14 crimes that shocked the Sunshine Coast

Barrie John Watts and Valmae Fay Beck are escorted by police.
Barrie John Watts and Valmae Fay Beck are escorted by police.



IN MANY ways, the abduction, torture and murder of Noosa schoolgirl Sian Kingi in November 1987 signalled the end of the Sunshine Coast's innocence.

The pretty, blonde 12-year-old was abducted from a Noosaville street by Barrie Watts and Valmae Beck - a sadistic couple who had deliberately set out to find a victim.

Sian was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In an attack which sickened even the most hardened detectives assigned to the investigation, Watts and Beck lured Sian into their car with a concocted story about a missing poodle.

They taped her arms and mouth and drove her to Tewantin State Forest where she was raped, beaten and strangled to death.

RELATED: Meet the men who caught Coast's worst killers

Her body was found a week later.

Beck and Watts were arrested in a Gosford caravan park after the park's operator recognised their vehicle from a description issued by police.

They were both sentenced to life in prison after giving evidence against each other in court.

Beck, herself a mother of six, died in a Townsville prison in May 2008.

Watts is still in jail with no hope of parole.

Bevan Meninga, 20, is arrested for the brural murder and rape of a 19-year-old woman, Cheree Richardson, in parkland at Alexandra Headland, Sunshine Coast c1991 Photo Sunshine Coast Daily Archives
Bevan Meninga, 20, is arrested for the brural murder and rape of a 19-year-old woman, Cheree Richardson. Sunshine Coast Daily Archives


SHE was an ordinary young woman out for a night on the town, he was the brother of a sporting legend, and it was a crime many thought he should never have been in a position to commit.

The room was packed when Bevan Errol Meninga, 20, brother of rugby league legend Mal Meninga, appeared in court charged with the murder of Cheree Richardson in 1991.

The battered body of Miss Richardson had been found in bushland at Alexandra Headland, two days after she had been seen leaving a Mooloolaba nightclub at 4am.

Miss Richardson and Meninga had been acquaintances for about two years but had met that night.

When police went looking for Meninga, they found him hiding in a ceiling recess.

At trial, he admitted responsibility for Miss Richardson's death but denied intending to kill or cause grievous bodily harm to her.

He said he had consumed up to 40 alcoholic drinks and smoked marijuana before going to a park with someone and could remember swinging a branch but did not remember using it to inflict violence upon anyone.

But a jury decided his actions were indeed intentional and found him guilty of murder, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

After the verdict, the court heard Meninga had been in jail for previous crimes, including attacking a sleeping woman with a stake, and had been released on parole only three weeks before Miss Richardson's death.

Meninga has continued to be a source of controversy.

He struck up a relationship with a former prison officer who later fell pregnant with their child, tried to sue Corrective Services for $200,000 compensation after witnessing the killing of another inmate while in prison, and made up a story to get of jail and for a visit and meal with his brother and his daughter at police headquarters.

He was released on parole in 2014 but wound up back inside after stealing a phone from a neighbour following a dispute over a loan.

RELATED: Life does not go on for mother of murdered Justine Jones


THEY were two little girls who never got the chance to grow up.

Leaane Oliver, 10, and Patricia Leedie, 9, were two best mates out door-knocking for odd jobs to earn a bit of pocket money when they went missing in the Warana area on October 29, 1995.

The Olivers became worried when Leanne did not show up for tea and searched all night before Mr Oliver stumbled across the girls' bodies in a hollow in the dunes, only 500m from their house and metres from where they had earlier looked.

"They were just laying there. I ran over, sprinting, yelling, swearing, and I found them I bent down and felt and hoped she was still alive, but not to be," he said in an interview a few days later.

By that night, Paul Stephen Osborne, a 27-year-old labourer and factory hand, of Wurtulla, had been charged with their murders, and two counts of rape were later added.

Osborne had been at a work mate's barbecue that coincidentally, Mr Oliver had also briefly attended.

He later told police had been drinking and smoked some "cones" and had gone to the beach, where he saw the girls and they had a swim.

He told detectives he was walking back up to the dunes when the girls approached and told him he had left his wallet behind, when he hit them with a piece of timber.

