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Police issue arrest warrant for Mt Isa murder decades after conviction of innocent man

In October 1983 a 22-year-old Kelvin Condren was wrongfully charged and later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Patricia Rose Carlton in Mount Isa.

This week – 36-years and nine months after Ms Carlton was discovered by police unconscious and severely injured in a Mount Isa hotel carpark – Queensland police have announced that a warrant has been issued for the man they believe was actually responsible for her brutal death.

Mt Isa District Police Acting Superintendent Jason Smith, during a NAIDOC Week flag-raising ceremony on Monday, revealed that a cold-case review of Ms Carlton’s murder by Mt Isa’s Criminal Investigation Bureau and state homicide detectives last year had identified Andrew Christopher Albury as the likely killer.

Albury is currently serving a ‘never-to-be-released’ life sentence in the Northern Territory for the murder of Darwin woman Gloria Pindan – who was killed almost two months after Ms Carlton.

Albury even made admissions to Darwin detectives about killing Ms Carlton during their investigations into Ms Pindan’s death – including specific details about the crime – but Queensland police later dismissed them and continued the prosecution of Condren.

Condren was sentenced to life imprisonment for Ms Carlton’s murder in 1984, but was released after serving six years in jail based on a decision by the Queensland Court of Appeal in 1990.

Superintendent Smith said an arrest warrant was recently issued for Albury’s arrest, but that it was unlikely he would be returned to Queensland to answer for Ms Carlton’s murder unless released from jail in the NT.

QLS Proctor has been told the warrant was issued almost a month ago.

He said police were now satisfied Albury was the offender responsible for Carlton’s death, that he was in prison and that they were looking at options to see if it was in the best course of justice to extradite him to Queensland to stand trial.

“What’s important is that this matter has been through a number of processes and appeals and Mr Condren was released, but that never resolved the murder of Ms Carlton and we need some closure in regard to that,” he said.

“We’re satisfied that if Albury is (ever) released, he would go straight to trial (in Queensland).”

Details of Albury’s alleged admissions to NT detectives on his involvement in Ms Carlton’s death were documented in Condren’s successful 1990 appeal before Justices Jim Thomas, Jack Kelly and John Dowsett.

Justice Thomas, in his written decision at the time, said: “Eight weeks after (Ms Carlton’s death) Darwin detectives were investigating the murder of an aboriginal woman in Darwin … (and) Albury confessed that he had killed (an Indigenous woman) in Mt Isa at the end of September (1983).

“Although his account contained a number of discrepancies, some of the details which (Albury) volunteered are startlingly consistent with the attack (on Ms Carlton).”

Justice Thomas noted the admissions included detailed knowledge of the type and length of weapon used, the types of injuries inflicted and the type of clothing Ms Carlton was wearing when she was assaulted.

Justice Thomas also noted that Condren had been arrested by police for drunkenness at 5.50pm on the evening Ms Carlton was attacked and held in custody in the police watch house overnight, with Ms Carlton found injured and unconscious the following morning.

Albury was called as a witness during Condren’s trial, but repeatedly denied making any admissions to police during his sworn testimony.

In 1992, a report by the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission (now the Crime and Corruption Commission) was critical of police involved in the Condren investigation and the reliability of the so-called confessions he gave during police interviews.

“As a result of its investigation into the complaints of Kelvin Condren and others, the Commission believes that it is possible to reduce the risk of unfair treatment of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and others who may be under a disability during the course of police interview,” the CJC report said.

“There have been a number of cases in which it has been found that … confessions were unreliable because they were either induced by improper behaviour on the part of police or were falsely made because of psychological or medical problems of the suspect.”

Justice Thomas said the Crown case against Condren at his trial turned on “confessional material” obtained by police.

“Without that confessional evidence (Condren) could not have been convicted,” he said.

Condren was released from prison in 1990. His conviction was withdrawn and he was later granted an ex-gratia sum in compensation by the Queensland Government.

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