The Victorian Coroner has re-opened the cold case into the murder of Melbourne woman Maria James, who was found stabbed to death at the back of her bookshop in 1980.
The mysterious case, which was closed in 1982 after a coroner found she was killed by an unknown person, will be investigated once again after gaining much attention through ABC‘s Trace podcast series.
James was brutally murdered in June 1980, with initial investigations finding she had been stabbed a total of 68 times. While police were not able to pin down her killer at the time, new information uncovered by the ABC has led police to revisit the case.
The podcast revealed that Maria’s youngest son Adam had told her he had been abused by local priest Father Anthony Bongiorno, and she was set to confront him about it the day she was killed.
A witness also claimed to have seen the priest covered in blood near Maria’s home around the time of the murder.
Despite the allegations, Father Bongiorno was never interviewed about Maria’s death and was eliminated as a suspect in 2015, with police never revealing why.
Adam, who was only 11 at the time of his mother’s death, also revealed in the podcast series that he had been molested by a second local priest, Father Thomas O’Keeffe.
Police didn’t interview him at the time of the murder either, even though he had a history of sadistic abuse.
The podcast also revealed that Victoria Police had made a massive mistake throughout the investigation. A DNA sample which was thought to be the killer’s was actually from a completely different crime scene.
According to the national broadcaster, Victoria Police is also set to launch its own review of the cold case.
Adam and his older brother Mark, who have been fighting for answers since their mother’s brutal murder, described the reopening of the case as “miraculous” and a “joyful moment”. They also thanked the many listeners of the podcast for supporting them throughout the process.
“Mum’s up there in heaven looking down and a bit of divine influence in there, combines with all of the effort of the people involved, it’s just fantastic, it’s such wonderful news,” Mark told the ABC.
True crime podcasts have seen a sharp rise in popularity over the past year, with Trace and The Australian’s riveting investigation into the disappearance of Sydney woman Lyn Dawson in its Teacher’s Pet series leading police to new clues and lines of inquiry.