– Nearly 45 years after schoolgirl Linda Stilwell disappeared from the St Kilda beach, the main suspect has appeared at an emergency bedside hearing of the Coroner’s Court.
Derek Ernest Percy, Victoria’s longest-serving prisoner, appeared before Iain West in the secure ward of St Vincent’s Hospital on Saturday.
Percy, who is dying of lung cancer, was asked several times if he knew what had happened to the seven-year-old and if he was was involved in her abduction and murder.
He said he had no knowledge about the case and denied that he was he killer.
Percy had spent the past three years fighting moves to appear at an inquest and gave evidence only after the Court of Appeal ruled he had no choice.
Percy, who has been linked to the deaths and disappearance of nine children, has been in custody since his arrest hours after the murder of Yvonne Elizabeth Tuohy, 12, who was abducted from the Warneet beach on July 20th, 1969.
Percy, now 64, was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity and remains in custody.
Previously he has always said he could not remember if he had killed others. Saturday’s hearing was the first time he denied involvement.
The suspect was a naval rating at HMAS Cerberus at the time of the Stilwell disappearance and regularly drove past the St Kilda beach.
After his arrest for the Tuohy murder homicide detectives used a young constable who had gone to school with Percy to interview him about the series of child abductions.
When asked about Linda Stilwell, he said: “Yes, I drove through St Kilda that day. I had been at Cerberus in the afternoon and was driving along The Esplanade on the way to the White Ensign Club for some drinks.”
Asked directly if he killed her he said: “Possibly, I don’t remember a thing about it.”
In an interim report Mr West found that Percy was in St Kilda on August 10th, 1968, the day Linda disappeared from the foreshore.
When Percy was arrested, police found maps, one with a line drawn past the spot where Linda Stilwell was last seen.
A woman told police she saw Linda at St Kilda the day she disappeared near a man wearing a dark spray jacket. When Percy was arrested for the Tuohy murder, he was photographed wearing the same style of jacket.
In 2005, when he was interviewed by police over the murder of Simon Brook, his lip quivered and he said: “I can’t remember.”
In 2007 police found boxes filled with material from Percy in a storage depot. It included clippings on sex crimes, stories on child abductions and items that appeared to implicate him in unsolved murders.
When he grabbed Yvonne Elizabeth Tuohy he also tried to abduct her friend, Shane Spiller, 12, who escaped by threatening Percy with a tomahawk and running away.
He described Percy’s Datsun station wagon and a small navy insignia on the back window.
Police found the car at Cerberus and Percy inside still washing blood from his hands.
Spiller never recovered from the trauma and disappeared in unexplained circumstances in 2002.
Percy has spent many decades in prison without receiving visitors after a volunteer social worker retired. He spent his time playing chess, investing his naval pension in gold (at one point he had more than $200,000 in a bank account), playing carpet bowls and following test cricket.
Saturday’s inquest was held 44 years to the day since he abducted and murdered Yvonne Tuohy – John Silvester


About Jumpin' Jack Cash
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