8 February, 2016. 11:34
ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
On the first of August last year, the body of a retired teacher and former scoutmaster was found in bushland on the edge of Betoota.
Dennis Coolidge was discovered in a shallow grave with his hands tied behind his back, covered in multiple burns and contusions and two small calibre bullet wounds to the back of his head.
Local police initially suspected foul play, but after a number of local residents came forward with information regarding the 68-year-old’s untimely demise, detectives and investigators ultimately ruled the death ‘a tragic suicide.’
However, the big city Roma Street prosecutors smelled a rat and immediately challenged the findings of the South Betoota coroners office.
The appeal proceedings lasted until today, with local magistrate Ellen Ferguson upholding the findings of the initial investigation conducted by detectives from the South Betoota Local Area Command.
“In relation to the death of Mr Coolidge in late July last year, the initial findings and conclusions made by the local police are upheld,” said Justice Ferguson.
“The suggestion that Mr Coolidge was executed by some sort of vigilante mob and buried out in the gidgee is detrimental to the reputation of this town and the rumour surrounding a police coverup is extremely harmful to the reputation of the Queensland Police.”
According to local folklore, Dennis Coolidge was dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and tortured for a number of hours by both local police and residents.
As the sun began to rise, Coolidge was driven to the edge of town, just past the last light post – and shot twice in the back of the head with a sawn-off .22 rifle.
A half-hearted investigation was launched before his remains were injected with 1080 and left out on the claypan for the dogs.
Crown prosecutors and independent investigators were unable to properly conduct an investigation because by the time they arrived, Mr Coolidge’s remains had been eaten by dingos and nobody in town would talk to them.
“They got away with it – and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said prosecutor Miles Woolson.
“The people of Betoota are all somewhat guilty of premeditated murder, by some degree.”
More to come, perhaps.