Audacity: Jodie Arias 18 Days on the Stand

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This book is about the sensational trial of a woman called Jodi Arias who was convicted of the brutal murder of her boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008. He was stabbed around 30 times, had his throat slit and his body lay undiscovered for days.

This case has gripped America. In fact, Arias will be sentenced in April to either life in prison or a life term with the possibility of release after 25 years. The death penalty was taken “off the table” after the jury could not reach a decision on her punishment.

California-based court blogger and author Lisa Wilson teamed up with South African photojournalist Nick Van Der Leek to write about the Arias crime and trial. This book covers the background, investigation and trial of Arias, who displayed bizarre behaviour in the wake of her boyfriend’s murder. She did headstands in the police interview room just minutes before she was charged with Travis’s murder.

 

Jodi Arias doing a headstand in the police interview room.
Jodi Arias doing a headstand in the police interview room.

Jodie Arias has fascinated people because her behaviour plays into the public’s intrigue and fears about evil women. The motive for the murder is believed to be Arias’s fury that Travis wanted to end their relationship, which was volatile. (The couple’s phone sex conversations were sensationally played in court, among other things.)

For someone like me who knew only scant details about the Arias, Audacity was a decent read that gave me a comprehensive look at the case.

Being based in Australia where our criminal justice system is very different to that in America, I can find coverage of cases a bit overwhelming…and that’s coming from someone who is very interested in true crime.

For instance, jurors are never allowed to speak to the press. Only details in open court are allowed to be reported and the media must wait until a conviction to reveal certain details of police investigations and an offender’s background. (I still can’t get my head around how in the US it is open slather to report on every little detail of a crime, the accused and the victim. how does that not influence a jury?)

That is why books and media coverage about US cases are so tantalising for true crime readers.

Audacity was quite a gripping read. Arias is certainly a very dangerous woman. I really feel for the family of Travis Alexander.

Audacity is available from Amazon.

 

Blood Aces by Doug J. Swanson

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Blood Aces: The Wild Ride Of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker REVIEWED by By Investigative Crime Journalist Clarence Walker: truecrimewriter83@mail.com

Texas outlaw Benny Binion was an amazing character.

In fact, he was many characters all wrapped up into one – A Texas cowboy, famous casino owner, a poker pioneer, gambler, a smooth-talking businessman, a ruthless gangster with organized crime connections, a killer…and the founder of the World’s Poker Series, a series held each year in Las Vegas that showcases the best players from around the globe.

The life story of Benny Binion had to be told in all its splendid glory and spellbinding details.

Douglas Swanson has written a highly remarkable book about the life of Benny Binion Blood Aces: The Wild Ride Of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker.

Blood Aces is the definitive biography of a Texas outlaw who played important roles in making Las Vegas the world’s most famous gambling empire. Blood Aces may sound like a fiction novel, but it is a true-life book, which comes compellingly alive.

People are fascinated by the Sopranos, Mafia dons, hit men, drug kingpins and flashy criminals.

But meet Benny “Cowboy” Binion, a real-life Texas gangster.

Swanson, a Dallas Morning News Investigative Project Editor, writes in Blood Aces. “The nation’s history is packed with legendary outlaws. But none of them can match Binion’s wild, bloody, and American journey.”

“As much as anyone,” says Swanson, “Binion made Vegas a mecca for high rollers”.

Binion’s poker games became a big hit when Binion and close friends played a few rounds in 1970. A shrewd money-maker, Binion figured out that poker games could make money at his Horseshoe Casino.

Benny Binion At His Horseshoe Casino.
Benny Binion At His Horseshoe Casino.

Showing deep affection for gangsters, Benny Binion, the man known as “Cowboy” once hired an airplane pilot in 1934 to drop a floral wreath at the gravesite of outlaw Clyde Barrow (the second half of Bonnie Parker, as in “Bonnie & Clyde”).

Benny Binion was a modern day Billy “the” Kid. As a killer, Binion’s oft-remarks were, “I ain’t killed nobody that didn’t deserve it”. Other remarks by Binion are legendary: “My friends can do no wrong

As a killer, Binion’s oft-remarks were, “I ain’t killed nobody that didn’t deserve it”. Other remarks by Binion are legendary: “My friends can do no wrong…and my enemies can do no right. Do your enemies, before they do you.”

Other remarks by Binion are legendary: “My friends can do no wrong, and my enemies can do no right. Do your enemies, before they do you.”

When FBI agents pursued Binion for his involvement in the murder of Bill Coulter, a former FBI agent, and a Russian guy named Louie Strauss, Binion, in a moment of rage, told a reporter: “Tell them FBIs’…I am still capable of doing my own killing!”.

When Herbert “the Cat” Noble refused to give Binion 40 per cent of his gambling operation, Binion tried to kill Noble 11 times!

