Who killed Bjarne Carlsen? Brewarrina murder sparks $100,000 reward

It was a murder that shook the small outback town of Brewarrina and has bewildered detectives for 13 years.
Nanjing Night Net

The day after Australia Day 2000, the body of popular high school woodwork teacher Bjarne “BJ” Carlsen was found inside his small flat in the north-western NSW town. He had been shot in the chest.

The 53-year-old divorced father-of-two had been regarded as a quiet, friendly person in the town of just 1500.

Alarmingly, the letters “KKK” were written on his body.

The initials of white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan were also scrawled on the walls of the Young Street home where he lived alone.

Now, the state government has offered a $100,000 reward to help detectives solve the mystery of who killed Mr Carlsen and to help provide closure to his grieving family.

Mr Carlsen’s sole surviving son, Marcel, said his father’s death has had a devastating effect on his family.

“We sincerely hope this reward will prompt someone to come forward and provide police with the critical information they need to swiftly find and bring dad’s murderer to justice,” Marcel said.

Danish-born Mr Carlsen had taught at schools in Kalgoorlie and Coober Pedy before taking up a position at the Brewarrina Central School a little more than a year before his death.

He was one of about 40 teachers at the predominantly Aboriginal school and lived in the allocated teacher’s accommodation complex on Young Street.

Mr Carlsen was said to have had a good relationship with his students. Police at the time said Mr Carlsen was well liked by the Aboriginal and white communities.

He liked a beer and an occasional flutter on the pokies at the Brewarrina Hotel and at the RSL, where he was a regular.

Police believe he died on the night of January 26 in what appeared to have been an ambush.

His killer or killers fired a .22-calibre weapon from outside the flat. The bullet smashed through a glass door panel and hit him in the chest.

Police did not reveal what was used to make the KKK inscriptions or how many times they appeared. They could only speculate as to the intent.

One officer told The Sydney Morning Herald at the time that the initials were either “a message” from the killer or killers, or designed to throw police off the track.

Mr Carlsen’s computer, a Hypec ITS model 1500, was stolen on the night of the murder, along with his credit union key card and brown wallet.

Police at the time also launched an appeal for information on the occupants of a red VN Holden Commodore sedan with mag wheels, silver pin-stripes and a rear spoiler, which was seen around town on Australia Day.

The murder occurred a week after a shotgun robbery at the remote Brewarrina airport, in which thieves dressed in overalls and balaclavas held up a light plane to steal mail and courier bags.

However, police said at the time that it appeared the two crimes were not connected.

Detective Chief Inspector John Lehmann, from the Homicide Squad’s Unsolved Homicide Team, said on Monday that Strike Force Redcliffe II had been formed to investigate Mr Carlsen’s death.

“Many aspects of this case remain unclear and we need assistance from the community to help bring Mr Carlsen’s killer, or killers, to justice,” he said.

“Please remember, any information you have, no matter how insignificant it may seem, could provide us with the information we need to catch whoever is responsible for this horrible crime.”

Anyone with information has been urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.

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