A year of investigation by a Kalaru man and a Brisbane journalist may lead to the freedom of a man who has spent over a quarter of a century behind bars.
A podcast titled Curtain, by human rights advocate Martin Hodgson and Rockhampton-born journalist Amy McQuire, has shed new light on a case of a man whose innocence has become part of Rockhampton folklore in the years since his incarceration.
Woorabinda man Kevin Allen Henry was handed a life sentence for the murder of a 36-year-old woman named Linda (last name omitted for cultural reasons) at the Fitzroy River in 1991, despite three women also being charged with the same offence under different circumstances.
Mr Hodgson has uncovered new evidence, including a witness statement found in the files of the Aboriginal Legal Service, he says shows Henry could not have committed the crime and is pushing for an official pardon from the Queensland Governor.
“We have the evidence he’s innocent, which was all available at the time had the police done their job,” Mr Hodgson said.
“They [the police] stopped investigating the day they charged him, and they hadn’t even spoken to all the witnesses.
“A pardon could take years, and Kevin wants to get out.”
The police case rested on Henry’s confession, which Mr Hodgson said was taken under duress and after his request for a lawyer had been denied.
“After six days they had a murder case wrapped up, with four people charged with the same murder under two separate circumstances,” Mr Hodgson said.
“There was absolutely no forensic evidence and the cause of death was not even known at that point.”
Despite her official cause of death being listed as drowning, Linda had been brutally assaulted by three women prior to her death.
While the women were also charged with murder, the charges were eventually reduced to grievous bodily harm after it was found together they had caused severe bruising, mouth lacerations and bleeding on the brain, and thrust an object into Linda’s perineum.
Henry has now served his 25-year sentence, but has been denied parole and remains in Capricornia Correctional Centre north of Rockhampton where he and other inmates have been listening to the podcast.
The podcast, named after Henry’s nickname, has garnered a following around Australia and overseas, with listeners tuning in each week for installments including interviews with experts in the areas of forensics and false confessions.
“One of the problems we found was almost everyone there at the time are dead,” Mr Hodgson said.
He said further reform is needed within the Queensland parole system, with recent changes the first since 1937.
“Kevin has done everything he can to meet requirements, and he’s in the lowest level security section of the prison,” Mr Hodgson said.
“We’re hoping the parole board will come to the party and because he’s eligible nothing is stopping them, they can release him now.
“And, even if he does get parole we won’t stop until he’s proven innocent and pardoned by the Governor.”
Woorabinda elders and the community have signed a petition pushing for Henry’s release.
“I have arranged culturally appropriate housing for him, and even though he hasn’t drunk in 25 years we have a place in a rehabilitation centre for him,” Mr Hodgson said.
“We also have counselling organised and a psychologist, so everything has been put in place.”