- James “Jimmy” Patrick Taylor
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WA coronial inquest probing the 1974 disappearance of 12-year-old boy James Patrick Taylor in Derby
James “Jimmy” Patrick Taylor was a “mature and spirited” 12-year-old boy who loved music
and would never have run away from home, a coronial inquest has heard.
Jimmy disappeared after visiting a Derby shop, in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, in August 1974.
His body was never found and no one was ever charged over his death.
However, police began re-examining the case when a television documentary in 2006
child killer James Ryan O’Neill had been living in Derby at the time.
O’Neill, who was born Leigh Anthony Bridgart, was convicted of murdering a boy
in Tasmania in 1975 and remains behind bars.
Now, more than 40 years after Jimmy went missing, a coronial inquest is examining
whether he is dead and, if so, how he may have died.
Counsel assisting the coroner Catherine Fitzgerald told the inquest in her opening
address on Wednesday that when James failed to return home, the family assumed he
was with friends. His father reported him missing six days later.
“The prevailing view of police was that Jimmy had run away from his unhappy home environment,” she said.
There were four sightings of Jimmy, but he was never found and police did not keep depositions, the inquest heard.
Jimmy’s mother, Evelyn, told the inquest she did not believe her “happy-go-lucky” son would
run away and would never have travelled with a stranger.
His sister, Lynette Henderson-Yates, testified Jimmy was “mature and spirited”, and
had “definitely not” run away from his close family.
Ms Henderson-Yates, a former deputy vice chancellor, said all her siblings had jobs
and were well-educated because they had a strict upbringing.
Although her father had a drinking problem, he was not usually
violent and had never smacked her, although he did occasionally use a strap on some others.
“You couldn’t say it was a severe belting,” she said.
“(It was) very common back then for families to smack their children.”
Ms Henderson-Yates said her mother cried every night for many years after Jimmy disappeared.
She said the family needed closure and it was “unsettling” to not have a body to
bury following Aboriginal customs.
Another sister, Heather Winifred Taylor, said the family fell apart due to the trauma
and her father continued to make inquiries about Jimmy a decade later.
Detectives interviewed O’Neill in Tasmania in February 2012, but he denied involvement in Jimmy’s disappearance.
On top of his murder conviction, O’Neill was initially charged with
murdering another boy in Tasmania in 1975, and was suspected of other abductions
and attempted abductions, the inquest heard.
As Bridgart, O’Neill faced 17 charges related to the abductions and indecent
assaults of four boys in Victoria in 1971 but fled while on bail, Ms Fitzgerald said.
Detective Mark Cunningham said O’Neill remained a person of interest in
Jimmy’s disappearance, but there were no other avenues of investigation.
The inquest continues.
Survivor wants justice for Jimmy
A Tasmanian man who escaped the clutches of one of Australia's most notorious child killers has broken
his 30-year silence in support of a Derby woman who believes the same man is responsible for the 1974
disappearance of her brother.
Tom Parremore, 47, broke down as he described the trauma of his abduction by James Ryan O'Neill in Tasmania
on April 18, 1975, admitting it had affected him deeply and still caused him anxiety attacks.
About the same time Mr Parremore was abducted, O'Neill murdered two other Tasmanian children, taking them to
remote bush and smashing their heads with a rock.
Just before moving to Tasmania, O'Neill spent three years living in the Kimberley and was a resident of Derby
on August 29, 1974, when 12-year-old Jimmy Taylor was last seen leaving a local shop. A witness said Jimmy
was taken away in a car driven by a white man. Jimmy's family is convinced that man was O'Neill.
Jimmy's sister Lynnette Henderson-Yates has pleaded for police to re-examine the case.
Mr Parremore was adamant O'Neill would have been involved in Jimmy's disappearance.
"This bloke is so cold, callous, calculated . . . I want him kept in prison," he said. "I know what that
bastard is like . . . he's a cold-hearted killer."
Aged just 10 when he was taken, Mr Parremore was walking alone in the Hobart suburb of Sorell when O'Neill
pulled up next to him in a green station wagon. The killer claimed to be a policeman from out of town who
was delivering an envelope to the local station and convinced Mr Parremore to go with him to help him find
"There was nothing suspect about him at all . . . I got in the car and we went down Arthur Street. I told
him to turn right up the main road and he said 'no', he was going to the left. The way he said it, I could
feel it was wrong . . . he made a chill go down my spine," Mr Parremore said.
"That's when I worked out it was turning to s… . . . I started panicking as any 10-year-old would and started
screaming for my mum."
Mr Parremore hit out at the passenger side door, which swung open. As he tried to jump out of the moving
car, O'Neill grabbed his arm and yanked him back in.
"I had to look for another way out . . . so I slammed my foot on the brakes . . . I made the
car stop," Mr Parremore said.
He ran home and told his mother, but asked her not to report the incident because he still
believed O'Neill was a police officer. A few weeks later, O'Neill was arrested for murder and
Mr Parremore contacted a policeman he knew. "He took my statement and then the s… hit the
fan," he said. "O'Neill was caught. I identified him."
For years, Mr Parremore buried the memories of his ordeal, but a recent car accident brought
them flooding back. He now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
O'Neill, who is serving a life jail sentence, refused to comment.
Police from the Special Crime Squad travelled to Broome last week to interview Jimmy's family.
Flip Prior/ Sean Cowan
Missing boy's case linked to Tassie child killer
The family of a Kimberley boy who went missing almost 40 years ago believe one of Australia's most notorious
child killers is responsible for his abduction and murder.
Jimmy Taylor was last seen leaving a shop in Derby on August 29, 1974, and was reported to have climbed into
a car with a white man.
His family reported him missing one week later.
The mystery has baffled police but the family's recent discovery of a documentary covering the life of
Tasmanian child killer James Ryan O'Neill has convinced them he is responsible for Jimmy's disappearance.
O'Neill, who was born Leigh Anthony Bridgart, left a trail of sexual assault allegations in his wake as
he moved across Australia in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1971, he was arrested and charged with 12 counts of abducting and indecently assaulting four boys in
separate incidents in Melbourne.
He was released on bail and fled to the Kimberley, where he called himself O'Neill.
In late 1974, he moved to Tasmania with his new wife and within months he was arrested over the murders
of two young boys. Police believe he tried to abduct at least two other children in the weeks between
the separate disappearances.
O'Neill was convicted of murdering the first boy and was not tried for the second after being given a
In a statement given to police after O'Neill's arrest, his wife Carol said they had lived in Derby for
just a few months from June to November in 1974.
The revelation prompted Jimmy's sister Lynette Henderson-Yates, now deputy vice-chancellor at the Broome
campus of the University of Notre Dame, to contact police. She claims they have told her the case is too
old to investigate.
"I don't believe he ran away," she said. "The fact that O'Neill arrived in Derby and Jimmy went missing
in August is too coincidental.
"The police told Mum that Jimmy had just gone walkabout and they weren't too concerned. That was the
attitude in 1974.
"I spoke to the special crime squad about three years ago because they had just been formed to look at
"They said it was too long ago, but a month later in the newspaper there was a story about them
investigating a 19-year-old girl who went missing from Nanutarra Roadhouse the year after Jimmy
"I thought, 'Why is that case OK to investigate and Jimmy's case is too old?' There was never even
a coronial inquiry. That should have at least been done."
Det-Insp. Casey Prinns, from the special crime squad, said the case had been reviewed and was an
He asked anyone with information to contact police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
'The police told Mum that Jimmy had just gone walkabout and they weren't too concerned.
Flip Prior/ Sean Cowan
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