was in my house.” Al­most 38 years to the day since one of Aus­tralia’s most no­to­ri­ous rapists went to the next level of evil on Fe­bru­ary 2, 1980, and shot a man dead on the Gold Coast, a re­tired brick­layer has de­cided to go pub­lic be­cause he be­lieves he has the key to the city’s most in­fa­mous cold case.

Fa­ther-of-three Frank De Michiel has told how he woke one hot sum­mer night at his Burleigh Heads home in De­cem­ber 1980 – 10 months af­ter the mur­der – to find a man crouched on the floor be­side his wife, who was also in bed.

He says he recog­nised the man as he pur­sued him, believing he had been a vis­i­tor to his house for Christ­mas drinks.

Now aged 71 and no longer liv­ing on the Gold Coast, Mr De Michiel says he told po­lice at the time but af­ter years of hear­ing noth­ing back, wants to share his story in the hope sur­viv­ing rape vic­tims and the fam­ily of the mur­dered man, Jef­frey Parkin­son, might fi­nally see the mon­ster brought to jus­tice.

In another de­vel­op­ment, a re­tired as­sis­tant po­lice com­mis­sioner and for­mer de­tec­tive, Eric Strong, has re­vealed vi­tal DNA ev­i­dence that could have iden­ti­fied the rapist was dis­posed of by some­one at Lis­more Po­lice Sta­tion years af­ter the de­tec­tive stopped work­ing on the case in the early 1980s.

IT was early De­cem­ber 1979 when a wo­man was ab­ducted at gun­point from her Gold Coast home. She was driven from Tu­gun into the hin­ter­land and raped be­fore be­ing left in the boot of her car. She was res­cued when passers-by heard her screams.

“The wo­man taken from Tu­gun was a cleaner at one of the clubs and she was due to go to work (when he en­tered the home),” Mr Strong re­calls of the first in what would be­come a se­ries of rapes.

“She was read­ing and he came in and he took the book off her. He took her way up into the hills and raped her up there and then he put her back into the boot of the car.

“He has al­ways been very po­lite and well spo­ken and he wrapped up a rug or some­thing to put un­der her head, the mon­grel, and then took her in the car to a beach some­where near Tu­gun and left her in the boot.

“She could have died there but she yelled out.”

In the fol­low­ing weeks, two cou­ples were as­saulted and re­strained by a masked man. Each time, the at­tacker bound the man’s hands and raped the wo­man in his pres­ence.

Another cou­ple were con­fronted in their home in early 1980 but af­ter forc­ing the wo­man to bind her hus­band’s hands, the rapist left when they pleaded the wo­man was preg­nant.

Ev­ery vic­tim de­scribed the at­tacker the same way – an ath­letic man with steely blue eyes and bushy eye­brows. Many said he smelt of mo­tor oil.

“It was the first wo­man that de­tected the smell on him and later dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion the coun­cil were lay­ing bi­tu­men out­side her house and she phoned to say it smelt some­thing like that,” Mr Strong said.

Po­lice would later re­count that from the very first rape, they knew the at­tacker would strike again. On Fe­bru­ary 2, 1980, things height­ened.

A Bris­bane cou­ple who were in a car at Twin Towns were ap­proached by a masked man but the male, Jef­frey Parkin­son, 33, fought back.

The killer or­dered Mr Parkin­son to drive to a se­cluded river­side re­serve at Cobaki Creek be­fore the 33-year-old launched him­self at the armed man. A strug­gle fol­lowed but the 29year-old wo­man was able to open the car door. She fled in ter­ror af­ter Mr Parkin­son told her to “run” with the sound of gun­shots be­hind her.

His body was found be­side the aban­doned car af­ter be­ing shot sev­eral times.

THERE was one more rape in Burleigh Heads in Oc­to­ber 1980 in which a wo­man was threat­ened with a sawn-off ri­fle.

Po­lice never heard of the bal­a­clava killer strik­ing again.

But Mr De Michiel thinks dif­fer­ently.

He be­lieves a man who was dat­ing a friend, who vis­ited his house for Christ­mas drinks in De­cem­ber 1980, was the killer.

Mr De Michiel be­lieves it was the same man who later turned up at their Burleigh Heads home in the mid­dle of the night, crept into their bed­room and was on the floor on his wife’s side of the bed when the cou­ple spot­ted him.

“It was a re­ally hot night and I re­mem­ber the blan­kets were drap­ing over the floor a lit­tle bit,” he said. “It was about 3am and I was awake, just ly­ing there awake, and I heard a door han­dle click.”

The cou­ple had three young daugh­ters. He re­mem­bered feel­ing a “bit guilty” for not get­ting out of bed to see if one of the girls had wo­ken with a fright.

“I didn’t re­alise my wife was awake too but then she whis­pered ‘There is a man there’,” he said. “He was hunched on the floor be­side the bed next to my wife. I jumped out of bed but stum­bled on the blan­kets and that gave the in­truder the chance to jump to his feet and bolt. I was run­ning down the hall­way to the back door and it clicked to let him run away.”

