Former prison officer’s terrifying call after being charged with Outback murder of three travellers

A man accused of a triple murder some 40 years ago has been denied bail after saying he would rather blow his head off than go to jail. 

Bruce John Preston, 63, was charged in April with the 1978 murders of three friends who set out on an outback motorcycle adventure and never came home.

Their bodies were found in Queensland scrub less than a month after they started their journey.

The cold case was likened to a ‘real-life Wolf Creek’, the story of three road-trippers who are kidnapped by a psychopathic killer.

Friends Karen Edwards, Gordon Twaddle and Timothy Thomson (left to right) were on the adventure of a lifetime in the Australian outback in 1978 when their lives were cut short

Preston, who maintains he is innocent, unsuccessfully sought bail in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Monday.

He will remain in custody until he fights allegations he murdered Karen Edwards, 23, Timothy Thomson, 31, and Gordon Twaddle, 21, near a Mount Isa caravan park three days after they rode out of Alice Springs.

Preston, a retired senior prison officer at NSW’s Goulburn Supermax jail, argued he should be bailed because he was of good character.

He had always co-operated with investigators, and it was a historical case reliant on circumstantial evidence.

Bruce John Preston, 63, was recently charged with the triple murder near Mount Isa in 1978

However, Crown Prosecutor Danny Boyle said Preston was not only a flight risk but could potentially take his own life to avoid a prison sentence.

Mr Boyle said a covert 2019 recording of Preston on the phone to his wife after the police investigation had recommenced had raised concerns about what he might do if released.

‘I’ve never been this scared,’ Preston said on the recording, Mr Boyle told the court.

‘I am not going to prison. I’d rather walk out into the street and blow my head off before I go to jail.’

But Preston’s lawyer Russell Pearce said the Crown was ‘nitpicking’ from the recordings and would also have heard Preston declare his innocence many times.

Tim, Gordon and Karen were last seen at this caravan park (pictured) before their bodies were found with gunshot wounds  19 days later in bushland 12 km north of Mount Isa

Tim 31, and Gordon, 21 were family friends from New Zealand with a passion for motorcycles.

Karen, 23, was Tim’s girlfriend and the trio was on the adventure of a lifetime trekking across the outback.

 The trio planned to ride from the Northern Territory to Cairns before heading down Australia’s east coast to Melbourne to spend Christmas with family members.

They were last seen on October 5 at the Moondarra Caravan Park jumping into a two-tone Toyota Landcruiser, similar to the one Preston’s father owned at the time.

Bruce Preston has always been a person of interest, charged with stealing Tim’s motorcycle (pictured) in 1978 for which he was convicted and fined $300

Their bodies were found 19 days later in bushland near Spear Creek, 12 km north of the outback mining town.

All three died from gunshot wounds.

The court heard Preston, a former corporal in the Australian Army, was also on a motorcycle trip across Australia at the time.

A man matching his description was allegedly seen with the victims the night before they disappeared.

Bruce John Preston (pictured), a retired senior prison officer at NSW’s Goulburn Supermax jail

The trio were travelling with Tim’s dog Tristie (pictured). They lost Tristie and found him at a Mount Isa dump 18 days before their bodies were found

Preston was later found in possession of Mr Edwards near-new red and gold BMW motorcycle, which had a sidecar with a map of Australia painted on it.

He told investigators he had found the bike and was charged with theft.

The court heard Preston told detectives in 1978 he was not in Mt Isa the day the trio were murdered.

But in an interview prior to his arrest in April, he contradicted this and said he was in Mt Isa when the trio disappeared.

Judge Elizabeth Wilson refused Preston’s bail application.

Bruce John Preston, using a joker filter on a Facebook profile picture, will remain behind bars


Monday, October 2, 1978: The trio embarked on a motorcycle trek from Alice Springs.  

Tim and Karen were travelling in a red 1977 BMW 100S with a homemade side car carrying Tim’s nine-month old Doberman, ‘Tristie’. 

Gordon was riding a blue 1977 Suzuki GS750 with Victorian registration plates.

The group travelled to Aileron and camped at Ti Tree in NT overnight.

Tuesday, October 3, 1978: The group stopped at Wauchope, ‘Devils Marbles’ and ‘The Three Ways’.

They met a male motorcycle enthusiast at Frewena before camping with him overnight at Barry Caves.

Wednesday, October 4, 1978: The group continued to travel with the man to Mount Isa.

Only Karen, Tim and Gordon checked into the Moondarra Caravan Park in the afternoon.

On Wednesday evening, the trio were joined by a man in a brown and white Toyota Landcruiser. 

Thursday, October 5, 1978: The trio were seen leaving the caravan park with the man in the Toyota Landcruiser, leaving the motorcycles and dog behind.

Later on Thursday, the same vehicle returned to the park with a man seen alone looking for the dog.

Friday, October 6, 1978: All property except for the sidecar was removed from the campsite.

The dog was located at the Mount Isa Dump.

October 24-25, 1978: The bodies of Karen, Tim and Gordon were discovered in bushland at Spear Creek.

November 13, 1978: A 23-year-old local man was arrested after being found in possession of Tim’s red BMW motorcycle.

April 12, 2019: A 63-year-old man, reported to be former prison officer Bruce John Preston from Goulburn, is charged with three counts of murder

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