Police appeal for information in two ‘gay bashing’ cold cases in Adelaide


south australia gay hate crime victims David Saint and Robert Woodland
Left to right: David Saint and Robert Woodland. Photo: SA Police

Police say advances in DNA technology may provide answers to two unsolved murder cases in South Australia that are believed to have been the result of gay bashings.

On April 16, 1991, David Saint, who was commonly known as John, was bashed to death in Adelaide’s south parklands.

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In 2004 the body of 36-year-old Robert Mark Woodland was found in the parklands – about 50m west of Sir Lewis Cohen Drive, again the victim of a serious assault.

In both cases, the detectives investigating have acknowledged the men may have been attacked due to their sexuality, with the area a known meeting spot for gay men.

Detective Superintendent Des Bray, the officer in charge of the SA Police Major Crime Investigation Branch, appealed for anyone with information about these murders, or other crimes in that area which could be related, to contact police.

“They will see that they will be treated differently to how they may have been in the past. Times have changed,” he said.

Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Justin Thompson said some material from the area of Mr Saint’s death was going to be subjected to further forensic testing due to scientific advancements in this area.

“The brick that we believe he was assaulted with will be the main item,” he said.

“Initially robbery was thought to be a possible motive in this case, but given he still had his wallet with him, with $300 cash in it, that makes us shy away from that a little.

“There were reports at the time of ‘gay bashings’ around the south parklands, so that would be our strongest line in relation to motive.

“We know that some of the men who would frequent this area were married. In turn that means one of the issues for us is that because of the nature of this activity a lot of incidents that we are aware of anecdotally weren’t formally reported to police.”

Three men were seen assaulting, then chasing Mr Saint across the road before continuing their attack on him.

Two people who tried to intervene were told to mind their own business and only came forward to police the next day when they became aware there had been a murder.

“We believe these men would have boasted to others of their activities and there may have also been people who wanted to come forward, but who were put off by the media attention at the time,” Detective Sergeant Thompson said.

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“I would urge those people to speak with us – it has never been acceptable to do what these men did to Mr Saint.”

Detective Sergeant Cameron Georg, also a specialist Major Crime investigator, echoed that appeal for public assistance in relation to the unsolved murder of Robert Woodland in 2004.

Mr Woodland was found dead in the parklands on December 8, 2004, with a post-mortem determining he had been the victim of a serious assault that had taken place several days earlier at that location.

His ATM card was used on Gouger St in the early hours of December 5 – after his death – and other items were stolen from him.

Detective Sergeant Georg said the fact Mr Woodland had been lying in the open for several days during which time there had been rain and heat had hindered the forensic side of the investigation, but DNA had been recovered which was believed to be linked to the offender.

A taxi driver reported to police that he picked up another man that night who had been the victim of an assault, but investigators have never been able to identify that victim to establish if the incidents were linked.

Both unsolved cases are being investigated as part of Operation Persist, in a bid to resolve some of the state’s outstanding murder and suspicious missing persons cases.

Police say rewards of up to $200,000 may be paid by the State Government to anyone who provides information that leads to a conviction.

Anyone with information has been asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report online. Callers can remain anonymous.

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