Convicted killer Ernest Arthur Knibb, 71, eyes parole after 25 years behind bars
A PENSIONER serving life for a murder that mesmerised a nation will next week state his case to be released from prison.
The Cairns Post has learnt that Ernest Arthur Knibb, 71, applied for parole last month, 25 years after he was found guilty of killing Sydney writer Miranda Downes at Buchan Point, north of Cairns.
His case is expected to be heard on Friday next week.
Knibb, who is serving life imprisonment in the Capricornia Correctional Centre near Rockhampton, was eligible to apply for parole in September, 2000, but it is not known whether he previously made an attempt.
During his trial, he insisted publicly he was innocent of the crime, which made national headlines because of Knibb’s eccentric, abrasive demeanour and the victim’s rising prominence in the television industry.
"He was one of those blokes that everyone loves to hate," former Cairns CIB detective sergeant Bruce Gray, who arrested Knibb, said.
"He’s obviously not a very nice person – his nature doesn’t help him at all."
Ms Downes, a 35-year-old screenwriter who penned the mini-series Fields of Fire and Undercover, arrived in Cairns for a holiday on August 3, 1985.
She was driven to a friend’s house at Buchan Point, where she went for a jog.
Her friend alerted police when she had not arrived back by dinner time and a search was launched late that night.
Early the next morning, police found her running shoes at the base of a hill and a police dog tracked down her tracksuit pants in a drain.
Her naked body was discovered at the water’s edge of the beach soon after.
An autopsy and other evidence, including tyre tracks on the sand and foreshore, concluded that Ms Downes had been run down by a vehicle, stripped, "possibly" sexually assaulted, partially choked and left unconscious to drown in the rising tide.
Knibb, who had been staying nearby, was nominated as a suspect early in the investigation because he was seen in the area around the time Ms Downes was murdered and drove a Ford Bronco four-wheel-drive, a vehicle that forensic officers believed was capable of causing injuries consistent with those sustained by Ms Downes.
There was not enough evidence to warrant a charge until Knibb approached current affairs show 60 Minutes to do a "colour" story.
While re-enacting his movements at Buchan Point with reporter Ian Leslie, Knibb made conflicting comments.
Mr Leslie alerted police before the interview was aired and Knibb was charged with murder.
The pensioner, who walked with the aid of a cane after injuring his leg in a car crash, pleaded not guilty but was sentenced to life in September, 1987.
Mr Gray said the investigation could only muster circumstantial evidence.
"It was obviously very frustrating because there was a lack of direct evidence," he said.
"The water had washed over her body.
"The scene was obviously disturbed.
"In the end it was a great prosecution, great teamwork."
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Parole bid: Ernest Arthur Knibb, 71, was convicted of killing Sydney scriptwriter Miranda Downes at Buchan Point on the day she arrived in Cairns for a holiday in 1985.