Bone fragment released to Marilyn Wallman's family
CORONER David O'Connell has determined a partial skull fragment found on private property near Mirani was that of missing Mackay teenager Marilyn Wallman.
Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon said this was an important development in the ongoing murder investigation involving the 14-year-old.
The North Mackay High School student was last seen leaving her Eimeo property on March 21, 1972.
Mr Condon said in October 1974 a partial skull was located at McGregor Creek about 40 kilometres west of where Marilyn was last seen.
"Over the years that followed a number of forensic examinations took place, but you would appreciate in the 70s, 80s and early 90s there was no such thing as DNA technology," he said.
In 2001 the remains were sent to the FBI laboratory in Quantico where "a mitochondrial DNA sequence was identified between the skull remains and that of Mrs Wallman", Mr Condon said.
Further tests conducted as late as last year resulted in police putting an argument to the Coroner in relation to who the skull fragment belonged to.
"(He) later determined the partial skull remains that were located in 1974 are in fact that of Marilyn Wallman," Mr Condon said.
The bone fragment has since been released to Marilyn's family who will hold a memorial service for her sometime in the future.
QUEENSLAND police assistant commissioner Mike Condon will today reveal the results of the latest forensic tests on a partial skull show it belongs to missing Mackay girl Marilyn Wallman.
He said police had never given up hope of positively identifying the skull and it had been forensically and scientifically examined several times over the years, including examination by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in 1999, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2001 and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in New Zealand in 2013.
In 2014 the Department of Health, Forensic and Scientific Services conducted further analysis of the skull.
"It's a breakthrough in terms of being able to reunite Marilyn's remains with the family, who are obviously quite relieved and have never given up their drive to find out who is responsible for the murder," Mr Condon said.
"There have been significant advances in forensic science since 1974, especially in the field of DNA technology."
Marilyn's brother, Rex Wallman previously told the Daily Mercury that muffled screams from the back of a cane paddock were the last sounds he heard his 14-year-old sister make.
From the moment he saw Marilyn Wallman's abandoned bicycle and heard those chilling screams on March 21, 1972, Mr Wallman knew his sister had been kidnapped.
Initially treated as a disappearance and later upgraded to a murder investigation, the case of Marilyn Wallman baffled Mackay police and her family from the outset.
"I knew she was kidnapped," Mr Wallman said.
"When I turned up on the site my brother David went back home to get mum and I stayed on the roadside and heard noises down on the other side of the cane paddock… muffled screams," he said.
"When mum got back to us we all took off, David and I in one direction and mum in another.
"The little headland… between the paddocks, there was a little creek bed. At that time of the year it was nice, green, fresh grass and we could clearly see where two people had walked through very recently.
"But by the time everybody got there and started helping and searching… all that was trampled."
On February 5 last year police received a tip-off that led them to excavate the backyard in Bassett St, Mackay in the hope of finding "items of interest" related to the 42-year-old cold case.
However, only days after starting the dig, they wrapped up their search.
Despite feeling "very, very disappointed" at the outcome, Rex Wallman was still hopeful.
"We won't give up," he said at the time.
"We'll be looking for Marilyn until we find her."
February last year police also sent a skull fragment to New Zealand in a bid to find out if it was Marilyn Wallman's.
The skull was found two years after Marilyn disappeared but Detective Inspector Karyn Murphy said DNA testing had progressed over the years and it might now be possible to find out more information.
A $250,000 reward is still on offer for anyone with information leading to the apprehension and conviction of persons responsible.
Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
- 7.42am: Marilyn Joy Wallman, 14, left home on a bicycle and began her ride to the Rural Youth Hall, at the junction of Wallman and Eimeo Road in Mackay, to catch the school bus at 8am.
- 7.52am: Marilyn's two brothers Rex and David Wallman left home, following the same route as their sister. The brothers found Marilyn's bicycle and school port by the side of the road approximately one kilometre from home.
- 7.53am: David Wallman raced home and returned with his mother while Rex Wallman waited on the roadside near Marilyn's abandoned bike. Rex Wallman heard "muffled screams" from the other side of a nearby cane paddock while he waited.
- 8am: David, Rex and Daphne Wallman split-up to search for Marilyn. The brothers walked to a creek nearby and discovered two sets of tracks leading through long grass.
- Shortly after Marilyn was kidnapped: Community members arrived to help with the search, trampling any evidence of tracks.
- Later that day: Police arrived to begin their investigation. The case was first treated as a disappearance and later changed to a murder investigation.
- 1974: Part of a skull is found in Mirani. Police would not comment on reports that the skull belonged to Marilyn.
- July 19, 2011: Police investigate new leads into the case, renewing the family's hope that Marilyn would be found. A police spokesman said a number of people were being investigated but would not reveal any other details.
- June, 2012: Marilyn's family launches a Facebook page to encourage the public to come forward with any information about the case.