Missing Persons - Elisabeth Membrey
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Victoria Police to set $1 million rewards for all murder cases
Every new reward issued to solve Victorian murders will be set at $1 million from now on.
All murder rewards posted before the official announcement on Saturday will be reviewed
and increased one by one to $1 million as each review is completed.
“Ideally we would like to see all cases reviewed within two years, however
it will be determined by workload or any significant events that may impact on
resourcing,” Assistant commissioner Tracy Linford said.
The Herald Sun is also revealing today that the first of the
new $1 million rewards on offer is to solve the sickening bashing
murder of 79-year-old grandmother Leah Buck.
A cowardly bag-snatcher attacked Mrs Buck from behind, knocking her
to the ground as she was walking in Dover Rd, Williamstown, about 2.30pm on September 20, 1994.
One of Mrs Buck’s five grandchildren said it was wonderful Victoria
Police valued her grandmother’s life so highly and had never given up on solving the case.
“We just would like someone to be accountable for it. Nana was our world,” Sue Charlton said.
The review of the Victoria Police reward system was ordered by chief commissioner
Ken Lay in June after he read a Herald Sun article which quoted relatives of murder
victims complaining about the inequity of some cases attracting $1 million rewards
while others attracted none or much lower amounts.
Daryl Floyd, the brother of
missing schoolboy Terry Floyd, and Peter MacDiarmid,
the father of murder victim Sarah MacDiarmid, made emotional appeals through the Herald
Sun for uniformity in the reward system.
“Who decides one life is worth more than another, and why,” Mr MacDiarmid said in June.
Mr Lay spoke to the Herald Sun the day the article appeared and said he was so moved by
it he decided order an immediate review of the force’s rewards system.
There are just over 200 rewards for unsolved cases on Victoria Police books, dating back to 1963.
The force will not reveal details of the size of those rewards, but the majority are for amounts
of $100,000 or less.
Assistant commissioner Linford has just completed the review ordered by Mr Lay and the
new rewards policy is now in operation.
“We did find that there was some subjectivity in how we actually allocated amounts,” she
told the Herald Sun.
“Ultimately we want the community to be confident that the process that we now have in place
is about putting all the investigations on a level playing field in how we determine what the rewards will be.”
Ms Linford revealed that from today all rewards posted for murders and a range of other crimes
will be linked to the size of the maximum penalty for that particular crime.
She said all rewards relating to Level I crimes attracting a maximum prison term of life,
which includes murder and large commercial drug trafficking, will be for $1 million.
Rewards posted for Level 2 crimes attracting a maximum sentence of 25 years, which
include rape, armed robbery, aggravated burglary and arson causing death, will be between $350,000 and $500,000.
Level 3 crimes, which include manslaughter and intentionally causing serious injury and
which attract a maximum penalty of 20 years, will have rewards of between $250,000 and $350,000.
Rewards issued for Level 4 crimes, which include arson, drug trafficking and handling stolen goods,
will be set at between $175,000 and $250,000.
Level 5 crimes, which include threats to kill, indecent
assault and theft, will have rewards of between $100,000 and $175,000 while Level 6 crimes,
which include drug possession and recklessly causing injury, will be set at between $50,000 and $100,000.
Ms Linford said investigators could apply to a Victoria Police rewards committee for rewards to
be issued for any Level 1 to 6 crimes.
If the application is approved the size of the reward will be within the range outlined in the new policy.
“There are several criteria to be met before the committee determines that we will advertise a
reward,” Ms Linford said.
“For instance, we have to be comfortable that the investigators have actually pursued
all the avenues of inquiry that exist.”
Every reward on Victoria Police’s books going back to 1963 will be reviewed with
the intention of increasing the size of the reward to the amount set down in the
new policy — which will be $1 million in the case of all unsolved murders where
rewards have previously been posted.
Ms Linford said she expected the review process and the increasing of all previously
issued murder rewards to $1 million would be completed within two years.
She said the crime department was prioritising the order in which cases would be reviewed.
“We are going to try and prioritise those cases that have a more likely chance of
solvability, or are more likely to attract somebody to come forward to us with information,” Ms Linford said.
“Our members will be looking for opportunities with all the cold cases that they have
on their books in terms of what information they have that might prompt their particular
case to be reviewed before another.
“Various grounds, including the prospect of solvability, will help us determine which ones
are reviewed earlier and more quickly than others.
“But it’s certainly the intention that we will get through them all.”
The current $100,000 reward on offer over the 1975 disappearance of Terry Floyd,
12, is expected to be among the first to jump to $1 million.
Detectives from the cold case and missing persons squad have already recommended that it be increased.
Ms Linford said it wouldn’t make sense for the force to increase all previous
murder rewards to $1 million at the same time because the public would be swamped
and the rewards wouldn’t attract the flow of new information that traditionally comes
in when new rewards are announced.
“We will put them out periodically, one by one, as we review them,” Ms Linford said.
Mr Lay said he was pleased the review he ordered had resulted in a new force policy on rewards.
“Over time it is hoped that all unsolved cases will be reviewed and the rewards upgraded.
Of course the timing of this will vary from case to case,” he told the Herald Sun.
“It is so important and we want the community to understand that all unsolved cases
are important and that it is the pinnacle for an investigator to take over a cold case
and bring resolution to a family and justice for the victim.
