Coober Pedy is an interesting place to visit, but it is not the opals or the scenery which keeps drawing senior police investigators back to the remote outback town.
There are several unsolved murders, linked to the SA Police’s Operation Persist, which occurred in Coober Pedy, and like all cold cases they are matters which are never considered ‘closed’.
As with all unsolved murders, police are conscious that in each case there is a family who are waiting for answers and are hopeful that one day they will have some explanations about what happened to their loved one.
Police recently visited Coober Pedy again in connection with four unsolved cases which were tonight featured on Channel 99, Crime Stopper’s television partner, as part of Operation Persist..
In each of the cases, just one simple piece of information might be all it takes to give police the lead they need.
Anyone with information about any of these cases – or any unsolved murder or suspicious disappearance – is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at http://www.crimestopperssa.com.au – you can remain anonymous.
On 4 August 1990, 16-year-old Karen Williams left Sergio’s Restaurant in Coober Pedy with three other people.
The group were picked up in a car and driven to the vicinity of Medway Drive, where the three other people got out of the vehicle.
A short time later Miss Williams was seen in a vehicle at the Caltex Service Station, Coober Pedy. The vehicle then left the service station and drove south along Hutchinson Street before turning left onto the Stuart Highway.
Miss Williams has not been seen since.
Following an extensive inquiry police charged a man with her murder, but in August 2016 he was acquitted by a Supreme Court judge, who heard the case in the absence of a jury, of both murder and manslaughter.
Due to changes to legislation in recent years regarding “double jeopardy” offenders can potentially be prosecuted again if ‘fresh and compelling’ evidence is located.
A reward of $1,000,000 is available to anyone who provides information leading to the apprehension/conviction of the person or people responsible for the disappearance and suspected murder of Miss Williams and/or leading to the location and recovery of her remains.
Italian citizen Anna Rosa Liva arrived in Coober Pedy on a bus on the evening of 27 November 1991 and was last seen alive about midday the next day in the main street.
An experienced traveller, she was last seen near the council offices at the corner of Hutchinson and St Nicholas streets near the centre of the bustling township.
The 30-year-old had plans for the days ahead – a tour of the town that afternoon and attending a Jehovah’s Witness meeting that night.
Investigators are confident she didn’t just fall into a nearby mine shaft, but may have willingly got into someone’s car given an absence of any disturbance reported in the area.
A reward of $200,000 is on offer for information that leads to the recovery her remains and/or the apprehension and/or conviction of the person, or people, responsible for the suspected murder.
Colin Ernest Williams, 65, was last seen alive at his opal shop/residence on Hutchison St in Coober Pedy on the afternoon of 18 December 1995.
Little is known about his movements after that time, but the following morning the Country Fire Service were called to a fire at his shop.
Upon extinguishing a fire at the rear of the premises, his body was located inside. He died as a result of a violent assault.
Blood was located at the scene and on an item that is believed to have been the murder weapon, leading police to believe Williams may have fought with his attacker or attackers prior to his death.
On the 28 February 1996 a 24-year-old Coober Pedy man was arrested and charged with the murder of Mr Williams, but on 7 August 1997 he was found not guilty of the murder by a jury in the Supreme Court of SA at Port Augusta.
The murder of Colin Williams remains unresolved, however due to changes to legislation in recent years regarding “double jeopardy” offenders could be prosecuted again if fresh and compelling evidence were located.
Coober Pedy resident Andrew ‘Wilbur’ Williamson was assaulted and left to die in his Tupper Close dugout sometime after 1.30am on 11 November 2003.
Mr Williamson, who would have been unable to defend himself due to a medical condition, was robbed of some distinctive jewellery, cash and some gold nuggets.
The items included:
* A 14ct yellow gold ring which had a natural nugget – streaked with natural quartz and weighing 67g – set into it. The ring was at least a large size ‘Z’ and was created to look like a massive natural nugget and has ‘585’ engraved on the inside (referring to the 14ct gold).
* Two natural gold nugget pendants on a gold fob watch chain worn by Mr Williamson as a necklace. One of the nugget pendants had the look of a crossed legged Buddha, was about 3cm high and 2cm wide weighing about 20g.
Investigators also believe Mr Williamson, 41, was in possession of up to 30 ounces of natural gold nuggets.
A reward of $200,000 is on offer for information that leads to the apprehension and/or conviction of the person, or people, responsible for the murder.
Anyone with information about any of these cases is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at www.crimestopperssa.com.au – you can remain anonymous.