Monday, February 9, 2015

Maribyrnong River Body Identified.

After releasing pictures of a distinctive devil tattoo, and the discovery of more body parts, police have been able to establish the identity of the victim.  The victim is believed to be a male in his 30s.

Further details have not been released yet.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Gruesome find in the Maribyrnong River

Yesterday afternoon a passer-by found an arm floating in Melbourne's Maribyrnong River.  Police later found another limb and a bag of what appears to be flesh.  Police have deemed this find suspicious.   Really?!? 

I'll update when more information is released.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Henry Keogh's ongoing nightmare.

Henry Keogh at his arraignment yesterday.

Henry Keogh has just been charged with murder.  Again.  He was first charged in 1994 after the death of his fiancĂ©e Anna-Jane Cheney.  Henry was found guilty and sentenced to 26 years in prison in 1995.  The conviction was overturned on December 19th 2014.

The overturning of the conviction was hard fought.  Henry’s legal team first lodged a petition in 2002, with the primary issue revolving around the autopsy.  Henry’s legal team presented material that the chief forensic pathologist, Colin Manock, had misinterpreted the autopsy, and thus presented incorrect evidence at the trial.  A 2007 appeal was dismissed, but a fourth appeal to the Governor of South Australia finally produce a result.

Anna-Jane Cheney

Henry’s case was picked up by Channel 9, with a story on Sixty Minutes in 2011.
Anna-Jane died in the bath, and thus the case became known as the “Body in the Bath” case in the media.

The crucial evidence presented during the trial was four bruises found by Colin Manock on Anna-Jane’s calf.  Manock testified at the time that the bruises happened peri-mortem, that is during death. The prosecution insisted that these were proof that the accused held Anna-Jane under the water: “If those four bruises on her lower left leg were inflicted at the same time, and that time was just before she died in the bath, there is no other explanation for them, other than a grip. If it was a grip, it must have been the grip of the accused. If it was the grip of the accused, it must have been part of the act of murder.”

Manock also proprosed a method of drowning which would have been impossible – the bath was against a wall, preventing his theory from being possible.  The attacker would have been standing in a wall.  Other experts testified that they believed the method of death to be accidental.

However, the prosecution also had evidence of a motive.  Henry had taken out five life insurance policies on Anna-Jane.  Henry, however, had an explanation for this: he had begun working as an insurance agent because he feared he was about to be laid off from his job at the State Bank.  To keep his licence current with the agencies, he took out policies in Anna-Jane’s name.  The problem was he got her to sign two of them, but he signed the others in her name.

Further issues with Henry’s character were discovered when it was revealed that he had been cheating on Anna-Jane.  With two other women.

However dodgy financial practices and philandering do not make you a murderer.  Many legal experts have voiced opinions in Henry’s favour.

Henry has been arraigned yet again to stand trial for the murder of Anna-Jane.  I’ll keep you posted.

Gable Tostee: Playboy murderer?

Gable Tostee, aka Eric Thomas

Named after Clark Gable, Gable Tostee has now moved away from his distinctive name, changing his name by deed poll to the more mundane Eric Thomas.

This is probably for the best, because the “sleazy”, “odd” and “creepy” Tostee doesn’t seem to possess the charm and grace of his old namesake.

Gable Tostee came to national attention when a woman he met via the dating app Tinder, Warriena “Rrie” Wright, died after plunging from his 14th story balcony.  Twenty six year old Rrie was on holiday in Australia from her native New Zealand when she died on August 7th 2014.  Tostee claims he was not on the balcony with her, however neighbours heard arguing, and then heard Rrie scream “No, no, no… Just let me go home”.  One witness described the fear in the scream as sickening.

Rrie Wright

Queensland police charged Tostee with murder the next day after he turned himself in.  Police have audio recordings which supposedly contain evidence of a drunken argument between the suspect and the victim.

Tostee has boasted online about more than 150 sexual encounters, including sex on his balcony.  He would go out four or five times a week, and often drink water while trying to pick up intoxicated girls.  Of course this does not make him guilty of murder. 
Other women Tostee contacted through Tinder reported he sent a message which read: Roses are Red, Violets are Blue.  I have a gun, get in my van.  While this may be in poor taste, this also does not make him a murderer.

Whilst on bail for the murder charge, Tostee has been jailed for 10 months for an unrelated drunken high speed cross-border police pursuit in his father’s car.  The chase occurred two weeks before the death of Rrie.

A recently posted picture of Tostee and an alpaca.  The alpaca could not be reached for comment.

Tostee has changed lawyers several times since August.  His next court appearance is scheduled for March 13th.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Twenty Nine Years ago today: The horrific murder of Anita Cobby.

The murder of Anita Cobby has haunted Australia for 29 years.  Anita was a registered nurse, and a former beauty pageant winner.  She was a strikingly beautiful girl, who could have been anyone’s sister, neighbour, friend.  But a pack of inhuman animals killed her on February 2nd 1986.  Five men, including three brothers, took her life in the most brutal way imaginable.