“We are proud of our efforts in these areas and hope in undertaking
this review we highlight to the community how Victoria Police continue to strive to improve.”
Murdered grandmother of five Leah Buck was out shopping in broad daylight when
a low-life thug decided to steal her handbag.
The 79-year-old was savagely bashed from behind.
A motorist stopped to help after seeing a bleeding and clearly distressed
Mrs Buck on her knees on the footpath in Dover Rd, Williamstown.
Mrs Buck managed to say “something hit me, something hit me” to the motorist before lapsing into unconsciousness.
She died from massive head injuries the following day.
The cowardly attack on Mrs Buck occurred about 2.30pm on September 20, 1994.
Her killer has never been caught.
Homicide squad detective sergeant Sol Solomon hopes a $1 million reward being
announced today will tempt somebody to dob in Mrs Buck’s attacker.
He believes the killer will have spoken to somebody about it and that
the offer of such a life-changing amount of money might be what it takes
to prompt that person or persons to contact police.
“That’s what I am hoping,” sergeant Solomon told the Herald Sun.
“I couldn’t imagine that whoever did this has just remained completely silent over the past 20 years.
“This will send a message that we never forget and unsolved cases never close.”
One of Mrs Buck’s five grandchildren praised sergeant Solomon and Victoria Police
for valuing her grandmother’s life so highly and never giving up on solving the case.
“We just would like someone to be accountable for it. Nana was our world,” Sue Charlton said.
“She was very family orientated, she loved her kids and she loved her grandchildren.
“It was nothing for us to be five grandchildren there on school holidays making
mud pies in the backyard, climbing the apricot tree.
“She was a strong woman. She brought up three children by herself after her
husband died when her two daughters and son were just eight, 10 and 12.”
It was a phone call from Ms Charlton which sparked the new probe into Mrs
Buck’s murder, which resulted in the $1 million reward being announced today.
“I had been thinking about Nana’s case for a long time and got a real bee in my
bonnet as there had been quite a few murder cases solved recently after 30 and 40
years while Nana’s remained unsolved,” she said.
“So I asked Mum if it was OK to contact the homicide squad to see if anything could be done
about Nana’s case and Mum was happy for me to do so.
“I contacted detective Sol Solomon and he agreed to have a fresh look at the case.
“He came back to me later to say there was going to be a $1 million reward, which blew my socks off.
“To think that Victoria Police values Nana’s life that much is wonderful.”
It is likely Mrs Buck’s killer also attacked and stole the handbag of Elizabeth
Davies, who was 73 at the time, less than 30 minutes before Mrs Buck’s bag was snatched.
Mrs Davies was knocked to the ground in Newcastle St, Newport just after 2pm.
She survived and later told Herald Sun journalist John Hamilton she was taken to the same hospital as Mrs Buck.
“The orderly said: ‘Well, at least you’ve got a better chance that the other old lady; she’s
already on the operating table.’ Poor dear, she died,” Mrs Davies said then.
Sergeant Solomon said the circumstances surrounding Mrs Buck’s death were terribly sad.
“Here we have an elderly woman going about her business and walking down the street in
the middle of the day when out of nowhere she has been struck from behind,” he said.
“Her shopping trolley was turned over on its side and her handbag and purse were missing
and have never been recovered.
“The post mortem revealed Mrs Buck died as a result of injuries sustained from the robbery.
“An extensive investigation at the time failed to identify any witnesses or the person responsible.
“We are now hoping after all this time, and with the offer of the $1 million reward, that someone
will come forward to us with information.
“It has been 20 years without any answers for the family, who have lost a much loved grandmother,
mother, sister, in such a senseless act.
“To leave an elderly woman on her knees on the side of the road that had been hit and knocked
over with such brute force that her trolley was overturned and that she was ultimately killed is just shocking.
“With the passage of time we are hoping that the person responsible will come forward or
that they spoke to someone at the time about what occurred and we hope that they will come
forward so we can provide some closure for the family.”
Sergeant Solomon said it was the family which prompted him to reinvestigate the
case and recommend the $1 million reward.
“It was on our file as an inactive cold case,” he said.
“But I reinvestigated it as a result of a phone call that
I got last year from Sue Charlton, one of Mrs Buck’s grandchildren.
“She was asking if there was anything more that could be done in an
effort to get the breakthrough that we needed.
“So I reviewed the file, I got the brief back from the Coroner and after
going through it realised the only thing that hadn’t been done was a reward application.
“After speaking to the granddaughter it was quite clear to me that this
family is very much still mourning her loss.
“The grief and the frustration of not knowing
exactly why this happened and who was responsible is still there and unresolved.”
Current million-dollar rewards
Victoria Police has also issued $1 million rewards to help solve the murders of:
Young mother Maryanna Lanciana at Werribee in 1994 and the executions of underworld
figures Dimitrios Belias and George Germanos in 1999 and 2001,
with police believing the three murders are linked.
Racehorse trainer Les Samba, who was shot dead at Middle Park in February 2011.
Jennifer Tanner, who was shot dead at her Bonnie Doon home in 1984.
Transsexual prostitute Adele Bailey, whose body was found in a Bonnie Doon mineshaft in 1995
after she disappeared from St Kilda.
Jane Thurgood-Dove, who was shot dead in front of her children outside their Niddrie home in 1997.
Vicki Jacobs, who was shot dead at her Bendigo home in 1999.
