Dark past of coastal gems revealed
Dark past of coastal gems revealed

Island horrors: The dark secrets of paradise revealed

These picturesque south east Queensland islands are true slices of paradise, but they also hold some dark secrets - the sites of murders, elaborate violent robberies and home to a fugitive living a double life.

Here, we recount some of the most chilling, tragic and gruesome stories that unfolded on these beautiful islands and rocked their peaceful communities.

 

RUSSELL ISLAND

 

DAD'S DARK SECRET

It was a tip-off to police that lead to the arrest of a Russell Island businessman and father living a double life after the death of his friend 14 years ago.

Bradley Hazelton went on the run for 14 years after the car he was driving in Austinmer, south of Sydney, NSW, in 2000 crashed and killed his friend Dwayne Nicholson, 20.

 

Bradley Hazelton leaves Sutherland Court after a sentence hearing. Hazelton was on the run for 14 years after being the driver in a fatal car crash that killed 21-year-old Dwayne Nicholson. He changed his name and moved to secluded Russell Island to avoid detection by police. Picture: John Appleyard
Bradley Hazelton leaves Sutherland Court after a sentence hearing. Hazelton was on the run for 14 years after being the driver in a fatal car crash that killed 21-year-old Dwayne Nicholson. He changed his name and moved to secluded Russell Island to avoid detection by police. Picture: John Appleyard

 

Hazelton had been drinking when he, Mr Nicholson and three of their friends piled into his car one night in July 2000.

As he turned a bend, he lost control and drove into an oncoming van.

Mr Nicholson died at the scene while another of Hazelton's passengers suffered a ruptured bladder and fractures to her pelvis.

Shortly after the crash Hazelton went on the run, working on farms in northern NSW before meeting his wife whom he told about the crash.

 

Car crash victim Dwayne Nicholson.
Car crash victim Dwayne Nicholson.

They eventually relocated to Russell Island where they built a home and business - all while Hazelton held onto his dark secret.

However a tip-off to police lead to police tracking down the Russell Island man, who was extradited to NSW.

Judge Paul Conlon sentenced Hazelton to a maximum of 27 months jail for dangerous driving causing death.

Hazelton was to serve at least nine months' jail, being eligible for parole in August 2016.

 

MACLEAY ISLAND

 

FATAL ROW OVER HOME BREW

 

A row over home brew rum lead to the stabbing death of a 41-year-old man in a Macleay Island home in 2018.

The body of father of three John Windle was found by police at a home on High Central Rd on April 23, 2018.

 

John Windle was stabbed to death by his partner at a Macleay Island home in 2018.
John Windle was stabbed to death by his partner at a Macleay Island home in 2018.

 

His partner Renee Helen Blockey, 41, was initially charged with murder however later pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Blockey was jailed in November 2020 for stabbing her partner to death, following a row over home-brewed rum.

 

Helen Blockey was sentenced to nine years' jail for the manslaughter of former partner John Windle.
Helen Blockey was sentenced to nine years' jail for the manslaughter of former partner John Windle.

 

She was sentenced in Brisbane Supreme Court to nine years' jail for manslaughter but would be eligible for parole in January 2022, having also spent time in custody before sentencing.

 

GRANDMOTHER BLUDGEONED TO DEATH

Mystery surrounds the callous killing of Macleay Island grandmother Liselotte Watson in 2012.

The 85-year-old local was found dead on the bedroom floor of her island home in November that year.

Police search a home after the death of Liselotte Watson. Picture: Liam Kidston
Police search a home after the death of Liselotte Watson. Picture: Liam Kidston

According to prosecutors, Mrs Watson - who a court heard was known for keeping sums of cash in her home - had been struck in the head with a blunt object, which police at the time thought may have happened during a burglary.

Macleay Island murder victim Liselotte Watson, with her granddaughter Emma Watson. Picture was likely taken in 1993 in New Zealand. Picture: File. Originally supplied by granddaughter Emma Watson.
Macleay Island murder victim Liselotte Watson, with her granddaughter Emma Watson. Picture was likely taken in 1993 in New Zealand. Picture: File. Originally supplied by granddaughter Emma Watson.

In 2016 a man was sentenced to life in prison for Mrs Watson's death however in 2019 the conviction was quashed by the high court - leaving the question of who was responsible for her death unanswered.

 

NORTH STRADBROKE ISLAND

 

HORROR AT POSTMASTER'S HOME

 

 

The wife of Dunwich's postmaster was assaulted and left to die as her home and business were torched in a horrific violent robbery in July 2012.

Part of the group of offenders included Tiege Lanczy Kalen Burns, then 26, Hunter Gabriel Murray-Costelloe, 19, Tama Moearara Teoting Edwards, 23 and Bruce Issiah Walker, 26.