Binion’s crew finally succeeded by killing Noble…on the eleventh try. Previous attempts to kill “Cat Noble” included bombs that didn’t go off, shots that either hit Noble (but he survived) or multiple shots that missed Noble. On one attempt, the killers blowed up Noble’s car, then went back to Binion to claim a $25,000 reward, but Binion broke the sad news, that they killed Noble’s wife, not Noble.

It took eleven attempts, but old Cowboy Benny finally killed the “Cat.”

Benny “Cowboy” Binion was a modern day Billy “the kid” or Jessie James, but Binion had much more money. Much more.

Binion was dangerous as a rattlesnake, but also he became a “super rich” gangster, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Inside Binion’s Horsehoe Casino he allowed regular customers and tourists to take pictures standing outside a glass-plated showcase filled up with a million dollars.

Binion’s wealth influence and power connections led him into the circle of some of America’s most notorious and prominent people, as well as those abroad. Blood Aces retrace Binion’s footsteps all the way from the back woods of Texas to the West Coast, where he settled in Las Vegas.

Arriving in Vegas from Texas during 1940s’, Binion, as a southern style gambling boss, forged close relationships with Mafia players like Meyer Lanksy, Bugsy Siegel, Tony “the Ant” Spilotro, Mickey Cohen, and billionaire Howard Hughes. He surrounded himself with a host of well-connected people with political power, capable of making things happen. Or make things not happen.

Gifted with razor-sharp intelligence, boldness, folksy charm, and having the heart of a cold-bloodied killer, Benny Binion opened Las Vegas Horseshoe Casino & Hotel on Freemont street in 1951. And he became the most revered figure in the history of Las Vegas gambling.

Benny Binion was a true pioneer who understood the makings of a successful casino by offering patrons a better deal for their money – good food, fine whisky, lovely-looking women, private rooms, and beautiful central air suites to sleep in. If customers so desired, Binion had limousine service to drive customers to and from the airport.

Binion’s formula for running a business was simple: cultivate the big boys, own the cops, and kill your enemies.

For decades, Benny Binion’s name and hellish reputation has echoed throughout Texas and Las Vegas history like old ghost stories and never-ending gangster lore, but author Douglas Swanson may be the first writer to cobble together all the nitty-gritty exclusive details together.

Blood Aces captures the essence of Benny Binion’s dirt-poor childhood life growing up in Texas, all the way to his gigantic rise as boss of the “numbers rackets” in and around Dallas Texas. “He came from nothing,” writes Swanson, “or the nearest thing to it”.

VERDICT: Blood Aces is a page burner. It’s hard to put it down without going back to it.

Blood Aces: The Wild Ride Of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker is published by Viking Press.

The Innocent Killer by Michael Griesbach

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The Innocent Killer is an in-depth look at a very important case in Wisconsin criminal law. It is the story of violent crimes against women, police investigations and the vital importance of evidence.

The author is Michael Griesbach who is a prosecutor in Wisconsin in the same country where the central crime that is featured in this book took place.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers because this book has an incredible twist but here’s the basic outline: In 1985 a woman called Penny Beernsten raped and assaulted in an extremely violent attack as she took a run along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

A man called Steven Avery was convicted of the crime and spent 18 years in prison. The thing is, he didn’t do it. A serial sex offender called Gregory Allen was the man who attacked Penny.

Avery (who was by no means a man who lived a crime-free life), is freed, however that’s not the end of the story. What happens next is shocking. There is no clear black or white, good or bad here. Griesbach became involved in the case during the process to exonerate Avery so his first-hand knowledge is the strength of this book.

Griesbach has written an incredibly detailed story that is a must-read if you are interested in crime and legal books. The book is not a quick and dirty read. It is one where the reader needs to absorb the detail and they will certainly learn much about Wisconsin, the law, DNA and the devastating impact of slack…even corrupt police practices on people involved in and affected by crime.

In the press release for this book is said of Griesbach: “…He hopes to leave readers better informed about the inner workings of the criminal justice system and more concerned about those whose lives it deeply affects…”.

This book certainly achieves those aims.

To order The Innocent Killer go HERE.

Angels of Death – Charles Cullen

 

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I’m excited to share with you that my second true crime book is out in stores in Australia and available in ebook.

It is called Angels of Death and features cases of nurses and doctors who were serial killers.

The first chapter is about Charles Cullen, the New Jersey nurse who is believed to have killed hundreds of people during his time working in hospitals.

The Herald Sun has run the extract: Angels of Death tells how nurse Charles Cullen killed patients

Angels of Death is published by The Five Mile Press

Burwood Murders

The 1992 Burwood triple killings in Melbourne is one of the most chilling crimes in modern Australian history.

The killer, Ashley Coulston, is in jail, never to be released.

