The NSW Government, together with the NSW Police Force, has announced the reward for information into the 1995 death of Paul Murray at Lightning Ridge has been increased to $500,000.
Paul Murray, aged 40, owned an opal-mining claim about eight kilometres north-west of Lightning Ridge and lived in a camp at the site.
He was last seen alive on Sunday 19 March 1995 by a local, who had driven him to a location just outside of town at Mr Murray’s request.
Members of Paul’s family reported him missing to police one week later, and an extensive search commenced; his naked and decomposed body subsequently found in scrub by two graziers about two kilometres from his camp site on Saturday 22 April 1995.
A post-mortem examination found no signs of trauma or obvious cause of death, and further inquiries by officers from Central North Police District and a 1996 Coronial Inquest all failed to determine the manner or cause of Mr Murray’s death.
Following a review in 2012, the matter was referred to detectives from the State Crime Command’s Unsolved Homicide Unit, who established Strike Force Huddleston to further investigate Paul Murray’s death.
To assist with ongoing inquiries, the NSW Government announced the reward for information has been increased to $500,000 from today (Thursday 6 October 2022).
Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Paul Toole said any amount of information could be critical in providing some closure to those who knew him.
“Lightning Ridge is a small, close-knit community and I hope this reward encourages anyone who might know something to come forward to help the police who have worked tirelessly on this case,” Mr Toole said.
The Unsolved Homicide Unit’s Detective Chief Inspector David Laidlaw said police remain open minded as to the circumstances of Mr Murray’s death.
“Paul’s body was in an advanced state of decomposition and as such, subsequent investigations and an inquest failed to deliver a concrete answer as to what may’ve happened to him,” Det Ch Insp Laidlaw said.
“At his campsite, investigators found his personal items all in order and a firearm with one round in the chamber, as well as used and unused ammunition.
“Police have always kept an open mind as to the circumstances of his death and hope this reward can encourage the flow of new information,” Det Ch Insp Laidlaw said.
Paul’s sister, Rosemary Pearse, said he was a generous man who readily helped many people within the Lightning Ridge community.
“He would always offer to help anyone in need financially and only ask they repay him when their situation improved,” Ms Pearse said.
“Any information, no matter how small, would assist police and may be what is needed to provide myself and my family with some answers after all these years.
“I thank the NSW Government for putting up this generous reward and the detectives of the Unsolved Homicide Unit who have worked tirelessly to solve this case,” Ms Pearse said.
Anyone with information that may assist investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.