Sharron Phillips inquest not clear-cut despite police naming man as likely murderer

Sharron Phillips inquest not clear-cut despite police naming man as likely murderer

Sharron Phillips inquest not clear-cut despite police naming man as likely murderer

Updated 7 October 2017, 10:10 AEDT

A Queensland detective naming the man likely to have murdered Brisbane woman Sharron Phillips in 1986 is yet to convince the dead woman's sister who still believes their father warrants closer investigation, as the state's Attorney-General directs a reopening of the murder inquest.

A senior Queensland detective's naming of Raymond Peter Mulvihill as the likely murderer of Brisbane woman Sharron Phillips in 1986 is yet to convince the dead woman's sister the mystery has finally been solved.

State Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath yesterday announced she was directing the state coroner to reopen the inquest into Ms Phillips' death.

Her move came just hours after Detective Inspector Damien Hanson revealed police believed Mr Mulvihill, a taxi driver who died in 2002, was most likely the culprit.

It was a move the Queensland Police Service hoped would bring closure to a murder case that had frustrated investigators for 31 years.

Will the coroner agree police finally found their man?

Ms Phillips was driving home after late night shopping with her friend on the night of May 8, 1986.

She was supposed to go to work at a Kenmore fruit shop the next morning and had a date planned with her new beau Martin Balazs later that week.

Instead, her yellow Datsun Bluebird would be found abandoned on the side of the road and her purse and shoes in a nearby drain.

For 31 years they were the only clues that would ever be found — her final resting place remaining a mystery to this day.

Victim of circumstance

Police had long believed the young woman had fallen victim to an opportunistic predator.

Media reports from the time of her disappearance said Telecom records proved Ms Phillips made two telephone calls from a phonebooth in front of a convenience store, one at 11:18pm, the other at 12:03am.

She did not have coins so the calls were manually put through by an operator and at least one of those calls was to Mr Balazs.

He would later tell detectives he drove the wrong way down Ipswich Road and also had to stop to change a flat tyre.

By the time he arrived to pick her up she was gone.

Mr Balazs was ruled out as a suspect.

Witnesses leaving the nearby train station told police they saw her walking near the phonebooth.

So what happened in those early hours of Friday morning?

Over the years, many have tried to answer the question, with theories ranging from a car full of hoons to soldiers at a nearby army barracks and even truck drivers passing through.

All those suggestions came to naught under the spotlight of investigating detectives.

But this week, police revealed Mr Mulvihill was in the vicinity on the night of Ms Phillips' disappearance and offered her a lift before murdering her.

A deathbed confession and a suspicious daughter

Ian Mulvihill told police his father Raymond confessed to the murder on his deathbed 15 years ago.

Last year he told ABC News the same thing — that his father was responsible and had confessed to killing a number of women, including Ms Phillips.

But he is not the only one who believes a relative was responsible.

At least three of the nine Phillips siblings believe their own father Bob Phillips should have been more closely investigated.

One of Ms Phillips' brothers told ABC News his father asked him to burn some of his sister's clothes found inside her apartment in the days after her disappearance.

Their suspicions were only raised after reading a 2006 article by Courier Mail crime reporter Matthew Condon, in which Bob Phillips said he was in New South Wales the night his daughter vanished.

"I was picking one of our trucks up at Gilgandra," Mr Phillips said in the article.

"I was in Gilgandra with Dawn. We got back about four, five o'clock on the Friday morning.

"I crashed and went to bed then the story came up and I started ringing everybody to find out what's going on."

Donna Anderson said she was shocked to hear her father's explanation.

"I knew my dad was on a pension and I knew the truck was just a cover story we used to have to tell for the sake of covering the reason he was home all the time.

"It was the 20-year anniversary — that was the first I ever heard he had an alibi that night.

"My brothers and I thought he was at home in bed."

For the past 18 months, Ms Anderson has been seeking a transcript of the two-day 1988 inquest into her sister's disappearance and told the ABC she would not give up searching.

"When I think back to when she went missing, I was only young then but I used to think if she wanted anyone there it would have been me," she said.

"She came to me with all of her problems."

But there is a glimmer of hope that every piece of evidence will be re-examined, with Ms D'Ath's decision to re-open the inquest.

"Comments by Inspector Damien Hansen of the Queensland Police Service homicide investigation unit and his subsequent briefing to the Queensland Coroner have satisfied me that this inquest should be reopened," she said.

"I know all Queenslanders are thinking of Sharron Phillips's family ... and hoping her loved ones will finally have answers."