Thursday, January 22, 2015

The murder of Rachel Barber.


Rachel Barber

Rachel Barber was a beautiful 15 year old girl.  A talented dancer, she had the whole world in front of her.  Unfortunately for Rachel this made her the target of a deranged woman who wanted to take all that away from her.

Caroline Reed Robertson was only 19 herself.  Their families were friends; Caroline had babysat Rachel and her younger sisters.  Caroline was chubby, and suffered from teenage acne, which led to a very negative self-image. As a teenager Caroline was a prolific writer, documenting her inner torment.

In Rachel, Caroline saw everything she was not, and an obsession began.  In Caroline’s twisted thoughts, the fact that Rachel was beautiful automatically meant that she would be happy, something she desired so badly for herself.  The obsession with Rachel festered and grew for several years.  As early as 1997, two years before the murder, Caroline would take photos of Rachel, supposedly for school projects.  It seems that for Caroline, coveting what Rachel had was not enough.  She had to take it from her, and somehow transfer it to herself.

In the months leading up to the murder, Caroline decided that she needed a new identity. She spoke to Rachel’s younger sister and asked her for Rachel’s date of birth.  The police believe she used this to get a copy of Rachel’s birth certificate.  Still a prolific writer, hand written notes later found at Caroline’s flat showed that Caroline planned to kill and disfigure Rachel, and then create a new identity for herself as “Jem Southall” a wild 16 year old, a “total revhead”.   She wrote detailed plans of how she was going to kill Rachel, and create a new life for herself as “Jem”.

Eventually Caroline’s plans were put into action.  She lured Rachel to her flat in the trendy Melbourne suburb of Prahran under the guise of getting her assistance in a psychology assignment.  It was a secret study, so Rachel had to not tell anyone what she was doing.  Rachel was last seen on the afternoon of February 28th 1999 on a tram with a woman resembling Caroline. 

Sometime that night Caroline strangled Rachel with a telephone cord and, according to her later statement, she kept her body in her flat for a couple of days before taking it in a taxi to be disposed of.  She buried her body on a property at Kilmore, just outside Melbourne, which was owned by her father. 

Caroline’s attendance at work over the next two weeks was sporadic.  On one of her sick days she applied for a car loan.  She didn’t drive, so it is suspected she wanted the money to fund her new life.  The loan was declined.  She pressured a colleague to return a small amount of money that she had lent her.  For all of her careful planning for the murder itself, she left a lot of the details of the next stage of her plan to chance.  The police now wanted to talk to her.  The net was closing in. 

After several unsuccessful attempts on March 12th to talk to Caroline, police gained entry to her flat and found her apparently unconscious, next to an empty bottle of Tegretol (which she took for her epilepsy). Upon searching her flat, police found clothes that would not have fit Caroline, but would have fit Rachel.  After being treated at hospital, Caroline was questioned by the police.  She confessed everything.  The police retrieved Rachel’s body from her shallow grave the next day.

The questions which occur to me are: why not just create a new persona?  Why did a beautiful girl have to die for this to happen?  I’m sure Rachel’s friends and family have asked those questions repeatedly for the past 16 years.  She specifically mentioned wanting to disfigure Rachel after she killed her.  To hate someone so much, for a physical attribute that they have no control over, blows my mind just a little. 


This week Caroline Reed Robertson was released from prison, much to the horror and anxiety of the Barber family as well as Rachel’s boyfriend Manni Carella.  While the Barber family don’t want Caroline to contact them, they don’t wish her harm.  However, they are very concerned that Caroline will reoffend, and put another family through the same torture that they have had to endure over the past sixteen years.  Time will tell if their fears are justified.

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