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Hoping for justice at Bourke

It’s taken more than 35 years, but there is renewed hope that justice will finally be served for two teenage girls, buried together in a grave at the Bourke cemetery, whose deaths in December 1987 remain a mystery and have gone unpunished.

Mona Lisa and her cousin Jacinta Rose ‘Cindy’ Smith were killed in a car crash, but the man accused of their deaths and of sexually interfering with Cindy’s corpse, Ian Alexander Grant, walked free from court.

Now, a full ­inquest will be resumed into the deaths, following a legal breakthrough brought about by the National Justice Project. The resumption of the inquest was not made because of a sense of injustice within the system - but because of a legal technicality.

George Newhouse is CEO of the NJP and has fought tirelessly to get justice for the Smith family. He said he was elated that the NSW Coroner had agreed to resume the inquest into the deaths of the teenagers.

“The family have had a great weight lifted off them,” Mr Newhouse said.

“They are still nervous about this process and rightly so - going through a court process is always intimidating, but underlying their response, and mine, is a feeling of lightness and elation that someone is finally listening to the Smith family after three decades or more.”

Mona and Cindy’s deaths have hung like a shadow over the family and the Bourke community. The tragedy began in December 1987, when 16-year-old Mona and 15-year-old Cindy accepted a lift from 40-year-old white excavator driver Ian Alexander Grant. Grant admitted to police he was drunk when he crashed the ute, killing the two girls. The rest of the story was never determined and for which Grant was never charged.

Cindy’s body was found lying next to Grant, who was drunk, unhurt and had his arm across Cindy’s chest. Her clothing and underwear were pulled down and led to allegations she had been sexually assaulted.

Grant was charged with culpable driving causing death and interfering with Cindy’s body, but the latter charge was ‘no-billed’ and withdrawn days before his 1990 trial, because medical experts could not pinpoint the exact time Cindy died.

The resumed inquest is likely to examine criticisms of the police investigation which has been described as ‘sloppy and badly managed’ and the legal prosecution of the defendant, who never spent a day in jail in relation to the girls’ deaths.

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