Twenty-six year old Anita worked in Sydney and commuted to her home in the suburb of Blacktown.  On the day of her death she had finished her shift at the hospital at 3pm, and then met friends for dinner in Redfern, another suburb of Sydney.  Usually she caught the train to Blacktown station, then called her dad to come pick her up.  That night the public phone was out of order, and there were no taxis around, so Anita decided to walk home.

Around 10pm, as Anita walked along Newton Road Blacktown, a car with five men in it pulled alongside her.  Two men jumped out and dragged Anita, kicking and screaming, into the car.  Two kids in a house nearby heard the screaming and witnessed Anita being forced into the car.  The eldest, a thirteen year old boy, tried to run to her rescue, but he was too late.  He ran home and phoned the police.  When his older brother came home, he explained what he had witnessed, and the older brother went searching for the car.  He found it, but it was empty, and he believed he was looking for a different model car.  The killers later admitted they were hiding in the long grass nearby.

After nearly being caught with their victim, one of the killers slit her throat so deeply he nearly decapitated her.  She was conscious for at least 3 minutes as she bled to death.  Her body was found two days later and extensive bruising was evident, on top of the fatal injuries.  She had been repeatedly raped, beaten and had her fingers broken.  Anita had truly suffered before she had died.

Police offered a $50,000 reward for information, and staged a re-enactment of Anita’s movements using a police officer dressed in similar clothing.   They received a tip which led to the arrest of John Travers, Michael Murdoch, and Les, Michael and Gary Murphy.  They all had a history of violence, and Travers had a history of carrying a knife. 

While in custody Travers requested a friend be called so that she could bring him in some cigarettes.  Police spoke to the friend first, and she agreed to help with the investigation.  She wore a recording device while talking to Travers and obtained a confession.  All five were charged with murder. 

The five accused had over fifty prior convictions between them.  While most offences are committed by someone known to the victim, this was different.  This was a pack of five strangers who showed their victim no mercy.  Blacktown was reeling.  Australia was reeling.  Many people called for the reintroduction of the death penalty.

Travers pleaded guilty before the trial commenced in 1987.  The trial of the remaining 4 lasted 54 days, with their defence relying on convincing the jury that they only had minimal involvement.  They were all found guilty.  Justice Alan Maxwell put it beautifully when he said “One of the most horrifying physical and sexual assaults. This was a calculated killing done in cold blood. The Executive should grant the same degree of mercy they bestowed on their victim.”

Anita’s parents were incredibly strong in the face of such awful circumstances.  They founded the Victims of Homicide Support Group.  Her sister Kathryn continues to advocate for an end to violence against women.

Today, is the 29th anniversary of Anita's death. Her sister Kathryn, along with the investigating police officer, is holding a public memorial to honour Anita.  While we can’t all attend the memorial, much of Australia is there in spirit. 

Ivan Milat: The Backpacker Murderer.

Ivan Milat

Belangalo State Forest is like many forests around Australia – large and dense with long walking tracks used for mountain biking, orienteering and bushwalking.  However Belangalo is now infamous as the dumping ground of Australia’s worst known serial killer.

The first bodies were found towards the end of 1992 by some bushwalkers.  The discovery launched the biggest murder investigation Australia has ever seen.  By the end of the search, seven bodies had been located at Belangalo; all of them backpackers from around the world (England, Germany and Australia) who had been hitch hiking along a popular freeway.

I remember at the time hearing of the missing British backpackers Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters.  Their disappearance was highly publicised and it was fairly obvious they had met with foul play.  When the first two bodies were found at Belangalo, the media immediately speculated about their identity, and were sadly proven to be right.  What no one could have known was the violence which had been inflicted on two young women, who up until then had been enjoying the holiday of a lifetime.

It wasn’t long before more bodies were found.  James Gibson and Deborah Everist were found next.  They had last been seen hitchhiking near the forest in 1989.  Then the body of Simone Schmidl, a hitchhiker who disappeared in 1991, was discovered.  Under Simone’s  body were a pair of jeans identified as belonging to yet another missing person.  The search was not over yet.  The body of Anja Habschied, the owner of the jeans, and her boyfriend Gabor Neugebauer were found nearby.  They had been missing since December 1991.

All of the victims were last seen hitchhiking on the highway near the forest.  This was not the only similarity – they were all young, fit travellers.  Most of the victims were visiting Australia, backpacking around the country as so many young people do.  James and Deborah, the only Australians, were travelling from Melbourne to Sydney.

There were, however, some differences in the method of death:  Joanne Walters had been gagged and stabbed in the chest area; Caroline Clarke had been stabbed and shot in the head several times; James Gibson had been repeatedly stabbed; Deborah Everist had been slashed in the face in addition to her stab wounds; Simone Schmidl had also been stabbed; Anja Habschied was decapitated; and Gabor Neugebauer had been shot in the head five times with the same weapon that killed Walters.  All of the victims had fought hard for their lives. 

