I spoke to the childhood best friend of one of the victims Catherine Headland. Reading about this series of murders is as shocking now as it would’ve been in 1980 when the skeletal remains of Catherine, 14, were found along with those of two other victims — Ann-Marie Sargent, 18, and Bertha Miller, 75 — at a secluded bush track off Brew Rd, Tynong North. There were also the murders of two other women from Frankston (a south-east bayside suburb of Melbourne) and another woman whose remains were found in Tynong North. The killings are believed by many to be by the same killer.
Catherine’s best friend Cheryl Goldsworthy is making another plea for anyone with information to tell the police. Time is ticking to solve this case. Victoria Police have had a prime suspect for years, there’s just not enough evidence to charge the man. This man is in his 80s now, if he is still alive.
Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
One of the most exciting things about writing a book is the reader feedback.
After my first book Murder in Suburbia was released in January 2014 I got quite a few emails and letters from people who were fascinated by the older, Melbourne cases and also from people who had a personal link to some of the murders.
I wrote about the 1956 murders of an elderly mother and her daughter in Melbourne’s Fitzroy. These brutal killings (the women were bashed to death) became known as “The Treasure House” murders because the women had wads of money, jewellery and thousands of dollars (pounds back then) worth of exquisite Chinse carvings and furniture in their home.
The case remains unsolved – a male boarder did go to trial over the killings but he was acquited.
I received a fascinating email from the niece of MaryBoanas, who was one of the women clubbed to death. This woman wrote and told me she was actually there on the day her relations were murdered. She was a young girl and was visiting “Aunty Min and Rose” with her mother and three siblings. Here are her words:
“…I was then the 11-year-oldstanding outside their front door whilst the murderer was still inside the house.
They had partly raised me on their return from China, when we had a family guest house in Healesville, they later bought the house in Fitzroy, Aunty Min was my Grandmothers sister and Rose was her daughter.
As was the custom of the day they took in male borders, not because they needed the money but because it was considered safer to have a male person living on the house, they were wrong it was one of these men that murdered them for their money.
They did not trust banks and keep their money wrapped in socks and underwear in their drawers.
Our Mother took us for a pre-Christmas visit as she did every year, if they were not home they would leave their front door key for me to enter the house and wait for them. The key was hidden in the vine twisted around one of the pillars on the front verandah. However this particular day it was not there, very strange I thought.
As it was a hot day my Mother took us (4 children) to get ice creams as were sure they would return soon, they were looking forward to our visit.
We returned but there was still no answer, we did not know at that time they were dying in pools of blood not far inside the door.
On returning home my mother phoned one of her Aunts who had a spare key and Aunty Rose, said she would go and check on them. that was when she made the gruesome discovery. I believe our Holden car was pictured in the news article of the day…”
The reader even sent me a photo of one of the Chinese tables belonging to the murdered women from “the treasure house”, which her mother gave her.
Thank you to readers who take the time to contact authors.
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.
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.)
I have been fortunate to have visited Oahu twice – when I was 9 and 15 and it was beautiful. I especially loved the night markets and the friendliness of people. I’d like to return to Hawaii for a holiday now that I am an adult.
But for all the beauty and seeming casualness of Hawaiian life, there is a dark side to the island life and that’s most evident in the unsolved murders that police are still actively trying to solve.
I was intrigued by a more than decade-old article by the Honlolulu Advertiser about unsolved murders from the 1970s and 1980s.
It appears that a serial killer was active in 1985-1986 as there are five cases of women murdered in Honolulu. The killer has been dubbed The Honolulu Strangler and has not been caught. The victims were aged from 17 to 36.
There is also the horror case of eight-year-old Roiti Dias (below) who was kidnapped while walking to school on May 27, 1980, and later found dead with her throat slashed. No one has ever been arrested for her murder.
Another girl, Jiezhao Li, 12, was last seen on Feb. 11, 1988, selling fundraiser tickets near a 7-Eleven store in a Honolulu suburb called Nuuanu. She is still missing.
These unsolved crimes haunt detectives.
And a recent report on the Kauaicold case unit to say that they have not forgotten victims and investigators are actively working with the island’s prosecution office to crack these cases.
