Voice from the grave: Partial remains of missing Qld woman expose killer’s lies

Fifteen years after she was killed, partial remains of missing Queensland woman Dulcie Birt have been discovered in a flood plain on the southern outskirts of Brisbane. The details of her final hours in 2009 at the hands of killer Alwyn Gwilliams, a serial violent abuser of women, has eluded her family and police.


Mar 25, 2024, updated Mar 25, 2024
A teenage Dulcie Birt (Image, Supplied)

A teenage Dulcie Birt (Image, Supplied)

To passers-by of the small private gathering at a Toowoomba cemetery on February 2, nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

To the mourners standing graveside it was the end of a tortuous 15-year wait to be allowed the rite of passage to say goodbye to a mother, sister, and friend.

They were robbed of that right by the man who took the life of Dulcie Isobel Birt on the night of October 21, 2009 and then repeatedly lied about how he disposed of her body.

Alwyn John Gwilliams’ deception has caused endless anguish for the 31-year-old’s family and her three surviving sons.

Older sister Libby, who asked to be identified by her first name only, said Ms Birt was a beautiful person who loved her sons, camping, and singer Tracey Chapman.

“We were both pregnant at the same time and Dulcie couldn’t wait to be a mother…

“He (Gwilliams) took everything from Dulcie’s kids. He took away their mother growing up. Her oldest son was a teenager when she was killed.

“The boys have missed out on birthdays, Christmases, Mother’s Day…milestones that a normal kid goes through – school, celebrations. Dulcie missed it and so did her kids.

“Then not being able to have her body made it twice as bad because there’s been no closure, no resting place. We had nowhere to light a candle for her birthday or put flowers down for Mother’s Day,” Libby told InQueensland.

Libby said she was disheartened Gwilliams was convicted of manslaughter instead of murder.

Remains Discovered

In April 2022, a bushwalker discovered a bone while exploring the muddy banks of Oxley Creek near Paradise Road, Willawong on Brisbane’s southern outskirts.

They contacted police and it landed in the hands of Acacia Ridge CIB Detective acting Sergeant Andrew Brown.

Police, QPS divers and SES extensively searched surrounding areas but no other remains were found – the area had been flooded several times.

Detective acting Sergeant Brown sought the approval of Queensland’s State Coroner and QPS to forward the samples to the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

The AFP’s National Unidentified Human Remains Program conducted further tests which identified the bone as remains of Ms Birt on October17 last year.

That day, Libby received a phone call from (Detective Inspector Heath McQueen who led the investigation into Ms Birt’s death.

He asked if he could visit as he had something new to discuss about her sister’s investigation with Libby and Ms Birt’s sons – the next of kin.

“I cannot thank that man enough for what he has carried for the last 15 years; he has kept on top of it. He has never forgotten Dulcie. He also helped us writing letters to Victims Assist to help us cover the funeral costs,’’ Libby said.

“I think it’s haunted him for the last 15 years, too. Heath has gone above and beyond for our family.’’

Detective Inspector McQueen said that when he learned Ms Birt’s partial remains had been recovered, he felt relief for her sons.

“Everyone matters….at the end of the day everybody’s got a right not to be subjected to violence or have their life taken from them.  Dulcie had three kids who I knew were going to be affected by this while they were young and for the rest of their lives. It would have been hard for them understand everything going on around them.

“I knew one day, when they were older, they would want to know what happened. They would want to know if we conducted a thorough investigation…I wanted to be able to look them in the eye and tell them we did everything we could possibly to apprehend the perpetrator and locate their mother,’’ he said.

Detective Inspector McQueen said investigators also wanted to lay to rest the rumours that have circulated since Ms Birt’s demise, including claims her body was disposed of in a piggery.

“This is the stuff that’s been thrown at them as kids growing up,’’ he said.

The location of Ms Birt’s partial remains were further proof Gwilliams’ fabricated a story that he disposed her body at Jacob’s Well, he said.

“His refusal to reveal the location of Dulcie would have revealed her cause of death and implicated Gwilliams for murder,’’ Detective Inspector McQueen said.


A dogged police investigation, court case and coronial inquest could not force Gwiliams to admit the location of Ms Birt’s remains.

Some insight into the possible fate Ms Birt suffered in her final hours could be gleaned by Gwilliams’ “substantial” and violent criminal history in NSW and Queensland.

Partial remains of Dulcie Birt were recovered from Oxley Creek bank, west of Paradise Road, Willlawong. Her killer Alwyn Gwilliams (inset)

He was jailed for five years in 2003 in NSW for the brutal assault and torture of his former girlfriend at a quarry. Gwilliams stripped the woman naked, tied up her up before beating her while she lay on the ground, and squeezed her throat until she fainted. He then dragged the woman by her hair and placed her head under the front tyre of his car.

His relationships with women were characterised by domestic violence and Ms Birt was not spared.

