Category: Australian True Crime

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 dealer whose relatives were alleged to have orchestrated the slayings of two Victoria Policemen Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre in 1988. Allen, who died of heart disease in 1987, 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.

 

Love You to Death by Megan Norris

 

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This is the latest book from Australia’s true crime queen. Megan Norris has written a gripping account of Melbourne businessman Chris Soteriou’s life with wife Vicky…and his almost death.

In 2010 as he left his surprise 44th birthday, organised by the sexy, seemingly devoted Vicky, Chris was attacked by a man called Ari Dimitrakis…Vicky’s lover.

Chris was walking arm in arm with Vicky when Dimitrakis stabbed him and slashed his throat.

Vicky, Chris’s wife of 18 years, was manipulative and conniving. She promised Chris she “loved him to death” yet organised for him to die. At the surprise party she fawned all over him while her lover lay in wait to kill Soteriou. At her trial her defence claimed she was suffering from post-natal depression, yet it wasn’t the first time she had tried to have Chris killed, nor was she the model of fidelity to her husband, whom she had three children.

Norris, a veteran courts and crime journalist and freelancer,  goes way beyond what is reported in the news and tracks down new information on this most sensational case.

Soteriou survived to tell his tale and Norris has produced a fascinating, chilling story of an evil woman and misguided love.

Last year Norris released On Father’s Day, which is the devastating account of the murders of three little boys by their father Robert Farquharson.

But Farquharson’s crime is the most extreme, and little understood,  example of family violence – the murder of children to punish the mother. It took seven years, two trials and three appeal hearings (Robert Farquharson was jailed for a minimum of 33 years) for this story to finally be heard and it contains details never before revealed in the trials or media coverage. Norris worked with Cindy Gambino, the boys’ mother, to tell this definitive account of one of the most notorious crimes in Australia.

Love You to Death is published by The Five Mile Press and available online and in bookstores from today.

Mothers whose murders are still unsolved

It’s Mother’s Day in Australia and North America. A time to celebrate mothers. Children give their mums/moms homemade cards and gifts. It’s a day for mum to be spoilt with a sleep-in and breakfast in bed.

But there are many families who are still waiting for justice. Their mothers have been murdered and the killer/s have not been brought to account…yet.

Here are some cases where families are desperate for answers:

>>The children of murdered Melbourne woman Nanette Ellis hope a $500,000 reward, announced in February, will bring the vital clues needed to solve their mum’s murder 30 years ago. Nanette’s murder was brutal and baffling. Who would want to kill her? Read the detailed account of the crime here, written by Melbourne journalist and crime writer Keith Moor. (Australia)

Nanette Ellis.
Nanette Ellis.

 

>>The naked, bashed and strangled body of 29-year-old factory worker and single mother of two Annette Steward was found in the bedroom of her Geelong West, Victoria home on March 18, 1992. Police believe this now 22-year-old cold case is solvable and they have a “strong suspect”. A 2007 coroner’s inquest named a suspect. (Australia)

Annette Steward
Annette Steward

 

>>The murder of Pennsylvania mom Joy Hibbs in 1991 is still unsolved. her 12-year-old son David came home from school on April 19, excited to tell her he’d made the school honor roll, only to see his home enveloped by thick smoke. Joy had been strangled and stabbed to death before the house fire. The killer, no doubt, trying to cover the crime by setting the house alight. (United States)

Joy Hibbs
Joy Hibbs

 

>>The brutal bashing of 53-year-old mother Julie Paskall as she was waiting to pick up her teen son from a hockey game shocked Canadians. Julie was beaten to death outside a Surrey, B.C., hockey arena on December 29, 2013 and when son Cailean came out to the parking lot, he found his mother surrounded by paramedics trying to save her life. Julie’s husband of 35 years said he wants to find the person responsible, but not for revenge. He simply wants to know why anyone would attack his 4-10″, 125-pound wife. Canadian detectives said in March that they were confident they would find her killer. (Canada)

 

Julie Paskall

 

 

 

Dig the Archives event

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I couldn’t have written  my true crime book Murder in Suburbia without the help of newspaper archives. And the thing is, I stumbled across it rather than actually knowing how to navigate my way through available resources. Finding out more about research and resources is something I am really keen to do.

