Police dig as ex-fugitive talks

23:00, Apr 12 2012
HUNTING: Police search the banks of the Macquarie River at Butler's Falls, south of Dubbo, for the remains of Lateesha Nolan.

Behind the walls of Australia's Goulburn "Supermax" prison, former fugitive Malcolm Naden has been talking.

As recently as Tuesday, police visited the accused murderer in his cell and heard enough to send them to a popular country picnic spot, digging for his cousin, mother-of-four Lateesha Nolan, who has not been seen for seven years.

After his arrest three weeks ago, Naden was charged with killing Kristy Scholes, a 24-year-old mother-of-two who was found strangled in his bedroom six months after Nolan went missing.

Naden had fled and evaded police for 2466 days and nights.

During his time on the run, the former abattoir worker was repeatedly named by police as the prime suspect in the disappearance of Nolan in January 2005. Her body has never been found.

Naden has not been charged over the disappearance, but Nolan's family were yesterday hoping that, with the latest breakthrough, that situation would change.

Yesterday her father, Mick Peet, said he got "a tingly feeling all through" when police told him of the development.

"It's been seven years of wanting to know what happened to my daughter since she disappeared," he said.

"So we're just hoping that today will be the start of a bit of closure for me and the family."

It is understood a lucid Naden has struck up a rapport with two Strike Force Durkin investigators, leading them to the Butlers Falls picnic area about five kilometres outside Dubbo.

On the banks of the Macquarie River, the picnic area is popular with Dubbo residents both as a place for a family lunch and an isolated spot for late-night drinking parties and rendezvous.

Even Peet, who now lives in Bundaberg, Queensland, recalled spending many nights with friends on the banks of the river.

By yesterday afternoon, what looked like a targeted slab of earth and river silt about 40 metres long had been lifted by excavators.

The work has been made more difficult by the 2010 Christmas floods that poured more than 15 metres of water over the digging zone, leaving tonnes of silt. It has also raised questions of what could have been dislodged and carried downstream.

The area has long been a place of interest to police. As the Macquarie River meanders towards Dubbo, it passes within a kilometre of the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, an open area zoo where Naden was known to have hidden after Scholes's body was discovered and where he was first able to escape police.

Last October a wallet belonging to Nolan was found on a riverbank between Butlers Falls and the Dubbo town centre.

In 2005 Nolan's car was found abandoned next to a Tamworth Street footbridge, the first crossing as the river snakes into town where people can access South Dubbo and West Dubbo.

Police declined to comment on the investigation.

- Sydney Morning Herald