Shandee Blackburn was stabbed to death on Boddington St on February 9, 2013. Photo Contributed
Shandee Blackburn was stabbed to death on Boddington St on February 9, 2013. Photo Contributed Contributed

BIG READ: The long wait after the Shandee Blackburn inquest

AFTER an 11-day coronial inquest, two lawyers have pointed to one person as Shandee Blackburn's alleged killer - her former boyfriend and the man acquitted of her murder.

But the barrister for John Peros cast suspicion in multiple other directions, naming at least two others as murderers, and argued in Mackay Coroners Court that up to six people had opportunity and motive.

Central Coroner David O'Connell must now find who, on the balance of probabilities, viciously stabbed the 23 year old to death just after midnight on February 9, 2013, if a finding can be made.

But there are only two people who know exactly what happened that night - Shandee, who is forever silenced, and her killer.

 

Sisters Shannah and Shandee Blackburn.

Photo Contributed
Sisters Shannah and Shandee Blackburn. Photo Contributed Contributed

Up to 15 people of interest were investigated by police as part of the Shandee murder probe, which included a secret Crime and Corruption Commission hearing.

Detectives also spent months exploring several avenues after various names were repeatedly tossed around the Mackay rumour mill.

Only one person was later charged - Mr Peros.

In 2017 a jury found him not guilty of murder. He maintains he had no involvement in her death.

 

John Peros leaves the Shandee Blackburn Inquest on day four.
John Peros leaves the Shandee Blackburn Inquest on day four. Caitlan Charles

The inquest heard the couple began dating in June 2011, but the relationship - described as tumultuous and fraught with mistrust - soured and was over in early 2012.

Friends said Mr Peros was upset about the break-up. He even sought counselling.

But he helped his former girlfriend move from Mackay to the Gold Coast to start a new life and even offered financial help by paying for her flights and sending her $2000 over four weeks.

At some point they stopped speaking.

Mr Peros told the inquest the first he knew that Shandee had returned to Mackay was when someone told him over Facebook that she was dead.

 

Shandee Blackburn and John Peros at Dreamworld. Date unknown. This photo was tendered as part of a coronial inquest into the 23 year old's death.
Shandee Blackburn and John Peros at Dreamworld. Date unknown. This photo was tendered as part of a coronial inquest into the 23 year old's death. Contribtued

The case for the central coroner is voluminous. He must pore over more than 700 exhibits including statements, recorded interviews, CCTV footage, photos, diagrams and maps.

However the evidence heard in court only focused on key areas including:

  • CCTV footage of a vehicle in the area the night she died and its striking resemblance to Mr Peros' Toyota Hilux.
  • The rumours about various people linked to Shandee's death.
  • A figure captured on CCTV hiding in the bushes before sprinting what appears to be towards Boddington St at the time she was killed.

 

Images show the original footage, reenactment, and scenes of crime photos of a 706LHN 1994 Toyota Hilux compiled for the inquest into Shandee Blackburn's death.
Images show the original footage, reenactment, and scenes of crime photos of a 706LHN 1994 Toyota Hilux compiled for the inquest into Shandee Blackburn's death. Queensland Police Service

Mr Peros claims he cannot really remember what he was doing the night she was ruthlessly stabbed and slashed up to 25 times on Boddington St about 12.14am.

"I might or may have gone for a drive but I think I spent most of the night at home," he said in a statement to police on February 10 tendered during the inquest.

He said he switched his phone off because he did not have the money to go out

The inquest heard he remembered spending the morning of February 8 out at Seaforth and the afternoon at a work function at Mackay harbour.

But when he was questioned during the inquest about his whereabouts, Mr Peros, after claiming his legal right to privilege from self-incrimination, referred to his memory loss.

 

Shandee Blackburn with her sister Shannah (left) and her mother Vicki (right)
Shandee Blackburn with her sister Shannah (left) and her mother Vicki (right)

Counsel Assisting the Coroner John Aberdeen has suggested "one person and one person alone" killed Shandee with the evidence "by way of appropriate inference" pointing towards Mr Persos.

He told the inquest the only witness to see anything the night Shandee died, taxi driver Jaspreet Pandher, "saw one person engaged in the attack" no matter how "suspicious the actions of others are in hindsight".

