IN THE moments leading up to the sensational end to a double murder trial in the Supreme Court in Rockhampton, defendant Daniel George Hong had asked to see his legal team privately.

That meeting happened just before the scheduled 10am resumption of the trial as barristers, solicitors and prosecutors involved in the proceedings were busy discussing who was to take the witness stand that day.

Ian Robert Armstrong and Hong, who each had pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of interfering with a corpse, had been escorted up from the watchhouse to cells just outside the courtroom.

Through his police escort, Hong made the request to see his legal representatives.

That triggered a flurry of activity, with legal teams talking to family members and friends of the accused men outside the courtroom.

 

Headshot of Daniel George Hong, accused of murdering Rockhampton couple Chantal Barnett and Robert Martinez.
Headshot of Daniel George Hong, accused of murdering Rockhampton couple Chantal Barnett and Robert Martinez. Facebook

This was followed by more hushed discussions between the legal representatives inside the courtroom before they were ushered into Justice Graeme Crow's chambers.

About 20 minutes later proceedings resumed and the jury heard Hong and Armstrong were to be rearraigned on the two charges of interfering with a corpse, to which both pleaded guilty.

Next, the murder charges - and the jury - were dismissed.

Shocks and sobs could be heard throughout the back of the courtroom from family and friends of both the accused men and the deceased.

This major shift in the case comes five and a half years after Robert Martinez and Chantal Barnett disappeared but still doesn't answer the question the families, police and the community have been asking all this time - what happened to them?

 

DESPERATE PLEA: Robert Martinez's girlfriend Melissa McKenzie and Chantal Barnett's parents Natalie and Glen Barnett tell the media they just want the missing Rockhampton pair back so they can have some closure. Photo Austin King / The Morning Bulletin
DESPERATE PLEA: Robert Martinez's girlfriend Melissa McKenzie and Chantal Barnett's parents Natalie and Glen Barnett tell the media they just want the missing Rockhampton pair back so they can have some closure. Photo Austin King / The Morning Bulletin Austin King

We know they were last seen alive on March 2, 2013.

That they were methamphetamine users and part of "the seedy underbelly of Rockhampton".

That rumours flew left, right and centre in the months and years following their disappearance, including that they were given a "hot shot'' or lethal dose of illicit drugs over drug debts, that Ms Barnett had a "$30,000 price on her head" and that she was chopped up and put in a barrel.

SES search Police and SES personal search Mt Jim Crow, between Yeppoon and Rockhampton, and Gavial Creek, at Port Curtis, for missing Rockhampton pair Robert Martinez and Chantal Barnett.
SES search Police and SES personal search Mt Jim Crow, between Yeppoon and Rockhampton, and Gavial Creek, at Port Curtis, for missing Rockhampton pair Robert Martinez and Chantal Barnett. Sharyn O'Neill / The Morning Bulletin

But rumours are not evidence. They are just rumours, as Justice Graeme Crow repeatedly said throughout proceedings over the seven days of the trial.

 

Crown Prosecutor Vicki Loury who is prosecuting the case of Daniel George Hong and Ian Robert Armstrong who is on trial this month for the murder of Chantal Barnett and Robert Martinez.
Crown Prosecutor Vicki Loury who is prosecuting the case of Daniel George Hong and Ian Robert Armstrong who is on trial this month for the murder of Chantal Barnett and Robert Martinez. Kerri-Anne Mesner

Crown prosecutor Vicki Loury said police carried out a thorough investigation into what happened to Mr Martinez and Ms Barnett but did not find any forensic evidence to prove any of the rumours, determine a cause of death for Mr Martinez, or provide answers as to what happened to them both.

The Rockhampton community was engrossed in the investigation as police carried out extensive searches at various locations around the region - from the Parkhurst Caravan Park, to floodplains off Bowlin Rd at Port Curtis, and even as far away as Awoonga Dam south of Gladstone.

Mr Martinez and Ms Barnett's family and friends fronted the media time and time again, pleading for information about their loved ones.

Mr Martinez's remains were eventually found - with only a pair of underpants and an earring among the bones - in a paddock off Bowlin Rd in October 2014. His wallet, the car he was last driving, his watch and ring were all recovered from various locations.

Ms Barnett's clothing and handbag were located, but not her remains.

Unfortunately, their families and friends still don't have answers - but they haven't given up hope.



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