I wrote about the case in my first true crime book, Murder in Suburbia. Here is the chapter extract as published in the Herald Sun.

Who Killed The Candy Lady?

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Earlier this year  while I was researching some cases for my latest book, I stumbled across some newspaper articles about the still unsolved disappearance and presumed murder of American Candy empire heiress Helen Brach.

I was intrigued. In 1977, the 65-year-old, was reported last seen by her houseman Jack Matlick, who said he left her at O’Hare International Airport to board a flight to Florida.

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So, I was very interested in reading James Ylisela Jr’s Who Killed The Candy Lady?: Unwrapping the Unsolved Murder of Helen Brach.

This is an e-book that is a quick and satisfying read. Ylisela is a long-time Chicago journalist and in this book he has presented a very clear telling of this case. He admits that he set out to solve the mystery, however changed tact to leave the readers to make up their own minds. I particularly like it when authors have a page dedicated to the “cast” of the book. I am always referring back to these pages to make sure I am fully digesting the text. Ylisela does this and the cast of characters in the Brach case is as intriguing as it gets.

I won’t spoil the story by giving too much away (as an avid true crime reader I love to read cases with no prior knowledge).

Who Killed The Candy Lady? is published by Agate Digital.

Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

 

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I have had this book in my “to read” pile for months.

Like many readers (and especially when you have a book blog) I have SO many books to read and feel like I just want to devote whatever  spare time I have (apologies to my children!) to curling up and reading. This book by Australian John Safran – controversial media personality, filmmaker and now, author – was worth the wait.

I was fortunate to hear Safran talk about his journey to writing Murder in Mississippi (the book is called God’ll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi for North America) at the launch of Monash Libraries’ Wordfest in the middle of 2014. Once I had got over my complete professional jealousy of him for having the planets align to create this incredible book, I was entranced by his retelling of his creative process. As a writer myself, I find him inspiring.

Safran is someone people either love or can’t stand. There is not a lot of middle ground with Safran and that’s why he is so good at what he does…which is basically getting himself run out of places for doing super-controversial things. His series Race Relations, which aired on Australia’s public broadcaster, saw him donate sperm to a Palestinian sperm bank (Safran is Jewish) and digs a hole next to his mother’s grave and performs a ritual order to ask her whether she approves of him marrying a non-Jewish woman.

For this series, Safran interviewed a notorious white supremacist named Richard Barrett.  This footage never made it to air (for reasons I will let you read in the book) but then Barrett  was brutally murdered in 2010 by a young black man named Vincent McGee. Some pretty startling revelations came to the surface and Safran seized his opportunity to go to Mississippi and write this book.

Even though it is a true crime book, Safran infuses his writing with his trademark humour. It’s not in the style true crime buff will be used to. There’s a lightness to the writing that seems at odds with a true crime subject, but it really worked in this case.

This is a standout true crime release of 2014.

Murder in Mississippi is published by Penguin.

The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama

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This book shows that DNA evidence is not failsafe. That mistakes can happen, assumptions made and that these can result in miscarriages of justice.

In 2008 a Somali-born Melbourne man Farah Jama, 21 was sentenced to six years jail for the rape of a woman in a suburban nightclub in the eastern suburbs.

Author Julie Szego tells this story of a man who maintained his innocent throughout. Jama’s conviction was eventually overturned and he was released and paid a substantial compensation payout from the government.

Szego details machinations of DNA testing and the reliance on science to make or break criminal cases. There’s also interesting detail of the Somali community in Melbourne and the challenges that young males who came to Australia as refugees face integrating into society. In particular, I found this aspect of the book really intriguing because when I was a high school teacher in London I taught quite a few Somali-born teens.

So, if Jama didn’t rape “Maria” in the Doncaster nightclub, what happened and why was his DNA on a database?

Szego details the reasons who Jama’s DNA was there. She interviews a young woman called “Taylah” who was involved in a sexual act with Jama and several other men the night before the alleged rape of Maria. This is uncomfortable and compelling reading.

As a journalist myself I was really compelled my Szego’s frank descriptions of what it is like to write a book and to tell other people’s stories. Her collaboration with Jama does not go to plan and this line she wrote really stuck in my mind: “Journalists swoop on people’s stories, pick the eyes out, mangle and reshape until they’re something entirely different. We thieve and desecrate for a living…”.

It’s the dilemma of the profession. Szego has written an important book. Told an important story about the criminal justice system and its flaws.

The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama is published by Wild Dingo Press.

Crime news wrap

Some crime stories from around the web:

– Study identifies traits of serial killer nurses (The Guardian) Read here.

– Ipswich, England murder of young mum still a mystery 21 years on. (Ipswich Star) Read here.

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– The murder of three Washington DC police officers in a shooting rampage is remembered 20 years on. (CBS Local) Read here.

