‘Have you got Bruce yet?’

The search for the third offender in the gang rapes of the European tourists 

 

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

“I was only in the front seat. Have you got Bruce yet?” These were among the very few words said by convicted rapist Norman Kernan to police after his arrest. They may contain a clue as to the identity of the third offender in the gang rapes of two European tourists in Alice Springs in May last year.

 

Kernan and co-offender Ginger Green – aged 18, 17 at the time – were last week sentenced to 15 years, nine years non-parole, for their part in the crimes. To date they have not given up the third man.

 

Kernan was the first to be arrested, at 1.10pm on May 2.  Initially it was for an unrelated matter. As I reported last week, in the weeks leading up to the rapes, he had committed a number of property and traffic offences.

 

CCTV footage captured at a service station at 2.20am on May 2, put him in the driver’s seat of the stolen vehicle, a green Toyota Corolla, in which the rapists arrived at Maconochie Road. The German tourist, the older of the two victims, had the presence of mind to note its registration number.

 

With his identification by a witness, the police at 5.03pm placed Kernan under arrest for unlawful use of a motor vehicle and sexual assault. He was cautioned and arrangements made for contact with an Aboriginal Legal Aid (CAALAS) lawyer. When he was taken to the cells, he wanted to know why he was still being kept in custody. He was reminded of the serious charges now against him and this was when he asked, “Have you got Bruce yet?”

 

This information formed part of the Crown facts as they were presented in court last week. The Alice Springs News Online has asked to be able to speak further to detectives about their investigation but, for the time being, permission has been denied.

 

In the late afternoon of May 3 Kernan sat through a recorded interview with police but exercised his right to silence. He made his offer of a guilty plea on October 11 last year, after his lawyer, now from NT Legal Aid (NTLAC), had received the brief of the Crown case against him. The facts admitted in court last week were largely reflected in his plea offer, according to his lawyer.

 

On the same day, May 3, police interviewed the fourth man who had remained in the car, apparently asleep, while the rapes were being committed. He told police that Green had picked him up in the stolen Toyota during the night of May 1-2 and, with others, they had been drinking on Anzac Hill. He got drunk, went to sleep and the next thing he could remember was waking up in the car with Green at Hermannsburg the next morning. Green had told him: “… we [had sex with] those two girls … at the golf course”, claiming that the girls had asked for it.

 

On May 4 the two victims participated in a photo board identification procedure. Kernan and Green were positively identified by the Finnish tourist, and Kernan (along with another male who was obviously not the third offender) was positively identified by the German tourist.

 

Right: The Youth Justice Court in Alice Springs.

 

Green, who had been identified by his mother as in the stolen vehicle captured on CCTV footage, was arrested at Hermannsburg on the morning of May 4. Later that morning he showed police where the stolen vehicle was parked in the scrub. That was the limit of his cooperation until he made his plea offer in March this year. He declined to participate in a police interview.

 

Crime scene examinations of the Maconochie Road location and of the two vehicles revealed Kernan’s fingerprints on the Toyota Corolla; Green’s DNA on a cola bottle found at the scene and on a blood sample in the victims’ Pajero.

 

Vaginal swabs from the Finnish tourist also provided a DNA match for Green.

 

The Crown facts presented in court in relation to the investigation say of the third offender only that he has never been arrested or charged.

 

However, a third man, in fact a youth, did come before the court last year in relation to unlawful use of a motor vehicle, the same stolen car in which the rapists drove to Maconochie Road. He was already well known to the police and the courts – his file was inches thick.

 

This particular charge against him was only dropped on June 26 this year but he is still before the courts in relation to other matters that were already on foot at the time.

 

Crown prosecutor in the case against Kernan and Green told the Alice Springs News Online that the convicted men had not identified the third offender; the victims had been unable to; and no DNA evidence related to him had been recovered. A detective involved in the investigation said that for the time being all avenues of inquiry in order to bring him to justice had been exhausted.