– The 1981 gunshot slayings of Californians John Klein, 28 and his wife Michelle, 25 who were vacationing on Kauai. Their bodies were found on a tourist trail and had been shot seven times.
Their murders unsettled tourists and was a set back to state officials and locals, who were trying to reassure people that Hawaii was safe to visit after some other high-profile instances of attacks visitors. There had been a gang rape of a Finnish woman, 23, by a gang of local teenagers in 1979, which attracted national coverage and condemnation over the shoddy handling of rape cases by the State.
One theory for the murders of the Kleins is that the couple – he a lawyer and she a publicist – stumbled across a marijuana crop. An Associated Press article from January 3, 1982 called “Marijuana Blight: Hawaii Paradise Threatened by Hidden Cultivation” reported that six months after the couple’s death, police harvested almost a tonne of weed within a mile of where their bodies were discovered.
Information on these cases and more can be found on the website of the Kaua’i Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.
Anyone reading this blog who has information that could solve any of these homicides should contact Honolulu Crime Stoppers or the Kauai County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney at 808-241-1888 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today is International Missing Children’s Day and I wanted to share with you all the story of Liz Westwood, an Australian mother whose daughter Suzie, 16, went missing in 1987.
On February 7, Suzie went to a party at Healesville Memorial Hall. She was last seen the next day, before disappearing without a trace. Healesville is a rural town and tourist attraction in Melbourne’s outer east and in 1987, it was very much a place where everyone knew one another.
As part of a multimedia project I did in 2012 called Unsolved East, photojournalist Eugene Hyland and I travelled to Liz Westwood’s home to speak with her about Suzie’s disappearance. The video interview can be found here on YouTube.
It is a baffling case. Liz has never heard from her daughter since, nor has any of Suzie’s brothers. As Liz told us, Suzie was very close in particular to one brother and she said it made no sense that she wouldn’t have at least contacted him over the years.
An aspect of the case that i found really strange was that the party dress that Suzie wore to the 21st birthday party – a white taffeta dress – has never been found (see story below. The picture is from a television recreation of her case). Suzie would have had to change from her party clothes as she was seen the next day at a music festival in nearby Yarra Glen.
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)
>>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)
>>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)
>>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)
There are currently around 1000 unidentified bodies on police files. Some of these bodies date back 50 years.
This is so sad and baffling. How is it that people can go missing and NO ONE tries to find out what happened? I understand that many of these bodies will be people from Europe or other countries but still, how does this happen?
The website UK Missing Persons Bureau gives details of these bodies but despite it being “live” for seven months, there have been no new leads on any of the cases.
Untying the knot is a well written, well researched conclusion to the West Memphis Three case by Greg Day. It is overly detailed in regards to the victims, their families and the three accused. It outlines confidently the unsubstantiated (although not completely out of scope) suspicion of John Mark Byers as well as providing details of the evidence against Terry Hobbs and possibly David Jacoby.
The West Memphis Three case is now 20 years old and still remains a detailed mystery. There is plenty of ongoing speculation surrounding this case and it will probably puzzle people for a long time to come. Untangling the knot really highlights the bittersweet victory of the West Memphis Three and their eventual Alford Plea which brought none of the families on either side any closure but did allow the West Memphis Three their eventual freedom after an epic and difficult 18 year legal battle.
Untying The Knot was definitely readable but at times a bit dry. I would not recommend this book to readers who aren’t well informed in the case of the West Memphis Three as it is quite detailed and doesn’t take the usual time to set up a story like a regular true crime book would. Having read hours of internet material on the West Memphis Three and seeing large amounts of the Paradise Lost documentaries I found it easy to follow the stories and the family situations (of which there are many). It’s not a book to begin your reading on West Memphis Three, but a great follow up from Devil’s Knot and the Paradise Lost documentaries.
Untying The Knot really highlighted the issue of justice for the accused overshadowing justice for the victims and their family, especially as the crime and the crime scene grew stale. Apart from the lingering accusations of Byers, Hobbs and perhaps Jacoby there is very little opportunity so long after the crime that anybody else would be investigated or prosecuted for these crimes for a second time.
The cause of 13-year-old Clare Morrison’s death is still a mystery.
The Geelong girl’s naked body washed up on the famous surfer haunt Bell’s Beach, Torquay on December 19, 1992.
