The scene of one of Gladstone’s clandestine drug labs, on Grayson Street, Gladstone.
The scene of one of Gladstone’s clandestine drug labs, on Grayson Street, Gladstone.

Murder trial unearths Gladstone's frightening drug trade

WHEN it comes to the drug world, there are no rules.

The recent murder trial of two Rockhampton drug addicts made this very clear, painting a scary picture of the insidious underground drug trade in Central Queensland, particularly Gladstone.

Just under the surface of the Harbour City, an evil lurks.

Money and drugs are exchanged in the dead of night, weekly "meth cooks" replace backyard barbecues and if you slip up, you better watch your back.

Luke McAuliffe learned this the hard way.

The young man's life was cut short when Kerryn Ann Young and Bradley David Hill delivered a lethal dose of heroin to his Gladstone home in 2010.

Within 10 minutes of injecting it, he was dead.

Luke was a meth addict, who at the time of his death was consuming almost $1000 worth of the substance a day.

While his death was certainly tragic and undeserving, Young and Hill's trial provided an insight into the dangerous world he inhabited.

Better judgement is clouded by a desperate desire to guarantee your next fix.

On the night of Luke's death, he knew people were out to get him.

He knew the risks of injecting a syringe he didn't prepare himself or see prepared.

But he did it anyway.

During the trial, the jury were often asked to accept that vulgar language, death threats, violence and dysfunctional relationships were "normal" to these people.

Hill and Young, Luke's longtime mates, were the last people he would have expected to hand him his death.

But in this world, even your best friend can soon become your worst enemy. 

A woman charged with a Gladstone murder is taken into custody by police at the Rockhampton watchhouse.
A woman charged with a Gladstone murder is taken into custody by police at the Rockhampton watchhouse.

In court, dishevelled witnesses struggled to recount events, claiming they were "off their heads" 24 hours a day, seven days a week for years at a time.

The effects of substance abuse were paraded before the jury - psychosis, relationship breakdowns, battles of child custody, 20-something year olds who looked more like they were 40.

And while it seems Gladstone is fast becoming the centre of the region's drug trade, the reaches of its network are wide.

Many of the self-confessed drug addicts who took to the witness stand were from Rockhampton.

Some witnesses were hand-cuffed, brought in from prison for the day.

Luke's death led to a police operation targetting the illegal drug trade in Gladstone, which started in February, 2011.

The operation, codenamed Juliet Hoodoo, concluded in June, 2011 and saw five people charged with 11 drug related offences.

However, the operation has resulted in ongoing investigations.

Even as the shocking details of Luke's murder were revealed, the trafficking of dangerous drugs continued to peddle its misery in Central Queensland.

Two men were charged with drug trafficking after their vehicle was intercepted in Gladstone on June 5.

The same day, Young and Hill were found guilty of Luke's murder in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton.

The pair were sentenced to life imprisonment. It was a small victory for the Queensland Police, for Luke's family and for the Central Queensland community.



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