There were campsites near the bodies indicating that the killer had spent considerable time with the victims, both during and after the murders.  All of the deaths were extremely violent.  The terror these young people experienced in their final moments was horrendous.

The known victims.

The discovery of the seven bodies led to a two-year manhunt for the person responsible for what was now known in the media as “The Backpacker Murders”.  Media campaigns with photos of the victims brought forward many stories from people who had seen them hitchhiking.  The first witness to come forward who had seemingly seen the killer was a very lucky man called Paul Onions.

Hitchhiking near the Belangalo forest in January 1990, on a holiday from his native England, Paul had been picked up by a man called “Bill” in a silver Nissan 4WD.  After travelling for a short time “Bill” had pulled over, pulled a gun from the glove box and told Paul that he was being robbed.  Rather than follow the driver’s instructions, Paul got out and ran through the bush, bullets flying past him.  He managed to get back to the road and flag down another motorist, who took him to safety.  He filed a report at the time, but it was not until he contacted the police in NSW (for a second time) from his home in England that the significance of this event was finally realised.  He was able to assist police prepare a sketch of the suspect, including a distinctive handlebar mustache.

Police showed Paul a line-up of photos of suspects matching his description.  He picked out a man named Ivan Milat.

Milat had a violent criminal history dating back to the 1970s, mostly sexual assault.  In 1971 he had been charged with the abduction and rape of two women.   He came from a large family and Ivan and his brothers were known to have a love of guns and hunting.  Milat had been known to use the alias “Bill”.  He had also sold his silver Nissan 4WD shortly after the discovery of the first bodies.

Police raided 7 properties in May 1994 belong to various Milat brothers.  They found guns and other weapons, including a .22 calibre rifle which matched the murder weapon.  They also found clothes and other items identified as belonging to the victims.  They arrested three people, one of which was Ivan Milat.  He was charged with armed robbery and discharging a firearm over the incident with Paul Onions.  He was eventually also charged with seven counts of murder.

After a fifteen week trial, Milat was found guilty on all counts.  His defence had argued that there was no proof that Ivan was the perpetrator, and instead implicated one of his brothers.  Milat was sentenced to seven life sentences, plus six years each for the attempted murder, false imprisonment and robbery of Paul Onions.  His sentences are to run consecutively.

I suspect many facts have never come to light about Ivan Milat and the Backpacker murders.  One of his brothers suggested that Ivan had killed up to 28 people, and there are certainly other missing people who were last seen in a similar area, who went missing in similar circumstances.  However, I can’t imagine Ivan ever being honest about the crimes he hasn’t been charged with.  Milat has consistently denied any knowledge of these other cases, as well as protesting his innocence in the crimes he has been charged with.  I can only hope police are able to one day find enough evidence in these other cases, for the sake of the victims’ families.  Like many criminals, Milat is under the delusion that he might be released someday, and admissions of guilt or knowledge of other crimes would hinder that.  Of course, in reality, Ivan Milat will die in prison.  And even that fate is too good for him.

The other unanswered question is whether he acted alone.  The way so many of the victims were so thoroughly over powered, and tortured for lengths of time, suggests that more than one perpetrator was involved.  I firmly suspect that another Milat family member may have been involved in some or all of the murders.  Of course unless someone decides to confess, we will probably never know for sure.


Milat has hardly been a model prison.  He attempted to escape from prison almost one year into his sentence and on Australia Day 2009 he cut off his little finger with a plastic knife, with the attention of mailing it to the High Court.  I’m sure the High Court would have been touched by the gesture.  Doctors were unable to reattach it.  He has also swallowed razor blades, staples and other metal objects.

As a post script to the story of Ivan Milat, his nephew Matthew Milat was sentenced in June 2012 to 43 years in prison for murdering one of his childhood friends.  According to court documents, Milat boasted to a friend the day after the murder: "You know me, you know my family ... I did what they do."  In a chilling epitaph, nine months after the killing Matthew Milat wrote this:

hear that,
stopping in the, middle of the track,
Are you Getting Nervous in the back,
Should be C your getting wAcked,
talk s here, talk s there,
No-one'z really gunna care,
but talk s with every breath,
You just signed away your health,
I can see you start to sweat,
Wanderin what your gunna get,
hopin 4-1 in the head,
C ILL Put it in Your Leg,
tell me, ARE YA HAVIN FUN,
get up C, And start to run,
how fAr are ya gunna get,
Your Match C you have just Met,
stumblin all OVA the place,
Hear the crunch of leaves and feet,
feel your heart, skip a beat,
Are ya gunna get away,
No hope kid this is your day,
The day that you wont be found,
Six feet under Neath the ground."


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