"Don't even know why it happened, and er, just sort of come to with the blood all over me," he said in a transcript of a police interview.

The crime incited such anger in the community that a crowd gathered outside the Maroochydore courthouse for his first appearance.

A police guard was placed on the entrance and entry to the courtroom was limited to family, police and the media.

Osborne, who had previously served jail time for an attack on a teenager, eventually pleaded guilty to raping and murdering the girls, was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment.

NEVER FOUND: British backpacker Celena Bridge, Sabrina Ann Glassop and school girl Jessica Gaudie.
NEVER FOUND: British backpacker Celena Bridge, Sabrina Ann Glassop and school girl Jessica Gaudie. Contributed


BETWEEN July 1998 and August 1999, three women went missing on the Sunshine Coast.

Although a man has been jailed for the killing of one of them, no bodies have ever been found and the mystery has haunted the region for almost two decades.

British backpacker Celena Bridge was the first to disappear after going for a hike to the Little Yabba Creek camping ground at Kenilworth on July 16, 1998.

SOURCE UNKNOWN. NOT FOR SYNDICATION OR SALE. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.  01/08/01       100061Derek Sam appears in Brisbane Court.
Derek Sam appears in Brisbane Court. SOURCE UNKNOWN

The 28-year-old was due to attend a bird-watching meeting nearby the following weekend, but never arrived.

Next to disappear was Sabrina Ann Glassop, who was last seen by her mother at her at her Kenilworth district home on May 29, 1999.

Finally, just three months later, 16-year-old Jessica Gaudie disappeared after babysitting children in Nambour on August 28, 1999.

The common link between thee three women was Kenilworth-based indigenous tracker Derek Sam, who worked as a supervisor at a centre for troubled Aboriginal youth.

The 38-year-old had worked for Ms Glassop and was rumoured to be having an affair with her before she disappeared near Booloumba Creek Rd, near his workplace.

That was also close to where Ms Bridge was last seen on her camping trip.

Sam was also the last person too see Ms Gaudie alive when he gave her a lift home after she babysat his estranged de facto's three children.

In August 2001, Sam was convicted of Ms Gaudie's murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison, despite the fact her body had never been found.

A coroner ruled Ms Glassop and Ms Bridge probably met with foul play, but police never had enough evidence to charge anyone over their deaths.

Their bodies have also never been found.

Sam was due for parole last year.

Daniel Morcombe.
Daniel Morcombe. Contributed


IT'S a date now etched into the Sunshine Coast's psyche.

December 7, 2003.

Schoolboy Daniel Morcombe was snatched from a Woombye underpass by Brett Peter Cowan, murdered and dumped in bushland.

A painstaking search followed; almost a decade of dogged policing and sheer determination from Bruce and Denise Morcombe to find the little boy whose disappearance sparked one of the biggest manhunts in Australian history.

The homicide squad had been activated within two days of Daniel's disappearance as the Coast community banded around the Morcombe family as the search ramped up.

A court heard Daniel had died almost immediately after he was abducted, before his body was dumped in Beerwah scrub.

Assistant Commissioner Mike Condon was a detective inspector back in 2003 when the call came through about a suspicious missing persons case which soon became a manhunt.

RELATED: Why Stu spent 33 years searching bushland and roads

He was head of the Brisbane-based homicide squad tasked to catch the killer.

Mr Condon helped coordinate the five-month covert operation to catch Cowan.

He, Western Australian police and Detective Superintendent Brian Wilkins were sweating on the progress of the operation in WA daily as pressure mounted on police to get a breakthrough following breakthroughs from a public inquest held into Daniel's disappearance.

Despite the time it took, Mr Condon was adamant when we spoke the case was never going to become a cold case.

"The Commissioner at the time, Bob Atkinson, made it quite clear and we don't give up while we've got a child murderer out there, we simply don't give up," he said.

"Look, there were times when we were all frustrated by the lack of result; there were times when I believe they (Morcombes) drove us, not that we needed reminding, but their inspiration flowed on and there were times I think when we drove them and gave them support."

Daniel's dedicated parents established the Daniel Morcombe Foundation in 2005 and have been relentless in their push to improve child safety ever since.


