On the Case for 15 Years; Graeme Crowley Was on the Fraser Coast to Talk about His Battle to Find out the Truth about the Murder of Leanne Holland

Article excerpt

Byline: Kerrie Alexander

WHEN private investigator Graeme Crowley married in Hervey Bay 31 years ago, little did he know he would one day become a key player in one of Qld's most famed murder investigations.

The Brisbane-based investigator has appeared in countless TV programs and media over the years including the Sunday Mail, the Australian and ABC's Australian Story, relating to the murder case of 12-year-old Goodna girl Leanne Holland.

Graeme's wife has family living in Hervey Bay but that's not what brought him back to the Whale City.

The Mantra Resort in Hervey Bay played host to the Institute of Mercantile Agents annual conference last month, where Graeme, a member and past president of the IMA, appeared as a special guest speaker.

About 40 vocal commercial agents and private investigators turned out for the event.

But when Graeme took to the lectern, the room went silent and each guest, including myself, was hanging on every word and description surrounding his involvement in the case known as one of the most brutal child killings in Australia's criminal history.

"No matter how much you talk about it people still want to hear about it," Graeme said.

"I knew my story would one day be significant.

"And it has taken a long time to get to where we are today."

Leanne Sarah Holland was savagely murdered in 1991 and her body found in a rubbish-ridden site in Redbank Plains, about 10km from her home, three days after she was reported missing.

She had been battered to death and possibly tortured and sexually assaulted.

The subsequent conviction and life imprisonment of Graham Stafford, the 28-year-old boyfriend of Leanne Holland's sister, was something of a triumph for police forensic investigators.

They ran a successful prosecution without any witnesses, without any murder weapon or apparent motive.

A former detective of 12 years, Graeme had long been convinced that the authorities made a horrible mistake and he's spent some 15 years trying to get to the bottom of a case.

"I believe the system gets it right 99 per cent of the time, but this time they got it wrong."

While initially employed by the Stafford family, Graeme has continued to pursue the case doggedly at his own expense.

Police had a strong circumstantial and forensic case. They argued the tyre tracks discovered near the body matched those of Stafford's car and traces of Leanne Holland's blood and a maggot, similar to maggots on the corpse, were found in the car boot.

A jury found Stafford guilty and he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1992. Graham Stafford's parents believed their son, who had no police record or sexual deviancy, was innocent.

So in 1992 they hired Graeme, who had left the police and operated his own private investigation business, to delve into the case. …