The Victorian Archives Open Day is on Saturday, May 17 in Melbourne and is a fantastic way to discover how to “dig” into the resources available.  There will be a series of informative talks on offer all day from property research with Adam Ford of the ABC’s Who’s Been Sleeping In My House? to finding out about how to research your family history. You will also have the opportunity to get a behind the scenes tour where you will discover the “Treasures of the Archives”.

Of particular interest to me is veteran crime journalist and author Russell Robinson who will run a session on “Archives of intrigue”. Robinson has written about some of Victoria’s most notorious crimes that have not been in the public eye for many, many years.

The event and sessions  are free but bookings are essential.

For more information go to prov.vic.gov.au/dig-the-archives

The Victorian Archives Centre is at  99 Shiel St, North Melbourne.

Murder in Suburbia

Things have been busy so far this year. I wrote my first true crime book last year and it was published by the Five Mile Press in January. For a long time I have been reading true crime so it was a very new experience to be writing my own book!

The book is called Murder in Suburbia and it features over 20 cases of murder in Australia’s suburbs and small towns.

You can read an extract here about the shocking case from 1950 of the suburban Melbourne mother who axed her teenage daughter to death while she was in a sleepwalking state.

There’s also an interview with the parents of murdered Melbourne mum jane Thurgood-Dove, who was shot in front of her children in a mistaken identity hit in 1997.

You can also read another extract about the shocking triple murder of three young people in Melbourne in 1992. The killer, Ashley Coulston, is one of the prisoners in Victoria whose file is marked “never to be released”.  Find the extract here.

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Find out more about the book at emilywebbcrime.com

Fate: Inside the Backpacker Murders Investigation by Neil Mercer

Review by A. R. Muir

The Sydney ‘backpacker murders’ of the 1980 and early 90s stand as perhaps the most infamous and scary chapter in Australia’s criminal history. Numerous books have been written about these serial killings from all angles. Fate by Neil Mercer targets the case from the point of view of the victims’ families. It tells of their first inklings that something may be wrong to their attempts to find their loved ones, and finally their reactions to the murder trial of Ivan Milat.

As a book on the backpacker murders it is probably best read in combination with others that contain more details on Milat’s life and family, for example Sins of the Brother by Mark Whittaker. What Mercer, a veteran Aussie journalist, does in Fate is put a very poignant face on the victims’ families, and their struggle for answers. He uses personal interviews and quotes to help narrate the unfolding horror of the families as they discover what monstrous atrocities their loved ones were forced to endure at the hands of the psychopath who then took their lives. It is moving to read of the search made by Manfred and Anke Neugebauer, parents of Gabor Neugebauer, and Norbert Habschied, Anja Habschied’s brother.

This is not a long book, but it does a decent job of outlining the case, and adding more understanding of the suffering felt by the victims’ families. It is a good introduction to the very convoluted case of the backpacker murders.

Forever Nine: The untold story of Bondi’s missing schoolgirl Samantha Knight

Review by A.R Muir

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When nine year old Samantha Knight was abducted from Bondi Road in 1986, Sydney reacted with a frantic search for any trace of the missing schoolgirl. Tips flooded in to police who pursued many avenues of inquiry, but ultimately failed to find her.

It took 16 years for some sort of justice to be obtained. The case “officially” ended with a plea of manslaughter from known paedophile, Michael Guider. He was allowed to plea to manslaughter despite the fact that he refused to tell the police where her body lay. Samantha, he claimed, was given an overdose of sleeping drug (in preparation of his abusing her). He was sentenced to only 12-17 years.

This is essentially where the story in Forever Nine: The Untold Story of Bondi’s Missing Schoolgirl Samantha Knight takes off as co-author and one-time friend of Guider, Denise Hoffman, attempts to get him to reveal where her body is hidden. Working for the police, Hoffman pretends to want to renew their rather fleeting relationship as bush surveyors.