– Police identify body of a Canadian man who went missing 30 years ago. (cba.ca) Read here.

– Hollywood Actor Ashton Kutcher’d girlfriend was murdered by a serial killer when they were dating back in 2001 (InTouch) Read here.

 

 

 

 

The Skeleton Crew

 

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For someone interested in true crime the new book The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving Some of America’s Coldest Cases is one of the most anticipated titles you could hope to read.

I really enjoyed this book. I often scan through missing persons websites and am endlessly intrigued by how someone could go missing or someone’s body could be discovered and their identity is a mystery. How does that happen? What happened? Why does nobody care about them?

Author and journalist Deborah Halber takes the reader on a journey of these databases of missing and unidentified bodies and the people who try and solve these mysteries. And it’s increasingly people doing amateur detective work from behind their computer screen who are giving closure to some cases that are often decades old.

There are currently 40,000unidentified dead stowed away in mortuaries, evidence rooms and potter’s fields around America. That is unbelievable and terribly sad.

Halber delves into the world of these people who spend their lives searching for clues on the web to try and identify these unidentified people with profiles of missing persons. It becomes somewhat of an obsession for many of these armchair detectives, as you’ll discover.

Halber covers details of cold cases, successful identifications and some of the lives of these amateur sleuths. There is also plenty of information about technology to help identify human remains and reconstruct what a person looked like from their skull. It is gripping stuff.

Skeleton Crew is published by Simon and Schuster. For Aussie and Kiwi readers it’s available on ebook.

That Night by Chevy Stevens

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True Crime Reader partnered with Bookworld on this blog post.

That Night is the third “psychological thriller” from Canadian author Chevy Stevens. I had never read any of Stevens’ books before so the fact that thriller heavyweights like Harlan Coban and Lee Child lent their names to praise That Night certainly piqued my interest.

I received my review copy from Bookworld,  which has an extensive range of crime fiction titles and I was very excited to start reading. and I was very excited to start reading. There’s something about starting a crime fiction book that is so tantalising, with the promise of reading late into the night when you find a book you can’t put down.

That Night did not disappoint me.

The book centres on Toni Murphy, who at 18 years old in 1996 was sentenced to a very long stint in prison for the murder of her little sister Nicole. Toni and her co-accused, boyfriend Ryan, always maintained they were innocent. After 14 years, Toni is freed and returns to her hometown where it becomes desperately clear she must unearth the dark secrets of the past. Especially why the group of high school girls who tormented Toni at school lied during the court case.

The book flips between 1996 and then to some of the years of Toni’s prison sentence, then to the present day where she is trying to forge a fresh start.

I felt an affinity with Toni as I was a similar age in 1996 and could relate to the references to the grunge movement of the time. Stevens writing is quite plain (in a good way that lets the reader flow through the pages) and was quite befitting of her protagonist who was just a teenager when sent to prison.

I was often reminded of Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye while reading this in terms of the theme of “mean girls” and bullying. Atwood’s book was more subtle and literary however, Stevens firmly articulates Toni’s battle with her tormentors to keep the plot flowing.

The characters I was most intrigued by were Toni’s parents and Stevens has a particular focus of writing about family dynamics and she does it well in this book. You can really feel the complete destruction of the Murphy family.

I won’t give away any more of the plot, suffice to say Toni and Ryan have no choice but to get to the truth of “that night” and why Nicole was murdered.

I’ll definitely be reading more of Chevy Stevens‘ books.

*As well as reading true crime, True Crime Reader likes to keep up with what is happening in the world of crime fiction so expect to see more fiction reviews here*

The Time of Eddie Noel by Allie Povall

Reviewed by Clarence Walker (truecrimewriter83@mail.com)

As a true crime writer, research specialist, historian and freelance investigative journalist, what piqued my deep interest in The Time Of Eddie Noel by Allie Povall was the location where the crime happened – the state of Mississippi in the 1950s.

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I’ve always been fascinated with the history of Mississippi and its culture, notwithstanding the fact that my paternal grandfather Walter Walker was from Natchez, Mississippi and my paternal grandmother, Olivia Walker, was from Arcola. I was born in a small town in Southeast rural Arkansas near Greenville, Mississippi where my deceased father Clarence Walker Sr. and my mother Thelma aka “Nellie” got married in Greenville in 1960.

My precious mother, Thelma Walker has recalled over the years that her paternal grandmother Mary Minor was from a small town in Mississippi called Port Gibson, a town once ruled by the French during the 1700s. Following the civil war, Mississippi became the battleground of the historic civil rights movement – its past represented deep bias segregation and white people hating blacks based on skin colour. Mississippi once epitomized vicious racism toward blacks as a way to keep white supremacy forever in power.

Times have changed now. Mississippi is a much better place to live these days.

