Who firebombed the Whiskey?

Until the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, this Fortitude Valley street corner was the site of Australia's worst mass murder: the March 1973 Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing.

Fifteen people died, mostly from suffocation, when two 18-litre barrels of petrol were used to set the nightclub alight just after 2am.

Five months later, John Andrew Stuart and James Richard Finch were convicted of the murder of one of the victims, Jennifer Davie, and sentenced to life in prison. However, the case is about to be turned on its head.

Both Stuart and Finch were acknowledged hard men and career criminals, but both angrily protested their innocence after their arrest, with the duo claiming they were ''verballed'' by police.

Stuart died in Brisbane's Boggo Road prison on January 1, 1979, while Finch was deported to London in 1988 after 15 years of prison. That year he confessed to the crime in The Sun newspaper, but later retracted his confession when he was told he could be extradited to Australia for the other 14 murders.

Now, 40 years since the infamous nightclub arson, there are moves to clear both men of the crime. On Thursday in the Queensland Parliament an MP will use the protection of parliamentary privilege to name the man believed to be the real arsonist.

''State Parliament will be given the name of the Brisbane man who was the arsonist at Whiskey Au Go Go,'' Brisbane crime writer Tony Reeves said.

Reeves - an award-winning crime writer and former investigative reporter - has spent two years researching new information about the fire. He is convinced that Stuart and Finch were framed for the Whiskey Au Go Go arson and that the fire was an insurance job carried out under a climate of fear that Stuart perpetuated, manipulated by crooked police officers in Queensland and NSW at the time.

In November 1972, before the fires, liquidators had been appointed to both Whiskey Au Go Go and Chequers, which had combined debts of $120,000, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report on March 9, 1973. The belief was both clubs were to be sold cheaply.

Reeves is now calling for a new investigation into Brisbane's nightclub fires - at the Torino's Nightclub in Ann Street on February 23, 1973, Alice's Cafe in Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley in December 1972, and two at Chequers Nightclub in Elizabeth Street in early 1973.

He said he has information showing a link between a senior Queensland police officer - who died in 2010 - and the fire bombing of Torino's on February 23, 1973.

A coroner's inquest which had opened the day after the Whiskey Au Go Go fire was adjourned on March 12 after Stuart and Finch were charged.

''What we are asking is for the inquest to be re-opened,'' Reeves said.

''It is 40 years ago, but that doesn't matter.

''The Attorney-General last week ordered the reopening of the inquest into the kids on the Sunshine Coast [the Wirraway deaths] and that was 1950, 23 years prior to the Whiskey,'' he said.

''We also want a judicial inquiry, along the lines that [barrister] Stephen Keim recommended when he ran Legal Aid.

''There is still enough people alive and enough records under embargo in the State Archives to justify our claim that there has been a serious miscarriage of justice.''

Reeves' information comes from police sources, Queensland's State Archives and from letters given to John Andrew Stuart's mother, Edna Watts, before she died.

These letters were passed to Stuart's nephew, Danny Stuart, who was 13 when police raided his parents' Jindalee home days to arrest his uncle and Finch over the firebombing.

Danny Stuart first raised his concerns in a Good Weekend article by freelance reporter Frank Robson.

That article prompted Reeves to investigate the crimes.

Reeves has written books on Sydney crime figures Abe Saffron, Lennie McPherson and George Freeman.

On Friday at 2pm, a memorial service will be held on the corner of Amelia Street and St Paul's Terrace in Fortitude Valley, where the Whiskey Au Go Go stood.

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