A coronial inquest into the 1973 rape and murder of teenage beauty queen Bronwynne Richardson has heard there is little chance of anyone being prosecuted over her death because the three key suspects are dead.

Key points:

  • The brother of one of the prime suspects in the “brutal” 1973 murder of Bronwynne Richardson broke down while giving evidence at an inquest on Friday
  • Peter Newey admitted that his brother, Colin, could be violent and sexually predatory but maintained he had nothing to do with their second cousin’s death
  • Another witness told the inquest he had heard one of the other suspects “bragging” about and “reliving” the crime at a pub in the 1980s

A three-day hearing that ended in Albury, New South Wales on Friday, was the third inquest into the 17-year-old Corowa teenager’s death.

Counsel assisting Sally Dowling said Bronwynne was “violently abducted, brutally physically and sexually assaulted” after she was snatched from an Albury street in October 1973.

Despite lengthy investigations by NSW and South Australian police, no-one has been brought to trial over her death.

“The reality is that her family has been living with the heartbreak and uncertainty about how she died and who is responsible,” Ms Dowling said.

“There is a strong possibility that there will be insufficient evidence for Your Honour to reach a finding.

The third inquest was called following additional information that police said changed their focus since the 2011 inquest.

The first inquest was held in 1975.

The inquest heard that Bronwynne’s abduction, assault and death were “brutal”.(Supplied: NSW Police)

Trio of prime suspects

Bronwynne’s second cousin, Colin Newey remains the “principal suspect”, according to investigators.

Mr Newey, who died in 2019, was arrested over the rape and murder in 2014, but the charges were dropped weeks before he was to face court.

At the time the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions said there was “no reasonable prospect of conviction” on the evidence available.

During the first day of the inquest Ms Dowling told the court Mr Newey was “a career criminal with a history of sexual and physical violence toward women”.

The court heard the alibi Mr Newey “consistently returned to” over the years had been “conclusively disproved.”

He had told investigators he had been at an army camp the weekend Bronwynne was abducted.

“He gave different version of the weekend on which she died and admitted to being in Smollett Street between 6:00pm and 7:00pm and seeing her,” Ms Dowling said.

Convicted sex offender Max Martin, who had been released from prison on the morning of Bronwynne’s death, was also suspected to have been involved.

He died in 1995.

A third man, Kevin Newman, who investigators say may have been involved in the crime to a lesser extent, is also dead.

A crime scene photo taken from Smollett Street in Albury where Bronwynne was abducted in 1973.(Supplied: NSW Police)

Tip-offs diverted police

The inquest heard two anonymous phone calls made to South Australian Police in 1989 had led the focus of the investigation toward four men, Max Martin, Ross Eames, Geoff Brown, and Kevin Newman.

Investigators said they now believed Mr Newey made the calls.

“Since 2011, it has become apparent the two anonymous phone calls were designed to and succeeded in turning police attention toward those men,” Ms Dowling said.

Police initially thought the calls were made by Mr Eames, who was 14 years old at the time, but that was ruled out.

“The caller named Geoff Brown and Max Martin as being responsible and also stated he (the caller) and Kevin Newman were in the car when Bronwynne was abducted and were present at her death,” Ms Dowling said.

Investigators have since ruled out any involvement from Ross Eames and Geoffrey Brown, who was Bronwynne’s former boyfriend.

The inquest heard that police came to believe that the tip-off calls they received had been designed to throw them off the scent.(Supplied: NSW government)

‘Petrifying’ pub confession

A witness who cannot be named told the inquest he was drinking in a bar in the Albury region in the 1980s when he overhead two men discussing Bronwynne’s death.

“I heard Bronwynne’s name mentioned,” he said.

“Because that name is pretty synonymous to the area my ears picked up.

“I only knew about it through the media — I didn’t know her.

“Then I heard him say that he was involved.

He said the man said he and two others had been driving down Smollett Street when they saw Bronwynne standing in the street.

“He said the guy in the back said, ‘Quick, go around the back and if she is there when we come back, we’ll grab her and have some fun,'” the witness said.

He said the man then recounted the events which led up to Bronwynne’s murder.

“He never once wavered in his story — he never backtracked,” the witness said.

Some time after the incident he was shown a picture of Kevin Newman and identified him as the man in the pub.

The witness said he was left “petrified” and tried to leave the pub without the men realising he had overheard their conversation.

The Albury street where Bronwynne was abducted in 1973.(Supplied: NSW Police)

‘I am sorry, Colin’

On the final day of the inquest the brother of Colin Newey broke down in tears as he gave evidence.

Peter Newey repeatedly apologised and was asked by Ms Dowling why he was upset.

“I am sorry, Colin, with what’s happened … I’m just — I just don’t believe, no, I am sorry,” he said.

Ms Dowling told Mr Newey the investigation was “coming to the end of the line”.

“Three men have died, the opportunities for people to tell what they know are running out and this may be the last opportunity you have to say what you know,” she said.

“Now that Colin is gone, is there anything you can now tell the coroner that you might know?”

Mr Newey apologised again.

“I don’t believe what I’ve heard through the cases and the inquest that Colin could’ve done this,” he said.

Colin Michael Newey, 61, arriving at Sydney airport on July 31, 2014, after being extradited from Murray Bridge in South Australia.(Supplied: NSW Police)

Mr Newey agreed that his brother could be physically and sexually violent and said he had suspected at some point that his brother may have had some involvement in their cousin’s murder, but “didn’t press him on it”.

An application to adjourn the inquest for closing submissions to be made in writing was made by Ms Dowling on Friday.

“In our submissions there may be two benefits of the inquest — to clear the names of previous people named in the investigation, and the very real benefit of delivering some degree of closure for the Richardson family,” she said.

The findings are expected to be handed down in Albury at a date to be fixed.