Relatives of three Aboriginal children who disappeared in Bowraville nearly 30 years ago say they are "devastated but not down" after a failed bid to have the suspected killer stand trial for their murders.
"We have been kicked in the guts by the court system and the law but we are going to keep fighting," said Michelle Jarrett who's the aunty of Evelyn Greenup.
Marbuck Duroux, the nephew of Clinton Speedy-Duroux, yelled: "What do we want? Justice. What have we got? F*** all.".
They were speaking on Thursday outside the Court of Criminal Appeal after the three judges rejected an application by the NSW attorney-general for a man to face a single trial charged with the three murders.
Evelyn, four, Clinton, 16 and Colleen Walker, 16, disappeared from the northern NSW town over a five-month period from September 1990.
The long battle for justice by their families has continued since a white man was acquitted of Clinton's murder in 1994 and of Evelyn's murder in 2006.
The now 52-year-old, who can't be named for legal reasons, was a suspect in the disappearance of Colleen whose body has never been found.
A coroner has ruled she was murdered although no charges have ever been laid.
In the appeal court, the government argued there was fresh and compelling evidence - relating to the disappearance of Colleen - to justify the overturning of the two acquittals and the ordering of a single trial on three murder charges.
Under NSW double-jeopardy laws revised in 2006, a person can be tried for the same crime for which they have already been acquitted provided there's fresh and compelling evidence.
This evidence was said to relate to similarities in the three cases which allegedly linked them to each other and to their killer.
But Chief Justice Tom Bathurst and Justices Clifton Hoeben and Lucy McCallum found there was no fresh evidence in Evelyn's case and Clinton's case could not be considered by itself.
They acknowledged the deaths were tragedies for their families and the Bowraville community.
"We recognise the distress that the deaths of these children and the subsequent investigations and proceedings have caused the families involved."
They said they were not required to form, and had not formed, any view as to the guilt or innocence of the man in respect of any of the deaths.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman later said he would seek legal advice about the prospects of referring the case to the High Court.
"Today may not be the end of what has been a hard, devastating, distressing road for the Bowraville families and I'll be urgently considering what remedies are available either legislatively or in court in the coming days," he told reporters.
Australian Associated Press