Gwilliams had known Ms Birt for about 15 years before he began a sexual affair with her in June 2009, around the same time his defacto wife was injured in a car crash.

Life for Ms Birt was surviving each day. She was in and out of state care from when she was two-years-old and a single mum for the first time at 14. She struggled with a serious heroin addiction and was often on the wrong side of the law or in jail.

“A good day for her? The Goodna Footy Club on a Friday for dinner , drinks and the pokies. Dulcie also used to love going camping, fishing and having a few drinks around a bonfire,’’ Libby said.

Prior to her relationship with Gwilliams, her life was back on track.

Ms Birt had rented a house with one of her sons, then 16, and a boarder on Old Ipswich Road at Riverview .

Witnesses who saw her injuries told police that in the four months she was with Gwilliams, he beat, belittled and controlled her. He was an abuser who masqueraded as her protector and provider. Ms Birt confided in her friend that Gwilliams tied her up and left in her the woods to punish her. More disturbingly, Ms Birt told a neighbour she miscarried after Gwilliams punched her in the stomach because he believed it was not his child.

On the night of her disappearance, Wednesday October 21, 2009, Gwilliams was overheard threatening to cut off Ms Birt’s head before he  forced her into his car

Ms Birt was never seen again and Gwillams’ deception about that night began.

Her son reported her missing when she missed a regular meeting with his two younger brothers.

Gwilliams visited her home, feigning  concern to her son that he had not heard from her. He texted her phone for days, pretending she was alive.

Four days after Ms Birt’s disappearance , Gwilliams gave police his first statement. He claimed dropped Ms Birt back to the house after 10pm and knew nothing of her whereabouts.

The inconsistencies in Gwilliams’ version of events expanded and his quickly hiring a lawyer, convinced detectives their missing person investigation would become a homicide probe.

Extensive searches were conducted for Ms Birt’s body including police draining two major waterways on top of uncut mine sites using specialist help from police divers and the Australian Navy.

Following Ms Birt’s disappearance, Gwilliams’ also attempted to destroy evidence, texting his family to burn his car. However, police seized his vehicle before it was torched.

The vehicle became another key piece of evidence that contradicted Gwilliams’ claims Ms Birt was killed in a high-speed, off-road crash.

Detective Inspector McQueen said an engineer, a collision analyst and forensic crash unit police deemed the damage on the car was minimal and was caused by a speed of no more than four kilometres an hour.

Six weeks after Ms Birt’s disappearance, Gwilliams provided another false version of events that he and Ms Birt had been drinking heavily when they decided to go for a drive and swim. He then lost control of the car and hit a tree at high speed.

Gwilliams’ six different versions of events contradicted the mounting evidence uncovered by the police investigation – this included CCTV, more than 200 witness statements, phone and bank records ,and forensic expert examinations. Some witnesses were also the subject of coercive hearings before the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Around December, police learned Gwilliam’s mother had told a friend that her son had confessed to her on the night of Ms Birt’s death and that he had killed her in an off-road car crash.

Following the revelation, Gwilliams did two field interviews at Riverview and Jacobs Well with investigators. He failed to provide any details or location of the car crash claiming he was intoxicated on the night.

At Jacobs Well, he claimed he disposed of Ms Birt’s body after he waded through muddy mangroves until he was waist-deep in water. However Detective Inspector McQueen said tidal experts proved his claims were not possible.

Gwilliams offered police little detail in what routes he took from Riverview to Jacobs Well.

“He was lying. He couldn’t say a direct route because it might give us an opportunity to prove via camera CCTV or other means that he hadn’t gone that way.

“For the entirety of the investigation he was deceitful,’’ Detective Inspector McQueen said.

Ultimately Gwilliams stuck to his claim he accidentally killed Ms Birt in a drunken off-road, high-speed car crash at Riverview. He panicked and left her body at Jacobs Well late at night on October 21, 2009.

In February 2010, Detective Inspector McQueen charged Gwilliams with Ms Birt’s murder and interfering with her corpse.

On the eve of his 2013 trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court, the Crown accepted Gwilliams’ guilty plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Justice John Byrne jailed him for 10 years and declared him a serious violent offender.

“Mr Gwilliams, I am persuaded, assaulted Ms Birt. But his lies and the concealment of the body mean that the nature of the assault remains unknown,” he said.

Evidence from Gwilliams’ expert defence witness at the trial cast doubt on his claims about how Ms Birt died in the crash.

In 2014, a coronial inquest also found it was more than likely that Gwilliams caused Ms Birt’s death rather than a car crash.

Queensland Coroner John Lock found Gwilliams concocted the story he told police to confuse their investigation and prevent the discovery of Ms Birt’s body in case it revealed the truth about her death.

Gwilliams was released from jail in late 2019. In 2020 he was charged with the grievous bodily harm of a woman in Mackay but the charges were withdrawn before he was tried in the District Court the following year.


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