John Twaddle has been waiting to find out who killed his baby brother in an Australian desert for over 40 years.
The Mosgiel man told Stuff he received a call from a detective on Friday to say the man alleged to have murdered Gordon Twaddle, 21, Timothy Thomson, 31, and Karen Edwards, 23, had been arrested.
Bruce John Preston, 63, a prison officer from Goulburn, New South Wales was charged with three counts of murder more than 40 years after the first of three bodies was found in remote bushland near Mount Isa, Queensland.
“[He] said I just want you to know that we’ve got him, he’s been arrested for three counts of murder, we’ve got him locked up in the car, he’s going to jail and I will ring this weekend with more details.”
Preston’s lawyer Russell Pearce said his client would be fighting the charges.
Twaddle said he had brought Gordon’s ashes home after his funeral in Brisbane but had never buried them.
“I thought well I’m not going to plant his ashes until we find out who it was.”
He said Gordon was a happy, outgoing, pastry chef who shared a love of vintage motorbikes with his older brother and friend, Thompson.
When Thompson moved to Australia to work as a teacher at Hermannsberg near Alice Springs, Gordon Twaddle decided to go too.
John Twaddle bought his younger brother’s motorbike for about $800, which allowed him to pursue his dream.
Gordon met up with Thompson and his girlfriend Edwards and the trio set off an “adventure of a life time”, travelling North through the Nullaboor Plain, John Twaddle said.
The trio were last seen alive at the Moondarra Caravan Park at Mt Isa on October 5, 1978.
Police told Twaddle’s father Gordon, Thompson and Edwards had gone missing.
John Twaddle was convinced they would come to no harm, telling his father Thompson was a “big solid man” and Gordon was “reasonably solid too”.
“Then about three weeks later police told us they’d been found murdered in the desert.”
Their bodies were discovered on October 24-25 in bushland at Spears Creek, near Mt Isa.
Twaddle said a cold case team had been working on the case again in the past year and the team received 50 new leads following a podcast series about the murders.
He would attend Preston’s trial if he could, depending on when a court date was set.
“It would be good to eyeball him and say ‘how would you feel if someone did this to your family’.”
Twaddle said Gordon’s death was very difficult for the whole family and his father had died in 1983 not knowing who had murdered his son.
“My father didn’t cope well with it at all.”
Preston had been a person of interest, charged with stealing Tim’s motorcycle in 1978 for which he was convicted and fined A$300.
Detective Senior Sergeant Tara Kentwell said the families of the victims were “relieved” by the outcome.
“We believe that there are still witnesses out there who hold vital information and we appeal for those persons to come forward,” she said.
Detective Kentwell said the accused was “surprised” by the arrest, but would not comment on a motive other than that he was known to the victims before October 5.
Preston is due reappear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on May 20.