Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne. The family disappeared in 1974.
Barbara McCulkin and her daughters Vicki and Leanne. The family disappeared in 1974. Contributed

McCulkin murder trial: Theory labelled 'unlikely' by judge

THE infamous disappearance of the McCulkin family 43 years ago seems unlikely to be an "elaborate ruse", a jury has been told.

Justice Peter Applegarth began summing up the case of triple-murder accused Vincent O'Dempsey in the Brisbane Supreme Court yesterday, ahead of the jury being sent out to deliberate.

O'Dempsey, 78, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of murder and one count of deprivation of liberty in relation to the suspected deaths of the McCulkins.

Justice Applegarth said the evidence over the past three weeks showed Barbara McCulkin, 34, and her daughters Vicki, 13, and Leanne, 11, most likely left their Highgate Hill home unexpectedly on January 16, 1974.

Mrs McCulkin's purse and engagement ring were left behind at the Dorchester St home and she did not tell anyone of plans to leave, he said.

"There's no suggestion she was flush with funds … you can rest assured that the evidence doesn't seem as if she had some money parked in an offshore bank account," he said.

"The hypothesis that there was some elaborate ruse seems, or may seem to you, very unlikely."

Justice Applegarth also described Mrs McCulkin's estranged husband, the now-deceased Billy McCulkin, as a "detestable individual in many respects" after the defence pointed the finger at him in closing submissions on Monday.

He said the jury needed to consider if he had had the opportunity to commit the murders.

He reiterated it was O'Dempsey's right not to give evidence at his trial, and it could not be used against him.

Co-accused Garry Dubois has a separate trial.

News Corp Australia

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