By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Central Land Council says in an obituary about a former chairman that “he always maintained he did not commit” the rape and murder of nine-year-old Mary Hattam near Ceduna in December 1958.
This is incorrect. Rupert Maxwell Stuart (pictured two years ago) said in my presence in 1975, words to the effect: “I was too drunk to remember. But if I killed her I have surely paid for it.”
I was producing a television documentary for the Ten Network. Mr Stuart was being interviewed by a reporter engaged by me, and I was the cameraman.
We were filming at night, around a campfire, in an outdoor location south of Alice Springs, chosen by Mr Stuart.
I recently tried to obtain a copy of that documentary from Ten but is seems the network does not have one, and its archive is incomplete, I was told.
At the time of filming Mr Stuart had recently been paroled to Santa Teresa. His prison sentence had been commuted after 14 years. He was initially sentenced to death, and endured seven stays of execution.
The police investigation was alleged to have been seriously flawed, including producing a written statement of a kind semi-literate Mr Stuart could not have written nor formulated.
The Adelaide newspaper The News, its editor Rohan Rivett and its owner Rupert Murdoch took up Stuart’s cause along with priest Tom Dixon.
Mr Stuart, who chaired the Central Land Council between 1997 and 2001, passed away on Friday, 14 November, in Alice Springs.