Hetty Conlon , a few days after was bashed and left for dead in her burning post office at Dunwich, North Stradbroke Island.
Hetty Conlon , a few days after was bashed and left for dead in her burning post office at Dunwich, North Stradbroke Island.

They pleaded guilty to charges that included robbery, entering a dwelling with intent, arson and attempted arson.

The group had waited for Hetty Conlon's husband to leave their home before robbing the woman of $23,000 contained in a safe.

A court heard Mr Conlon was a citizen firefighter and a decoy fire at a local school had been lit to lure him from the home.

Post Office destroyed by fire at Dunwich, North Stradbroke Island. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Post Office destroyed by fire at Dunwich, North Stradbroke Island. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

However before the group left, Murray-Costelloe brutally kicked Mrs Conlon in the face, causing significant injuries and almost knocking her unconscious.

Despite being left for dead, she managed to escape the fire.

Some members of the group - Burns, Murray-Costelloe, Edwards and Walker - were sentenced in the district court to between 18 months and eight years in prison.

 

BRIBIE ISLAND

 

YOUNG LEAGUE STAR'S FATAL BLOW

 

 

In the early hours of July 26, 2009, a promising young footballer was dealt a fatal blow during a 21st birthday party outside the Bribie Island Rugby League Club.

Twenty-three-year-old Junior Broncos player Todd Parnell died in hospital after he was punched by 21-year-old Wally James Hung.

Todd Parnell was struck and killed by Wally Hung in 2009.
Todd Parnell was struck and killed by Wally Hung in 2009.

Parnell had been knocked unconscious and hit his head.

Hung was initially convicted of the killing in 2012 but it was overturned on appeal.

A second trial was dismissed when the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

 

Wally Hung leaves Brisbane Supreme Court Hung. Picture: File
Wally Hung leaves Brisbane Supreme Court Hung. Picture: File

 

In September 2013, during a third trial, Hung was found guilty and sentenced to six years and nine months' jail for the manslaughter of the young footballer.

 

'SWEET' GIRL'S GRUESOME END

One of the most gut-wrenching crimes to have rocked this island community was the horrific rape and murder of a 10-year-girl at a Bribie Island house on New Year's Eve 2007 allegedly at the hands of her father.

The gruesome rape and murder - during which the girl, from Bardon, was bound and her head roughly shaved - allegedly took place in a bedroom of the family's rented holiday home in Bongaree.

Murder scene where a ten year old girl was found dead on Bribie Island north of Brisbane. Picture: File
Murder scene where a ten year old girl was found dead on Bribie Island north of Brisbane. Picture: File

In April 2009 the father was declared mentally unfit to stand trial over the gruesome murder, the aftermath of which was first discovered by the girl's brother and sister.

The girl was remembered by her school's deputy principal as a "sweet and lovely child''.

"She was really loved by all the teachers and students,'' said the teacher, who could not be identified.

"She was a real peacemaker on the playground. If anyone was having problems, she would run to us because she didn't like any disruption. She loved coming to school and was always punctual, always happy to be there."

 

CHILDREN PERISH IN HEARTLESS CAR MURDER

While technically on the mainland, Sandstone Point remains a key part of the Bribie community - marking the gateway to the island.

Both Sandstone Point and Bribie locals were heartbroken when they heard details of a shocking double murder of two children at the hands of their mother.

The home where two children were found dead, gassed in their family car. Picture: Andrew Maccoll
The home where two children were found dead, gassed in their family car. Picture: Andrew Maccoll

The 43-year-old woman murdered her six-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter at their Sandstone Point home.

The mother gave the children crushed sleeping tablets before putting them in the back seat of the car, attaching a garden hose to the exhaust, and switching on the ignition in a cold act of revenge towards her ex-husband.

 

A Sandstone Point home where two children died inside their family car. Picture: Steve Pohlner
A Sandstone Point home where two children died inside their family car. Picture: Steve Pohlner

The bodies of the children, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, were found on November 22, 2002.

Their 16-year-old brother was also in the car but survived - as did the mother.

She was convicted in Brisbane Supreme Court of two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder and sentenced to life in jail.

 

A police officer takes pictures of the vehicle that two children were found dead in at Sandstone Point. Picture: Andrew Maccoll
A police officer takes pictures of the vehicle that two children were found dead in at Sandstone Point. Picture: Andrew Maccoll

The woman took her case to the Court of Appeal in Brisbane in November, arguing her conviction was unsound because she was suffering from diminished responsibility at the time, however the appeal was dismissed.

 

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Originally published as Island horrors: The dark secrets of paradise revealed


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