Underworld figure Richard Mladenich, who was shot dead in front of three people at St Kilda’s
notorious Esquire Motel in 2000.
Police informer Terence Hodson and his wife Christine, who were executed in their Kew East home in 2004.
Boronia teenager Siriyakorn “Bung” Siriboon, who disappeared while walking to school in June 2011.
Self proclaimed vampire and gigolo Shane Chartres-Abbott, who was shot dead in 2003.
Budding journalist Elisabeth Membrey, 22,
who disappeared in December 1994 after she left work at
the Manhattan Hotel in Ringwood.
Sarah MacDiarmid, who
disappeared from Kananook railway station in July 1990.
Anyone with information about the murder of Leah Buck, or any other cold cases, is urged
to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential
crime report at www.crimestoppers.vic.com.au.
The Membrey files
A missing young barmaid. A blood-stained hallway. A violent, obsessed and deceptive former colleague.
No wonder police were confident they would soon uncover the truth about the disappearance of Elisabeth Membrey.
In the manner of homicide investigations, this was a flying start. Strictly, it was not a homicide, despite that
ominous dark bloodstain in the hallway of the otherwise ordered flat. Yet even before Elisabeth Membrey's disappearance
was elevated from a missing-person report, her diary yielded the name and address of a man police would find deeply
suspicious for over a decade.
Roused near 4am, just hours after police were called to Membrey's flat, the man's estranged wife said her husband
was "obsessed" with Membrey. Their short-lived, volatile and violent marriage had failed months earlier. His boss
would later say he was "fixated" on Membrey.
Join the dots: infatuated with the missing woman, recently separated and reportedly volatile. Then this "person
of interest" made his biggest, life-changing mistake. He lied about his movements overnight December 6-7, 1994,
when Membrey disappeared from her flat, which she shared with a girlfriend, at Ringwood in Melbourne's east.
She had finished work at the nearby Manhattan Hotel about midnight. Police, who were called to investigate her
disappearance late the following evening, believe she was disturbed soon after arriving home and that her car
was used to move her body to an unknown location. Dirt on its wheel rims suggested it was driven on unsealed roads.
For legal reasons that first suspect cannot be identified: call him The Barman. So smitten was he with Membrey
that when he also worked at the Manhattan Hotel, he declared her his substitute wife. And in a strange mating
ritual all his own, he once approached her as she stood with her hands behind her back to place his testicles in her grasp.
Only once, though. She warned him off that.
Told police would be looking for him, The Barman went to Ringwood police station on December 8. He said that
on the night Membrey was last seen he went to the Manhattan Hotel as a customer. He claimed he returned home
before midnight and did not go out again.
The Barman didn't tell the cops about his 2am drive to buy marijuana for fear of getting his drug dealer offside.
When he rang his dealer, Barry Phillips, on December 17 to assure him he was not mentioned in the police statement,
police already were so suspicious of The Barman that his telephone calls were bugged.
A court later heard that The Barman asked Phillips if police had spoken to him: "I've been hassled to the max over
Lis going ... you're all right. I haven't told [the police], right, that I come to your joint late that night, right?"
Phillips, however, had been so drunk from an all-nighter at the Manhattan, and so stoned from smoking dope, that he could remember nothing.
Once The Barman realised the police were on to him - "They know I was lying," he told his flatmate Jenny Dewing, "someone's
told them that I took off at 2 o'clock in the morning" - the court heard he came clean in another statement to police, on
December 19. "The real reason Jenny Dewing and myself went to the Manhattan Hotel on Tuesday 6 December 1994 was to get
drugs from Barry Phillips."
That hardly lessened police interest in The Barman. The drug run put him within minutes of Membrey's unit. Yet
when the Membrey case finally would see a man tried for murder, prosecutor Geoff Horgan SC would label the
investigation of The Barman blinkered, biased and a distraction to the jury. "It was one that targeted [The Barman]
and it went off to get him ... the police investigation was very, very flawed."
One of Victoria's most experienced homicide detectives, Detective Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles, would later take
over the case. "What I say about the first investigation is that within two weeks they had a suspect, [The Barman].
At no stage between her disappearance and 2000 was he ever officially interviewed," says Iddles.
"If you have a genuine suspect, first and foremost interview him. When you get a suspect, deal with
it, put it to bed and move on. It's a lesson for detectives. Run parallel investigations. Sometimes the
focus gets on one bloke and you only hear what you want to hear. Investigations have to be proven by facts, not police theories."
Manhattan. It's an odd name for a pub on Melbourne's eastern fringes, almost 30 kilometres from the city. If the name was meant
to convey sophistication and style, it was lost on a clientele of hard-drinking, knockabout types.
Elisabeth Membrey was a 22-year-old university graduate with aspirations to be a television journalist,
working behind the Manhattan's public bar. Sociable, friendly and graced with a cascading torrent of light
brown hair, she was always noticed. People gravitated towards her.
Membrey finished work at the Manhattan about 11.45pm on December 6. Unable to contact her the following
day, her parents, Roger and Joy, arrived at the unit late on December 7. Her car was in the driveway.
The place seemed undisturbed. The Membreys helped their daughter's equally puzzled boyfriend, Jason Lee,
squirm through an unlocked window. Joy Membrey remembers him howling at the sight of the stained hallway.
The killer had cleaned up. Sections of the hallway wall had been wiped, but down low, blood remained.
