Early one cold, wintry morning in late May 1942, the bullet-ridden body of Driver Roy Willis was found on the side of the road. He had been shot a number of times with a military revolver. Despite extensive enquiries by some of the Victoria Police’s most experienced homicide detectives, the murderer was not found.
Then three months later, the killer struck again.
In September 1942 Gunner John Hulston went missing whilst on guard duty. His gun crew immediately began a search. Two soldiers followed what appeared to be drag marks from the gate down towards the beach. They saw a figure some way off and thinking it was Hulston, they called out to him. Instead of a friendly reply, they were met with a barrage of bullets. The figure ran off and disappeared towards the camp.
Incredibly the garrison was not turned out to search for the missing man or the mysterious figure. The searchlights which could have turned the night into day along the beach, were not activated. Hulston’s rifle and bayonet were found in the water. His torn trousers were also found on the beach. His body was eventually recovered further along the coastline, 10 days later. Like Driver Willis, back in May, he had also been shot in the chest with a .455 calibre army revolver.
As with any good murder mystery, this story has more twists and turns than the Great Ocean Road. They range from black market operations, confessions, suspects identified in later years, lost or missing police files, disagreements between the police and the army over the investigation, and an attempted cover-up that went all the way to the wartime Deputy Prime Minister’s office.
Podcast Australian True Crime | 11 October