On August 4 it will have been 45 years to the day since Howard James Tyrell, then aged 42, was fatally shot by an unknown person or people at his NSW Central West property.
In 2012, the NSW government announced a $100,000 reward for information on the 1977 murder of the Dubbo horse-racing identity.
For the last 10 years little has been said about the unsolved murder. Strike Force McGainn was established in 2010 to reinvestigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Tyrell's death.
Mr Tyrell's wife Alice discovered her husband's body when she returned to the family property in Dubbo after a TAFE class, 15 kilometres along Old Dubbo Road.
It was late on the evening of August 4, after attending a weekly class at the Dubbo Technical College as it was known at the time. The air was cool and there was a frost on the ground.
When Mr Tyrell could not be found inside the house, Alice searched the property and found her husband in the backyard having suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest.
Fully dressed and wearing a thick jumper, Mr Tyrell was lying on his back, facing upwards.
Robbery did not appear to be a motive, with a large amount of money inside the house untouched and Mr Tyrell's wallet still tucked inside his pocket.
Howard Tyrell was one of the most loved men in the racing industry in Dubbo, the central west and in fact Australia.- Then stock and station agent Peter Milling
The only witness to the murder was a red cattle dog in a large cage adjoining the back gate stood guard near the body.
Alice Tyrell had left Retford Park at about 6pm to attend her TAFE class. She returned home about 10.30pm she stayed up to do some sewing, thinking her husband was already asleep.
There was no need to check on the children because Alan, 5, and Rachael, 2, were staying with relatives.
When Mrs Tyrell eventually went into the bedroom Mr Tyrell was not there so she went looking for him.
After finding the body she contacted police and a family friend, veterinarian Peter Green. Medical evidence later determined Mr Tyrell had been murdered between 7.30pm and 9.30pm.
Members of the Sydney-based homicide squad were at Retford Park the day after the murder. Their investigation was led by detective sergeant Barry Pringle, who later became superintendent of police at Bathurst.
A contingent of more than 30 police searched the property during the weekend, looking for the murder weapon (a 12-gauge shotgun), footprints and other clues.
Police dragged the Macquarie River and dams on properties in the area. The investigation would go on for months.
Meanwhile, the shocked Dubbo community rallied to support the Tyrell family.
Retford Park produced top thoroughbreds and had a fine reputation in the horse racing industry. A story published by the Daily Liberal on August 5, 1977 revealed Tyrell had been due to submit a draft of nine horses to a thoroughbred sale conducted by stock and station agent Peter Milling that morning.
Mr Milling spent time with Mrs Tyrell following the murder, describing her as shattered.
Tyrell's horses Hellbent and Native Brolga were to have been part of the stallion parade at the Martin Whitely Cup race meeting on Saturday, August 6, 1977.
Jockeys wore black armbands as a mark of respect. A funeral service for Mr Tyrell was held at St Andrew's Uniting Church at 2pm on Tuesday, August 9. The church was packed and a large portion of the congregation travelled to Trangie for the interment of Mr Tyrell's body in the Presbyterian section of Trangie Cemetery
Dubbo police detective Col Selwood was the first forensic investigator at the scene. He was assisted by Ian Hobson, a young police forensics officer "fresh off the blocks".
Col, who has long since retired, spoke with the Daily Liberal in 2022 he said he thinks the case can still be solved.
"The investigating detectives were 95 per cent sure as to who did it but there was not sufficient evidence to charge that person beyond a reasonable doubt, and for that reason the person was never charged," he said.
"You always hope that something comes out of the woodwork later on that might be that missing 5 per cent of the evidence you're looking for."
He said rumours at the time were rampant that somebody in the racing scene was involved.
"There were lots of rumours going around that it was tied up in the racing fraternity and breeding of thoroughbred horses and it was another avenue of investigation whether anyone from that fraternity would be involved in it, but nothing conclusive came out of those inquiries," he said.
"At one stage the chance of a stranger wandering onto the property was suggested but I thought that was unlikely because Retford Park was on a dead-end road, near the banks of the Macquarie River."
In 2012, the NSW government announced a $100,000 reward for information.
In 2012, Detective Senior Constable Aaron Greenwood said public response to an appeal for information in late March 2012 had resulted in "quite a few reports", mostly contributed through the Crimestoppers hotline.
"We're pleased with the response from the Dubbo community," he said at the time.
He said investigations into a recording on a cassette tape submitted to police anonymously in regard to the shooting had resulted in the identification of the author and an interview had been held with that individual.
The police will not reveal what the tape said, but said it contained some "unique" intelligence.
NSW Police declined an interview with the Daily Liberal in July 2022, except to say that the case is ongoing.
"The matter currently sits with investigators from the State Crime Command's Unsolved Homicide Unit, who continue to conduct inquiries into Howard's murder," a NSW Police spokesperson said.
"Investigators have not been able to identify the person or persons responsible for his death and the matter remains unsolved."
In 2012, Mr Tyrell's family, including his wife, two adult children and three siblings said they hoped for closure.
"We want to have this solved; find out who did it and why," Mr Tyrell's sister, Elaine Brown, said.
"Especially on account of our late father and mother. Our father worked so hard to try to find out what happened.
"For all of us it would be a closure. We'd really like to know what happened and we want justice for Howard.
"It would be some sort of recompense for his life being taken.
"We hope the reward will be a help to bring someone forward who knows."
Anyone with information to assist police is urged to contact Strike Force McGainn detectives via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or directly at Dubbo Police Station.
The reward of up to $100,000 is payable for information that leads to the conviction of the person or people responsible for Mr Tyrell's death.
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