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Whiskey Au Go Go mass murderer James Finch dead in London

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British migrant James Richard Finch, convicted of the murder of 15 revellers in Brisbane’s Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub bombing, has died in the UK, robbing a new inquest of a key witness.

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Finch was one of two men jailed for murder over the 1973 fire bombing that killed 15 people, but authorities have long suspected others were involved.

His death is a major blow for the new inquest due to begin later this year, and comes as a pre-inquest hearing gets under way in Brisbane on Thursday.

Finch has long been in the sights of Queensland authorities, who wanted him to return to Australia to be questioned about who else might have been involved.

“Counsel assisting was advised that since announcing the pre inquest conference, Mr James Finch has since died,” coroner Terry Ryan was told in the opening.

The only other person convicted of the club murders was John Andrew Stuart, and he died in 1979.

Finch spent his final years back in his homeland, after serving 15 years in Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol, before being deported.

Rumours have persisted about the involvement of others in the bombing, which saw two 23-litre drums of fuel thrown into the foyer of the club. It was Australia’s worst mass murder case until the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

The new inquest was ordered following the trial over the murders of Barbara McCulkin and her two daughters 44 years ago.

Vincent O’Dempsey and Garry Dubois were convicted of those murders. The trial was told O’Dempsey may have been motivated over fears McCulkin could have implicated him in the firebombing.

O’Dempsey will be a key witness at the inquest, and the coroner can compel him to answer questions.

The inquest, ordered by former attorney-general Yvette D’Ath in 2017, will be held later this year.

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