Clare’s body had been attacked by a shark and whether she has been sexually assaulted, or how and why she died, has never been determined.
Clare had been known to hang out at Geelong Mall. Geelong is a large regional centre in Victoria. Despite her middle-class upbringing and good education, Clare was known to youth services in the town.
Police assume that Clare must have been given a lift to Bell’s Beach. Investigators were given false information in the days after Clare’s death, which diverted their efforts for six months. Police had believed that a blue Holden Commodore sedan was the vital clue in discovering Clare’s final movements.
During the 1970s and early 1980s young men were going missing in Adelaide. All fit and healthy, these men – five that are known of – disappeared from the streets of the city and then their bodies were found dumped in rivers, paddocks and reservoirs. The young men were used and abused and died from their injuries.
The highest-profile of the victims was the 15-year-old son of popular newsreader Rob Kelvin. Richard Kevin was last seen on a Sunday early evening. He was kidnapped and kept for five weeks, used and tortured before his body was found.
Bevan Spencer von Einem was charged with Richard’s murder and believed to be responsible for the deaths of the other four men. He is serving a life sentence.
The author of Young Blodd, Bob O’Brien, gives his weight of experience of the case to his book. O’Brien was a detective in the South Australia Police and was on the investigation team into Richard’s disappearance.
“The Family” reference in the title is about the speculation that von Einem and a network of pedophiles were responsible for the abuse of the missing men.
Young Blood was published by Harper Collins in 2002.
NEW Zealand, though a country with a small population of around 4.3million, has had its share of brutal crimes and unsolved murders.
The Press details nine unsolved murders that police in the Canterbury region of New Zealand. The renewed look at the unsolved murders comes after an arrest in the high profile case of Christchurch woman Mellory Manning, who was murdered in 2008. A 24-year-old man appeared in court on March 29.
One of the highest profile unsolved murders in the Canterbury region (main city is Christchurch) is that of Ashburton teen Kirsty Bentley who was 15 when she disappeared while walking her dog in 1998. He body was found 18 days later. In 2010 police released details of Kirsty’s death, which had never been revealed to the public, in the hope of a breakthrough in the case. Police enlisted the help of British expert on child murder Chuck Burton to help them crack the case. Burton, a retired Detective Inspector, has built a datatbase of every murder and serious sexual assault of a child in Britain, which goes back over 50 years.
Kirsty’s father and brother have been considered in the pool of suspects in her murder. Her brother John was the only person home when Kirsty took her dog for a walk, the last time she was seen alive.
Another murder that has remained unsolved is that of backpacker Jennifer Beard. Jennifer was travelling solo around the South Island en route to meet her boyfriend when she was found under Haast River Bridge, on the West Coast of the island. It is believed she was killed on New Year’s Eve, 1969, though her body was not discovered for 19 days. The book about the case Getting Away With Murder: The Jennifer Beard Investigation is well worth a read. The prime suspect in the case, Timaru man Gordon Bray, always maintained he was innocent of the crime and died in 2003. In 2010 the detective who was in charge of the investigation into Jennifer’s death, Emmett Mitten, gave an interview to The Southland Times and he says a crucial piece of evidence, which implicated Bray, was misplaced and discovered too late.
NEW South Wales homicide squad detectives are appealing for information to identify a woman whose remains were found at Belanglo State Forest last year.
Police have released an image depicting the deceased female, believed to be a teenage girl or young woman and the image is the result of a ‘facial approximation’ that was completed based on an extensive examination of the female’s skull.
A group of trail bike riders alerted police to the remains in dense bushland near Daly’s Waterhole in theBelangloStateForest, south of Sydney, on Sunday 29 August 2010.
Forensic analysis revealed the remains belonged to a female, who has been nicknamed “Angel” by detectives investigating her case. They believe she was aged between 13 and 25 years at the time of her death. The bones could have been in the area between six months and 10 years.
Belanglo State Forest is notorious for being the killing grounds for serial killer “the backpacker murderer” Ivan Milat.
Strike Force Hixson was formed to investigate the discovery but, despite extensive inquiries in NSW and across the country, detectives have not been able to identify her.
“Through extensive checks with missing persons records, it appears no-one has ever reported this teenage girl or young woman missing, but someone must know who she is,” said Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Michael Willing.