06/04/05 141927 L-R Bronwyn Dullroy, Christopher Dullroy , Nici Schmitt, (soliciter) and Dennis Yates outside the Maroochydore Watch House.Photo: David Thomas
Bronwyn Dullroy, Christopher Dullroy , Nici Schmitt, (soliciter) and Dennis Yates outside the Maroochydore Watch House. David Thomas



THEIR crime was horrible.

They had raided the Caloundra Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food restaurant with unloaded guns, dressed in balaclavas and locked six staff in a cold room on August 10, 2003.

But it was the sentence of Christopher Thomas Dullroy, 18, and Dennis Francis Yates, 24, two years later that shocked and angered the Sunshine Coast community.

Crown Prosecutor Amanda Meisenhelter had asked for a jail term of six to seven years for the older Mr Yates and four to five for Mr Dullroy, the architect of the heist.

But Judge Keith Dodds, who took 48 hours to make his decision, said their rehabilitation would be best served outside jail.

He gave the two a four-year suspended sentence and they were required to serve 240 hours of community service, which was unsuccessfully appealed by the Attorney-General.

Both men apologised for their crime.

When the Daily caught up with the families in 2009, months after their suspended sentence had expired, neither had re-offended.

Their rehabilitation was described "excellent and already well under way".

Chris's father, Tony, said at the time his son was doing well.

Yates' father John said his son had turned his life around.

RELATED: Coolum murder tragedy: Family life three years on


STEALING from the cops.

Sounds like just about one of the riskiest crimes to commit right?

It happened right here in our own backyard.

Not once, but twice.

In 2002 the Maroochydore Police Station's safe was raided, $114,000 in suspected drug money and 115 ecstasy pills were taken from the safe six weeks after a drug raid on a unit at the then-Outrigger Resort at Mooloolaba.

The theft sparked national headlines and a Crime and Misconduct Commission investigation was launched but to this day the culprit who stole from right under the noses of our local law enforcement has never been found.

Fast-forward six years to 2008 and lightning strikes again at Maroochydore Station.

A contractor working on an air ventilation unit at the station was later found to have been harbouring a 20-year methylamphetamine addiction.

Concrete cutter Tony Jackson was left unattended in an evidence room to carry out his work but the temptation proved too strong; Jackson made off with a bag loaded with cocaine, ecstasy and speed.

Police didn't realise until three months later but by that time Jackson had distributed some of the drugs in return for more speed.

During sentencing in the Supreme Court Justice Debbie Mullins likened it to leaving a kid in a room full of lollies as she sent him to prison for three years with a parole release date set after six months.

The drugs were estimated to have had a minimum street value of $27,000 but was likely to have fetched anywhere around the $75,000 mark, the bag believed to have contained about 200 ecstasy tablets.


152424j      16/12/2005Spotlight/Chandlers fire, Kawana, afternoon photosA firefighter starts to pack up after checking for spot fires.Photo- Anthony Reginato
A firefighter starts to pack up after checking for spot fires. Anthony Reginato




ON THE night of December 16, 2005, a huge blaze tore though a large shopping complex on the Nicklin Way at Kawana.

By morning, a charred shell was all that remained of the building and the three businesses it housed.

Gone were the Spotlight outlet and neighbouring Rosemores Furniture and electrical retailer Chandlers.

The fire was found to have been deliberately lit and started in a rubbish bin at the rear of the building.

An almost identical method was used to start a fire which destroyed The Fruit Shed, several kilometres away, at the same time.

Overall cost of the devastation was an estimated $16 million and more than 100 people were left out of work.

Community shock turned to disbelief when three teenagers were arrested for setting the fires.

Charges against two of them were withdrawn because of a lack of evidence but one, who was 15 at the time of the fires, was later sentenced to three years in detention.

With time already served, he was expected to be released in less than 18 months.

Because of his age, his identity was never revealed.


191399 Rodney and Susan Falls with their family. contributed
Rodney and Susan Falls with their family. Contributed



WAS it self-defence or cold blooded murder?

That was what the jury was asked to decide when Susan Falls was tried for the murder of her husband, Rodney, in May 2006 at Caloundra.