Someone had tried to mop the blood from the hallway carpet. The day had been an early blast of summer for
Melbourne, the sort of stifling, 40-degree torment that arrives on a north wind. The blood had dried dark
brown. Otherwise the flat was undisturbed. "It seemed impossible that the place had been so well reinstated," Joy Membrey recalls.
Initially they thought Elisabeth must have injured herself. Only when calls to hospitals failed to locate her did they call
police. Uniformed officers arrived around 11pm.
"Joy and I did not immediately think something dreadful had happened," says Roger Membrey. "It was a long time, at
least a couple of months [before we accepted she had been murdered], and I think a lot of the police were the same."
Around the period that The Barman was admitting to his early morning drug errand, a man named Eric Bailey urged police
to investigate a "Shane Bond". Bond drank at the Manhattan, and, Bailey said, had had a relationship with Bailey's daughter
that had ended badly: Bond had assaulted his daughter and her new boyfriend.
Police had an account from a neighbour of an argument between Membrey and a man in the
driveway of her Bedford Road unit on the afternoon before she disappeared. "He was very solidly built,
with light brown hair ... around six feet tall," reported the witness, who was some distance away. She did
not mention any distinguishing characteristics.
Police also had an account from Andrea Pumpa, who lived in the adjoining unit. She was woken by her dogs
snarling and barking at the fence separating the units early on December 7. She saw a "small dirty white car",
similar to a Toyota Celica, that did not belong either to Membrey or her flatmate, Vivienne.
Bond, who drove a 20-year-old white Datsun coupé, was interviewed on December 22, 1994. He said he
only drank at the Manhattan on Saturdays during the football season, now months past. He had seen Elisabeth
Membrey working there, but didn't know her. This denial conflicts with accounts he later offered co-workers;
for now, it stood unchallenged. He was "unable to recall" what he was doing when Membrey disappeared.
Detective Sergeant Denis Linehan noted: "He has a badly scarred face from acne and is nothing like
[the neighbour's description]." That is, the neighbour had not mentioned acne scarring. Police discounted Bond
as a suspect. There were plenty of others.
Six months after Membrey's disappearance, Robert Dewhurst, described in court as an amphetamine user, was briefly
a suspect. He lived nearby and had threatened a woman, promising that he would "do exactly the same to you that I
did to Elisabeth Membrey". At 192 centimetres tall, with a goatee beard and heavily tattooed, he was a striking figure,
and unlike anyone connected with Membrey. He was dismissed, in the words of one his mates, as "a bullshit artist".
More substantial was another who, like The Barman, cannot be named for legal reasons. He had lived in the unit later
occupied by Membrey after separating from his wife, so let's call him The Tenant. While there, he formed a relationship
with Andrea Pumpa. The Tenant still had a back-door key to Membrey's unit. He had worked at the Manhattan Hotel a few
years earlier. He drove a beaten-up white Datsun 240K, and he had a criminal record that included driving and dishonesty
offences such as theft and deception. He had assaulted a former girlfriend when he saw her with another man.
The Tenant's criminal file included intentionally causing injury.
Along with The Barman, he would remain an enduring person of interest. "I would have to say there were probably
eight or 10 people you would have thought were possibilities in the early stages," says former Detective Senior
Sergeant Rowland Legg, who took over the inquiry soon after Elisabeth Membrey's disappearance.
"At no stage was it ever said that it's definitely [The Barman], forget the others. He was a significant
suspect when we took over the investigation and any significant suspect needs to be proven to be involved or properly exculpated."
Some suspects, like the brother of Membrey's flatmate, who claimed the body was in a river, were attention seekers; some,
like Dewhurst, loudmouths speaking for effect. And Shane Bond turned up again only to be overlooked. In September 1995 a
woman named Donna Barton told Crime Stoppers she had heard that a man named Shaun or Shane had blood all over his walls
at the time of the murder. Shaun or Shane claimed he had bitten his tongue during an epileptic fit.
Detective Sergeant Linehan interviewed Barton but she wouldn't name her source. He dismissed her report:
"I have previously spoken with a Shane Bond ... and there was never any mention of any blood on walls at his flat."
Linehan noted that Bond had moved and his whereabouts were unknown.
Ron Iddles has the look of an old-school cop: above-average height, broad shoulders and a
greying, cropped haircut. He looks like a bloke who could handle himself, but if he is old school
he is not above new-school policing.
In 2000 he took on the Membrey case, as he was trialling a sophisticated undercover investigation
technique for cracking cold cases that has since resolved homicides up to 20 years old. "The answer
is always in the file, and quite often we have already spoken to him," Iddles says of cold-case work.
Iddles tried to break The Barman's alibi, which relied on flatmate Jenny Dewing backing his story of a
trip to buy marijuana early on December 7, 1994. Since the killer, and possibly an accomplice, had cleaned
up and hidden Membrey's body, Dewing cleared The Barman: she said he was gone only 20 or 30 minutes.
Dewing had reportedly told a friend, "If the police crack me, they crack the case." Iddles charged her
with attempting to pervert the course of justice, effectively inviting her to abandon the alibi. Dewing
says her remark was misunderstood: she was trying to explain why police remained interested in her.
"What I said is, 'I can only speculate as to the reasons why the police keep questioning me; that they
must think that if they crack me, they crack the case." The case against her collapsed: since there was
more than one suspect it was not clear she was protecting a killer.