Delta Mississippi is known worldwide for its rich music of blues, soul, country, rock and roll, and mixture of rhythm and blues heritage sung by popular artists like Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Tyrone Davis, Little Milton and the geriatric B.B. King.

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Povall’s book The Time Of Eddie Noel is a well-written, compelling book about a young black man who killed three white men in Holmes County, Mississippi and got off scot-free at a time when blacks were lynched by whites at the drop of a hat.

For example, Emmett Till was murdered in 1955, allegedly because he “whistled” at a white woman. History shows that blacks were killed in Mississippi simply for defying a white person.

Prior to Till’s murder, in January 1954, a young Eddie Noel shot and killed a white man identified as Willie Ramon Dickard, the owner of a honky-tonk joint in Holmes County, Mississippi. The murder of Dickard triggered an outrage from the white community.

Angry white men swiftly formed a mob to hunt down Noel, to shoot him, cut his tongue out, lynch him, then burn the dark hide off his smouldering body. It was the largest manhunt in Mississippi history. Incredibly, Noel engaged in two separate gunfights with the mob and killed two more white men, one a deputy sheriff and wounding three others!

Povall’s superb narrative retells the night when Noel went on his shooting rampage by storming into the honky-tonk joint owned by Willie Ramon Dickard, a place where moonshine was sold unabatedly and interracial sex between customers was the norm.

Noel’s jealous heart led him to suspect that his wife, a hefty, sexy, “country soul sister” named Lou Ethel, had been tricking with Dickard in exchange for the old green mighty dollar. An argument ensued over whether Noel could take his own wife back home.

Dickard decided to teach Noel a lesson (to stay in his place and not interrupt business) by beating Noel bloody. Noel retaliated. He quickly fetched his rifle out of his vehicle and shot Dickard twice in the chest, killing him instantly. Echoes of revenge reverberated throughout Homes County over the harsh reality that a black man had killed a white man.

The hunt, led by Sheriff Richard Byrd and Deputy John Pat Malone, was on. Positioned in the dark cold woods, Noel fired a .22 rifle and struck Deputy Malone, killing him, too.

A few days later just when the mob thought they had the elusive killer cornered, Noel fired a shot wounding two and killed one more white man in Mississippi.

Here’s what make the book so fascinating – Noel was never caught by the mob or law enforcement, never put on trial for his life, and he never went to prison. The background about this entire case is so captivating until the world’s best Hollywood scriptwriter, nor a great fiction writer could have created the multitude of bizarre facts that collided amidst this true life drama of how a black man miraculously survive in the dark hateful era of Jim Crow Mississippi after killing three men.

One mesmerising point about Eddie Noel’s ancestors will blow your mind.

Eddie Noel (actually Edmond Noel) is a direct descendant of Edmund Faver Noel, Mississippi’s governor from 1909 to 1913. As the story unfold in Povall’s book, it illustrate that the killer Eddie Noel was named after the one-time popular governor, although Eddie’s first name is a variation of the governor’s first name. (Read this list of Mississippi Governors.)

The book provokes mind-boggling questions – how could a negro man kill three white men then elude an armed mob in the woods for several days during a frigid cold winter without incurring illnesses or starvation? And why has the history of Eddie Noel ‘s amazing story has not been well documented as part of Black History nor included into the annals of American Civil Rights? The author thoroughly explores and explains the dynamics behind this incredible story.

Eddie Noel’s story of never being tried for killing three white people in Mississippi at a time when blacks had no civil rights, unable to properly vote, and subjected to inhumane treatment is a story that will keep you turning the pages. The Time Of Eddie Noel is the story of a time and place whereby a young black man defied incredible odds of a criminal justice system that poised to send him to the electric chair for crossing the line to kill a white man.

I will not reveal how Eddie Noel escaped the electric chair or how he avoided prosecution altogether. Only the book can give you all the details to form a sensible, objective conclusion for a reader to get the complete picture.

This book is a rich history filled with explicit, colourful details of a time and place when the Deep South stood at the threshold of the civil rights movement, a legacy that would forever change both the landscape and the social system, which would govern the lives of its people, both black and white.

The Time Of Eddie Noel rivals John Grisham’s best-selling novel A Time to Kill.

The book is published by Comfort Publishing.

Clarence Walker can be contacted at truecrimewriter83@mail.com

 

Justin Tapp death inquest

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Here is an update I have written to this August 25 blog post on the Tapp murders about the tragic effect the crimes have had on the surviving family, namely Justin Tapp, who died earlier this year at age 44. Mr Tapp was traumatised by his mother and sister’s death and struggled for the rest of his life with depression and alcohol abuse.

AN INQUEST in England into the death of an Australian man whose mother and sister were murdered 30 years ago in Melbourne has delivered an open verdict.