The trial heard Mrs Falls had given one of her daughters $5000 to buy a gun from a man in a carpark, laced her husband's dinner with crushed sleeping pills, and shot him twice in the head.

The defence case was that Mrs Falls had been a victim of domestic violence, bashed and beaten by her husband, who had threatened to kill one of their children.

"I kept thinking he said it out of anger... (but) he said 'which one will you choose?' every day," she said.

Mrs Falls told the court her eldest daughter had threatened to move out if she did not leave him but she feared for her family's safety.

"I couldn't and said the only way I can leave him is if I shoot him," she said.

"He would have gone after my family. If I saved my (child), I would have lost my sister or mother."

A few days after shooting her husband, Mrs Falls reported him missing to police and made an emotional plea for help to find him.


09/06/06      156775eSusan Falls is asking for public assistance in locating her missing husband, Rod, who was last seen outside the Currimundi Hotel.Photo Warren Lynam
Susan Falls is asking for public assistance in locating her missing husband. WARREN LYNAM/156775e

Three men, Christopher Anthony Cummings-Creed, Anthony James Hoare and Bradley James Coupe, were later charged over helping her dispose of his body, which was found in Mapleton State Forest a month after his death.

Cummings-Creed was also charged with supplying a firearm and a teenage girl was charged over possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Mrs Falls was acquitted of murder and the lesser charge of manslaughter.

But she wound up back in court in June 2011 for defrauding Centrelink of $80,000 in benefits.

She pleaded guilty but claimed her husband had forced her to falsify documents claiming she was a single mother, and walked out of court on a 10 month intensive correctional order including 280 hours community service which her lawyer described as "a good result".

Police were called in on the day of the Kleenmaid collapse
Police were called in on the day of the Kleenmaid collapse Brett Wortman


KLEENMAID was a household name across the Sunshine Coast and indeed Australia before 2009.

The white-good giant, which had its headquarters on the Coast, employed more than 200 people and had 20 retail outlets operating across 12 states.

That changed on the morning of April 9 2009 when the company announced it would be going into voluntary administration with debts later revealed to total nearly $100 million.

A total of 150 employees lost their jobs immediately and 4500 customers were left in limbo, wondering what would happen to their promised appliances.

Kleenmaid liquidator Richard Hughes complained a damning 190-page creditors' report into the corporate collapse, which sparked an ASIC investigation that went on and on for several years.

Mr Hughes had alleged the company traded insolvent for two years before its collapse and there was evidence financial irregularities may stretch back to 2005.


Brothers Andrew and Bradley Young remove files from the company headquarters.
Brothers Andrew and Bradley Young remove files from the company headquarters. Brett Wortman

In August this year, one of the directors, Bradley Wendell Young received what is believed to be the longest jail sentence ever handed to a company director when he was sentenced to nine years imprisonment.

Another Kleenmaid executive, Gary Collyer Armstrong, was sentenced to seven years' jail in October last year in relation to fraud.

Andrew Wendell Young is waiting for a trial date.

Meanwhile the company itself has been resurrected by Sydney firm, Compass Capital Partners, who bought the trademark, logo and brand name in December 2009.

CEO Danny Hamilton announced earlier this month the company had launched its first new washing machine, the Eco Sensitive washing machine, in 10 years.



Sunshine Coast's Judy Lorbek and her solicitor Mitchell Cunningham leave Brisbane Magistrates Court after she pleaded guilty to $2 million Centrelink fraud.

Photo Rae Wilson / Newsdesk
Judy Lorbek leaves Brisbane Magistrates Court. Rae Wilson

WHEN Sunshine Coast single mother-of-three Judy Lorbek found Centrelink had mistakenly put more than $2 million in child support into her bank account in February 2012, she faced a decision which would impact the rest of her life.

The 46-year-old from Coes Creek chose to keep the $2,019,052.83 and immediately paid off the mortgage on her Nambour home, booked in home renovations and took a contract out on a property in NSW.

She later told a national television program she thought the money was a legitimate child support back payment.

She then went on a spending spree - shouting herself and her children on expensive holidays to the Gold Coast and Sydney.

Ms Lorbek made 280 transactions, spending money on travel, entertainment, beauty treatments, cinema trips, clothes and fashion accessories.

