I killed a kid, said Quanne suspect
A day before he confessed to police that he had abducted then killed 12-year-old Quanne Diec as she walked to school, Vinzent Tarantino phoned his brother.
“I killed a f..king kid,’’ said Tarantino, who was found not guilty of Quanne’s death on Wednesday .
The confession was recorded by a telephone intercept set up by police, who had zeroed in on Tarantino as the only suspect in Quanne’s 1998 disappearance.
A day before he confessed to police that he had abducted then killed 12-year-old Quanne Diec as she walked to school, Vinzent Tarantino phoned his brother. “I killed a f..king kid,’’ he said. The confession was recorded by a telephone intercept set up by police, who had zeroed in on Tarantino as the only suspect in the 1998 disappearance of the Sydney schoolgirl.
Tarantino was a strange and troubled man. A bouncer with a history of steroid abuse, he had evaded close scrutiny by police in the immediate aftermath of Quanne’s disappearance, only to re-emerge more than a decade later following a review of the evidence.
On Wednesday, the 52-yearold was found not guilty of Quanne’s death. That result shocked police and plunged Quanne’s grieving family into a fresh bout of despair.
“We are still trying to process the words not guilty and it is difficult for us to understand how the jury has come to this decision,’’ Quanne’s parents, Sam Diec and Ann Ngo, said in a statement read by Christine Woo, Quanne’s cousin. “We wanted justice for Quanne and we haven’t got that. The past 21 years have deeply affected us. No one should have to go through the pain we have endured.’’
When Tarantino was arrested in 2016, Quanne had been gone for 18 years. The Year 7 schoolgirl disappeared on the morning of July 27, 1998, as she walked down Factory Street in the western suburb of Granville on her way to the train station.
A camera on an Australia Post sorting centre recorded her walking down the road at 7.43am. A second camera at the other end of the building showed nothing. Somewhere in the 200m stretch of pavement separating the two cameras, Quanne vanished.
Trying cold cases is never easy but, in Quanne’s case, detectives were confident they had the evidence to put Tarantino behind bars. He was a drifter and a paranoiac. In the years after Quanne’s presumed murder, he drifted around the country. He spent time in Western Australia, where he had a brother, and Queensland. He worked occasionally, sometimes as an unskilled labourer.
Tarantino’s troubled mind was evidenced by the multiple confessions he made, beginning in the immediate aftermath of Quanne’s disappearance and ending the night before his arrest on November 21, 2016.
When police interviewed him, he admitted to killing the schoolgirl, telling detectives the guilt had become too much to bear. He said he abducted her with a view to holding her for ransom, then panicked and strangled her.
Detectives never believed the ransom story, noting that the Diec family were too poor to be a viable target for extortion, but with a murder confession in the bag there was no reason to go looking for other motives. In the days after his confession, Tarantino would lead police to bushland where he said he had disposed of Quanne.
Despite extensive searches, no remains have been found.
Tarantino told police details that corroborated with nearperfect precision the statements of other witnesses. Crucially, he told police about driving his then girlfriend, Laila Faily, out to the bush in a van containing a wheelie bin, which he said contained Quanne’s body. That lined up neatly with Faily’s account; she told police she rode out in a van to the bush with a foul-smelling wheelie bin.
Tarantino would later claim the bin was full of guns and drugs. His barrister, Belinda Rigg SC, would later argue that Faily’s allegations were “wildly different’’ over time.
Tarantino offered a second confession to a friend in a conversation said to have occurred in the aftermath of Quanne’s disappearance. More than a decade later, he would unburden himself in a similar way to a second girlfriend.
In all three cases, detectives obtained statements from the witnesses, none of whom, according to a police source familiar with the investigation, knew each other.
It is hard to see how what appeared to be such a strong case collapsed so unexpectedly.
Part of the blame appears to lie with decisions taken during the initial investigation, which overlooked or downplayed crucial evidence that would later prove central to the crown’s case.
Tarantino’s confessions were conveyed to police by Faily and his
‘Someone out there knows where she is; to that person, you have shattered our family’
friend, both of whom came forward in the aftermath of Quanne’s disappearance. Tarantino lived just a few blocks from where Quanne disappeared and he would later tell police that was where he took her.
For reasons that are not clear, the information from Tarantino’s then partner and friend was not avidly pursued, partly, it seems, because detective didn’t deem them credible at the time.
When police conducted a review of the evidence in 2014, they went back to those witnesses and obtained detailed statements.
There was no physical evidence connecting Tarantino to Quanne, although the circumstantial case seemed strong. A van fitting the description of the vehicle driven by Tarantino at the time was spotted by a witness in Quanne’s vicinity as she walked to school that morning. The day after she disappeared, the witness told police she saw the van pull up and a young girl get inside. In a stroke of bad luck, by the time the case went to trial the witness had died and parts of her statement were ruled inadmissable.
Tarantino would later claim the person he picked up on the side of the road was a prostitute named “Dee”, someone he did not produce in his defence and who police have never identified.
What is likely to have swung the jury was the account Tarantino offered of his false confession. A year before Quanne disappeared, Tarantino discovered the bodies of three slain bikies, killed as part of a gang war at
Sydney’s Black Market Cafe, where Tarantino was a bouncer. Tarantino, whose grip on reality was shaky at the best of times, was thrown into a delusional state.
Two psychiatrists diagnosed him with schizo-affective disorder, an illness so debilitating it rendered his self-incriminating evidence unreliable. Forensic psychologist Katie Seidler said Tarantino had “struggled with mental illness in the form of a psychotic condition for almost two decades”.
His confession to police in 2016 occurred when he was likely in the grip of a psychotic episode, the court was told. Tarantino would tell the jury he feared retribution from the bikies so much that he felt his only solution was to throw himself into police custody, something he could achieve by falsely confessing to a murder. Police were sceptical, and at the trial produced a former gang member to say Tarantino was never a target.
“It’s rubbish,’’ a police source close to the investigation told The Australian. “An ex-bikie gave evidence that there’s never been any attempt to do anything.’’
The jury believed otherwise. Police have no other suspects. Short of a miracle, there is no hope of convicting anyone for Quanne’s disappearance and presumed murder.
A coronial inquest is likely but the best that can be hoped is it sheds some light on where Quanne’s remains lie.
To her family it is not enough. “Someone out there knows where she is; to that person, you have shattered our family.”
DIEC FAMILY STATEMENT
12-year-old schoolgirl Quanne Diec disappeared on her way to the train station in Granville, in Sydney’s west
Vinzent Tarantino leaves the NSW Supreme Court