Justin Tapp, who was 14 when his mother Margaret Tapp and nine-year-old sister Seana Tapp were killed on August 7, 1984, died earlier this year.

Mr Tapp was not at his family’s Kelvin Drive, Ferntree Gully home on the night of the still unsolved murders and moved to England in 2001 where he lived until his death.

He was found dead in his Wycombe bedsit on June 3 by ex-girlfriend Wendy O’Donovan, with whom he had remained friends in the years since their separation.

Ms O’Donovan told the Buckinghamshire Coroners’ Court on September 23 that Mr Tapp had problems with alcohol and had tried several times to commit suicide.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had depression.

The body of Mr Tapp, aged 44, was in such a state of decomposition that the cause of his death could not be found by a post-mortem.

Police found a book and other literature about suicide near his body.

Accounts from neighbours on Mr Tapp’s last known movements indicate he may have died around a week before he was found.

The Bucks Free Press newspaper reported that Mr Tapp had no family living in Britain and it was after a concerned aunt in Australia contacted Ms O’Donovan that she went to his flat.

The coroner’s court heard that Ms O’Donovan looked through the window and saw Mr Tapp collapsed on the floor.

A former neighbour of Mr Tapp, Charlotte Kirby, contacted True Crime Reader via a comment on the blog post “Margaret and Seana Tapp murders – more tragedy”  and said she knew nothing of his traumatic history until she read about it last week on the front page of her local newspaper Bucks free Press.

Ms Kirby told True Crime Reader that Mr Tapp was a ‘very quiet and private man’ and she wished they had talked more.

“I felt really bad about his death and cried when I read the newspaper,” Ms Kirby said.

She said they both lived in an old house in Wycombe that had been split into three flats and Mr Tapp lived in the basement one.

They both moved away in 2011.

“Justin did not wish to be bothered really by the world,” Ms Kirby said.

“It is just a shame that he lived in isolation, but with that kind of trauma in his past, no wonder.”

Ms Kirby said she had often wondered about Mr Tapp’s past.

“I suspected there were reasons for his departure from Australia and even asked him why he left,” Ms Kirby said.

“All he told me was that he had grown tired of Australia.

“I just pray he rests in peace and that he has a decent funeral and resting place.”

BACKGROUND

The cold case murder of Margaret and Seana Tapp is one of Victoria’s biggest mysteries. On August 7, 1984 Margaret Tapp, 35 was strangled in her bed. Seana, 9 was sexually assaulted and also strangled.There was no sign or forced entry, which suggested that the killer was familiar with the house. The backdoor had a broken latch and could not be locked. A neighbour heard a muffled scream at around 11pm and other neighbours heard the Tapp’s dog barking frantically, which was not usual. The murders of the mother and daughter were not discovered until 6pm the next day when a friend of Mrs Tapp arrived to take her on a pre-arranged date.

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

Lethal Lovers

 

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Melbourne author Victoria Heywood catalogues some of Australia’s most chilling crime cases of where love and relationships go wrong.

In Lethal Lovers: Horrifying True Australian Crimes of Passion Heywood details cases from modern-day to as far back as the 1800s. One of the crimes that stood out for me as that of Rodney Francis Cameron who was dubbed “The Lonely Hearts Killer”. I won’t reveal the story for those who are not familiar with it but Cameron, met one of his victims via a lonely hearts radio program.  And tragically for his victim Maria Goellner, Cameron had a very dark and dangerous past.

There’s also the story of Frederick Leeming, who was once a suspected of being Jack the Ripper.  Leeming murdered his wife and four children in England before fleeing to Australia. his second wife was also murdered in Melbourne and Leeming hung for his crime in 1892 at the age of 38.

There are 23 cases covered in the book.

Lethal Lovers is published by The Five Mile Press.

AUTHOR EVENT – The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama by Julie Szego

 

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Australian journalist and author Julie Szego will speak in Perth on Tuesday october 14 about her true crime book The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama.

In 2008, 21-year-old Farah Jama, who had arrived in Australia as a refugee from Somalia, was sentenced to six years behind bars for the rape of a middle-aged woman as she lay unconscious in a Doncaster (ED NOTE: an eastern suburb of Melbourne) nightclub. Throughout the trial Jama had maintained his innocence against the accusations he committed such a heinous crime. But the Prosecution had one ‘rock solid’ piece of evidence that nailed the accused – his DNA.

In 2010 his conviction was overturned and Szego tells the whole story of how a young man came to be convicted of rape and the failings of the justice system. Szego’s book has had praise from people including Julian Burnside, AO QC, barrister, human rights and refugee advocate.

ED NOTE: I wish I was in Perth so I could attend!

