Reward Offered in Bid to Crack Decades-Old Cold Case

‘Almost 31 years after my father’s death, it would mean everything to know what happened and have some closure.’
Reward Offered in Bid to Crack Decades-Old Cold Case
Police in Queensland, Australia on June 7, 2020. (Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

A A$500,000 (US$334,440) reward has been offered to help solve the suspected murder of a 71-year-old north Queensland man last seen more than 30 years ago.

Leslie Ralph Ball lived with family at Townsville but was buying a property, with settlement due on April 19, 1993.

He was last seen on April 18. The next month he was reported missing.

Mr. Ball’s car was found abandoned at the Townsville train station in May 1993.

The World War II veteran’s trailer and possessions were discovered burnt out in nearby bushland two months later.

A police investigation revealed a train ticket from Townsville to Brisbane was booked in Mr. Ball’s name and collected on April 19, 1993.

But police believe the signature on the ticket was a forgery and no one sat in the allocated train seat.

Mr. Ball’s daughter Le-Chelle said she hoped the reward would lead to answers.

“Almost 31 years after my father’s death, it would mean everything to know what happened and have some closure,” she said.

“We ask anyone who knew my father, if you know what happened to him, if you know something, speak to police.”

A coronial inquest was held from 1994-95 and was reopened in 2022.

At the reopened inquest, family friend Brian Murphy claimed Mr. Ball’s son-in-law David Phillips confessed in the 1990s to killing the 71-year-old.

He said Mr. Phillips - who died in 2015 - told him he bashed Mr. Ball at his north Queensland home then found someone who “looked remarkably like his father-in-law”.

Mr. Phillips recruited the lookalike so a neighbour thought it was his father-in-law when they saw them going back to the Townsville house, the inquest was told.

Mr. Phillips told him they took the body away in a truck before he killed the lookalike man and buried him with Mr. Ball, Mr. Murphy said.

No forensic evidence was found by police at the Townsville home to back up Mr. Murphy’s claim.

Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Knight told the reopened inquest he believed Mr. Phillips was involved in Mr. Ball’s disappearance and had “constructed lies” with his wife Leanne.

Leanne Phillips has denied any involvement in her father’s disappearance.

Coroner Stephanie Gallagher last year handed down her findings from the inquest, saying she did not accept a submission the evidence amounted to a strong circumstantial case.

She said there was insufficient evidence to make conclusive findings other than Mr. Ball was dead and  “another person or persons unknown may have been involved in his death.”