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Lightning Ridge identity charged with murder

Marine Area Command officers searching for evidence during a 5 day investigation. Inset: Vittorio Stefanato and victim Christine Neilan. All photos supplied

The 73-year-old operator of a popular tourist attraction in Lightning Ridge has been charged with the murder of 39-year-old Christine Neilan.

Ms Neilan’s body was found in bushland near Sunflash Street, Black Prince Drive and Amigo’s Castle just before 8am on January 9, 2020, with serious head injuries. She is believed to have died sometime on January 8th or 9th 2020.

Post-mortem results revealed that the head injuries were caused by a gunshot wound.

Detectives from the State Crime Command’s Homicide Squad and Central North Police District established Strike Force Bullarook to investigate the circumstances of Ms Neilan’s death.

After a year of investigations without result, her family had appealed to the public for information and assistance.

Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty, said that strike force officers were assisted by forensic specialists, the police rescue bomb squad, Marine Area Command, and the dog unit during a recent 5-day investigation.

These police officers conducted a five-day crime scene search at “a property and surrounding bushland at Lightning Ridge” where it is alleged Ms Neilan was killed.

According to Detective Supt Doherty, “a number of exhibits of note were recovered”, including a firearm which will be “ballistically examined”.

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