'It's been a long eight years': bereaved father's relief at Naden guilty plea
The father of Lateesha Nolan, who fugitive Malcolm Naden has pleaded guilty to murdering, has spoken of the emotional toll of the long wait for justice.
I kept seeing Lateesha everywhere.
''Nothing's going to bring my daughter back, but at least now we don't have to go through the ordeal of a court case,'' Mick Peet said.
Malcolm Naden shortly after his arrest at Rawdon Vale, west of Gloucester. Photo: Supplied
The infamous former bushland fugitive pleaded guilty on Friday to the murder of two young women in 2005, the attempted murder of a police officer and all other charges against him.
Mr Peet said he believed Naden should never see freedom again.
‘‘We took our kids to a theme park yesterday and I kept seeing Lateesha everywhere, remembering how we used to take her there. It’s still hard to believe she’s actually gone," Mr Peet said in his first media interview following Naden's guilty plea.
Police search the area south of Dubbo in April last year for the body of Lateesha Nolan. Photo: Simon Chamberlain
Exactly one year to the day that Naden was captured by police after almost seven years on the run, the skilled knifeman has admitted in the NSW Supreme Court that he killed Ms Nolan and 24-year-old Kristy Scholes.
Ms Nolan disappeared in January 2005 and has not been seen since. Ms Scholes was found dead in the bedroom of the Naden family home in Dubbo in June 2005, a discovery that coincided with Naden's flight into the bush.
The former most-wanted man has also pleaded guilty to shooting with intent to murder a police officer on December 7, 2011, as police closed in on him in isolated bushland at Nowendoc.
He has also pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated indecent assault on a 15-year-old girl at Dubbo in 2004, and a string of break and enter offences while on the run.
He will be sentenced on April 24.
Having previously suggested that he would plead not guilty to at least some of the offences on the grounds of mental illness, Naden, in a firm voice, pleaded guilty to a string of more than 14 separate offences.
The auntie of Ms Scholes cried as Naden pleaded guilty to the murder of her niece.
Outside the court, Mr Peet described the guilty pleas as a ‘‘relief ... a good outcome’’.
''It's been a long eight years and I haven't had much sleep, but I reckon I might sleep for the next eight."
He said he hoped one day police would find his daughter's remains. ''We'd love to be able to lay her to rest, have a memorial for Ms Nolan - that'd be part of the closure.''
Naden was the target of a high-profile police hunt, having spent 2466 nights in the wilderness to evade police, before his midnight capture on March 22, 2012.
Officers from Strike Force Durkin learnt he was sheltering in abandoned properties in the Barrington Tops and set up motion sensors in 48 houses, one of which he triggered as he made a dinner of sausages, eggs and potatoes in a ramshackle cabin.
As he was arrested, he told police: "Thank God it's over. I've had enough."
His years on the run, during which he was described by police as a "master bushman", started just as dramatically.
Naden, a former skinner and boner at Dubbo abattoir, disappeared after the body of a cousin's partner, Kristy Scholes, was found in his family home in June 2005.
Police had earlier linked Naden to the disappearance of Ms Nolan and the indecent assault of a 15-year-old girl.
Just before Christmas 2005, a Naden sighting in Dubbo's Western Plains Zoo sent the park into lockdown, with 60 police, sniffer dogs and a helicopter searching for him in 41-degree heat.
Naden eluded investigators, but they found a meticulously butchered kangaroo carcass in the roof of an empty cottage, and believed he was surviving on fruit and stolen food, while being helped by contacts.
Naden, who was using skills he learnt while camping and fishing as a child, was spotted throughout 2006 and 2007 in the bush at Grawin, near Lightning Ridge, and an Aboriginal mission in Condobolin.
At the time, police announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, which is different from the usual rewards offered upon the conviction of a wanted criminal. It was the first such reward announced since the hunt for the Kelly gang after robberies and murders in 1878.
In the following years, police tracked Naden through northern NSW via a string of break-ins where food and warm clothes were stolen, but valuables were left behind.
The missing items included more than 60 bottles of beer, toothbrushes, five kilograms of raw cashews, talcum powder and a book called Dreams.
Property owners also reported that six pairs of binoculars, a semi-automatic rifle, knives and a solar-powered radio were stolen.
As the close encounters with Naden continued in 2011, police upped the reward for his arrest to $100,000 in February and $250,000 in December.
Three months before his capture, Naden shot a 33-year-old police officer in the shoulder near a remote camp site near Nowendoc.
News of his arrest in March 2012 made headlines around the world, with headlines like "The new Ned Kelly", "Long lost convict", "Martial arts expert" and "Bad bush tucker man".
At the time, Mr Peet said those kinds of descriptions were hurtful because he still didn't know what happened to his daughter.
"We'll never lose that pain of losing a loved one, but having lost a loved one and not knowing where that loved one is – that's a pain that's pretty hard to describe.
"You have so many thoughts [about] what could have happened, but you just don't know the truth.