DETAILS: ‘The Tainted trial of Farah Jama’ by Julie Szego, Tue 14 Oct, 7-8pm cost $19

To book go to http://www.extension.uwa.edu.au/course/CCVW004

The book is published by Wild Dingo Press

 

The Fall: How Simon Gittany murdered Lisa Harnum

 

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This is a very good book by  journalist Amy Dale about the killing of young woman Lisa Harnum.

Dale is Chief Court Reporter for The Daily Telegraph and started covering this case from the point of Simon Gittany’s arrest in August 2011. She speaks to the family and friends of Canadian-born Lisa Harnum, who lived with Gittany in a luxury Sydney apartment.

The relationship was abusive. Gittany was obsessed with controlling Lisa – he referred to her by her second name Celeste – and wanted to know her every move. Lisa was an unwell woman. Anorexic and hopelessly dependant on Gittany. She was trying to leave when she was thrown off their Sydney high-rise. As is well documented, the time when a woman wants to leave is the most dangerous in a domestic violence situation.

The case attracted high media attention and Dale was there for it all, which gives this book great weight. Dale also travelled to Lisa’s hometown and spent time with her family and friends.

I remember following some of the case and the appearance of Gittany’s new girlfriend Rachelle Louise was disturbing and to me, exemplified the obsession of some people for fame and recognition. Rachelle Louise, a beautiful woman (though in an odd, fake way) courted the media’s attention and held placards protesting other miscarriages of justice. The cameras followed her everywhere and when she cut her long hair into a slick bob and arrived for Gittany’s sentencing it also made news. Rachelle Louise gave a “tell-all” interview on Sunday Night, claiming her payment would fund law school so she could prove Gittany innocent.

Gittany was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years with a maximum of 26 years.

It’s a very sad story. A young woman is killed by her partner. Treated like a piece of rubbish and thrown to her death. A photo in the book shows the contents of Lisa’s handbag splayed all over the road. In it was something like an affirmation card or book of Loise L. Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. To me that is the sadness and desperation Lisa Harnum felt to change her life.

She never got the chance.

I did find parts of the book repetitive but this was more a reflection of the abuse and control in Gittany and Lisa Harnum’s relationship. He was so obsessed with knowing where she was and tracking her via text message. Constantly. Lisa Harnum’s victimisation was awful to read.Every time she would maybe have a chance to leave, she wanted to give him another chance…he was a master manipulator. He made her dependant on him and had exploited her fragile state of mind and made it far worse…then he killed her.

The Fall is published by Random House.

Fabulous Fred: The Strife and Times of Fred Cook

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This book is more than a sport biography.

Debut author Paul Amy write the tale of Fred Cook, who was one of the legend players of the Victorian Football Association (VFA) in the 1970s. Cook was a colourful character and had “fame at a pop star level” during his heyday.

But with all intriguing stories, Cook had his flaws and these caused him to have a stunning crash to earth from his lofty fame. He earned excellent money for the time, was the publican of a legendary Melbourne watering hole The Station Hotel and had a thriving media career.

But as Amy details, Cook fell into drug use (“…Up until then he’d relied on strong coffee (sweetened by five sugars and cigarettes to stay ‘up’…”) and was mixing with the dangerous Melbourne underworld, namely the fearsome and crazy Dennis Allen. Allen was a regular at Cook’s Station Hotel and was the person who first offered the legendary footballer amphetamines. (For overseas readers of this blog, Dennis Allen was a deadly drug dealers who was behind the slayings of two Victoria Policemen Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre in 1988. Allen was part of the notorious Pettingill family – a crime clan headed by matriarch Kath. The hit Australian film Animal Kingdom drew inspiration for its central characters from the Pettingills and their crimes.

Cook did stints in jail and had a very chaotic romantic life – he estimates he has eight children from three or four mothers. (Cook struggles to remember details of his life due to his drug use.)

Amy is a fantastic storyteller. He worked closely with Fred Cook and his family, friends and associates to write this book. Amy is a sports journalist for Leader Community Newspapers in Melbourne and is one of the finest writers in Australia. (I disclose I work with Paul Amy and he is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and absolutely passionate about sports and journalism).

Even if you don ‘t care much for sport, Fabulous Fred is a gripping read. It is a fascinating social and sport history as well as the tragic tale of a man who had everything and lost it all.

This book has a lot of heart.

Fabulous Fred: The Strife and Times of Fred Cook is published by Melbourne Books.

 

Margaret and Seana Tapp murders – more tragedy

 

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For those of you who regularly read this blog you will know that I do have an interest in unsolved crimes, especially ones in Melbourne, Australia.

Earlier this month was the 30th anniversary of the murders of mother and daughter Margaret and Seana Tapp, 9, in Ferntree Gully, Melbourne.

On August 9, Herald Sun journalist Andrew Rule, who covered the case from the start and later unearthed information about deficiencies in the original police investigation, relayed another tragic element to the case.

