Little joy after arrest for brother's murder

Mosgiel man John Twaddle has long believed he knew who killed his brother in the Australian outback more than four decades ago.

But while the arrest of former prison officer Bruce John Preston (63) in connection with the cold case murders of Mr Twaddle's brother Gordon, family friend Timothy Thomson and Australian woman Karen Edwards last week vindicated his suspicions, it brought him little joy.

John Twaddle (69), of Mosgiel, holds a newspaper featuring an article on the cold case murder of his brother Gordon, his  friend and a woman. Australian police on Friday arrested a suspect after more than 40 years. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
John Twaddle (69), of Mosgiel, holds a newspaper featuring an article on the cold case murder of his brother Gordon, his friend and a woman. Australian police on Friday arrested a suspect after more than 40 years. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
''Nothing can ever bring them back, and catching him, well that's fine ... he's going to pay a wee bit,'' he said.

''But he's had most of his life, he's 63 years old.

''Gordon was 21 and Tim was 31 ... they haven't really had their lives.''

Those comments came during a wide-ranging interview yesterday after the sensational arrest on Friday of Preston, who has been charged with three counts of murder in relation to the 1978 killings near Mount Isa in the Queensland outback.

Mr Twaddle said he had long suspected Preston of the crime, in part because he was arrested and convicted for stealing Thomson's motorcycle shortly after.

''Someone doesn't go and steal a motorbike and then ride it around ... because the owner will come looking for it.''

Police in Australia had been in touch about a year ago to tell him they were working on the cold case, and he knew an arrest was imminent, he said.

''I was expecting it, but not as quick as that.''

He had even previously sent a letter to police suggesting Preston had committed the crime, and an officer replied saying he was on the money.

 Karen Edwards, Gordon Twaddle and  Timothy Thomson.
Karen Edwards, Gordon Twaddle and Timothy Thomson.
Surviving friends of both his brother and Mr Thomson still lived in the South, and Mr Twaddle said they were relieved justice might prevail.

Gordon went to school in Dunedin, and as he grew up began sharing his brother's keen interest in motorcycles.

He trained as a pastry chef and worked at the Hermitage in Mt Cook, as well as at the Jack's chip company in Dunedin.

Bruce Preston
Bruce Preston
Mr Twaddle remembers Gordon as a happy-go-lucky young man, who was ''always smiling, always full of beans.''

He also recalled his generosity at an outing in Styx (Paerau) over the Old Dunstan Trail in Central Otago.

''[He] arrived on his motorcycle with a huge big cattle box on the back which was full of chips, and he handed them to everyone ... That's the sort of guy he was.''

Adventure soon came calling and he flew to Australia on his first overseas trip to join Mr Thomson and Thomson's girlfriend, Karen Edwards (23), on a motorcycle journey from Alice Springs to Melbourne.

The trio were last seen on October 5, 1978, after arriving in Mount Isa.

Their bodies were found 19 days later in bushland 12km north of the town, near Spear Creek, dead from gunshot wounds, their pockets turned inside out and both motorcycles missing.

Moondarra Caravan Park
Moondarra Caravan Park
Preston was a person of interest at the time and the fact he had returned his father's vehicle in a spick-and-span state was another giveaway, he said.

The group was last seen leaving a caravan park with a man in a Toyota Landcruiser.

''He returned his dad's truck, all very nicely cleaned out thank you, which is something he never did.''

Mr Twaddle said he never met Ms Edwards, but he knew Mr Thomson well.

He remembered fondly the schoolteacher with a penchant for fast cars and motorcycles.

''Tim was a big guy, big beard, big laugh.''

Preston is reported to be a 63-year-old former prison officer from Goulburn, New South Wales.

His lawyer appeared on his behalf in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Saturday morning and later indicated his client would be fighting the charges, the ABC reported.

Mr Twaddle was unsure whether he would travel over for any trial.

He had heard reports it could be scheduled for as long as two years away, and said he would never get over the killing of his brother and his mate.

''We had lots of adventures to do, but it just didn't happen.''

Murder timeline

Monday, October 2, 1978: Gordon Twaddle, Timothy Thomson and girlfriend Karen Edwards embarked on a motorcycle trek from Alice Springs. Mr Thomson and Miss Edwards were travelling on a red 1977 BMW 100S with a homemade side car carrying Mr Thomson's 9-month-old Doberman, Tristie.

Mr Twaddle was riding a blue 1977 Suzuki GS750 with Victorian registration plates. The group travelled to Aileron and camped at Ti Tree in the Northern Territory overnight.

Tuesday, October 3: The group stopped at Wauchope, Devils Marbles and The Three Ways. They met a male motorcyclist at Frewena before camping with him overnight at Barry Caves.

Wednesday, October 4: The group continued to travel with the man to Mount Isa, in Queensland. Only Miss Edwards, Mr Thomson and Mr Twaddle checked into the Moondarra Caravan Park in the afternoon. That evening, the trio were joined by a man in a brown and white Toyota Landcruiser.

Thursday, October 5: The trio were seen leaving the caravan park with the man in the Landcruiser, leaving behind the motorcycles and dog. Later that day, the same vehicle returned to the park with a man seen alone looking for the dog.

Friday, October 6: All property except for the sidecar was removed from the campsite. The dog was located at the Mount Isa dump.

October 24-25: The bodies of the three were discovered in bushland at Spear Creek.

November 13: A 23-year-old local man was arrested after being found in possession of Mr Thomson's red BMW motorcycle.

April 12, 2019: A 63-year-old man, reported to be former prison officer Bruce John Preston, of Goulburn, is charged with three counts of murder.

- Source: The New Zealand Herald


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