Mysterious witness cracks shocking CQ murder cold case open
AFTER 51 years, one of CQ's most perplexing and enduring murder mysteries is verging on being solved thanks to the emergence of a surprising new witness.
Many older locals in the region would remember the shocking murder case involving Rockhampton's Mima McKim-Hill, who was just 21 years old, who left on a work trip to Gladstone on March 9, 1967, but never returned.
It was believed that Mima was abducted near Calliope, sexually assaulted, murdered and dumped 80km away in Collard Creek, near Biloela, but her unnamed killer never faced justice for the crime.
Former Rockhampton resident Trevor Sorenson, who was 20 at the time of the murder, remembers vividly how massive the news of the McKim-Hill case was when it broke.
"You mention McKim-Hill to the older residents of Central Queensland and they'll tell you everything they know because it's been an ongoing saga for the last 51 years,” Mr Sorenson said.
"There's many, many people who want to see this case brought to a close.
"They would like to see someone publicly named, by the Police, once and for all.”
Mr Sorenson believes the cold case has remained unsolved for 51 years because the initial murder investigation and subsequent Coronial Inquest were poorly handled with vital clues and witnesses overlooked.
"It was something that I always wondered over all the years, how come they've never got to the bottom of this case? There's something not right about it,” he said.
"I've dabbled in it off and on over the years and when I retired in 2007, one of the first things I did was take it up as a retirement project to try and get to the bottom of it.”
He reached out to Mima's old friend and former co-worker Shirley Eldridge, and together they managed to have the Qld Police Service Cold Case Homicide Unit commence an extensive and contemporary review and reinvestigation into Mima's case from 2008.
Ms Eldridge retired from pursuing the case after documenting the original story and findings of a second investigation in her book; Mima, a Case of Abduction, Rape and Murder, entrusting Trevor to take the case forward, a task he has taken on with gusto.
The 2016 book successfully encouraged informants to come forward with new evidence, which lead Mr Sorenson to a new star witness, who could be the missing piece in the puzzle.
Mr Sorenson explained how on the fateful afternoon of March 9, 1967, it was believed that Mima was parked up beside the corrugated dirt Detour Road ('Goat Track'), which served as the old Gladstone Bypass Road at the time, killing time waiting for her married boss Isobel Hare, who was conducting a secretive affair in nearby Calliope.
"She would have had to leave around 4pm to be in Calliope before 4.30pm to safely pick her boss up so that they could then travel back to Rockhampton,” he said.
A 65-year-old eye witness, who came forward nine months later, said he saw a Station Sedan parked on the side of the Detour Road, with a female sitting in the driver's seat, with a Ford Customline parked on the opposite side of the road "with two young fellas sitting in the front of it and a young fella standing near the driver's door of the Station Sedan” between 3.30pm and 4pm.
These men are considered as witnesses but have never been located.
He said it's believed that probably just after these Customline blokes left, that a tanker truck being driven by the murder suspect has arrived - a two tone green Mayne Nickless Leyland Beaver forward control prime mover which was towing a trailer loaded with 15t of tallow being transported from Rockhampton's Nerimbera meat works to Sydney.
"The time that the suspect would have arrived in the area with his prime mover and trailer would have been between the 3.30pm to 3.45pm mark and it's been an opportunistic sexual crime,” Mr Sorenson said.
It is assumed that after the sexual assault and strangulation of Mima, after abducting Mima in her work vehicle, the truck driver then used Mima's vehicle to dump her body 80km away before returning to continue his journey.
This prime mover and tanker was sighted, parked on the roadside at 7.35pm by another witness, 350m South from where Mima's car was located abandoned at 3am on March 10.
The driver of that prime mover was a German man named Erich Johann Seefuss, who told authorities that he was parked at the location between 5.30pm-6.40pm because of thermostat problems with his truck.
Enter Mr Sorenson's new witness who has come forward - a 78-year-old truck driver who also drove for Mayne Nickless who was blessed with a lucid memory of the events from 51 years ago.
The witness, who was also hauling tallow to Sydney, said he saw the deserted truck between about 5-5.30pm.
As a qualified mechanic, not only would he have been able to step in to help his stranded colleague, but also he believed with the problems Seefuss professed to be suffering, there was no way he'd be able to have driven anywhere, like he did later that night, firstly on an unscheduled diversion to Brisbane (to shower and change clothes), then on to Sydney the next day.
Mr Sorenson tried to explain how this witness firstly didn't come forward in the first place to tell his story and secondly was never questioned by the authorities.
The witness had heard about Seefuss being questioned by authorities, but because he was released and was never brought to trial, the idea that Seefuss was involved was dismissed.
He said it was an era before truck radios, and drivers communicated through public phone boxes that were often vandalised and were often out of the loop when it came to following the news.
Companies also never knew exactly where their drivers were.
He also blamed the shoddy investigation which saw the crime scenes contaminated, the local Detective handling the case sent away to Blackwater and the country detectives were kept at arm's length by the Brisbane Detectives who took over the case.
The Detectives eventually did question Seefuss as a suspect but no charges were laid, with their last interview taking place in December 1967, with further questioning of him at the Coronial Inquest in that same month.
When the case was reopened in 2008 using new information that came to light, Queensland Police made arrangements to travel interstate to South Australia to formally interview him in relation to the murder.
Unfortunately, Seefuss had died six weeks earlier after a battle with cancer.
To this day the McKim-Hill case remains open with a $250,000 reward on offer for information which leads to the apprehension and conviction of anyone over her death.
On the eve of 51st anniversary of Mima's March 9 disappearance, The Morning Bulletin has learnt that a new detective had recently taken over the cold case and he confirmed their intentions to interview Mr Sorenson's witness.
"The objective of this exercise, once the cold case has fully deal with the information from the new informant, we would like to see the case move on in the same vein as the Sharron Phillips case with the public naming of the person they would be prepared to charge with murder and then for it to move before a Coroner to be formally closed,” Mr Sorenson said.
He hoped after that point, the families involved and the CQ community, would finally get closure.