“The female’s teeth show signs of dental work typical of Western dentistry and commonly carried out inAustralia, but so far we’ve been unable to match them with dental records,” he said.
Police are again releasing an artistic impression of a T-shirt which was located by officers near the skeletal remains. The T-shirt is short sleeved with a distinct motif featuring the word ‘Angelic’ in pink text, a rose and a heart with angel wings. This type of T-shirt is no longer available for sale however was available for sale inNew South Walesand other parts ofAustraliafrom the early to mid 2000s.
Anyone with information that could help them identify the teenage girl or young woman to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
It has been 21 years since teenagers Fiona Burns, 15 and John Lee, 14 were found dead at a truck parking bay, near the South Australian border.
Victoria Police homicide detectives have launched a fresh appeal for information to solve the case.
The teens’ bodies were discovered on October 18, 1990 at the truck parking bay between Kaniva and Bordertown. Both had been stabbed to death.
Fiona, then 15, and John, then 14, were last seen hitch hiking between Adelaide and Melbourne along the Western Highway between 9 and 11 October, 1990.
The communities up near the SA border are small and Homicide Squad Detective Inspector John Potter said police were appealing for information from those in the community who know what happened.
“There is someone out there who knows exactly what happened to Fiona and John and it is to those people and their closest confidants that we are appealing to,” Detective Insp Potter said.
Insp Potter said a $100,000 reward remained on offer.
“When a child is killed, society loses some of its innocence, when two children are callously murdered and the killer or killers are not brought to justice, the whole community carries the burden,” Insp Potter said.
“The families of Fiona and John need and indeed deserve closure, for 21 years they have suffered not knowing what happened to their loved ones and have waited to see someone brought to justice.
“We are appealing for information Australia wide, the fact that their bodies were found at a truck stop on an interstate highway gives rise to the possibility that the person or persons responsible may well have resided in any state or territory in Australia.
The disappearance of British child Madeleine McCann in 2007 is probably the highest profile missing child case in the world at the moment.
Criminal profiler Pat Brown has written a profile of the disappearance of the then-three -year-old while she was on a family holiday in Portugal. This 76-page e-book hit the headlines recently when the McCann family’s lawyers allegedly had the book banned from sale on Amazon.
I read this profile with great interest as to me it seemed unfathomable that you would leave your infant children alone in a holiday apartment (in a foreign country no less) and check on them every 15 minutes (these checks form a large segment analysis in Brown’s profile into the alleged abduction of Madeleine).
This is a controversial profile. While Brown points out continually that the “profile is one theory and does not prove guilt or innocence of anyone…”, the overall tone is one of disbelief in he McCann’s story, as well as those of their friends who were also on holiday in Portugal. Brown dissects the the party’s times and seeming conflicting accounts of what they saw on the night.
Ultimately, Brown puts forward a theory that Madeleine had an accident while alone in the apartment and was found dead by her father Gerry, who then took her body to an unknown location. She even proposes that the friends (or at least some of them) knew Madeleine had died in the apartment and helped the McCanns cover it up. Brown says in the profile that in her opinion it was unlikely that Madeleine was abducted but if she was, she was not alive.
It’s pretty confronting reading. I felt slightly ghoulish reading it though it was very interesting to see the structure of a criminal profile.
For me, the theory that Madeleine was abducted is entirely believable, as is the one that Brown suggests in this profile.
I purchased the Profile of the Disappearance of Madeleine McCann by Pat Brown from iTunes for AUD $2.99.
As I’ve mentioned before on True Crime Reader, I love me a bit of Ann Rule. She’s like the high priestess of true crime writing.
But I Trusted You is Vol 14 of Rule’s crime files. The main case in the collection is about the murder of high school counselor Chuck Leonard by his wife Teresa but I found that I wasn’t as interested in this as the shorter case files in this collection.
In particular the chapter Dark Forest: Deep Danger is horrifying. The Cowden family – Richard and Belinda and their children David, 5 and Melissa, five months – disappeared from their Oregon campsite in 1974. Their bodies were found seven months later and the case is still unsolved, though police had a suspect. It’d be amazing if, after 37 years if this awful crime was solved.
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…