Graeme McNeil was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping to dispose of the body of Robert Rowlingson.
Graeme McNeil was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping to dispose of the body of Robert Rowlingson. File

Jailed teacher was 'KKK member'

A DARK new twist has emerged in the murder of Robert Rowlingson, with The Australian newspaper revealing that the man involved in disposing of his body is a senior member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Graeme Frederick McNeil, 46, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact of murder in helping Anthony Rowlingson, then 16, dump the body of his brother Robert Rowlingson, 19, over a bridge into a waterway on the Clifton/Leyburn Road between Pittsworth and Clifton on Sunday, July 15, 2007.

McNeil also pleaded guilty to making two false statements to police in the weeks after the murder when he had lied in an attempt to distance himself from any involvement in the matter.

Justice Anthe Philippides said McNeil's behaviour was "bewildering"; given he had no previous criminal history at all, was highly regarded in the community and was a minister with the Cross of Christ Ministry.

McNeil was sentenced to eight years jail with a recommendation he be eligible to apply for release on parole from May 12, 2013, after he had served three years.

Crown prosecutor Phil McCarthy said Rowlingson's parents John and Wendell Rowlingson, who were in court yesterday for the sentencing, were left with a feeling of "betrayal"; by the actions of McNeil who had been a respected teacher and role model for their son Anthony.

Related: Parents forced to serve life sentence

The Rowlingsons still struggled to comprehend McNeil's involvement in the tragedy which had destroyed the family unit, he said.

Mr McCarthy said the relationship between McNeil and the teenage killer was beyond the normal student/teacher relationship which had been the case between McNeil and many students at the school where he taught for six years.

A maths and physics teacher, McNeil had taken on the role of watching over students with particular problems and he was known to give his mobile phone number and email address to students who could contact him outside school hours if the need arose.

Rowlingson had called McNeil's mobile phone several times that afternoon as he drove around Pittsworth in Robert Rowlingson's car with his brother's body in the boot.

Earlier that afternoon, Anthony Rowlingson had taken a .243 calibre rifle from his father's gun safe, walked up behind his brother who was working on his car and shot him in the back of the head.

When Robert Rowlingson fell to the ground, his brother shot him again before using a forklift to load the body into the boot of the car.

Having received a number of calls from the teenager, McNeil had eventually agreed to meet the student in Pittsworth after Rowlingson told him he "had a problem";.

Meeting outside a Pittsworth bakery, Rowlingson had told McNeil the "problem"; was in the boot and told him to get into the car.

McNeil later told police Rowlingson had a map with him as he drove out of town and during the drive had handed him a bullet casing, telling McNeil he could "keep it as a memento";, Mr McCarthy told the court.

Arriving at a bridge over a dried waterway, McNeil helped the teenager retrieve the body from the boot and dump it over the side of the bridge.

On the teenager's instruction, McNeil had then driven the car down the embankment to shine the vehicle's headlights onto the body which Anthony Rowlingson dragged under the bridge.

The pair then drove back to Pittsworth, stopping at public toilets in a park to wash blood from their clothing, the court heard.

McNeil and Rowlingson crossed paths the next day at school and the teacher had asked the student how he was, and he had replied "Okay";.

Anthony Rowlingson, who is serving a life sentence with no prospect of release from prison until 2022, has never revealed the motive behind the murder of his brother.

He later told psychiatrist Dr Scott Harden that, "I did it because I had to. To some extent I did it because I wanted to";.

In his report, read to the court at Anthony Rowlingson's sentence hearing in December, 2008, Dr Harden said: "Although he was not prepared to tell me in detail the reasons why he had killed Robert, he agreed that it was particularly because Robert had wronged him in some way.

"He (Anthony) reported that he was in general a private and secretive individual and (Robert) threatened that,"; Dr Harden said.

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