March 11, 2012
He was 27 years old, four years older than her, and both were cheating on their spouses.
Wilkinson lured Kylie by pretending to be doing important undercover work in the police force – in fact, he was an Aboriginal community liaison officer.
He had a rich fantasy life and often lied to attract people who were gullible, like Kylie. Owing to a troubled childhood, she had grown up to be someone who, in the words of her sister Leanne, ”just couldn’t hear the alarm bells ringing”.
She had failed to become pregnant with her husband of one year, navy sailor Sean Labouchardiere, and was looking for excitement.
Kylie was able to spend time with Wilkinson because her husband was at sea. Wilkinson got away from his wife, Julie Thurecht, by fabricating death threats to his family and insisting Julie and their infant son stay with her parents, for their own safety.
Before long he and Kylie were exchanging 184 calls and text messages a day and in early 2004 she was head over heels in love and demanding he leave his wife to be with her. He refused on the grounds that he was devoted to his son.
But on April 13 Kylie learnt she was pregnant and she increased the pressure.
Kylie disappeared on April 28, 2004. When police checked her phone records they discovered 28,836 texts and calls between the pair in the previous four months. They also saw – by looking at the locations of the mobile phone towers she had been near when she sent texts – that on the day she disappeared, she had travelled from her home at Erina to Sutherland railway station, near Wilkinson’s home. His phone records showed he had left home not long after 8.15pm and driven to Sutherland, in time to meet her train.
After that, there was no more phone communication between them and Kylie’s phone was not used again.
It was clear from this text pattern that Wilkinson had almost certainly killed Kylie but police had no other evidence. A crime scene and her body have never been found. Police began to tap Wilkinson’s phone and recorded a series of bizarre texts. These increased after he went into the Police Integrity Commission and announced he had been forced to help Geoff Lowe, a police sergeant, kill Kylie in the Royal National Park. Wilkinson hated Lowe, who had nothing to do with Kylie’s death.
In the end, Wilkinson sent police to five different places in search of Kylie’s body, at a cost of more than $200,000. At times he seemed to be aware police would be monitoring his text messages to friends, taunting them with pieces of false information such as: ”The following [grave location] is HALK co-ordinates 2 a location 26E 29N in the event of death & only death a cousin will ring u with the otha half.”
In 2006, police still didn’t have enough to convict Wilkinson, so an undercover officer tried to befriend him by pretending he was making a film about police corruption and offered to pay for information about where, according to Wilkinson, Lowe had buried Kylie. This produced no results, although Wilkinson did text the officer one day: ”If I may ask a favour, may receive $2000 2day 2 escape on my return … Body location and full story u keep the agreed $15,000. Ill expose all … Im desperate chap 2 get away.”
By this time Julie had divorced Wilkinson but still kept in touch. One day she asked why he wouldn’t tell police where Kylie was buried.
He replied with his most notorious text: ”Everybody has reasons 4 hiding a crime. Mine is the family can live not knowing where and why 4 What they hav don. Call me cruel, call me nasty and YES Id agree, howeva my knowledge ISNT goin 2 b theres. … her family can live their lives in misery 4 all I care F— THEM.”
Finally, Glenn Smith and Rebekkah Craig, the detectives chasing Wilkinson, thought they had enough to charge him. They had evidence that Kylie had believed, when she went to meet Wilkinson in 2004, that they were going away to live in Dubbo.
But the first lawyer who looked at the case at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said the police case was too weak. One problem was that there was no evidence Wilkinson had really planned to go away with Kylie.
The police were shattered. The decision was due to be reviewed by a more senior lawyer and, on the Sunday before that meeting, Smith went into his office in one last desperate search for evidence. To his surprise, in the evidence locker he found a second mobile phone that had once belonged to Kylie. It had been discovered before he joined the investigation and he had never heard of it. Once he gained access to the phone, he discovered some texts she had received from Wilkinson. A week after Kylie had told him she was pregnant, he had sent her this message: ”2day and Wednesday then it’s DB [Dubbo] u and I are 2getha 4eva.”
It was the text equivalent of a smoking gun. At the meeting, the senior lawyer said to Smith, ”So why haven’t you charged him yet?”
In 2009, Paul Wilkinson was sentenced to a minimum of 24 years in jail for the murder of Kylie Labouchardiere, the sentence longer than it would have been otherwise because he had not said where she was buried.
Those familiar with the case suggest three possible reasons for the silence. One is that Wilkinson wants to feel important; another is that her body would reveal such a terrible death that his sentence would have been even longer. The third theory is that he had an accomplice and the grave might in some way identify that person – or that the accomplice moved the body after Wilkinson was arrested, so now he really doesn’t know where Kylie is. Whatever the reason, Kylie’s family continues to suffer terribly from not knowing.
Call Me Cruel, by Michael Duffy, is published by Allen & Unwin, $29.99.
Court Judgements here