Kevin Crump and Allan Baker were convicted criminals who had met in prison whilst serving sentences for such offences as breaking and entering, and larceny. After they were released, they met up and opted for a life of robbing for a living - and as it turned out, murder. Their new life began on November 3, 1973.
On that date, and whilst driving a previously stolen vehicle, they used a .308 rifle to murder Ian James Lamb, 43, who was sleeping in his car next to the road to save accommodation costs while he was in the area to look for seasonal work. The murder appeared to be a thrill killing as the pair did not know Lamb.
Three days later they camped near the home of Brian and Virginia Morse in Collarenebri, where one of them had previously worked, as a migrant farm labourer. After watching the house for two days, they abducted 35-year-old Virginia Morse when her husband and their three children left the property. The men drove via back roads towards Queensland, stopping at hotels and garages along the way, and buying beer and petrol with the $30 they had stolen from the Morse homestead. They drove mainly at night to avoid detection. During the journey, Morse sobbed and pleaded for her life. The men stopped south of the Queensland border, tied Virginia Morse to a tree and took turns raping her repeatedly. They then threw her back in the car and continued on their journey.
When they stopped by the Weir River near Moonie they tied Virginia Morse to another tree. They raped and tortured her repeatedly before one of the men shot her between the eyes in an execution style killing. They rolled her body into the river, burnt her clothes then drove back to their camp site.
On November 13, ten days after Lamb's murder, the pair headed towards the Hunter Region, intending to commit a burglary. However, after their stolen vehicle was spotted near Maitland, the pair took flight from the scene. A police vehicle responding to the attempted burglary intercepted their vehicle en route and a high speed chase ensued. The police car was rammed off the road, and the chase taken up by a second police unit. A police officer in this vehicle was seriously injured when the fugitives shot him in the face. The car chase culminated at a police roadblock at Woodville, where the pair ran off, shooting at police as they fled into the bush. An intensive ground and air search of the area followed, and the two men were eventually arrested in a nearby river three hours later.
After their capture, Crump tried to evade responsibility for Morse's murder in his police statement. "I was forced to kill Mrs. Morse by Baker, because he wanted me to be in as deep as him. He said he was going to kill me if I didn't. I admit that I was prepared to kidnap Mrs. Morse and even to sleep with her, but once again, as with Mr. Lamb, I did not want to be a part of her death... It was a choice of either me or Mrs. Morse."
Even though there was compelling evidence that Crump had murdered Virginia Morse, he was not charged with this crime, as she had been murdered in Queensland, outside the jurisdiction of the Government of New South Wales. However he was charged with the murder of Ian James Lamb and with rape and conspiracy to murder Virginia Morse.
Crump and Baker were tried in the Supreme Court of NSW. At their trial, Crump and Baker pleaded not guilty to the four charges of murdering Ian James Lamb, conspiracy to murder Virginia Morse, maliciously wounding a police officer with intent to prevent lawful apprehension and shooting at police with intent to prevent lawful apprehension. It took the jury an hour and 45 minutes to convict Baker and Crump on all charges. Baker showed no emotion at the verdict, while Crump appeared to stare at the floor and shudder.
Mr. Justice Taylor then sentenced both men to life imprisonment plus 55 years. The judge said: "You have outraged all accepted standards of the behaviour of men. The description of 'men' ill becomes you. You would be more aptly described as animals, and obscene animals at that. ... I believe that you should spend the rest of your lives in gaol and there you should die. If ever there was a case where life imprisonment should mean what it says - imprisonment for the whole of your lives - this is it."
Details of the torture Virginia Morse endured at the hands of Baker and Crump were suppressed during the trial as the information was deemed too graphic and disturbing for the public.
In 1997, Kevin Crump successfully applied to the Supreme Court of NSW to convert his life sentence into a minimum term and an additional term. Justice McInerney sentenced Crump to a minimum term of 30 years and an additional term for the remainder of his life
In response to this determination the Parliament of New South Wales passed legislation that was intended to ensure that 10 named individuals remained incarcerated for the rest of their lives. The people named in Parliament were Baker and Crump, together with Michael Murphy, Leslie Murphy, Gary Murphy, John Travers and Michael Murdoch who were convicted of the murder of Anita Cobby and Stephen Jamieson, Matthew Elliot and Bronson Blessington who were convicted of the murder of Janine Balding. The legislation required the Parole Board to give substantial weight to the recommendations, observations and comments made by the original sentencing court.
Baker challenged this legislation in the High Court of Australia arguing that it was invalid and incompatible with the integrity, independence and impartiality of the Supreme Court. In October 2004 the High Court rejected his challenge, holding that there was nothing repugnant to the notion of judicial power in requiring significant weight be given to a past judicial recommendation.
The effect of the 1997 determination by McInerney J was that Crump had some prospect, however minimal, of being released on parole after November 2003. In 2001 the Parliament of NSW passed further legislation that was intended to ensure that Baker, Crump and other never-to-be-released prisoners could only ever be released on their death beds or if they were so incapacitated that they would pose a threat to nobody. In 2003 Crump sought parole; however, this was rejected by the Parole Board due to the 2001 legislation. In May 2012 the High Court rejected Crump's challenge to the 2001 legislation, despite the ad hominem component of legislation apparent in the Second Reading Speech.
In February 2016 the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed Crump's application for leave to appeal the 1997 sentence determination of McInerney J.