I killed a kid, said Quanne sus­pect

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL MALEY

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.”


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

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