It culminates in her wearing a wire to prison visits with Guider. But he is a remorseless narcissist and in a child-like manner, refuses to play the game. This book is a well-paced narrative of Samantha’s disappearance, although the authors do not seem to have had much access to the family. The authors make a compelling circumstantial case for Guider’s guilt, although the decisive physical link in the evidence (such as DNA) is missing.

The story does not quite hold its momentum when it gets to the tete-a-tete between Guider and Hoffman. It seems a bit perverse that he is getting so much attention (which is what he craves) when it is clear that he will not give up his secrets so long as he can string Hoffman along. This is not a criticism of their attempts, as they have the best intentions of finding Samantha.

The reader can empathise with their frustration and disappointment. Perhaps the most chilling part of the case is that with a conviction for manslaughter, Guider could be out of jail sooner rather than later. This is a very well written and gripping true crime book, that will definitely leave an enduring image of Samantha Knight’s tragic story, as well as the hope that someday she may be returned to her family.

The Killer Next Door: Death in an Australian Suburb

Review by A. R. Muir

John Wayne Glover, know as "The Granny Killer". Pic from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wayne_Glover
John Wayne Glover, know as “The Granny Killer”. Pic from Wikipedia 

 

The Killer Next Door by  Lindsay Simpson and Sandra Harvey relates the so-call “Granny Killings” of 1989 to 1990, perpetrated by the late-middle-aged pie salesman, John Wayne Glover. The killings of 6 elderly women occurred in the upper-class suburbs of Sydney’s North Shore, and shocked residents with their brutality and senselessness. I had heard of this famous case from a number of other sources, and thought I have a pretty fair understanding of the case. However I picked up this used copy out of curiosity one day, and within three pages I knew I had found a pure true crime gem.

Glover’s method of killing was to bash his victims over the head with a claw hammer, followed by manual strangulation. The book vividly portrays the public’s fear and confusion as the murders come one after the other with the police seemingly impotent to stop them.

There is an excellent and detailed history of Glover’s childhood and early man-hood, something which I had not come across before. There is sympathy and respect when dealing with the deaths of the elderly women. Readers find themselves incensed that this monster was able to prey upon society’s vulnerable members, and yet there is also a sense of the courage of those who were able to fight back against a bigger, meaner attacker.

Due to its age the book is somewhat outdated in terms of its discussion of the serial killer phenomenon. The quotes from Colin Wilson and Donald Seaman at the beginning of every chapter smacks at hero-worship, and do not really add anything to the discussion. The authors try to get behind what motivated Glover to commit such senseless crimes, but his actions defied the contemporary understanding of serial killers.

For example, right up until the end, the “profilers” had convinced police that they were looking for a very young man who lived at home with his parents. Glover was married with children and approaching retirement age.

This book held my rapt attention till the very end, although I would have liked a bit more detail about the trial. Never the less this is a very high standard of true crime writing and a must read for anyone lucky enough to locate a copy. 5 out of 5.

Editor’s note: John Glover was found dead in his prison cell in 2005, having hanged himself. Police in NSW and Victoria (where Glover once lived) believe he could have been responsible for several unsolved murders of older women.

On Father’s Day by Megan Norris

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On Father’s Day is a devastating and powerful book by Megan Norris that tells the definitive story of one of the worst Australian crimes of recent years.

In 2005, Victorian father Robert Farquharson’s car – with his three little boys in it – veered into an icy dam. The children, Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, and Bailey, 2, all died and the traumatic impact of the tragedy made headlines around Australia. The children’s mother Cindy Gambino (pictured below with the author) was left completely broken by the crime and, at first, believed her ex-husband that it was a tragic accident.

But Farquharson’s crime is the most extreme, and little understood,  example of family violence – the murder of children to punish the mother. It took seven years, two trials and three appeal hearings (Robert Farquharson was jailed for a minimum of 33 years) for this story to finally be heard and it contains details never before revealed in the trials or media coverage.

Norris, who worked for many years with Cindy Gambino to tell this story, has written the story with such detail and narrative power that the reader is compelled to continue reading, even though the content is so tragic. There are also the stories of other women whose children have been murdered by their fathers in revenge killings intended to punish them forever.

