Daughter of murder victim Julie-Anne Leahy tells inquest how her world crashed when her mum died
Sandra-Sue Graham was nine years old when her mum left their Atherton home with best friend Vicki Arnold on July 26, 1991, and never returned. Their bodies were found in the family’s four-wheel-drive south of Atherton at Cherry Tree Creek two weeks later; Mrs Leahy had been shot twice in the head, strangled and had her throat slashed, while Ms Arnold was shot three times.
Police and two coroners deemed the deaths a murder-suicide, but a third inquest is being held in a bid to address questions over whether another person was involved. Ms Graham gave evidence yesterday, and told of a secret conversation between the women, and the intimate relationship that developed between her stepfather and teenaged aunt. She said Ms Arnold came to their home for lunch and to talk to her mother on July 25, the last day she saw her mum alive. "Mum said to me, ‘Get back to your room’; I wasn’t allowed to listen," she said. "They did talk (before), but never to the point where I had to go to my room.’’She said Ms Arnold returned home that night and had dinner.
Ms Graham said that was the last she saw of her mum before she woke up the next morning to her aunt, Vanessa Stewart, telling her they were missing. She was told the pair had gone fishing to Tinaroo Dam, but she told the court that would have been out of character. Ms Graham, her siblings and stepfather Alan Leahy searched for the women.
While the women were missing, Ms Graham said she saw Ms Stewart and Mr Leahy sleeping in the marital bed together. On August 9, 1991, the local policeman told them the women had been found dead. "Vanessa said that Vicki had killed mum and then killed herself, but I never believed that," Ms Graham said. She said Ms Stewart and Mr Leahy continued their close relationship. ‘‘She still slept in his bed, but I didn’t really care; after I found out my mum was dead, my world crashed,’’ Ms Graham said.
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