South Coast murder cases back in focus

Cold case: The body of Rachelle Childs, 23, was found near Gerroa in 2001. The case is being reinvestigated by the homicide squad.

Cold case: The body of Rachelle Childs, 23, was found near Gerroa in 2001. The case is being reinvestigated by the homicide squad.

A number of unsolved South Coast murders are part of around of 500 cold cases to be reinvestigated in the biggest shake-up of unsolved homicides in NSW.

Among the first 20 cases to be reopened is the investigation into the death of 23-year-old Rachelle Childs, whose partially-burned body was located in a shallow ditch off Crooked River Road, near Gerroa on the morning of Friday, June 8, 2001.

She was last seen going to meet someone at the Bargo Hotel in June 7, 2001, her body was found about eight hours later.

Her vehicle was found secure in the car park of the Bargo Hotel.

Police haven't been able to confirm what happened to Ms Childs or what her movements were the night before.

Despite extensive investigations including the DNA testing of patrons at the Bargo Hotel on the night the case remains unsolved.

The fresh probes come after the Homicide Squad reviewed the way it approaches and prioritises unsolved cases.

Also being re-investigated as part of the review is Wollongong news presenter Ross Warren’s suspicious death almost 30 years ago.

Fresh probe: Ross Warren, a Wollongong news presenter, has been missing since 1989. His body has never been found.

Fresh probe: Ross Warren, a Wollongong news presenter, has been missing since 1989. His body has never been found.

The Unsolved Homicide Unit has introduced new strategies to increase their capability to revisit and reinvestigate.

Mr Warren, 24, was last seen driving along Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, on July 22, 1989 after socialising with friends. His keys were found two days later on rocks below the cliff top at Marks Park, Tamarama, and his car was located nearby.

His body was never found but police believe he was likely the victim of gay hate-related crime.

State Crime Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mal Lanyon said the squad had since consolidated all matters and reclassified their investigations dating back to 1972 into four categories: unsolved, unresolved, undetermined and resolved.

The matters in the first three categories are being assessed under a new framework, which then provides clear guidelines for prioritising to undergo the new review process, Mr Lanyon said.

That allows for a bi-annual follow-up and indefinite monitoring for developments in the case, new lines of inquiry, and partial and full re-investigations.

Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, said the new process will draw on the expertise of specialist detectives from across the Force to conduct formal case reviews.

“While the Unsolved Homicide Unit is a finite resource, the Force has a wealth of investigators whose skills can be harnessed to increase our capacity to put fresh eyes on cold cases,” Det Supt Cook said.

“All matters, including new matters as referred by the Coroner, are classified into the respective category for prioritisation on a database, before being referred to a reviewing officer.

“The formal reviews will be conducted by – or under ongoing liaison with – the Homicide Squad.”

“The rolling reviews will allow us to continually strengthen relationships with victim families through regular and informed communication,” Det Supt Cook said.

“We are committed to ensuring the most effective and efficient allocation of resources in order to maximise our capability to provide justice for victims and answers to their families.”

Missing: 15-year-old Kathleen Harris who disappeared from her Huskisson home 18 years ago

Missing: 15-year-old Kathleen Harris who disappeared from her Huskisson home 18 years ago

The State Government also has a number of rewards offered for unsolved murders or disappearances on the South Coast.

It includes 15-year-old Kathleen Harris who disappeared from her Huskisson home 18 years ago.

She was last seen at her home by her friend Clinton Hanlon about 9pm in Huskisson on Sunday, May 31, 1999.

Mr Hanlon was a member of the Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang and Kathleen’s home adjoined the clubhouse.

She had planned to meet with friends the following day but never arrived. She was subsequently reported missing by her father and Mr Hanlon.

Police treated her disappearance as suspicious and did not ruled out that Kathleen may have been murdered.

Her disappearance was completely out of character - her personal belongings, including her purse and keys, were located in her home, and family and friends have not heard from her since she went missing.

South Coast grandmother 66-year-old Lillian Rigby's body was found in a dam adjacent to the ninth hole at a golf course at Sanctuary Point, on January 15, 1987, the day after she was reported missing.

Medical examinations revealed Ms Rigby had suffered severe head injuries and subsequently drowned in the dam.

Ms Rigby had only been in Australia for a short time before her death, migrating here from England to live with her son's family at Sanctuary Point in September 1986, less than 12 months before the incident.

Other outstanding South Coast cases include -

Unsolved: David Lowe was found dead in his Sussex Inlet home on August 2, 2002.

Unsolved: David Lowe was found dead in his Sussex Inlet home on August 2, 2002.

David Lowe, 76, was found dead in his Sussex Inlet home on August 2, 2002.

Mr Lowe, known as Santa Claus because of his snow white beard and kind manner, died from head injuries inflicted by a blunt object.

He was last seen alive about 7am when he bought a newspaper from his local newsagency.

Investigating police were particularly interested in information about Mr Lowe’s car, a silver Mazda 626 sedan, registration XWN 162, found on the Princes Highway several hours after the murder was discovered.

The car was found at the Wandandian car park at the intersection of the highway and Sussex Inlet Road.

The car, and a number of other items, had been subjected to DNA and fingerprint tests, and other forms of scientific analysis.

Police do not believe Mr Lowe had driven the car to the car park.

MYSTERY: Kiama nurse Jackie-Lee Walsh was last seen at 8am on Friday, April 14, 1989.

MYSTERY: Kiama nurse Jackie-Lee Walsh was last seen at 8am on Friday, April 14, 1989.

Kiama nurse Jackie-Lee Walsh was last seen by her boyfriend when she drove him to work at 8am on Friday, April 14, 1989.

She never made it to an appointment with her accountant that morning, or lunch with a girlfriend.

A pool of blood found in her red Torana, parked outside Warrawong's Open Hearth Hotel six days later, convinced police Ms Walsh suffered a savage death.

They believed she was either viciously beaten or had her throat cut, then was bundled into the boot where she bled to death before being dumped.

Police later discovered Ms Walsh had gone to a house in Moss Vale to buy drugs on the Friday and left at 3pm to meet another friend in Kiama.

But she was never seen again.

Anyone with information to assist detectives should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. All information will be treated with the strictest confidence and callers can remain anonymous if they wish.

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