Murdered Goodna schoolgirl
Queensland Police have confirmed they are seeking to force the removal of three images depicting murdered schoolgirl Leanne Holland's corpse from a website dedicated to gore.
But officers admit they may be powerless to shut down the site, believed to be hosted from the Netherlands.
Today it was discovered the photographs of Leanne were first published in a textbook, and that images of the crime scene were distributed to students working on the release of Graham Stafford, who served 15 years in jail for the murder before his conviction was quashed in December 2009.
Leanne's body was found near her family's Goodna home three days after she went missing in September 1991.
brisbanetimes.com.au revealed yesterday that images showing the 12-year-old's half-naked corpse had on Wednesday been posted online.
Police today confirmed they would do their best to have the material taken down.
"Uploading such material is abhorrent to most people, but it is not necessarily illegal," police said in a statement.
"We are doing all we can to have it removed."
Initial investigations by the Australian Communications and Media Authority have revealed the website is believed to be hosted in the Netherlands.
"While the ACMA can direct the removal of prohibited content from a website that is hosted in Australia, the ACMA does not have powers to direct the removal of online content that is hosted outside Australia," a spokeswoman said.
The man responsible for first publishing the images in his textbook, American criminal profiler Brent Turvey, said he was dismayed at the abuse of the images.
"This is the risk you run when you try to teach people using actual case material," Mr Turvey said of his book, Criminal Profiling: An Introduction To Behavioural Evidence Analysis.
"It's all very instructing to the professional mind, but to the criminal mind it is salacious."
Mr Turvey was then used as an expert by Graeme Crowley and Bond University criminologist Paul Wilson when the pair co-authored their book, Who Killed Leanne?.
The pair worked for years to clear the name of Mr Stafford, the former boyfriend of Leanne's sister.
An academic at Bond today confirmed images of Leanne's body had been distributed as part of the university's Miscarriage of Justice Program, which was focused on securing Mr Stafford's appeal.
"Only small groups of students were given access to the photos. They had to sign for them and then they gave them back at the end of the semester," assistant professor Robyn Lincoln said.
"They were students actively involved in Graham Stafford's appeal. I assure you they worked professionally."
Mr Turvey, who lectured as an adjunct professor at Bond earlier this year, said he was confident no one in academic circles would have leaked the photos to the gore website.
"These people [behind the website] pore back over medical texts, anatomical texts and they will pull out photographs," he said.
"It's very sick, trophy-collecting behaviour, not unlike a serial murderer."
Mr Turvey said the photos' appearance on the internet would not deter him from publishing crime scene images for educational purposes in the future.
"To teach you have to show; if you can't show, the lesson is lost," he said.
"People will always find a way to get access to these photos, because they are so inappropriately excited by this material.
"In the context of a professional text it is not obscenity; in the context of a website dedicated to this stuff, it's absolutely obscenity."
Under Section 228 of the Queensland Criminal Code, `Obscene publications and exhibitions', a person can be jailed for up to five years for the publishing of "any obscene picture, photograph, drawing, or model, or any other object tending to corrupt morals."
Independent senator Nick Xenophon said the appearance of the photographs reinforced the need for an online ombudsman.
"If the ombudsman liaises with other governments, like the Netherlands where this site is apparently based, then I think there needs to be international protocols in terms of offensive material," he said.
"This is not about censorship - no one could argue that freedom of speech would in any way be compromised if we don't see the photos of a 12-year-old girl who's been murdered."
Mr Xenophon said those responsible for publishing the photographs needed to be tracked down.
"For anyone to view these photos, we're dealing with a bunch of very disturbed individuals, but what's most concerning is the impact this could have on the family," he said.