Iddles tried another tack, the undercover technique - a method that can clear suspects as much as
implicate them. And so it proved. Ten years after he became the prime suspect, The Barman was cleared
by an undercover operation. A similar operation later cleared The Tenant.
With the strongest suspects out of the frame, the investigation seemingly had nowhere to go. "By
well into 2006 I was happy that [The Barman] was eliminated and [The Tenant] and [the flatmate's brother]
were also eliminated," says Iddles.
From a flying start in 1994 to a dead end. In December 2006 a newspaper announced the impasse, quoting Iddles:
"There are people in the community who believe we know who is responsible. The reality is, we don't. We're no
closer than day one." The publicity sparked a flurry of new information. Says Iddles, "That same day a man rang,
said he had called before to tell the police that Shane Bond could have done this since he came home covered in
blood that night Elisabeth disappeared."
He went back to the file. "I found Bond had been nominated six times as a person of interest, but because he had
been spoken to on December 22, 1994, any new information that came in was not looked at. He was seen as eliminated,
but he was never eliminated."
Iddles assigned a detective, Tim Peck, to review Bond. Peck traced the story about a bloodstained Bond arriving
home to a small-time criminal living in Mansfield, 180 kilometres north-east of Melbourne. He too cannot be named
for legal reasons, so let's call him Mr Black.
Peck interviewed Black in January 2007. Black said Bond returned to their share flat in the early
hours with his face, arms and clothing smeared with blood. Bond claimed to have bitten his tongue
in an epileptic fit, but Black assumed he had been beaten up. Black thought Bond a habitual liar
and did not tell police about it. But he told plenty of people, including his wife, whose friend
Donna Barton had alerted police. Black also rang one of Bond's girlfriends in 1999 to tell her "you're
sleeping with a murderer", although he says he did not believe it to be true.
The case was alive again.
Hearing Bond was a suspect, a woman who had frequented the Manhattan, Richelle Ketteridge, came
forward with a story that a week before she went missing, Membrey had complained that Bond was
hassling her. Ketteridge said she had never before told anyone of Membrey's complaint. Ketteridge
knew Bond from school and had advised Membrey to tell him to "f... off".
"When I found Lis had gone missing it freaked me out," Ketteridge says. "I thought straight away
Shane would have been involved ... I was scared ... I actually sort of felt a bit like it was my fault
that she went missing because of what I said to her."
Police command approved an undercover investigation into Bond but it could not proceed. Peck travelled
to Western Australia to speak to people who worked with Bond in mining camps, gathering a swath of accounts
in which Bond had spoken of Membrey, or of trouble in his past with a girl back in Melbourne. They differed
markedly from his 1994 account to Linehan.
In one, he argued with Membrey at the hotel. In another, he had a sexual relationship with her and was at
the hotel the night she was last seen. He was questioned about it, but none of it mattered since, he said,
"they would never find her body". In a version overheard by Daniel Riera, who worked with Bond in Karratha, WA,
Bond had tried to pick up a girl in a bar, and later in a house put a move on her. "She hit him and he hit her
back and from what I gather when he hit her she fell into a coffee table,
hit her head and ... somebody else ... helped ... dispose of the body."
Shane Andrew Bond, then 43, was arrested in April 2010 and charged with murder; he faced a 10-week trial beginning in
February this year. The case against him was circumstantial. No physical evidence linked him to Membrey. No fingerprints.
No DNA. And there were unknowns, like the three sets of unidentified fingerprints and an unidentified shoe print in the flat.
The case rested on 17-year-old memories, some of which, in legal terms, were of dubious reliability.
Justice Terry Forrest found 11 reasons for the jury to query Mr Black's reliability, including possible animosity
towards Bond, the ravages of time on memory, and the ravages of Black's lifestyle. He once told a
work colleague, "My head was that f...ed from drugs and grog that I started to wonder whether I did it."
The limited documentary evidence that existed failed to support Ketteridge's account of when she could have spoken to Membrey about Bond.
A witness who, on the night she disappeared, saw Membrey in the hotel arguing with a customer - and trying to
pull away from him as he held her wrists - admitted to mental ill-health, as did a woman who claimed to have
found Membrey's image defaced in newspaper cuttings after Bond moved out of her house.
Questions of reliability were raised about the overheard "admissions" Bond made in mining camp drinking
sessions. Bond's defence also pointed to earlier suspects - The Barman and The Tenant - with criminal records.
For legal reasons, the jury did not know how police cleared them and the prosecution was barred from citing Bond's
chequered past, including violence against women.
And there was the fingernail found amid the hallway bloodstain that couldn't be tied to anyone.
Iddles thinks the prosecution erred in not pointing out that the fingernail was clipped: "We did
not point out that it was not a torn fingernail. It looked bad for the prosecution but it was not
as bad as it looked. Who stands in the middle of a fight clipping their nails? Perhaps it was shifted
there in the clean-up that followed Membrey's killing, but we did not address it."
The jury deliberated for eight days and found Bond not guilty. He sobbed and fled the court on April 28, behind
sunglasses and within the defensive clutch of his family.
Every day, a candle burns for Elisabeth Membrey. In the living room of her parents' home, its flame is central to
a tabletop shrine comprising photographs of her, smiling with that mantle of hair like burnished copper.
