EXCLUSIVE: A PERSON of interest in the disappearance and suspected murder of an Armidale man has never been questioned by police, after refusing to be interviewed.
The Leader can reveal Hamish Sproat was named as a person of interest into the suspicious disappearance of William “Bill” Roach, who vanished on New Year’s Eve, 1993.
Mr Sproat lived at the same property, Springvale, as Mr Roach before he disappeared, but in 2004, a witness contacted Crime Stoppers on three occasions with allegations about Mr Roach’s killing.
The allegations triggered Strike Force Annan – an investigation set up by New England police in 2004 to probe the disappearance of Mr Roach that saw several searches and public appeals for help, right up to a coronial inquest in 2009-10 where Mr Sproat was named as a person of interest, along with fellow Armidale man Martin Rummery.
The Leader can further reveal the pair are now being re-investigated by detectives from Strike Force Annan which was reopened earlier this year.
The new investigation was sparked by fresh information into the disappearance and suspected murder of the 22-year cold-case and culminated in a search of a new property on the edges of Armidale which has never been combed in any previous police probe.
Any connections Mr Sproat and Mr Rummery have to the property are being investigated, along with other associates of Bill at the time.
“Strike Force Annan detectives are reviewing the persons of interest previously identified in the investigation and any connections that they may have to that property on the outskirts of Armidale that was searched on the 23rd of February this year,” New
England Detective Inspector Ann Joy said yesterday, confirming Bill’s friends and associates at the time of his disappearance would also be examined.
“That is a specific line of inquiry.”
The Leader accessed police statements, coronial transcripts and the findings handed down in 2010 but the coroner was unable to rule how Mr Roach died, the manner of his death or where it happened.
“I find that is has been proved to a satisfactory degree of probability that William (Bill) Roach the subject of this inquest has died, however the evidence adduced does not allow me to say the date of death and the manner, place and cause of death,” Coroner Michael Holmes said in his findings in 2010.
He marked that the file would remain open in case fresh evidence came to light – something which occurred earlier this year, sparking a new investigation by New England detectives.
“Since our first appeal to the public [on March 1] we have received some further information that is also being investigated by strike force detectives,” Detective Inspector Joy said.
“As a consequence of that our investigation remains ongoing.
“We would appeal for anyone with information on the disappearance of Bill Roach to come forward and contact Armidale detectives on 6771 0699.”
In the initial investigation, Mr Rummery was interviewed by detectives over several hours in September, 2005, and also gave evidence at the inquest into Mr Roach’s death after he was subpoenaed.
He denied any involvement in Mr Roach’s disappearance, and when questioned by counsel assisting if he helped anyone kill Mr Roach, he replied “that’s ridiculous, no I did not.” Mr Sproat has never been questioned by investigators on Mr Roach’s disappearance, or his movements around the Christmas/New Year period in 1993.
In October 2005, detectives travelled to Brisbane to speak with Mr Sproat and interview him about the disappearance of Mr Roach but they were contacted by a solicitor who said he was acting for Mr Sproat who “would not participate in any interviews, make any statements or answer any questions in relation to the matter”, which was confirmed in writing.
In March, 2010, Mr Sproat gave evidence at the coronial inquest after being subpoenaed by the coroner but denied any involvement.
“And either he’s very good at staying disappeared, or you know something’s happened. I don’t believe he met with foul play at Springvale,” he told the inquest.