Tortured, strangled, tied to a tree: Who killed Tarmara?
IN part three of The Chronicle's Unsolved Crime series, we look back at the shocking murder of Tarmara Smith and the police investigation that has failed to convict the killer.
THE brutal and horrific murder of Tarmara June Smith on Easter Sunday more than a decade ago sent shockwaves across the city.
The case is no longer being investigated because police claim there was only ever one person responsible for Ms Smith's murder and he was acquitted.
But there are people who believe the police got the wrong man and tailored evidence to suit their case.
Ms Smith's partly naked body was found crudely positioned and tied to a tree on March 31, 2002 on a vacant lot in Isabel, St near Toowoomba's CBD.
She had been strangled, her left wrist slit, and had been brutally sexually assaulted with a beer bottle.
A pathologist could not determine whether the assault with the bottle occurred before or after her death.
The tree Ms Smith's body was tied to has since been removed after it became popular for people to take ghastly pictures next to it.
Police investigations at the time revealed Ms Smith, 24, was seen drinking during the early hours of Easter Sunday at the Shamrock Hotel on Ruthven St.
Witnesses told police she was wearing a black knee-length dress, black jacket, black shoes and had a brown handbag.
When you think about what the killer did to her, and it was a torturous murder, you would struggle to think that someone who had been intimate with her could do that.
Ms Smith was later refused entry to Rumours International on Ruthven St at around 3.30am after getting into an argument with security staff.
She was then seen around 4.20am walking south along Clifford St, between Margaret and Hill Sts.
Ms Smith was seen talking to a man a short time later who witnesses in nearby flats said had crudely propositioned her for sex.
The man was described as being in his mid-20s, with broad shoulders, pointy nose and light shoulder-length hair.
Witnesses say the man was wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and dark trousers - similar to the dress code of an event being held at Gip's Restaurant several streets away from where Ms Smith's body was located.
In the days following the discovery of Ms Smith's body, investigators dressed up a mannequin in similar clothing to what she was wearing on the night she was murdered and placed it near the scene of where she was last seen, in the hope it would jog someone's memory.
Eventually police charged Ms Smith's former partner, Paul Thomas Templeton, on August 15, 2002 with her murder.
He immediately provided investigators with DNA so it could be used to match that found at the scene.
Mr Templeton, then 49, pleaded not guilty when his trial got under way in the Toowoomba Supreme Court in November, 2003.
The Crown case relied solely on glass fragments less than a quarter of a millimetre in size police claimed to have found on Mr Templeton's and Ms Smith's clothing four months after her murder.
There was no DNA, fingerprint or footprint evidence linking Mr Templeton to the scene.
The court heard there was semen found on Ms Smith's underpants but the DNA from that semen did not match Mr Templeton's.
I have always felt to this very day, find the guy who matches the DNA of the semen that was found on her pants, surely he has something to answer, if he is not the actual killer . . . I have always held that view.
The jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict after deliberating for more than 13 hours over two days, and the trial was adjourned to a date to be fixed.
Mr Templeton's second trial got under way in the Toowoomba Supreme Court in April, 2004 where the court heard the Crown's case once again solely revolved around the microscopic glass shards.
The court was also told police had colluded when gathering evidence, in particular surrounding a recording Detective Sergeant Peter Flynn made with Mr Templeton which was also central to the case.
The court heard the tape recorder had actually malfunctioned, but remarkably several investigators could remember the conversation verbatim when they eventually wrote it down in their notebooks several weeks later.
Police were also accused of planting a pair of black trousers into evidence despite not having found a pair when they searched the guest house room where Mr Templeton was staying following his arrest.
A jury eventually found Mr Templeton guilty after deliberating for eight hours and Justice James Douglas subsequently sentenced him to life behind bars.
I think the police would admit the investigation was quite sloppy.
But Mr Templeton appealed his conviction in the state's highest court several months later on the grounds his guilty verdict was unsafe and a miscarriage of justice had occurred.
The Queensland Court of Appeal unanimously agreed and on September 17, 2004 overturned the conviction and acquitted him of the charges.
Justice Catherine Holmes said the evidence the Crown relied on surrounding the glass fragments was anything but conclusive.
She also said Mr Templeton would have had to have been either unusually fortunate or unusually skilled in not leaving any trace of himself in the form of DNA or fingerprints at the scene.
Justice Holmes concluded the evidence strongly suggested that someone else altogether was with Ms Smith shortly prior to her death.
Veteran Chronicle court reporter Peter Hardwick, who covered both trials, said there came a point in the second trial when he believed the evidence against Mr Templeton did not stack up.
I remember being told at the committal hearing a whisper that suggested that he may have been, to a certain extent, set up.
He said he was not convinced Mr Templeton was responsible for the murder.
"I remember being told at the committal hearing a whisper that suggested that he may have been, to a certain extent, set up," he said.
"I do not believe the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that this was the person responsible.
"I think the police would admit the investigation was quite sloppy.
"There was also the pair of black trousers that suddenly appeared in evidence and the person who both sides believed was the killer and was seen talking to Ms Smith was wearing black trousers.
"All of a sudden these black trousers appeared . . . it all looked a bit suss.
"And as it turns out the black trousers were two sizes too small to be Paul Templeton's anyway."
Mr Hardwick said there was one particular aspect of the case that had always bothered him.
He said an overwhelming amount of evidence pointed to another person being responsible for Ms Smith's brutal murder.
"He (the prosecutor) admitted there were another two persons of interest, one in particular who was known to be in the area at the time attending a B&S Ball at the restaurant near where she was found where the men in attendance were wearing white shirts and black pants," he said.
"But they simply said they could not find him . . . to me that was simply not a good enough explanation.
"I was told through people that knew that person without much warning, actually without any warning, he put his car up for sale on the Monday and did not wait for it to sell, and went overseas.
"A couple of journalists and myself who covered the trial told police that, but how are you going to find him now?"
Mr Hardwick, who interviewed Mr Templeton following his acquittal and release from jail, said he did not believe he was responsible for the murder.
He said the case needed to be re-investigated as he believes the killer is still walking free.
"I have always felt to this very day, find the guy who matches the DNA of the semen that was found on her pants, surely he has something to answer, if he is not the actual killer . . . I have always held that view," he said.
"When you think about what the killer did to her, and it was a torturous murder, you would struggle to think that someone who had been intimate with her could do that."
The Chronicle attempted to contact Mr Templeton and Ms Smith's family for this story without success.
It is understood Ms Smith's son, Brodie Bailey, who was nine when his mother was murdered, is currently living in South Australia.
Mr Templeton was last believed to be living in the Rockhampton region.
- March 31, 2002: Tarmara June Smith's partly naked body is found tied to a tree on a vacant lot in Isabel St. She had been strangled, sexually assaulted with a beer bottle and had her wrist slit.
- August 15, 2002: Ms Smith's former partner, Paul Thomas Templeton, is arrested over her murder.
- November 20, 2003: Mr Templeton's first trial in the Toowoomba Supreme Court ends in a hung jury.
- April 22, 2004: Mr Templeton is found guilty of Ms Smith's murder following a retrial in the Toowoomba Supreme Court and sentenced to life behind bars.
- May 13, 2004: Mr Templeton's legal team lodge an appeal in the state's highest court on the grounds his guilty verdict was unsafe and a miscarriage of justice had occurred.
- August 27, 2004: The Queensland Court of Appeal hears both the defence and Crown's argument surrounding the appeal.
- September 17, 2004: The Queensland Court of Appeal quashes Mr Templeton's conviction and acquits him of the murder charge.