Mr De Michiel told po­lice at the time but all these years later still be­lieves the rapist and mur­derer was the man who had come for drinks some days ear­lier. “I didn’t know it when I was chas­ing him but when it all cooled down, I re­alised who it was. There are so many point- ers that lead me to be­lieve it was this guy.

“He told me he was a pig shooter, so he had ac­cess to guns. He was very apolo­getic to­ward my wife, like the killer was. He drove a mo­tor­bike. He also lived in the hin­ter­land, where the first wo­man was taken to be raped. We also told him that we never locked the back door.

“All these years I’ve wanted to get to the bot­tom of it be­cause ev­ery­one says it’s a mys­tery but my wife and I know who it is.”

The re­tired brick­layer, now in his 70s, said he wanted to share his story for the “vic­tims and Jef­frey Parkin­son’s son”.

“I have con­tacted the po­lice and it hasn’t been solved. There is a guy out there that never had a chance to grow up with a fa­ther. I would just like him to know be­cause it’s still a mys­tery.”

NEARLY four decades on, Mr Strong, 85, says the case still “nig­gles” at him and he be­lieves it could have been

solved had cru­cial rape ex­hibits not been lost.

“All the way it’s been bun­gled and de­stroyed and there has been a lot that’s gone on,” he said. “We had the ex­hibits at Lis­more (Po­lice Sta­tion) and some new broom came in and de­stroyed them. Those were the rape ex­hibits and the night of the mur­der was not a rape, it hadn’t reached that fa­tal de­gree, but I think if we’d had those we would have (matched the sus­pect) to the mur­der.

“It’s one we should have won and we haven’t. But I think for the ben­e­fit of the pub­lic, he is locked up. Ei­ther that or he’s dead, be­cause he’s of such a na­ture that he would just con­tinue, which I think he did.”

DUR­ING the in­ves­ti­ga­tion more than 5000 mo­tor­cy­clists were in­ves­ti­gated and hun­dreds of peo­ple had their blood sam­ples taken, but the case came up with more dead ends than open win­dows, Mr Strong said.

“It just went on and on and on be­cause he was such an ob­vi­ous bloke as each of the vic­tims iden­ti­fied the fella the same. One wo­man said he had the bal­a­clava on and he had his hair (stick­ing out) above. She could de­scribe it ex­actly – that he had black hair with auburn tips.

“We had another lady we put un­der hyp­nother­apy who we thought was most im­pres­sive and she saw a par­tic­u­lar ve­hi­cle and could de­scribe the num­ber­plate un­der hyp­no­sis.

“She thought it had a num­ber five in it and we chased it down with a car in South Aus­tralia but that wasn’t it.”

Mr Strong said in­ves­ti­ga­tors man­aged to track down the firearm they be­lieved was used by the bal­a­clava killer to a gun shop at West Burleigh.

“He kept records, which was not done in Queens­land, but he was a Syd­ney bloke and de­scribed the man the same and said there was another fella with him. He gave an ad­dress that was over near West Burleigh. It was a false ad­dress but it wasn’t far from a sus­pect’s home. So we failed.”

De­spite never charg­ing any­one for the chill­ing rapes and mur­der, po­lice came close.

“We saw a bloke with a bul­let in his leg and he’d been out west some­where, so he said, and he had a sawn-off ri­fle,” Mr Strong said.

“We had a young fel­low and his fam­ily had him spir­ited away in a safe house some­where and that was a big or­gan­ised thing one morn­ing ... but it wasn’t him.”

THE last re­ported rape, at Burleigh Heads in Oc­to­ber 1980 af­ter Mr Parkin­son was mur­dered, was “very sim­i­lar” but Mr Strong was never con­vinced the bal­a­clava rapist was re­spon­si­ble.

“All the oth­ers, they had been held up, some in their homes and some in cars,” he said. “In the last one, the girl came home at 2am or some­thing like that, and I think he was prob­a­bly on top of the roof.

“I don’t know if he had the bal­a­clava on. Some dis­agreed with me and said it had to be him but I thought af­ter he mur­dered that per­son, he went away.”

QUEENS­LAND and NSW po­lice both de­clined to com­ment when the name of the man Mr Di Michiel be­lieved vis­ited his home was put to them by the Gold Coast Bul­letin. They also de­clined to dis­cuss other sus­pects or per­sons of in­ter­est.

Queens­land po­lice said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­mained ac­tive and was be­ing re­viewed.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the 1979 rapes ... cur­rently re­mains as an un­solved ‘cold case’ held by the Child Abuse and Sex­ual Crime Group, State Crime Com­mand,” a Queens­land po­lice spokesman said.

“As part of core busi­ness, Child Abuse and Sex­ual Crime Group de­tec­tives reg­u­larly re­view cold case mat­ters and re­spond to new or ex­ist­ing in­for­ma­tion. The bal­a­clava rapist in­ves­ti­ga­tion is cur­rently be­ing re­viewed.”

De­tec­tives in 1980 ex­am­in­ing the mur­der scene where the

body of Jef­frey Parkin­son (left) was found. Right: A mock-up of the bal­a­clava killer sus­pect.

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