ONE of the men originally questioned over the cold-case mystery of William Roach has denied any wrongdoing.
In his first-ever interview about the case, Martin Rummery told Fairfax Media he has no idea what happened to his former friend, Bill, who vanished without a trace on New Year’s Eve, 1993.
Mr Rummery says he has spoken to investigators, but doesn’t know why the case was reopened earlier this year by Strike Force Annan detectives.
The police probe is trying to find out what happened to the 25-year-old who disappeared, and whose remains have never been found.
The feeling of not knowing has tormented Bill’s family for 22 years, but Mr Rummery says he wishes he could give them the answers that they need, but he can’t.
“Someone's not saying something aren't they, I reckon, but I had nothing to do with it,” he said.
In a sit-down interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Rummery said he couldn’t shed any light on what happened.
“I wasn’t even in Armidale, I wasn’t even in town when it all happened,” he said.
“I went away with family, I'm always away with people at Christmas with family, and those days we were still kids.”
Mr Rummery said the case had continued to pop up throughout his life, whether it was chance meetings with acquaintances or door knocks by police.
“[It's frustrating] because I keep trying to live but they keep turning up, in my life,” he said.
“Well it upsets me when people keep coming to me and saying you must know something, I don't … know anything.”
Mr Rummery was identified as being a friend of a person of interest in a coroner’s inquest held in Glen Innes and Armidale in 2009-2010.
Despite the inquest and never finding the remains of Mr Roach, Coroner Michael Holmes ruled Mr Roach died, but couldn’t say when, where or how.
In July, police and the state government announced a doubling of the reward for information with $100,000 on offer for any piece of information which leads to the discovery of the remains of Mr Roach.
Rummery was interviewed by detectives in 2005 as part of an original investigation.
Despite going missing in 1993, the missing person’s case was reopened by police in 2004 after a woman contacted Crime Stoppers on three occasions with allegations about Mr Roach’s killing, claiming she heard a conversation at Spring Vale - where Mr Roach lived.
Mr Rummery has spoken with investigators this year, but believes someone tried to blame him for “something he had nothing to do with”.
Fairfax Media revealed earlier this year that the main person of interest identified in a coroner’s inquest, Hamish Sproat, has never been interviewed by police.
New England Detective Sergeant Matt Crotty would not be drawn on any persons of interest in the current Strike Force Annan investigation.
“Detectives are continuing to speak with those people identified in previous investigations as well as new connections or associates who have come forward since the case was re-opened,” he told Fairfax Media.
“Detectives are determined to find out what happened to Mr Roach, there is a family who deserve to know what happened to their son and brother and we hope that the community will assist detectives to find the answers they need.”
In February, police raided a property on the outskirts of Armidale as part of the probe to find Mr Roach. The property had never been searched in any previous investigation and police have refused to detail the links or reasons for the crime scene warrant.
But Mr Rummery has admitted he did have connections to that property.
“Yeah I stayed out there and did a bit of fencing,” he said, confirming he told detectives earlier this year.
“Yeah he [Hamish] lived out there.”
Detective Sergeant Crotty said items of interest had been seized when the crime scene warrant was executed at a property but could not comment on the specifics of the operation or any links to it.
“Despite 22 years passing since Bill’s disappearance, new avenues of inquiry have been identified and are continually being followed,” he said.
“Investigators have spoken to several people as part of Strike Force Annan and we would urge anyone with information on Bill Roach’s disappearance, or who might be able to assist detectives, to come forward, no matter how big or small that piece of information is.”
Mr Rummery was friends with Mr Sproat but says he hasn’t “spoken to him for 15 years”, and says someone must know something about what happened to Mr Roach.
“I had nothing to do with it,” he said. “It's got nothing to do with me, I heard the stories, so I don't know."
Rummery has admitted he did go to the Spring Vale property where Bill Roach lived but denies he was there when a female witness allegedly told police there was a conversation between herself and Mr Sproat. This allegation is one of the reasons police reopened the case in 2004.
Mr Rummery denied being present at the conversation and said he didn't go to the homestead, just briefly to the property in 1994.
He said he “was only passing through Armidale” at the time and “had a quick chat for about five minutes and then I left”.
"I never went to that main house, look I did go to that property, right like I'm saying I did with my sister, we went there, we drove and only went to the first cottage ... and that's all and I had a quick chat for about five minutes and then I left," he said.
Fairfax Media has been unable to contact Mr Sproat, and it’s unknown if he has been questioned this year.
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.
“...My mind has thought a lot about what must have happened to him since he hasn’t been found. 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 Spring Vale,” he told the inquest.