His theory was the running figure seen on CCTV and the man Mr Pandher saw struggling with Shandee were the same, and that the running figure had sprinted from and back to the area where a vehicle of interest had parked for six minutes and six seconds.

Mr Aberdeen said police comparison images of the vehicle of interest and Mr Peros' Hilux were "compelling" and suggested he had been driving in the area six minutes before her death and 95 metres from the crime scene.

Mr Aberdeen also highlighted alleged comments Mr Peros made at an Australia Day party including "I hate that c***" and would "love to stab the c***".

He said evidence supported "Mr Peros' involvement in the attack on Shandee".

 

Shandee Blackburn was farewelled in a touching ceremony.
Shandee Blackburn was farewelled in a touching ceremony. Tony Martin

Solicitor Kristy Bell, representing the Blackburn family, painted a more chilling picture that alleged Mr Peros lay in wait for Shandee to walk past before executing a carefully planned and savage murder.

"It took Mr Peros less than a minute to end Shandee's life," she alleged during the inquest.

"It was a vicious, personal and angry assault; a result of deteriorating mental health and excessive ruminations attributing blame for his relationship failings to one person ... and that was Shandee."

Ms Bell said the evidence against Mr Peros was overwhelming despite the fact he was acquitted by a jury and that he should be referred back to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for murder.

However under Queensland double jeopardy law a person can only be retried if there is fresh and compelling new evidence against them, and Ms Bell conceded in Mr Peros' instance there was not.

 

Former boyfriend of Shandee Blackburn John Peros
Former boyfriend of Shandee Blackburn John Peros Daryl Wright

Barrister Craig Eberhardt, representing Mr Peros, accused police, Ms Bell and the Blackburn family of "torturing the evidence" to suit their theory against his client.

Mr Eberhardt alleged in court that detectives decided "Mr Peros was right for it" and deliberately ignored any evidence that pointed towards William Daniel, and Norman Dorante, because he was related to a Mackay police officer.

He said timing made it impossible for the running figure to be Mr Peros. The court heard there was about 21 seconds between the moment the darkened figure left the CCTV camera's field of view and when it returned and that Mr Pandher's own GPS and clock meant the running figure and the man he saw could not be the same person.

"It is impossible to identify the running figure as male or female," Mr Eberhardt said.

"There is no evidence the person who ran over and the person who ran away, if they're the same person, was involved in the murder or went anywhere near the murder scene."

The court heard there was no evidence of any blood in Mr Peros' car, which hadn't been clean when police first seized it.

 

William Daniel leaves the court at break during the inquest into Shandee Blackburn's death.
William Daniel leaves the court at break during the inquest into Shandee Blackburn's death. Caitlan Charles

Numerous witness testimonies, some quite colourful, heard during the inquest linked Mr Daniel and Mr Dorante to Shandee's death.

This included an alleged confession by Mr Daniel to Levi Blackman made either moments after her death while emergency sirens blared in the background or hours later at a unit block on James St.

Mr Daniel and Mr Dorante both deny any involvement in Shandee's death or that the confession occurred. Neither have been charged.

Mr Eberhardt said both were known to carry knives at the time, had a violent history, were drug affected and had allegedly planned a robbery in the area the night of Shandee's death.

He alleged Shandee's death was a robbery gone wrong, that Mr Daniel stabbed her and Mr Dorante was there.

He recommended both should be referred to the DPP for murder.

He also suggested evidence pointed towards four others including a young man who threatened his friends with a knife during a three-day drug and alcohol bender, a Mackay offender previously convicted of stabbing a woman in the face and chest and two other unknown people acting suspiciously in the area that night.

 

Shandee Blackburn's mother Vicki Blackburn and her husband Paul Beardmore place balloons and flowers at the spot where Shandee was murdered to mark her 24th birthday.
Shandee Blackburn's mother Vicki Blackburn and her husband Paul Beardmore place balloons and flowers at the spot where Shandee was murdered to mark her 24th birthday. Lee Constable

The coroner has been able to see and assess each witness as they gave evidence and in due course will make findings about their credibility.

This inquest was the next step in the Blackburn family's six-and-a-half year search for answers - now the family must wait for what happens next.

Mr Aberdeen said a coronial inquest was a fact-finding exercise, not a criminal proceeding or a method of appointing guilt.

It was "an attempt to ascertain the truth", he said, and in doing so "a coroner must act fully, fairly and fearlessly".


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