This week I reported on the 1984 unsolved murder of Boronia mother and newspaper manager Nanette Ellis.
I first read about this case at least two years ago when I stumbled upon a 1990 Herald Sun article called “Who murdered them?”, which detailed many unsolved murders that Victoria Police still hoped to solve.
What I didn’t realise at the time was that Mrs Ellis worked for the same company I do – Leader Community Newspapers (the Melbourne community newspaper arm of News Limited) and was manger of Free Press Leader at the time of her death.
I contacted Victoria Police late last year and came into contact with Sen-Constable Kyle Simpson, who is on the team that is re-investigating several cold cases, including that of Mrs Ellis.
Mrs Ellis’s murder on February 10, 1984 at her Manuka Drive home was brutal (she was stabbed) and disturbingly, it was thought that Mrs Ellis was the victim of a terror campaign by an unknown person in the weeks leading up to her death.
Constable Simpson told me that Victorian serial killer Peter Dupas had definitely been ruled out as a suspect in Mrs Ellis’s murder. Dupas is serving a life sentence for the frenzied stabbing murders of three women – Margaret Maher and Mersina Halvagis in 1997 and Nicole Patterson in 1999 and is a suspect in at least three other unsolved stabbing murders of women in Victoria.
1984 also saw the murders of a mother and daughter, just up the road from Boronia, in their Ferntree Gully Home. (For readers outside of Victoria, Boronia and Ferntree Gully are suburbs at the foothills of Mount Dandenong in Melbourne’s outer east.) Margaret Tapp, 35 and her nine-year-old daughter Seana were strangled in their beds late on the night of August 7, 1984 (Seana was sexually assaulted).
Melbourne crimes journalists Andrew Rule and John Silvester wrote this excellent article in 2010 about the fact that the Tapp murders had seemingly been forgotten by the public and been the victim of a lack of urgency on the part of reporters and police –
“When a woman and her little girl were strangled in their beds on a winter night in 1984, your correspondents both worked the police beat at Russell Street headquarters. It should have become one of Victoria’s biggest unsolved murder stories, but never did. Somehow, a vile crime fell through the cracks…” – Andrew Rule and John Silvester fr0m “A mother, her daughter and a murder case that got away from all” (The Age, June 19, 2010)
Interestingly, my aunt told me that Margaret and Seana Tapp had lived next door to her in Wantirna (another suburb in Melbourne’s outer east) for a while before they moved to the Kelvin Grove, Ferntree Gully home where they were murdered. My aunt said she remembered seeing Margaret Tapp zipping out and about in her little car and they would wave to each other.
The Tapp murders resurfaced in the news in 2008 when a man was charged with their murders, however the charges were withdrawn soon after it was discovered that evidence that linked the man with the crime had been contaminated. It is thought that the contamination took place in 1999 when clothing from an unrelated offence was examined and found to contain DNA matching the man who was charged incorrectly. Some of the clothing from the Tapp murder case had been examined on the same day.
These are two unsolved crimes that I am following with particular interest as I grew up in and live in Melbourne’s outer east.
In August 1984 I was eight, almost nine.
The same age that Seana Tapp was when she was murdered…