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7 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Peter
    Posted October 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you Kieran. Upon re reading the original article I withdraw my reference to “naive youth.” You are accurate in your summation of the facts established by the crown. There was reference though to some hostility between the third man and the others. However, whatever views are held by the readership he is still at large and is likely to be for some time unless those in the know speak.

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  2. Kieran Finnane
    Posted October 3, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Peter, I repeat what I said in response to Hal regarding why we can reasonably accept that the third offender exists. In addition, the Crown facts, admitted by the offenders, do not support the suppositions that he was “instigator, unwilling participant or even naive youth”. His actions put him on an equal footing with his co-offenders.
    The Crown facts also show a significant degree of presence of mind by the victims both during and after the events. I do not think it is reasonable to suggest that they could have been confused as to the presence of the third offender. The Crown facts contain a precise account of his individual actions.
    (See http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/2013/09/25/terrifying-ordeal-at-gunpoint-multiple-rapes-of-european-tourists-one-suspect-still-unidentified/)

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  3. Peter
    Posted October 3, 2013 at 8:46 am

    I suggest someone who has some association with the two men would know if this third man exists and if he does who he is. If he does exist then the offenders silence on the matter raises questions as to what role he plays in the offenses, instigator, unwilling participant or even naive youth. As neither offender are willing to identify or acknowledge a third offender questions are raised to his existence.
    If he does exist one assumption is he has enormous influence over the two offenders. If that is the case he probably is well known to the indigenous community if not wider community and may have even been the instigator. However, could it be that the two offenders are protecting the third man? He may have not initially been a willing participant however, he may have been influenced by the other two and took part as a result of witnessing what the two offenders were doing? He may be a younger sibling or relative? Could it be that the third offender does not exist at all and the victims in a heightened state of extreme fear were confused as to how many men were involved? The scenarios are endless. What is probable is that this third man’s involvement would be known by some one close to the three.
    One can only hope that whoever it is who knows his identity (other than the two men convicted) will come forward and put this matter to rest.

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  4. Hal Duell
    Posted October 3, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Kieran.
    In a way I’m relieved he’s not a ghost, only that makes it even more imperative to identify him. That he remains protected by the two convicted, who both come from a demographic where the norm is to implicate accomplices, makes me worry for the hold he has on someone or something.
    Perhaps they’re holding out because they love him to bits, but I suggest it’s more likely that they’re properly scared.

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  5. Kieran Finnane
    Posted October 3, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Hal, There was detailed evidence of the role of the third offender in the Crown facts, based, as I understand it, largely on the accounts of the victims, and accepted as the facts by the co-offenders when they pleaded guilty. Their role was not lessened by his participation. In fact, that they acted in company was a circumstance of aggravation in the eyes of the law. There is thus no reasonable basis to question the existence of the third offender. But it is true that we can only speculate about why they refuse to give him up. Nothing was said about this in open court.

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  6. Hal Duell
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    I have to agree with Frank that it really is important to identify “Bruce”. But given that the police and probably the lawyers would have done their best to persuade the two convicted to give him up, it makes me wonder what his hold on them is. And who or what is he threatening if they do shop him? Does he even exist?

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  7. Posted October 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    It is interesting to note just how much this effected the community of residents in Alice. In the past, in the interest of public safety, the Alice Springs Town Council has put up a reward for information leading to arrests (rock throwing), indeed it may appear that the reward is still current http://www.alicesprings.nt.gov.au/graffiti as well as other rewards by Council.

    It makes me wonder, would this missing “Bruce” be on the average citizens most wanted list? And would the Alice Springs Town Council be willing to offer such a reward in this instance?

    I am also wondering if the guys who are in Jail are restricted in any way (no privileges, etc) until they decide to cooperate with police and provide the identity of the third man.

    It really is a important that the community be and feel safe. While this man is free to offend again, without rehabilitation, nobody is safe.

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