Alongside, a large window offers a view over native bush to the wide expanse of Western Port Bay. In summer
the bay sparkles deep blue. Even on a dull autumn morning, its steely grey surface commands attention. Melbourne,
where the nightmare began 17 years ago, is two hours' drive away, but the Membreys' loss is palpable here, too.
The years of wondering have not ended after all. "We are still in a state of shock," says Joy Membrey. Her main
concern now is to find her daughter. To return her to her family. "For human dignity, even if it's a fragment.
I know her spirit is gone, but to have something ... that could be a little of the healing process ... we feel we are back to square one."
Their healing has stalled, says Roger Membrey. He is angry still, and wistful: "I always felt a little bit taller when
I was with her. She made me proud to be her father."
Last year Victoria changed its laws relating to double jeopardy. It is now possible to stand trial a
second time if new and compelling evidence surfaces. The law took effect during Bond's trial. The door
to the mystery of Elisabeth Membrey's disappearance might yet be unlocked if police can locate the accomplice
suspected of aiding the clean-up of the flat at 92 Bedford Road.
"If there is someone out there who helped the principal offender to dispose of the body and clean up,
then come forward so we can find the body," says Ron Iddles. "You'd be indemnified."
Bond not guilty of Membrey murder
A liar, a blaggard and an ordinary person is how the man on trial for Elisabeth Membrey's murder has been portrayed
by many people in the Victorian Supreme Court over the past two months.
But a killer Shane Andrew Bond is not, according to the jury of 12, who today acquitted him of the 22-year-old aspiring
journalist's death at her East Ringwood home on the night of December 6-7, 1994.
After more than a week of deliberations following an eight week trial, the jury of
seven men and five women found Bond, 45, not guilty of her murder or manslaughter.
In what was largely a circumstantial case, the prosecution claimed that Bond had argued with Ms
Membrey during her last day alive before he went to her unit and killed her after she knocked off
work at the Manhattan Hotel at 11.45pm.
A pool of blood was all that remained in the hallway outside her bedroom door, along with blood spatter on the walls.
The prosecution alleged that after killing her at the address, Bond wrapped her in a doona and placed her body into
her red Mazda 323 that had been parked in the driveway. He then drove her to an unknown location — through
a lot of dirt, based on the amount left on her car wheels and tyres — where she remains.
Her body has never been found.
The jury heard that Bond had been hassling Ms Membrey to go out with him in the lead-up to her disappearance
and fitted the description of a man she was seen arguing with at the Ringwood Aquatic Centre on the day she was last seen alive.
The man, who used "vile" language towards her during the argument, was described as having a limp. Bond, the court heard, had a
right leg injury at the time of her death, causing him to walk with a severe limp.
She was also seen arguing with a man outside her unit later in the day, in addition to being involved in a heated exchange with
a man who grabbed her wrist as she tried to pull away from him, during her hotel shift that night.
Bond's former housemate claimed that he had arrived home in the early hours of December 7 covered in blood, which Bond had
said was the result of biting his tongue during an epileptic fit.
But his housemate testified that "there was too much blood for actually biting your tongue as far as I was concerned".
The housemate also claimed that within days of her disappearance, Bond stated: "I'm in trouble with the Elisabeth Membrey
thing because the police want to see me".
Two days after her death, Bond allegedly flew to Queensland, where according to Medicare records, he visited a doctor.
Exactly what for though remains a mystery as the records have since been destroyed.
Bond was quizzed by police on December 22 after he returned home from the trip, but denied knowing the missing woman.
He told police he recognised a photograph of her but said they had never spoken. He explained that he used to drink at
the Manhattan Hotel months earlier, but only on Saturdays and only during the footy season. When he was questioned again
by police in 2008, Bond said he knew her, but only from being served by her at the bar.
Yet to others Bond gave very different stories over the years.
Several people testified that he had told them he had been questioned about her disappearance because he had
been drinking at the hotel on the night she died.
He admitted to an ex-girlfriend that he had come home the morning after she died covered in blood, but again explained
the blood as the result of a seizure.
And a former work mate of Bond's in Western Australia told the court he overheard Bond in 2007 admit to being
involved in an incident with a Melbourne barmaid who he made a move on, during which she hit him, he hit her
and she hit her head on a coffee table.
"From what I gather she obviously died and he helped dispose of her body... [and] clean up the mess," the former
workmate said in the witness box.
Another man who was also present that night gave evidence that he overheard Bond discuss dramas involving a woman
in Melbourne, to which Bond said he "took care of it".
Another former colleague who had worked with Bond the mines in WA later that year testified that Bond told him
he had been in a relationship with the missing woman when she vanished, and had been at the hotel on the night in question.
Although he denied having anything to do with her disappearance, he added: "It doesn't matter anyway, they'll never find her body".
Asked by the workmate if he knew what happened to her before she disappeared, he claimed that Bond had allegedly told him: "Yes,
she had been bashed".
"Absolutely devastating" is how Crown prosecutor Geoff Horgan described such comments in his closing address.
"The fact that he says 'it doesn't matter anyway' gives the game away as far as Shane Bond is concerned," he said.
"Who has a vested interest in the body not being found? Who? There's only one person. For no one but the murderer
could it matter that the body would never be found."