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On Father’s Day is published by The Five Mile Press and available from all good bookstores.

 

 

The Pyjama Girl Mystery by Richard Evans

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Review by A. R. Muir

August 1934, a body was found in a culvert off a country road in Albury, a town on the border of NSW and Victoria. The body was that of a once voluptuous young woman. It was badly burnt and wrapped in a sackcloth. But the attempt at concealment had been unsuccessful, and the woman’s striking features were not erased by the fire. What followed was one of the largest murder investigation in New South Wales to date. The police and an avid media followed every available lead to identify their once beautiful victim. Yet surprisingly they were unable to match her to any missing women.

To aid in identification the NSW coroner took the unprecedented step of preserving the body entirely in a bath of formalin. Thus the mysterious Pyjama Girl (so named because of the oriental-style pyjama’s she wore) lay in state for the next ten years waiting for identification. Remarkably the case was re-opened in 1944 when new evidence and suspicions came to light. The Pyjama Girl’s body was so well preserved in the formalin that, after a liberal application of makeup, she was finally identified by those who once knew her as Linda Agostini. An Italian immigrant and hairdresser, Linda had been living with her husband in Sydney when she went missing in 1934. With these new revelations the police were able to track down her killer and pursue justice. Richard Evans’ book is excellently written, very much from the perspective of contemporary police investigators and the massive media response. The reader is invited to share the unfolding tale of mystery as police undertake a quest to put a name to the Pyjama Girl. It makes for addictive reading. Another advantage of the book is the astounding photographs of the preserved body (tastefully done but somewhat macabre). It would have helped to have some more explanations to go with the pictures to explain their context, or at least references in the text. However a quick search of the internet can quickly uncover extra detail and photographs.

This is a captivating read that is very hard to put down. 4 out of 5

Gangland North South & West by James Morton and Susanna Lobez

 

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There’s much written about gangland activity in Melbourne and Sydney. Those with an appetite for reading about more crime from Australia’s other states are in for a good blast of it with Gangland North South & West.

Written by crime duo James Morton and Susanna Lobez, this book features fascinating tales of crime in “the wild west” of Western Australia and the “Top End” of the country. There’s also plenty of illegal goings-on in South Australia (a breeding ground for strange and shocking crimes). There’s contract killing, prostitution, robbery, illegal gambling and the stand-over game.

There are also the tales of the seeming exotic trade in pearls diamonds and gold, which are particularly appealing.  One of my favourite chapters is “Treasures of Diamonds and Gold” that features the story of about  the Mickelberg brothers and the 1982 Perth Mint robbery. The brothers were framed for the crime and their convictions were finally overturned in 2004. There’s also a chapter on bikie activity and the organised motor cycle gangs that have ben active in Australia since the 1970s.

If you are like me and love a good crime case file book to get stick into then Gangland North South & West is a great addition to your reading pile.

Morton and Lobez have written several books together including Kings of Sting and Dangerous to Know.

Gangland North South & West is published by Melbourne University Press.

Things a Killer Would Know: The true story of Leonard Fraser

 

Picture: Angusrobertson.com.au
Picture: Angusrobertson.com.au

Review by A. R. Muir

‘Horrific’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘depraved’ can only begin to describe the crimes perpetrated by the subject of Things a Killer Would Know by Paula Doneman.

The murders committed by Leonard John Fraser in the Queensland town of Rockhampton are as bad as they come. As a criminal he ticks just about every box of perversion from necrophilia to bestiality, not to mention vicious rape, torture and remorseless murder. Fraser’s crimes started from when he was a boy, sent to a reform school for theft and threatening behaviour. As an adult, he spent much of his life in prison on various terms for rape and armed robbery. Yet he was granted early release and free to rape and murder at least four vulnerable or mentally challenged victims. One of these was eleven year old schoolgirl, Keyra Steinhardt. Her rape, abduction and murder being all the more tragic as it was witnessed by a couple who failed to immediately alert police.

