An open letter from Bridget Shewring
Dear Premier Colin Barnett, Police Commissioner Mr O’Callaghan, Attorney-General Michael Mischin and Coroner Ros Fogliani.
Next month, it’s 40 years since my mother, Perth brothel madam Shirley Finn, was murdered.
I’ll never forget the way I was told the news. I was 13. My school headmistress took me aside, put her arms around me and whispered, “I don’t know how you’ll get through this.”
She then led me into a room full of male detectives. “Your mum’s not with us any more,” said one. Then they led me away for questioning – as if I had something to do with it!
I’d last seen mum the night before when she’d said goodnight. At the time she was wearing jeans and a T Shirt.
When she was found, she was wearing her favourite, $3000 satin ball gown. The police still have that dress.
For 40 years, I’ve thought about how my beautiful mum was killed, taken to the South Perth golf course, then shot in the head four times. The trauma of losing our mother ended up killing my brother Shane, who turned to drugs then died of cancer, and causing pain and divisions in our family.
I left school soon after mum’s death, living at an orphanage briefly before running away at 15, and I can’t describe the pain it’s caused us all. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my mum.
Ask anyone who was around back in 1975, and they’ll tell you the police murdered Shirley Finn.
She knew too much. Her client list was a who’s who of politicians, cops and leading businessmen and they all wanted her silenced.
But over the years, vital police statements have gone missing. Witnesses have been too terrified to come forward. Some have been threatened.
Enquiries have been held over the years but names have been suppressed, even by the Freedom of Information Commissioner when journalists later wanted to see papers relating to investigations into mum’s death. Makes a mockery of what FOI is all about. Is protecting the names of individuals who’ve begged to keep their names private, more important than getting to the bottom of who killed my mother?
In November 2013 I had a meeting with police officers and asked them to keep pushing to find out who killed Mum.
I gave them a list of seven people who knew my mother well, who they needed to interview. A year later, it was announced that police had re-opened their enquiries.
Have they interviewed everyone on my list? I wouldn’t know. They’re not telling me.
The list did include a couple who saw a green car at the golf course when mum’s body was found. They’d taken down the number plate – but when they handed it to police – they were told “we won’t need that, thanks!” The wife was happy to testify about what she saw; she died this week of cancer.
Will my mother’s death ever be solved? I’d like to think so.
Now, finally, one brave former police officer, Brian, has come forward and told me, and journalist Juliet Wills, how he saw my mum with detectives in the bar at police headquarters the night she died.
He told us how when he learned she’d been murdered, he reported what he saw to police – and two days later four detectives rammed into his motorbike. One held a gun to his head and he was told, “shut up or die.” For 40 years, he was too scared to speak out.
Brian was crying when he told me recently, “Bridget, I wish I’d told you earlier, but I was worried about my wife and kids.” He’s now gone to the Corruption and Crimes Commission with his detailed allegations.
When news of this broke in the paper today, friends and journalists were in touch all day. Everyone wanted to know, will the police finally be able to seize on this new lead?
You’d probably think, wouldn’t you, that Major Crime Division would have been straight onto Brian, taking statements and heading off to interview the people he claimed threatened him?
Well, as I write this, nobody from Major Crime has contacted Brian, or me.
Juliet went on radio today saying we all know a police officer killed mum, it’s time for today’s police to solve the crime and restore faith in our force.
I wish I shared her optimism. I simply don’t want to be told indefinitely that “police are still investigating,” in secrecy for the next few years, while vital witnesses – and perhaps even the murderer – are getting old and ill and dying.
At the very least, isn’t it time for a Coronial Investigation into Mum’s murder?
I was heartened to hear Karl O’Callaghan gently announce a new probe into Corryn Rayney’s murder. “The broader community needs to feel confident its police force has done everything in its power to find out what happened to Mrs Rayney,” he said.
Mr O’Callaghan, Mr Barnett, Mr Mischin and Ms Fogliani, the broader community needs to feel confident its police force has done everything in its power to find out what happened to Mrs Finn. Please, collectively, find mum’s killer.
It’s been 40 years!
Detective Superintendent Anthony Lee, Major Crime Division released this statement in late May:
In February 2014, following a meeting with Bridget Shewring, WA Police Special Crime Squad launched a cold case review into the 1975 murder of Shirley Finn. As a result of the review a fresh investigation was commenced and is still underway. It became publicly known WA Police was investigating this matter in November 2014. The investigation team has not received any advice or referrals from the Corruption and Crime Commission regarding any allegations by a former police officer. Further comment will not be made until the investigation is completed.
Starfish Photographs: Peter Rigby