The Unpredictable Finger of Fate


tags: Murder, Forensics, NSW, New South Wales,

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By Retired Detective Sergeant C.B. (Barry) Fay

From the June 2013 issue of the APJ.

About 2.30pm on Sunday, 29th February, 1976, Dr Harry Marks of Ramsey Road, Picnic Point was on a day’s outing with his family and was travelling along the Bells Line of Road (near Katoomba, NSW) when he stopped at an isolated barbeque area about 20km east of Bell known as Mt Charles. Whilst having his lunch, Dr Marks wandered off into the bush to answer a ‘call of nature’ and made a gruesome discovery.

Initially, as he moved through the trees and bushes about 40 metres away from the barbeque area, he became aware of an overpowering stench emanating from the thick undergrowth ahead. Shortly afterwards he saw the body of a semi-naked woman lying prone (face down) on the ground. It was a shocking sight (something that nightmares are made of) and he hastily bundled his family into the car and drove off to a nearby shopping centre, where he rang Constable Robertson at the Mount Victoria Police Station.

Dr Marks quickly described his find to this officer and was instructed to remain where he was so that Constable Robertson could meet up with him and follow him to the pending crime scene. Shortly afterwards they were back at the barbeque area and the officer was shown the location of the deceased. Even to a hardened policeman it was a disturbing scene and, with some trepidation, he cautiously inspected the woman’s body, which, at that stage, was partly covered by dry leaves and grass.

Constable Robertson noted that the woman’s upper torso was lying across a fallen tree branch with her face touching the ground and that her arms were hidden from view beneath her bloated abdomen. The victim was almost naked except for a bra and a dark-coloured, halter-neck top. Both of these garments had been pulled up to just beneath her armpits, as if she had been dragged into the position found.

Because the body was in such an advanced state of decomposition with many blowflies hovering about, the constable was forced to move up-wind of it whilst he wrote down the doctor’s particulars in his notebook. He then returned to his vehicle and contacted radio operators at VKG Headquarters and explained the situation to them before requesting assistance from nearby police stations.

This resulted in several uniform and plain-clothes police from Katoomba arriving at the crime scene along with Detective Warren Day from the Scientific Section. Later, the group was also joined by Detectives Keith Conwell and Ray Southwell from the Homicide Squad. The body was carefully examined by these officers who estimated that she had been carried or dragged about 50 metres to the position found from either the roadway or the barbeque area.

The scientific officer noted that there were no obvious marks of violence on the woman’s darkening body (that he could determine) but, at that point, it was important not to disturb the crime scene or the position of the corpse until she had been fully examined by a doctor.

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