Fraser’s crimes were committed using his fists, knives and strangulation with clothing. He further sought to hide his victims via burial, even going so far as to remove one victim’s head and bury it separately to hinder identification. He was tried and convicted in 1999 of four murders, although there is strong speculation that he may have killed more women in Queensland and New South Wales.

The book is very well narrated and well paced. The author takes time to reveal new details as the trial progresses so that the reader is induced to keep reading on for the final conclusions. As each crime evolves, it brings a new twist of revulsion and disgust. The only drawback is that there is quite a lot of repetition and retelling of each murder. It is as if the author needs to continually remind readers of what Fraser has done, even though the true horror of his crimes are quickly established during the first half of the book. Never the less, it is an extremely well put together true crime narrative which deals with a despicable predator and his crimes. It leaves the reader only too grateful that justice was achieved, and a serial killer was finally taken off the street.

Highly recommended, although some may find the details of these crimes distressing.

More true crime reviews by A.R. Muir can be read here at shelfari.com

 

Love Behind Bars

I’ve always been fascinated by relationships that happen between prisoners and people on “the outside”. In particular women who form relationships with men behind bars already. I mean, it’s like the ultimate way to have a relationship without lots of the drudgery that goes with long-term relationships. Or, how do women (or men) stay committed when their spouse goes inside?

Victoria Heywood has written a really interesting account of “love behind bars”. I found myself intrigued by the stories of some of the famous cases that have been in the news and especially the other ones of your average citizens caught up in really strange and horrifying situations.

The chapter I found really fascinating was the story of Perth woman Caitlyn John who has two children – one with a severe learning disability – and a boyfriend on death row in America. Caitlyn has been writing to death row inmates for over a decade and is active on Internet blogs and forums dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty. Her boyfriend Tim was on death row for the murder of a guard during an armed robbery. He is now in jail for life but Caitlyn is trying to prove his innocence. What was telling was Caitlyn telling Heywood that Timothy was “the perfect lover”. “She has her own life and is free to do what she wants…all the while knowing there is a man out there who adores her and constantly dreams of the day they will be together…”

Love Behind Bars is published by The Five Mile Press.

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The Janine Balding Story: A Journey through a Mother’s Nightmare

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The abduction, gang rape and murder of young Sydney woman Janine Balding in 1988 really was a crime that rocked Australians. Janine’s murder was just a few years after the abduction, rape and murder of Sydney nurse Anita Cobby and an already-sickened community was again shocked by the death of another vivacious young woman.

I first read The Janine Balding story when it came out 1995 and I found a copy at a second-hand bookstore. I don’t think it is still in print but if people can get their hands on a copy it it well worth a read.

Written by Janine’s mother Bev, with the assistance of journalist Janet Fife-Yeomans, The Janine Balding Story is from the perspective of a family’s devastated at the loss of a child to a violent crime and their views on the justice system.

Janine, 20, was abducted from a railway station by a gang of five youths (including one girl), raped, hog-tied and dumped in a dam in Western Sydney.

One of the gang, Bronson Blessington (known as B during the trial) was 14 and he and two others were jailed for life in NSW – their file stamped “never to be released”. The eldest of the group, a repugnant man Stephen “shorty” Jamieson (nicknamed Shorty for his very short stature, also born with foetal alcohol syndrome) was 22.

It is hard to imagine how a family goes on after such a tragedy. Bev Balding tells her story and honours the memory of her daughter in a straightforward, yet very touching way.

The Double LIfe of Herman Rockefeller

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Melbourne multimillionaire businessman Herman Rockefeller led the ultimate double life. Devoted father, church-goer and fitness fanatic, Mr Rockefeller died in the seediest of circumstances. He died in 2010 at the hands of couple Mario Schembri, an illiterate rubbish-collector and his alcoholic girlfriend, Bernadette Denny. Mr Rockefeller had visited the home of Denny to take part in what was meant to be a “wife swap”. Mr Rockefeller was an avid user of personal classifieds and hooked up with strangers for sex. He had previously had sex with Miss Denny while Schembri watched.

Author and barrister Hilary Bonney explores this case that gripped Melbourne, much in the same way (probably to a lesser degree) that the Wales-King society murders did. Bonney wrote a book on that case too.

