Will cold, hard cash finally bring to book a cold, hard killer?
Six million dollars… $6,000,000… Six megabucks… It doesn’t matter how you write it or say it, that is a huge bucketful of cash. It’s the gross amount now on offer to anyone able to provide information that ensures the conviction of a vicious killer or killers so far uncaught.
To be accurate, there are six $1 million rewards relating to six Victorian crimes dating way back to 1980-81. Six women were abducted, their lives cut cruelly short during an 18-month crime spree nearly four decades ago:
- Allison Rooke, 59, left home at Frankston intending to catch a bus to go shopping on May 30, 1980. Her body was discovered in McLelland Drive, Frankston, scrubland on July 5, 1980.
- Bertha Miller was 73 and the aunt of Mick Miller, Victoria’s then chief commissioner of Police; she left home to take a tram in Glen Iris to attend church on Sunday, August 10, 1980 and was found four months later near Brew Road, Tynong North.
- On October 28, 1980, 14-ear-old Catherine Headland left a friend’s home in Berwick to catch a bus to Fountain Gate shopping centre. Her body was found close to that of Bertha Miller.
- Ann-Marie Sargent was 18. She left home on October 6, 1980 planning to catch a bus to visit the Dandenong CES. Her body, too, was found at Tynong North near those of Bertha Miller and Catherine Headland.
- Narumol Stephenson was 34. She disappeared from her car in Brunswick on November 29, 1980, her remains found 100m off the Princes Highway, not far from Brew Road, on February 3, 1983.
- Joy Carmel Summers was 55. She headed off to catch a bus on the Frankston-Dandenong Road on October 9, 1981. Her body was found in scrub near Skye Road, Frankston, on November 22, 1981.
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There are many unsolved murders in Australian history, with these some of the most mysterious. During that 18-month period in 1980-81, six women were abducted and murdered. Every one of them had the expectation to continue their lives as best they saw fit, a right so maliciously taken from them.
All of the abductions except that of Narumol Stephenson in Brunswick were in Melbourne’s south-east; the bodies, too, were disposed of in scrubland in the suburban area to the city’s outer south-east. Each victim but one was on foot, five of the six had been taken in broad daylight, and they seemed to have been taken at random. Cause of death could not be determined in any of the cases. Every victim had been stripped of personal items, perhaps to conceal identity or for trophies to be kept by the killer.
The police had a hard task, with relatively few common factors beyond location, two bodies in Frankston and four in Tynong North. Beyond that, by the time the first body was found, the murderer (or murderers) had struck five times. Through time, police have spoken to more than 2,000 people, with a number listed as ‘persons of interest’. No charges have ever been laid.
Victoria Police hope the big reward might help bring fresh information. An alibi witness might recant or might slip up and self-incriminate. There is also a substantial financial incentive for an accomplice to discover conscience.
Police are hopeful. Is there someone out there prepared to come forward with the necessary information and help close these puzzling cases?
That, perhaps, is the $6 million question.
Do you remember these cases from the early-’80s? Have you ever been able to assist police when they have made a public appeal?