Ever since John Twaddle got the impression Australian police were about to charge someone for his brother's 40-year-old cold case death, he's been waking in the night.

That was a year ago, after renewed police interest in the 1978 triple alleged murders of Kiwis Gordon Twaddle and Timothy Thomson, and Australian woman Karen Edwards, at Mount Isa in the Queensland outback.

Yesterday 63-year-old Bruce John Preston from Goulburn, New South Wales, was charged with three counts of murder over the case.

"It's relief, I was just talking to my wife about it last night," the 69-year-old Mosgiel man told the Herald on Sunday.

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"I've got to the stage that I knew it was coming, that he was going to be arrested. I knew his name about six months ago.

"They've [Australian police] been working on this, the cold case files and been keeping me up to date with it."

"At the moment, I'm still waking up in the middle of the night and thinking about it because of all these new developments, it brings back a lot of things."

The three victims were last seen on the morning of October 5, 1978, after they arrived in Mount Isa as part of a motorcycle journey from Alice Springs to Melbourne.

Karen Edwards, Gordon Twaddle, centre, and Timothy Thomson were found dead from gunshot wounds on October 24, 1978.
Karen Edwards, Gordon Twaddle, centre, and Timothy Thomson were found dead from gunshot wounds on October 24, 1978.

Thomson 31, and Twaddle, 21, were family friends from New Zealand with a passion for motorcycles.

Edwards, 23, was Thomson's girlfriend and the trio were on the adventure of a lifetime trekking across the outback.

Once they reached Cairns, the group planned to head south to Melbourne for Christmas with family.

They never made it.

After their last sighting in the Moondurra (Moondarra) Caravan Park, their bodies were found 19 days later in bushland near Spear Creek, 12km north of Mount Isa.

All three died from gunshot wounds.

Preston had been a person of interest at the time, charged with stealing Tim's motorcycle in 1978 for which he was convicted and fined $300.

Bruce John Preston, 63, from Goulburn, has been charged with three counts of murder. Photo / Facebook
Bruce John Preston, 63, from Goulburn, has been charged with three counts of murder. Photo / Facebook

David Thomson told the Herald on Sunday the alleged murder of his younger brother Timothy prematurely "aged" him, his parents, and two other brothers Peter and Ken over the past 40 years.

"It certainly took a lot of enjoyment out of life. It's left me with a feeling it's all sort of unfinished, that we don't know exactly what happened to him," the 79-year-old Christchurch resident said.

David says the murder charge against Preston offers some relief but he won't "start celebrating" until a verdict was handed out.

"It doesn't alter the fact that they're dead, that we won't see him again. I'll certainly never be able to forget my baby brother," he said.

Detective Senior Sergeant Tara Kentwell said the families of the victims had been told of the charges and were relieved by the outcome.

"It's a good feeling to provide some closure to these families after such a long time," she said.

The trio were last seen at Moondarra Caravan Park. Photo / Queensland Police
The trio were last seen at Moondarra Caravan Park. Photo / Queensland Police

Kentwell said the accused was "surprised" by the arrest, but would not comment on a motive other than that he was known to the victims before October 5, 1978.

"We believe that there are still witnesses out there who hold vital information and we appeal for those persons to come forward,' she said.

Preston faced Brisbane Magistrates Court yesterday charged with three counts of murder.

For John Twaddle, any consolation at the long-awaited charges is tempered by the sadness they dredge up.

"It's always in your memory, you never forget it, and unfortunately my dad, Ian, died in 1983, so he's not been round [to see this]," John said.

Tim Thomson's stolen motorbike.
Tim Thomson's stolen motorbike.

"It hit him very hard. It's been terrible and you keep on thinking about it.

"You've got people you're never ever going to see again, it's just quite horrible actually. We've never ever had anything like this in the family, you never expect it.

"That was a long time ago when it happened, 40 years ago, but it's something you never ever get over."

Making of a mystery

Monday, October 2, 1978:

The trio embarked on a motorcycle trek from Alice Springs. Thomson and Edwards were travelling on a red 1977 BMW 100S with a homemade side car carrying Tim's 9-month-old Doberman, Tristie.

Twaddle was riding a blue 1977 Suzuki GS750 with Victorian registration plates. The group travelled to Aileron and camped at Ti Tree in NT overnight.

Tuesday, October 3, 1978: The group stopped at Wauchope, Devils Marbles and The Three Ways. They met a male motorcycle enthusiast at Frewena before camping with him overnight at Barry Caves.

Wednesday, October 4, 1978: The group continued to travel with the man to Mount Isa. Only Edwards, Thomson and Twaddle checked into the Moondarra Caravan Park in the afternoon. On Wednesday evening, the trio were joined by a man in a brown and white Toyota Landcruiser.

Thursday, October 5, 1978: The trio were seen leaving the caravan park with the man in the Toyota Landcruiser, leaving the motorcycles and dog behind.
Later on Thursday, the same vehicle returned to the park with a man seen alone looking for the dog.

Friday, October 6, 1978: All property except for the sidecar was removed from the campsite. The dog was located at the Mount Isa dump.

October 24-25, 1978: The bodies of the three were discovered in bushland at Spear Creek.

November 13, 1978: A 23-year-old local man was arrested after being found in possession of Tim's red BMW motorcycle.

April 12, 2019: A 63-year-old man, reported to be former prison officer Bruce John Preston from Goulburn, is charged with three counts of murder