The disappointing aspect of the book, and it’s not Bonney’s fault, is that there’s no real explanation why the pair killed Mr Rockefeller or what actually happened. It seems Mr Rockefeller may have been alive for a number of hours and dying on the concrete floor of Denny’s garage before they cut his body up with a chainsaw and burned him.

I felt really sorry for his wife and children, whose lives were completely shattered by the revelations of their husband and father’s secret life and seedy nature of his death, let alone the fact that he had died.

The Double LIfe of Herman Rockefeller is published by Penguin.

Unsolved East

Here is a project I have worked on for most of this year – UNSOLVED EAST.  It’s a multimedia special on some cold cases from the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

– There’s the case of mother and daughter Margaret and Seana Tapp who were murdered in their beds in 1984.

– Who is Mr Cruel? The sexual offender known as Mr Cruel abducted young girls from their homes in the late 1980s and early 1980s. He was also implicated in the murder of schoolgirl Karmein Chan.

– Best-selling true crime author (Underbelly) and journalist Andrew Rule gives his insights into the Tapp murders and Mr Cruel.

– I interview Liz Westwood, the mother of 16-year-old Suzie Lawrance who disappeared without a trace in 1987.

 

 

True True Blood by Megan Norris

Melbourne author Megan Norris goes to the dark, dark side of human nature with her latest book True True Blood.

 

Billed as “The sickening truth behind our most grisly vampire slayings”, Norris details nine vampire killing cases – including two from Australia.

The  case I remember most (and was keen to read more about)  is that of Brisbane lesbian vampire killer Tracey Wiggington who made world headlines in 1989 when she was arrested for the brutal murder of a man whom she lured, along with her band of lesbian devotees, under the pretext of sex but slayed him and drank his blood from a stab wound in his neck.

Wiggington was quietly released from prison early in 2012 after almost 23 years in jail.

Another chapter in the book is dedicated to Perth killers Jessica Stasinowsky, 20, and Valerie Parashumti, 19, wo murdered their 16-year-old housemate Stacey Mitchell in 2006. The girls killed their housemate for no other reason that she was “annoying” them and attacked her after after giving her alcohol containing a sleeping pill. The pair then bashed the teenager with a concrete block. Parashumti was discovered to have drank blood as part of a vampire subculture that she was obsessed with.

Their trial caused shock around Australia  as details emerged that the pair shared a passionate kiss over the dying teenager and giggled through their pre-sentence hearing. They were jailed for life in 2008 with a minimum of 24 years.

True True Blood also includes the story of Sacramento vampire killer Richard Chase who killed six people in just one month and the Kentucky Vampire Clan killer Rod Ferrell who was under the delusion that he was a 500-year-old vampire.

Norris is a journalist with over 30 years who has covered some of the biggest crime cases for Australian magazines and newspapers. Her passion is true crime writing and true crime readers will appreciate her enthusiastic, detailed work.

True True Blood is available now in bookstores and online and is published by The Five Mile Press.

Missing You by Justine Ford

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Missing You by Justine Ford is one of the latest releases from The Five Mile Press. I really enjoyed this book. I am endlessly fascinated by missing persons cases and journalist Justine Ford has selected cases that are notorious, heartbreaking and intriguing.

In particular Ford has written a chapter on a recent missing persons case: Boronia, Victoria schoolgirl “Bung” Siriboon who vanished without a trace on her way to school in 2011. (Since the book’s release, a matter of only weeks ago, police released fresh information that Bung was sighted less that a couple of hundred metres from her school. This shows she was on her way to school and police believe she was abducted by a local resident.)

Another chapter is on Perth’s mystery man who had gone under a train while he was walking along the tracks in 1998. To this day no one has come forward to help the police positively identify the man, who was aged between 25-35.

There’s also a chapter on one of the highest profile missing persons cases in Australia – Queensland boy Daniel Morcombe. Tragically, Daniel’s remains were found last year. He had been missing since December 2003.

I definitely recommend Missing You. It’s a heartbreaking read. It never ceases to amaze me that people go missing or are never identified. Someone must know them?