A prison informer, who was housed with Bond last year while he was awaiting trial, also testified that Bond
had told him "They'll never find her f***ing body", a comment he thought was odd. He then apparently clarified
that he meant that "if they haven't found it by now they'll never find it".
And another witness gave evidence that he had gone to the Manhattan Hotel with Bond on the night of Ms Membrey's
disappearance and that Bond had argued with her.
But defence barrister Michael O'Connell, SC, denied his client had anything to do with her death. And there was
no evidence suggesting otherwise, he said.
There were no eyewitnesses and no ear witnesses placing his client anywhere near Elisabeth Membrey or her unit.
There was no CCTV footage placing Bond at the hotel on the night she was last seen alive and there were no
fingerprints or DNA evidence connecting him to the crime.
Three sets of unidentified fingerprints were, however, found at Elisabeth's address along with an unidentified shoe-print in the laundry.
And the person from whom a broken fingernail came, which was found in the hallway, has also never been identified.
"We say that there are so many unknowns that a whole range of possibilities arise as to who may have killed Elisabeth Membrey," Mr O'Connell said.
The man Elisabeth was seen arguing with at the swimming pool, outside her unit and at the hotel matched the description of an earlier
suspect police focused their attention on for many years, Mr O'Connell said.
Telling was the fact that this man, who was one of the three "alternative possible killers" police looked at but later
ruled out, had told a group of people after her disappearance that Elisabeth's throat had been slashed.
The suspect, a former workmate of Ms Membrey's who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted to being
at the hotel the night she died and he confessed to finding her attractive, flirting with her and to calling
her his "substitute wife" on occasions.
He had also been a regular swimmer at the Ringwood Aquatic Centre in the years prior to her death, but denied going there in 1994.
And it was his image that had been selected by several people from a police photo board as fitting the description of the man
Elisabeth had been speaking to or arguing with.
A hotel patron testified that he saw some sort of "interaction" between this man and Ms Membrey on the night of December 6,
after which the man in question had allegedly referred to her as a "f---ing bitch".
The suspect had also lied to police about his movements later that night, telling them he had stayed at home after
leaving the hotel, only to later admit that he had gone out and bought cannabis within a few hundred metres of where
Ms Membrey lived.
"He's in that critical place at the very time Ms Membrey is likely to have gone missing. There he is literally metres away," Mr O'Connell argued.
Despite this, the man, along with two other men police investigated for the crime, all strenuously denied having anything to do with her death.
The defence labelled the evidence relating to Bond's alleged admissions as "very poor", "unreliable", "often bound up with the talk and gossip
about Shane Bond's involvement". They were also "not supported by the objective evidence".
Several witnesses also had motives, such as "spite, revenge [and] the prospect of reward" and
multiple people waited years before they came forward with information.
They included Bond's former landlord, who waited until January 2008 to report that she had
found "jagged scribble" on a newspaper photograph of Elisabeth in Bond's rubbish bin a decade earlier.
Another witness, who testified that Elisabeth told her in the lead up to her disappearance that she was
being hassled by Shane Bond, waited until 2007 to contact police, after her boss mentioned the $1 million
reward for information leading to a conviction in the case.
And even Bond's housemate waited until he was approached by police in 2007 to disclose information about him
coming home covered in blood. Mr O'Connell described him as a "nasty, manipulative liar... [and] a person who
was prepared to lie if it suited his purposes to do so". His criminal convictions spanned 25 years and involved
170 separate offences, including multiple dishonesty offences. At the time he was also drinking heavily every night.
"The fact is that very little is known about what happened to Elisabeth Membrey in that unit on that night. Virtually
nothing is known about how she died or indeed why she died," Mr O'Connell said in his closing address.
"There is so much that we do not know that in those circumstances it is simply not possible to be satisfied beyond
reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused."
Bond did not take the stand to explain to the jury what he was doing on that fateful night and convince them he had
not killed anyone. And the defence called no witnesses to help prove his innocence.
But in the end they didn't have to.
Accused told friend Elisabeth Membrey's body would never be found
UPDATE: The man accused of murdering young Ringwood bar worker Elisabeth Membrey told an acquaintance
her throat had been cut in her hallway and her body would never be found, a Supreme Court jury has been told.
Shane Andrew Bond, 44, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ms Membrey, who disappeared from her
Ringwood unit after clocking off from work at the Manhattan Hotel about 11.45pm on December 6, 1994.
In his opening address, Crown prosecutor Geoff Horgan, SC, said it seemed beyond reasonable doubt that
Ms Membrey was murdered as she had not been heard from since that night and her blood was found in her hallway and her car.
Mr Horgan said the issue was not whether she was dead, but rather who had killed the attractive and
vivacious 22-year-old with aspirations to become a journalist.
He told the jury they would hear evidence that Mr Bond knew Ms Membrey from time spent drinking at the
Manhattan Hotel, although he originally told police that he did not know her.
Mr Horgan said Mr Bond told friends that he had taken her out and slept with her and either had or
wanted to have a relationship with her.
The jury was told that it was the prosecution case that Mr Bond – who suffered a limp caused by an
indoor cricket injury - argued with Ms Membrey up to three times on the day of her disappearance.
He then went to her home where he attacked her, wrapped her body in a doona, drove the body in her
car and dumped her at an unknown location before returning the car and trying to clean up the blood.
It was alleged Mr Bond left for Queensland in the following days before returning by December 22.
