A Court of Appeal ruling means Alan Leahy likely won’t face trial for the 1991 murders of his wife and her friend, leaving their families without closure.
The families of two women brutally murdered in far north Queensland more than 20 years ago are no closer to justice, with the case now in a legal limbo.
The Court of Appeal on Tuesday rejected an application that would have given Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie more time to try to have Alan Leahy stand trial for the 1991 murders of his wife Julie-Anne Leahy and her friend Vicki Arnold.
Former state coroner Michael Barnes last year ordered Mr Leahy stand trial after concluding during a third inquest into the deaths they were deliberate and not the result of a murder-suicide.
The Supreme Court overruled the coroner’s order on appeal and Mr Bleijie then tried to have the decision changed back, but the Court of Appeal’s ruling means he can’t proceed.
The court found Mr Bleijie did not lodge the appeal application within the 28-day period required and it felt he would have little chance of success if a time extension was granted.
It means, in a legal sense, the state knows the women were murdered, but no one is held responsible.
For Ms Leahy’s sister Margaret Leary (Leary), not having answers 23 years later is the hardest aspect to cope with.
“This is about justice for Vicki and Julie-Ann – it’s about someone being accountable,” Ms Leary told AAP.
“It’s not about Alan himself, it’s about the girls and the justice they need.”
Mr Leahy could still be indicted on the murder charges in the unlikely event the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) pushes ahead regardless of the coroner’s ruling and subsequent appeals.
Ms Leary said she wanted the DPP to make a decision for the families’ sakes, irrespective of what it actually was.
A Department of Justice spokesman told AAP on Tuesday the DPP would not comment on the matter.
Ms Leary said the families had been on a “merry go-round” and the case had consumed their lives.
“It just keeps digging up the trauma,” she said.
“This has gone on for almost half my life and this is just wrong.”
Ms Leary, who was 17 when her sister was killed, said even if justice was never served, she wanted the girls to be remembered as people, rather than victims.
“Julie-Anne was this full-of-life person you wanted to be around and she had time for people,” Ms Leary said.
“She was the kind of person I guess a lot of people hoped to be.”
The women’s bodies were found with gunshot wounds in a four-wheel drive in remote bushland in the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns on August 9, 1991.
Mr Leahy had always denied any wrongdoing.
The Court of Appeal also ordered the state government pay 70 per cent of Mr Leahy’s legal costs.