Leeann Lapham disappeared eight years ago
Leeann Lapham disappeared eight years ago

How 'No Body No Parole' laws helped find Leeann

POLICE believe new "no body, no parole" laws cracked the eight-year-old mystery of missing mum Leeann Lapham.

Just a day after her ex-partner pleaded guilty to manslaughter, a police search on Wednesday located the skull and mostly intact skeleton of the missing 30-year-old.

Her body was found off a lonely bush track where her self-confessed killer had dumped it in thick jungle, just 500m off the Bruce Highway, 20km south of Innisfail.

Detective Senior Sergeant David Tucker, who headed the initial investigation, was at the scene to hail the breakthrough.

Detective Senior Sergeant David Tucker at the site where the body of missing mum Leeann Lapham was located on Tuesday. Picture: Peter Michael
Detective Senior Sergeant David Tucker at the site where the body of missing mum Leeann Lapham was located on Tuesday. Picture: Peter Michael

He said it had been a "simple but complex inquiry" by a dogged team of police investigators over almost a decade.

Until last year, they had a prime suspect but "no body, no murder weapon, no motive, and no witnesses", he said.

Ms Lapham's former partner Graeme Colin Evans, 43, had shown police the thickly-forested ridge line above a sugar cane field, near the Cowley Beach turn-off, where he allegedly disposed of her corpse after a crime of passion in April 2010.

Innisfail man Graeme Evans (centre) showed police where Ms Lapham’s body was located after he plead guilty to manslaughter. Picture: Elisabeth Champion
Innisfail man Graeme Evans (centre) showed police where Ms Lapham’s body was located after he plead guilty to manslaughter. Picture: Elisabeth Champion

"No doubt, the new 'no body, no parole' laws played a big part in him revealing the location of her body,'' Detective Senior Sergeant Tucker said.

"The stars aligned perfectly, with that new legislation, to help crack open this eight-year-old cold case.

"Now her mum, sister and son, who was a three-week-old baby when she disappeared, can get some closure and grieve properly."

Ms Lapham's mum Kerry Johnson, of the tiny sugar hamlet of Boogan, was too emotional to publicly talk about the grisly discovery.

"I think it's relief, but also shock," Innisfail Detective Sergeant Matt Bauer told The Courier-Mail after speaking with the family.

Ms Lapham’s mum Kerry Johnson was too emotional to speak after her daughter’s body was finally located. Picture: Toni Caldwell
Ms Lapham’s mum Kerry Johnson was too emotional to speak after her daughter’s body was finally located. Picture: Toni Caldwell

"For so long she held onto a bit of hope that Leeann might still be alive.

"But now we've found the body, I think it has hit home, and all hope has been extinguished."

Officers were stunned at how quickly the human remains were located - within hours of the start of the search - lying next to a tree in the leaf litter with the bones relatively undisturbed by wild dogs, bush pigs, and cyclones Larry and Yasi.

"Her body had been simply placed on the earth,'' Far North Regional Crime Co-ordinator Detective Inspector Geoff Marsh said.

"It appears there was no effort to conceal her location.''

Detective Inspector Geoff Marsh. Picture: Stewart McLean
Detective Inspector Geoff Marsh. Picture: Stewart McLean

Ms Lapham, who had a baby boy to Mr Evans, was last seen when she entered a room they shared at Innisfail's Riverside motel.

Mr Evans was charged in February last year with her murder after a cold case review of the original brief of evidence.

On Tuesday, lawyers entered a plea bargain where Mr Evans negotiated to plead guilty to manslaughter and interfering with a corpse.

His case has been listed for sentencing at Townsville's Supreme Court on March 12.