Mr Horgan said Mr Bond was 28 at the time of Ms Membrey’s disappearance and drank in hotels in the
The jury was told they would hear evidence from Mr Bond’s then housemate that Mr Bond returned home
covered in blood in the early hours of December 7, telling his housemate that he had bitten his tongue
in an epileptic fit.
The court heard that while living as a boarder in Mooroolbark in 1997, the female owner was cleaning up
after him and found a Herald Sun article about Ms Membrey with her eyes gouged out of her photograph.
Mr Horgan told of another occasion when Mr Bond was watching the television news with a friend and remarked
about a story concerning the search for Ms Membrey’s body.
The jury heard that Mr Bond told the friend that he did know Ms Membrey and that he had argued with her at
the Manhattan Hotel and left on the night she disappeared.
Mr Horgan told the jury that on another occasion while working in Karratha, Mr Bond told a workmate that
there were “dramas” with a girl back in Melbourne and he took her home and “got rid of her”.
He allegedly told another workmate that the girl hit him and he hit her and she fell and hit her head on
a coffee table and a mate disposed of her body.
Mr Horgan said Mr Bond later told another man that the woman did not hit her head but had her throat cut.
The jury was told that it was a circumstantial case against Mr Bond involving no fingerprint of DNA evidence.
“There are no eyewitnesses to death of Elisabeth Membrey,” Mr Horgan said.
“Nobody has come forward who says they saw what happened.”
Defence counsel Michael O’Connell said Mr Bond had no involvement in the disappearance and murder.
Mr O’Connell said Ms Membrey would have been exposed on an almost daily basis at the hotel to a large number
of men who would have been attracted to her.
“In reality, this case hasn’t been solved at all,” Mr O’Connell said.
The defence opening continues tomorrow.
Fifteen jurors - nine men and six women - were empanelled yesterday due to the expected 12-week duration of the trial.
Herald Sun (22-2-2012)
Cops quiz new kill suspect in Elisabeth Membrey case
Exclusive: A new prime suspect in the murder mystery of Elisabeth Membrey has been secretly interviewed by police.
Homicide squad detectives re-investigating the 1994 murder interviewed former Ringwood resident Shane Bond, 41, yesterday
afternoon after a crucial call to police more than a year ago provided a breakthrough.
A $1 million reward was posted in January 2006 for evidence leading to a conviction in the Membrey case.
Investigators flew to Western Australia to interview Mr Bond about any involvement he had with Ms Membrey before her
Police want to know if Mr Bond is the mystery man she was seen arguing with outside her Bedford Rd unit in Ringwood
during the afternoon of December 6, only hours before she was killed.
The homicide squad's Det Sen-Sgt Ron Iddles said Mr Bond had denied any involvement in the murder.
"He was interviewed and has denied any involvement," Det Sen-Sgt Iddles said. "He remains a suspect and the
investigation will continue."
Ms Membrey was murdered some time after she returned home after signing off from work at 11.45pm.
She had set her bedroom alarm for a doctor's appointment the next day, and was writing a letter to a friend
in Britain when, police believe, she was disturbed by a knock at the door.
Police believe she knew the man at the door, and let him in. Ms Membrey was killed in the hallway some time
Her body was taken in her own car to a remote location, believed to be somewhere in the Kinglake or Silvan
areas, and has never been found.
A call to Crime Stoppers re-launched the investigation into Mr Bond after an article that appeared in the
Herald Sun in late 2006, eliminating another suspect.
Mr Bond is believed to work in the mining industry, and returns to Melbourne from time to time.
Witness statements from the investigation say Ms Membrey had complained about Mr Bond's behaviour to a work
Ms Membrey, who worked at the Manhattan Hotel, Ringwood, had told another woman on staff she was concerned
about his erratic behaviour.
Another witness told police Mr Bond had returned home on the morning of December 7 covered in blood.
Investigators are also probing whether Mr Bond is the same man witnesses saw Ms Membrey with at the Ringwood
Aquatic Centre the day before her murder.
Detectives working on the initial investigation had briefly spoken with Mr Bond as a person of interest.
Witnesses had described the man Ms Membrey spoke to as athletic and handsome.
Police are also investigating whether a car owned by Mr Bond may be the same cream or white sedan seen by
Ms Membrey's neighbour, Andrea Pumpa.
After her two poodles began barking, Ms Pumpa went outside to calm them and heard a bang about 1.30am.
She noticed a white sedan with four round headlights and a blackened or missing grille parked outside the unit.
Ms Membrey's parents, Roger and Joy, who broke into their daughter's unit after becoming worried she had
missed her doctor's appointment, say they are traumatised.
They are desperate to find their daughter's body to give her a proper funeral.
"It's excruciating her body was taken," Mr Membrey said.
"She's been denied the dignity of a funeral.
"Whoever has killed her has taken the power," he said.
"It's a basic right for everybody to have a funeral.
"The worst part for us is not knowing who and why, and not being able to bury our daughter. As soon as we wake up it's back on.
"For the past 13 years it has been all about Elisabeth.
"We have no idea why she was taken from us," he said.
"One day she was there and the next she wasn't.
"You never get over it. It has had a profound impact on our lives. You don't expect for your child to die before you.
"Sometimes you feel the eyes of someone on you who knows us through Elisabeth's murder, and you feel such a sadness.
"There's also a fear you're going to die, and this is still going to be in limbo."
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