She also gambled a chunk of the money away in Sydney and on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, losing $10,000 in one go at an RSL club.

She withdrew $130,000 through eftpos and $120,000 in cash in the month before authorities realised their mistake.

When she was arrested, police recovered slightly more than $1.5 million of the money.

She was sentenced to six years' jail with a non-parole period of 18 months and has since been released.


A HEADLESS torso found in Cedar Pocket, near Gympie, in September 2013 shook the Sunshine Coast community.

Tanawha man George Gerbic had been murdered, dismembered and his remains set on fire.

For about 10 months people were unaware he had met such a grisly end, after messages were allegedly sent from his email account painting a picture that he was alive and well.

That was until medication in his system helped police narrow their search and eventually charge his partner, Lindy Yvonne Williams with his murder and dismemberment.

Police have alleged the crime took place at Mr Gerbic's house on Main Creek Rd, Tanawha.

Ms Williams was earlier this year committed to stand trial for murder in the Supreme Court.

Mr Gerbic was a prominent local real estate figure and was a well-respected, popular figure in local footballing circles through his association with Coolum Football Club and his two sons, Simon and Justin, were senior players.

He was also an active member of the LNP and following the revelation the remains found were those of Mr Gerbic, an outpouring of tributes flowed from the public.



ALEX Lee Barnett lives in South Carolina, she doesn't like Donald Trump and she still views the Sunshine Coast as "home" nearly three years after her dramatic arrest for kidnapping her daughter.

Police raided her Mountain Creek home on November 5, 2013 to the bewilderment of Barnett's children, Samantha and Reece Geldenhuys.

Samantha and Reece Geldenhuys hug their mother Dorothy Lee Barnett.
Samantha and Reece Geldenhuys hug their mother Dorothy Lee Barnett. Photo Contributed

They only knew their mum as Alex Geldenhuys. They had no idea her real name was Dorothy Lee Barnett and she had been the subject of a massive manhunt for nearly two decades since she ran away with Samantha, then called Savanna Todd, when she was only 10-months-old.

Neighbour and close family friend Stephen Schofield had tipped police off as to Barnett's whereabouts.

Barnett was jailed and then extradited to her former hometown Charleston, America.

For the first time in nearly two decades Barnett was able to make contact with family and friends she was forced to leave behind when she fled with her daughter after losing custody to her ex-husband, Benjamin Harris Todd III.

Samantha stood by her mum throughout the court case.

Barnett pleaded guilty to parental kidnapping and two counts of falsifying passport applications and was sentenced to 21 months in prison.

She has been released from jail but is still serving a two year probationary sentence which stops her from being able to return to Australia.

This doesn't prevent her from referring to the Sunshine Coast as home.

In a Facebook post on October 10, Barnett who refers to herself as Alex Lee Barnett, posted a photo of a whale between nippers at the Kawana Surf Club.

"Back home at surf practice," she wrote.

Close friend Bruce Michell said Alex was very keen to return to the Coast and had become a spokesperson for battered women in America.


AN ALTERCATION between two strangers during a night out in Mooloolaba ended up with one of them dead and the other in jail.

Bruce Steensen was a popular AFL figure from Brisbane but his life was cut short when he got into an argument with Caloundra man Jesse James Patrick about midnight on Friday, February 22, 2014.

Bruce "Wolfy" Steensen was killed when he was king hit at the Mooloolaba Esplanade on February 21. Contributed

Mr Steensen, aged 53, was walking along Mooloolaba Esp with friends after a night out at the nearby surf club.

When he saw Patrick standing on the road and abusing a passing vehicle, he told him "pull your head in dickhead".

Patrick, aged 21, took offence at the remark and the pair wrestled briefly before being pulled off each other.

As Mr Steensen walked away, telling his friends he was "getting too old" for fighting, Patrick ran towards him and punched him in the head.

Mr Steensen collapsed and hit his head heavily on the footpath, fracturing his skull and causing brain bruising and bleeding from which he never recovered.

Patrick pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to eight years in jail.

Mr Steensen's mother Gloria has kept her son's memory alive by launching an anti-violence campaign in his honour.