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26 September 2011

Cleared killer Graham Stafford visited crematorium where Goodna schoolgirl Leanne Holland was laid to rest

GRAHAM Stafford, the man cleared of killing Goodna schoolgirl Leanne Holland, has controversially visited the crematorium where she was laid to rest - 20 years after her murder.

Mr Stafford, whose murder conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in late 2009, said he had wanted to pay his respects to his ex-girlfriend's little sister.

"Enough time has gone by," said Mr Stafford, who was released on parole in 2006 after 15 years in jail, then freed after an appeal decision two years ago.

"It was nice to be able to say I'd done that," he said.

"I wasn't at the funeral and that played on my mind."

Leanne Holland, 12, who went missing on September 23, 1991, was brutally bashed and her tortured and partly naked body was found dumped in bushland about 10km from her home.

Mr Stafford, then the boyfriend of Leanne's sister, Melissa, was charged with the schoolgirl's murder, although he always maintained his innocence.

Although the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial, last year the Crown decided not to proceed with any charges and Queensland Police appointed a detective from NSW to head a new investigation into Leanne Holland's murder.

The review was to look at new forensic testing not available two decades ago, investigate new leads, re-interview witnesses and examine the original police handling of the case, police said.

"We won't hold back on anything and we will let the public know the outcome," Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson promised in May last year.

Mr Stafford, 48, who is now working for a hardware company and has a new girlfriend, said he had good and bad days as he tried to put his jail time behind him and rebuild his life.

"Some days things trigger the emotions and you feel a bit down," he said.

He still hopes for the day that police find out who was responsible for Leanne Holland's murder and that person is arrested.

"It is time he (the killer) was caught and brought to justice - for my sake, for Leanne's sake, for the Holland family," Mr Stafford told The Sunday Mail last year.

Mr Stafford still wants to seek compensation, but he is awaiting the outcome of the police investigation before pursuing a claim.

Queensland Police said the case was the subject of a thorough, ongoing review and they could not comment.

www.thesundaymail.com.au

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