Horrific cold case death of Aussie woman retold as family break silence

Margaret Kirstenfeldt was found dead in 1978. Source: Channel 7 (supplied).

The family of an Aussie woman whose gruesome death hit headlines more than 40 years ago have broken their silence in a gripping new podcast, sharing unheard details of the cold case and their ongoing fight for justice.

Seven has delved into the shocking 1970s death of 21-year-old Margaret Kirstenfeldt, in a gripping new podcast titled Pendulum.

The body of the mum-of-two was found on February 10, 1978, by a teenage motorcyclist on a neighbour’s lawn in the small Queensland town of Sarina. Her throat had been slashed and she had serious stab wounds, with signs of sexual interference.

It’s now been 41 years since Margaret’s death and while officers initially believed it was a rape and murder case, claims later emerged that her wounds may in fact have been self-inflicted – with no set conclusion ever reached.

Now the podcast aims to shine a spotlight on the entire investigation, from Margaret’s childhood right through to her murder and her family’s pain in the years since, in an effort to uncover what really happened to the young, energetic and happy mum.

Featuring emotional interviews with her mother Bunty – who’s now in her eighties and has never given up hope of finding out what really happened to her daughter – as well as Margaret’s sister Deborah and brother Brian, 7 News crime editor Paula Doneman visits the whole family and airs the chats, as well as reading out letters and diary entries from Margaret herself.

The first episode – now available to stream online – begins with details of the night she was found, as the narrator describes how the motorcyclist approached a house with the front door wide open and lights on. In his headlight, he saw Margaret’s body on her neighbour’s lawn.

Doneman then describes how a trail of blood led from the front steps of her home to the front lawn of her neighbour’s lawn.

“Margaret’s right arm was caught beneath her body, her left arm outstretched. Her red mini dress was drenched in blood and bunched around her hips,” she claims on the podcast. “Her throat had been cut, there were signs of sexual interference.”

Doneman claims police attending the scene at the time believed her death had “all the hallmarks of rape and murder”. However, just days later, it was claimed that authorities believed her injuries could have been self-inflicted.

The case ran cold at the time and came to no conclusion, but it was finally revisited again in 2002 when Queensland’s most senior detective became an assistant commissioner. He reportedly formed a cold case unit within the homicide squad in order to investigate cases like Margaret’s further.

“He was haunted by two cases from the 1970s. They shared similarities and one of them was Margaret Kirstenfeldt,” Doneman explains in the podcast. “A new investigation into Margaret’s death is undertaken, and this time rules out suicide.”

Doneman reveals on air that she’s interviewed Margaret’s family extensively in the years since, and the claims that her injuries were self-inflicted “never sat well” with them from the start. Now, following the 2002 investigation, they have hope that the truth could finally be uncovered.

Speaking out on the podcast, Margaret’s mum Bunty – who still lives in the same house that she raised her children and grandchildren in – admits her memories of her eldest daughter are very jumbled, as she’s spent years blocking out the pain of losing her daughter.

Tragically, Doneman explains how Margaret’s younger brother Greg died as a child in a horrific truck accident which his parents survived – another heartbreak for them to deal with.

While Bunty’s husband David – Margaret’s father – has since died, her son Brian and his wife still live with her while their other siblings have moved out.

“[Bunty] wants some answers and peace before it’s too late,” Doneman reveals on the podcast.

Speaking about her daughter, Bunty becomes frustrated on air as she struggles to remember all of her childhood, but adds: “She wasn’t as outgoing as the younger ones were, a little bit more reserved.”

However, Margaret’s sister Deborah also opens up on her sibling to Seven, painting a picture of a fun-loving and outgoing young woman.

“We fought and scratched our way through life, very different personalities!” Deborah says. “She loved to be the centre of attention, she liked a little drama… She loved it. She always liked company.”

Asked if she liked male company, Deb adds: “Always.” As Doneman then asks: “So Margaret was quite sexually active?” Her sister replies: “Very.”

Indeed, diary entries shared on the podcast reveal Margaret’s tales of nights out with boys and having fun at the time.

The podcast will go on to delve into her romantic life and marriage to husband Malcolm, before welcoming her children ahead of her tragic death.

“Margaret’s family have relived a devastating chapter in their lives in the hope that the truth that has eluded them for 41 years, will finally be within their reach,” Doneman says.

Pendulum is available through ACAST or your preferred podcast platform.

Do you remember this cold case at the time? Are you a fan of podcasts like this?

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