MURDER MYSTERY: COULD A PAIR OF DUNLOP VOLLEYS LEAD TO A KILLER OF COLD CASE VICTIMS MARGARET AND SEANA TAPP?

Justin Tapp, who was 14 when his mother and baby sister were murdered, was found dead on June 3. Justin had moved London in 2001 but the tragedy followed him and he slowly drank away relationships, jobs and was found dead in a tiny bedsit.

“…He was slowly poisoned by the horror of what happened to them. He rarely spoke about it but was haunted by the thought that if he’d been at home at the time, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. He was only 14 then — just old enough to blame himself over the evil act that took two lives and destroyed his…” – Andrew Rule.

The last lines of Rule’s article are quite chilling: “…Whoever goes to see potential suspects might check their shoe size … and whether any of them ever had a link with the Girl Guides or Brownies. It could paint a whole new picture.”

(The strongest piece of evidence was the imprints of Dunlop Volley sneaker shoe in Margaret’s bedroom and the bathroom. Seana was also in a Brownies troupe, hence the reference to police investigating who may have been involved with the Girl Guides troupe.)

 

 

Mothers Who Murder by Xanthe Mallett

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This book covers a topic that is deeply distressing and uncomfortable to consider. Women who kill their son or daughter, known as filicide, challenge our deeply ingrained notion of what we think a woman, and a mother in particular, should be and how she should act.

The author, Dr Xanthe Mallett covers many of the well-known cases in Australian criminal history of mother who have murdered their children , including Keli Lane, Kathleen Folbigg and most recently Kristi Abrahams. Mallett, who was a presenter on the recent Channel Ten show Wanted, is also a forensic anthropologist and draws on her expertise to review each case and also add her opinion on the facts, evidence and investigation. However, there’s not much new in the case chapters to draw on. There’s no new insights revealed, which dedicated true crime readers would probably be looking for from this book.

Mallett also details some well-known miscarriages of justice, including Australia’s most notorious case of Lindy Chamberlain as well as shocking cases from her native United Kingdom and Europe.

Mothers Who Murder paints a shocking picture of the cruelty (and evil as Mallett concluded) that women can inflict. To do so on their own flesh and blood is mystifying and perhaps, this is why the topic of mothers who kill their children will always be heavily covered by the media and disseminated by experts and pundits.

This is Mallett’s first book and it is thorough and well-written.

Mothers Who Murder is published by Ebury Press, an imprint of Random House Australia.

 

The Yoga Store Murder by Dan Morse

 

YSMCover3D1I remember reading about this strange and shocking murder when it happened. It stood out in my mind because of where the crime happened – a Lululemon Athletica store.

I’m no stranger to the brand, we have it in Australia where it has gained serious popularity in the past few years. The clothes are pricey and the staff – usually always Canadians on working holidays – are really friendly and very chilled out. It is the last place you’d expect to see a murder.

So this crime, which happened in a retail store in Bethesda, Maryland (America’s most educated small town according to Forbes. This is due to its proximity to Washington DC) was certainly at odds with its zen backdrop.

On March 12, 2011, two young saleswomen were found brutally attacked in the store. One, 30-year-old Jayna Murray, was dead. Her colleague, Brittany Norwood, 28 was found tied up on the bathroom floor.  Norwood told a disturbing story of two masked men coming into the store after the women had closed.  The wanted money but then things turned violent.

“I just remember there being so much blood,” Norwood told investigators.

A terrifying incident…if it was true. Why would masked men want to rob a yoga store? Of course, there was more to the story and police didn’t have to look far for the culprit, despite fears there were two maniacs on the loose in the affluent town. Forensics don’t lie and days later it was revealed that Norwood had brutally murdered Jayna.

The author, Dan Morse, is a crime reporter at the venerable Washington Post and covered this case. From the outset, you know Morse has real journalistic authority of this strange crime. As a journalist myself, this certainly appealed to me and as a true crime reader, I knew I was in for a good read…and I was not disappointed.

The book is exhaustive in its research. It’s really hard work to write a crime book (I wrote one that was published this year and it was a case file book. I am in awe of writers who cover a WHOLE case in one book) and Morse has really written a cracker of a story.

What is most interesting to me is why? What makes a young woman launch such an act of brutality…Jayna had hundreds of wounds on her body. (The case reminds me a bit of that of South Australian teen Jason Downie, who had no previous history of violence yet stabbed to death a 16-year-old girl and her parents that left one of the most bloody scenes police in that state had ever encountered.) And acts of violence by women are always more perplexing as they defy our stereotype of femininity. Morse goes into the “why”, as well as the “how”.

A strange and very sad case.

You follow Dan Morse at:

Twitter: @morsedan AND Facebook: facebook.com/danmorsewriter

Website: theyogastoremurder.com