Fresh hope in 31-year-old brutal murder mystery
THE family of slain schoolgirl Annette Mason say new laws which bolster the power of coroners to compel witnesses to give self-incriminating evidence have brought fresh hope in their quest to solve the 31-year-old murder mystery.
Toowoomba teen Annette was just 15 in November 1989 when she was violently murdered in her bedroom.
Despite her family's three-decade search for justice, no one has ever been charged over the horrific crime.
A long awaited inquest into Annette's death began in late 2018 and has since been put on hold for DNA evidence to be retested but her family hopes that new laws which passed state parliament last month could help catch her killer.
Under the new laws, coroners will be given bolstered powers to compel witnesses to provide potentially self-incriminating evidence.
Coroners have already been able to apply these powers for about 17 years for deaths that occurred from 2003 onwards but these rules will apply the powers to cases before 2003.
Shine Lawyers National Practice Manager Leanne McDonald who acts for Annette's family said the new laws created a fairer playing field during inquests.
"These new laws could be very telling for the Annette Mason inquest as several witnesses did rely on the fact that they were not legally required to give self-incriminating evidence given Annette was murdered more than 30 years ago," she said.
"The fact that witnesses could refuse to give self-incriminating evidence for deaths prior to 2003 has been a huge hurdle for us in accessing justice for the Mason family.
"It's been very frustrating during the inquest to watch witnesses use this to their advantage and has certainly made it difficult to get to the bottom of what happened to Annette on that fateful night. The family just wants the truth, hopefully these new laws will bring them closure once and for all."
Ms McDonald said the news laws were a "significant step forward" for families of loved ones in cold cases.
"Before these new laws were passed, the ball was in their court which was tough to watch play out, especially the fact that they were able to avoid being cross examined which is normally when a lot of information comes out," she said.
"Anyone involved in a cold case should have to disclose everything they know and answer any questions asked of them regardless of how long ago the crime was committed."
Annette's sister Linda said the previous rules had made it difficult to find out what happened on the night the young girl was murdered.
"I certainly do think that it will open the path to bring a few (witnesses) back who have used that defence that they can't talk without incriminating themselves," she said.
"It's been very frustrating.
"We're very hopeful this will answer some of our questions and I think that it's another step in the right direction."
Originally published as Fresh hope in 31-year-old brutal murder mystery