Bridget Shewring is on tenterhooks. Each day, the 54 year old Perth mum hopes she may hear news as to whether the State Coroner plans to hold an inquest into the murder of her mother, Shirley Finn.
On June 22, it will be 41 years since the famous Perth madam was shot four times in the head, and left abandoned in her car, dumped at a South Perth golf course.
And though Perth detectives completed a cold case review into her death last year, Bridget is yet to know what it says.
“It was handed over to the Coroner months ago. I’m still waiting to hear what happens next. Will there be an inquest, at last? I certainly hope so,” she sighs.
Bridget will never forget the terrible day at school when her headmistress called her into a room where three detectives broke the terrible news that her mother was dead.
“I haven’t felt happy since that moment,” says Bridget. “You never get over losing your mother this way.”
“WA police have had more than four decades to try to solve the mystery, but somehow they can’t manage to do so – even though, over the years, plenty of people have contacted me with information.”
Over the years, Bridget has tirelessly pushed police to re-open their files and re-investigate the murder.
She even handed over the names of seven people she believed had vital information about the slaying.
In 2014, police launched the cold case review into Shirley’s death and in September last year, officers handed over the results to the Coroner, Ros Faglioni.
“I’ve written to the Coroner’s office repeatedly, wanting to see the documents, but so far I haven’t been allowed to,” says Bridget.
“I can’t understand why not. The emails I receive back from the Coroner’s assistant never explain why I’m not allowed to go in there and access the documents. ”
“Margaret Dodd, whose daughter Hayley has been missing for 17 years, was allowed to see information about Hayley supplied by police to the Coroner. Why can’t I read the material about my mother?”
Last year, a former police officer told The West Australian he’d seen Shirley Finn with officers in the canteen at Police Headquarters on the night of her death.
The former officer – “Brian” – said he reported this to his superiors after reading that the madam had been murdered – but officers later held a gun to his head and warned him to remain silent. Brian says he did so for four decades, saying he was too fearful for his family’s safety to come forward in that time, before finally going public.
“After Brian came forward, a friend and I met up with Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan about this, but to my amazement, he told me I wasn’t to believe Brian as the police canteen wouldn’t have been open late at night!” Bridget shakes her head. “Until that point, I’d been quite impressed with the Commissioner. It took a lot of guts for Brian to speak out, and I certainly believe everything he says.”
In May last year, politician John Quigley revealed a police officer had told him that bullets retrieved from Ms Finn’s body matched bullets from a gun stored by police.
Days later, the Commissioner said it was “incredible” that the 2002 Royal Commision into police corruption had not investigated Ms Finn’s murder.
“The 2002 royal commission was suppose to draw a line through police corruption and alleged police criminal activity,” Mr O’Callaghan pronounced.
“I can’t understand why nobody lobbied the premier at the time to actually go back further and look at the Finn case.”
But Attorney General, Michael Mischin, said last year that a royal commission into Shirley Finn’s murder is “not justified.”
“It may have been worthwhile something like over 10 years ago but we’re looking at a case from 1975. I was still in high school in 1975,” he said.
“The police service has changed enormously over the intervening years.
“Many of those who knew anything about the case at the time are probably dead, if they can be found at all.”
Mr Mischin said the reliability of witnesses’ memories would also be a factor.
“I’d have to be persuaded that a royal commission is worthwhile, as opposed to other forms of inquiry.”
“So what if Michael Mischin was in high school when my mother was murdered?” says Bridget. “I was at school too when she died, and it’s ruined my life. If it was his mother who’d been shot in the head four times, I wonder if he’d be saying, ‘It’s too late to ever know the truth.’”
The Starfish contacted Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan’s office for comment about his meeting with Bridget, but were told he was away this week.
On June 8 last year, the Commissioner wrote in his “What Really Matters” blog on the WA Police website:
“If the Coroner is minded to hold an inquiry into the death of Shirley Finn the WA Police will cooperate fully and enthusiastically to try to get to the bottom of the matter.
“But as time passes there are less and less people who can tell the story so we need to move fast. Make no mistake that I would like very much to be able to say that I was the Commissioner of Police who presided over solving this crime.
“Neither I, nor those officers now tasked with the new Shirley Finn investigation, know (except by name), or have any relationship with the senior detectives who were allocated to this inquiry 40 years ago. Neither do we have any desire to protect them or their names if they were involved in corrupt or criminal activity.”
Police Minister Liza Harvey has stated she believed police had both the resources and the desire to attempt to solve the case. “Whenever a public official is made to comment about this, they sound as though they want to help – but what is anyone actually doing?” says Bridget. “I keep waiting to hear that there’s going to be an inquest. But the Coroner’s office isn’t telling me anything.
“Meantime, witnesses are getting old and dying. But I’ll never give up fighting for answers. Never.”
Starfish contacted the Coroner’s office and received this statement:
“While the WA Police have provided the State Coroner with a report, coronial investigations are not yet complete. It is not possible to indicate when they are likely to be completed or when the State Coroner will be in a position to make a determination whether or not the death of Ms Finn will be inquested.”
WA police have confirmed to the Starfish that extra material the Coroner sought from them was delivered on March 23, 2016.
“I’m trying to keep patient, but it’s been nearly 41 years,” sighs Bridget.
“Here’s hoping I hear from the Coroner soon.”
Bridget Shewring Starfish Photographs: Peter Rigby