A Tasmanian coroner has found person of interest Geoffrey Charles Hunt strangled Hobart woman Lucille Butterworth, but is unsure if she was alive when he dumped her body.
Coroner Simon Cooper told the long-running inquest that Ms Butterworth, 20, accepted a lift from someone in an “old bomb” FB Holden sedan on the night of August 25, 1969.
He said he found that the car had been driven by Mr Hunt, a convicted murderer who has now been released from jail.
“On the journey to New Norfolk, Mr Hunt stopped the FB Holden, strangled Ms Butterworth in the vehicle, and thereafter disposed of her body on the southern bank of the Derwent River,” he said.
“In the absence of any medical evidence I am unable to find the precise cause of Ms Butterworth’s death.
“I am unable to make any finding as to whether Miss Butterworth was alive or dead when Mr Hunt disposed of her body.”
Outside Hobart Magistrates Court, Ms Butterworth’s older brother Jim Butterworth said he was hopeful a trial would result.
“We’d be more than disappointed [if not]. We think there’s miles of evidence there,” Mr Butterworth said.
“We think we were betrayed in the beginning, and we hope to hell we don’t get betrayed in the end.”
His younger brother John Butterworth also said he wanted matters to go further.
“We’ve got this far with this through the doggedness and determination of the police and the crown prosecutor and the coroner,” he said
“We just hope … it will go further.”
Ms Butterworth’s then fiance John Fitzgerald said he also wanted to see a prosecution but said the coronial findings had brought a measure of closure.
“I should be really angry and show animosity … but I’m just thankful for the fact that I now know what happened to Lucille,” he said.
“You just don’t realise how difficult it’s been this 47 years to carry this, and suspect people.
“All I want at present is a final answer, a final outcome. I’m not a young man anymore and I don’t want to go on with this grieving in the final years of my life.”
Mr Fitzgerald became emotional when asked if he had a message to Geoffrey Hunt.
“Just tell us where Lucille’s remains are, please. We need to know so desperately,” he said.
The coroner said no trace of Ms Butterworth had been found since she vanished from the Box Hill Road bus stop in 1969.
He said after believing she had missed the last bus for the night, Ms Butterworth accepted a lift from someone driving a Holden sedan with damage to the driver’s side.
Mr Cooper commended counsel assisting Simon Nicholson and the police officers who reopened the investigation.
Finally, he offered condolences to the family of Ms Butterworth and “all those who knew her, loved her, and felt her loss”.
Butterworth failed to meet with fiance
On the day she disappeared, Ms Butterworth and was on her way to a Miss Tasmania Quest fundraising meeting in the town of New Norfolk, a 30-minute drive west of Hobart.
Her fiance, Mr Fitzgerald, lived in New Norfolk and was waiting for Ms Butterworth to arrive on the bus.
The couple had planned their engagement, had their rings made and we preparing to make the announcement.
Ms Butterworth’s parents first learned their daughter was missing when Mr Fitzgerald phoned them asking to speak with her the next morning.