Police launch new appeal for 1978 triple homicide in Mount Isa

Homicide detectives will today launch a fresh public appeal into the tragic murder of three young friends holidaying in Mount Isa in 1978.

On October 2, 1978, 23-year-old Karen Edwards, 31-year-old Tim Thomson and 21-year-old Gordon Twaddle left Alice Springs with their dog, ‘Tristie’, for a motorcycle trip to Mount Isa.

They had planned to travel down the east coast of Australia to join family in Melbourne for Christmas.

However, on October 24, 1978 the trio were located deceased with gunshot wounds in bushland at Spear Creek,12km north of Mount Isa.

Investigators from the Cold Case Investigation Team, with the assistance of Mount Isa Criminal Investigation Branch, commenced a full review into the unsolved 40-year-old homicide investigation last year.

Detective Senior Sergeant Tara Kentwell of the Cold Case Investigation Team said investigators were confident the renewed focus could lead to a breakthrough in the case.

“Despite 40 years passing, we remain committed to solving this case, bringing those responsible to justice and ultimately providing closure to the victims’ families,” Detective Senior Sergeant Kentwell said.

“We have reviewed thousands of pieces of information provided to police over the years, however, today we are launching a fresh appeal to encourage new witnesses and those who have already spoken to police to make contact with us.

“We are urging anyone who may have seen the group travelling on their two distinct motorcycles through the Northern Territory and in the Mount Isa area in early October, 1978 to come forward.

“We are particularly interested in speaking with anyone who may have seen a male motorcyclist who befriended the group and joined them on their travels between Frewena and Mount Isa.”

Karen, Tim and Gordon were last seen alive leaving the Moondarra Caravan Park in Mount Isa in a brown and white Toyota Landcruiser long wheel drive with a man on the morning of Thursday, October 5.

A $250,000 reward remains in place for information which leads to the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons responsible for their murders.

Detective Senior Sergeant Kentwell said the renewed investigative focus was no longer linking the triple homicide to other murders publicised at the time.

“While we are keeping an open mind, we are no longer focusing on links to the murder of John Tzelaidis who was found deceased near Karratha in Western Australia a few months earlier,” she said.

If you have information for police, contact Policelink on 131 444 or provide information using the online form 24hrs per day.

You can report information about crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers, a registered charity and community volunteer organisation, by calling 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppersqld.com.au 24hrs per day.

Timeline of events

  • Monday, October 2, 1978 – the trio embark on motorcycle trek from Alice Springs with Tim and Karen travelling with their dog on a distinctive red 1977 BMW 100S with a homemade side car carrying Tim’s nine-month old Doberman, ‘Tristie’. Gordon was riding a blue 1977 Suzuki GS750 with Victorian registration.
  • The group travelled to Aileron and camped at Ti Tree in NT overnight.
  • Tuesday, October 3, 1978 – the group stopped at Wauchope, ‘Devils Marbles’ and ‘The Three Ways’.
  • They meet a male motorcycle enthusiast at Frewena before camping with him overnight at Barry Caves.
  • Wednesday, October 4, 1978 – group continued to travel with the man to Mount Isa but only Karen, Tim and Gordon checked into the Moondarra Caravan Park in the afternoon.
  • On Wednesday evening, the trio were joined by a man in a brown and white Toyota Landcruiser.
  • Thursday, October 5, 1978 – the trio are seen leaving the caravan park with the man in the Toyota Landcruiser, leaving the motorcycles and dog behind.
  • Later on Thursday, the same vehicle returns to the park with a man seen alone looking for the dog.
  • Friday, October 6, 1978 – all property except for the sidecar has been removed from the campsite and the dog located at the Mount Isa Dump.
  • October 24-25, 1978 – the bodies of Karen, Tim and Gordon are discovered in bushland at Spear Creek
  • November 13, 1978 – a 23-year-old local man is arrested after being found in possession of Tim’s red BMW motorcycle.

Statement from David Thomson (Tim’s brother)

Tim was a kind and gentle and much loved brother and always obliging when asked for help in any way. He was a good friend as well. He loved his dog and old motorcycles in equal parts. I am the oldest and Tim is the youngest of the four of us, so it was Tim and me versus the other two when we had family competitions, as a result I felt closer to Tim than to the others. Tim invited me to go on the trip through the centre of Australia with him and Gordon and Karen but I was unable to go otherwise I would probably not be writing this letter. My parents were shattered by the murders and I still feel a numbness that I don’t think will ever disappear.

Statement from John Twaddle (Gordon’s brother)

I write this statement for my brother Gordon Twaddle who was murdered in Australia. This horrible event has prayed on my mind for 40 years and I feel for the families of these three friends who were cold bloodily murdered. Gordon my brother was not only my best friend but we had a common interest in motorcycling which created a very strong bond between us. I also knew Tim as a friend but unfortunately had never met Karen but knowing the two boys I am sure she was a lovely person. It was that interest in motorcycling that found him in the wrong place at the wrong time. I feel that a result and conviction of the person (persons) responsible for these murders would bring some peace of mind and form some closure but it will never take away the pain of knowing how their lives ended far too soon in such a horrible way. Finally, I would like to thank the Australian Police for continuing to investigate this case over such a long period of time. I trust that you may now have a solid case to convict this person (persons).

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