No justice for Shandee, but the next best thing
Mackay woman Shandee Blackburn's likely killer is her ex-boyfriend, who is still on the loose after a jury acquitted him, according to explosive coronial inquest findings.
Central Queensland coroner David O'Connell yesterday handed down his findings into Ms Blackburn's death, saying the 23-year-old was most likely killed by her violent ex-boyfriend John Peros, who was in 2016 sensationally acquitted of her murder by a Supreme Court jury.
Under double jeopardy laws, Peros can only be retried if new and compelling evidence is uncovered.
Mr O'Connell said Ms Blackburn "died due to injuries sustained in an incident involving violence with Mr John Peros, who used a bladed instrument".
"I realise and appreciate the gravity and ramifications of my findings," Mr O'Connell said.
"There is no other possible reasonable explanation I can reach on the evidence to persuade me to come to a different or an open conclusion."
Ms Blackburn was stabbed more than 20 times as she walked home from her hospitality job in Mackay about midnight on February 9, 2013.
Despite the findings, Mr O'Connell found there was "no new or fresh and compelling evidence" that could see Peros recharged.
But Ms Blackburn's heartbroken mother Vicki said it meant a great deal to have Peros named as her daughter's likely killer.
She said her daughter was a victim of domestic violence.
"Before, I was just a grieving mum who was not happy with the way things played out," she said.
"Now I have a platform - I can work towards making sure it doesn't happen again.
"As awful as it is, and as much as this is not justice, it is still so much to get to this step.
"And he has to live with the fact that he has been named (by the coroner)."
Vicki Blackburn said everyone in Mackay deserved to know what happened to Shandee that night.
"We've known it for so long and to finally have that information out there just means the world to us right now," she said.
On the night of her death Ms Blackburn, 23, had nearly finished the 1.2km walk home from the Harrup Park Country Club, where she worked as a waitress, when she was set upon outside a block of units.
"What is evident is that Ms Blackburn was taken by surprise by the attack," Mr O'Connell said yesterday.
A pathologist gave evidence during the inquest that Ms Blackburn was "attacked very viciously and with some anger" and her fatal wounds "had the appearance of frenzied stabbing".
The inquest heard Peros had boxed at a national level and a former coach said he had "fast hands, and was quick when throwing punches".
Peros' lawyers argued throughout his criminal trial that Ms Blackburn was the victim of an ice-fuelled robbery gone wrong, involving another man who was not Peros.
Ms Blackburn dated Peros for six months in 2011 and for a short time in 2012 before the pair split.
The once amateur boxer repeatedly denied any involvement in her death and told the coronial inquiry last year he could not remember where he was on the night of the killing.
The inquest heard a person was spotted on CCTV hiding in the bushes and later seen running toward the same street - Boddington St - where Ms Blackburn's body was found.
Mr O'Connell said Peros was the man who had waited outside a Girl Guides hut for Ms Blackburn to walk by before he attacked her.
The coroner said he had no doubt a white ute also caught on nearby CCTV was Peros' vehicle.
The court heard Peros also lived 700m from Boddington St, where the young woman died.
In his findings, the coroner said it was a widely-held fact that Peros hated Ms Blackburn and wanted to harm her following their break-up.
Mr O'Connell said he accepted evidence of Liam Aleman, who attended an Australia Day party in the weeks before Ms Blackburn was killed.
Mr Aleman told the inquiry Peros allegedly told him: "I hate her and would love to stab the c--t."
The court heard Peros sought medical treatment after his break-up with Ms Blackburn, which suggested he had lingering issues.
Mr O'Connell said it could not be "inferred that Mr John Peros is guilty of any offence, nor civilly liable for something".
The two-week inquest heard that there were 13 persons of interest in the case.
Mr O'Connell also recommended upgrades to CCTV and lighting in high-risk areas in Queensland and transport from late-night venues as part of his findings.
"CCTV is a significant investigative tool, and this inquest has shown how CCTV can solve mysteries, which is important to give answers to families, and to dispel community rumour and innuendo," he said.
Vicki Blackburn said Shandee's death had led to the creation of a register of CCTV cameras in Mackay so police could quickly secure evidence in the event of a crime.
"Without that CCTV, there would be little to go on," she said.
"That's how vital it is."
Originally published as No justice for Shandee, but the next best thing