Missing Persons - Sarah MacDiarmid
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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.
Brother of murder victim Sarah MacDiarmid writes to cop killer Bandali Debs
for answers in her disappearance
Murder victim Sarah MacDiarmid’s brother has written to four-time killer
Debs in the hope he knows something about her disappearance.
In an open letter to Debs, to be delivered through the Herald Sunon Friday, Alisdair
MacDiarmid made an emotional appeal to the cop killer.
Mr MacDiarmid offered to visit Debs in jail to talk to him “face to face”.
The Herald Sun this week revealed Debs had emerged as a suspect in the baffling cold case.
Ms MacDiarmid, 23, disappeared from Kananook railway station, near Frankston, on July 11, 1990.
Blood was found near her red Honda civic but no trace of her has ever been found.
“I’m not sure what name you were known by within your family, but I will address you as
Bandali,” Mr MacDiarmid said in his letter to Debs.
“My name is Alisdair. My sister is Sarah MacDiarmid.
“I don’t know what makes you tick, any more than you know what makes me tick.
“Neither you nor I have a rosy coloured view of the world.
“Forrest Gump was wrong. Life is not a box of chocolates. There is plenty of rubbish in that box too.
“The fortunate have many chocolates in there. Some have a good number, others are grateful for the
few they find - no matter the flavour.
“So Bandali, this is just a straight forward request. If you know where Sarah is, please say so.
“Tell someone. Tell me.
“Bandali, I am willing to visit you if you wish to tell me face to face.”
Debs, 60, is serving two life jail terms for the 1988 murders in Moorabbin of Sergeant
Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rod Miller.
He has also been found guilty of the 1995 murder of Sydney sex worker Donna Hicks, 34,
and killing 18-year-old Melbourne prostitute Kristy Harty in 1997.
Ms MacDiarmid’s father Peter said he hoped the letter to Debs would result in Debs telling
somebody if he knows anything about his daughter’s disappearance.
“I would also like to remind anybody who knows anything about Sarah’s disappearance that
there is a $1 million reward available,” he said.
Alisdair MacDiarmid had just celebrated his 21st birthday the week before his sister disappeared.
He said he hoped that if Debs did know where his sister’s body was he would have the
decency to tell somebody, even if it was anonymously so he couldn’t be implicated.
“Even if the letter just results in us finding Sarah that would be great,” he said.
“If there is more beyond that then so be it.
“It would mean so much to us to identify where Sarah is.”
I did not kill Sarah MacDiarmid, says serial killer Paul Denyer
Serial killer Paul Denyer has vehemently denied any involvement in one of Victoria's most
baffling murder mysteries.
In an extraordinary interview inside maximum security Port Phillip Prison, Denyer -
who in 1993 killed three women in a hate-filled rage - told homicide detectives he did
not kill missing woman Sarah MacDiarmid, who disappeared in 1990.
Detectives are re-interviewing witnesses in a bid to find new clues to a mystery
killer who may still be living in Frankston.
They are certain someone holds the key to her death, which has troubled the family for 21 years.
Denyer told detective Ron Iddles he wanted to say publicly, after years of
speculation he may have been her killer, that he had not harmed her.
"I'd tell you if it was me," he said.
"I've always admitted what I've done."
He told police suspicions about his involvement had caused him anxiety.
"He said speculation was not good for him and not good for his family," Det. Sen-Sgt Iddles said.
"I accept what he said and he is no longer of interest to this office for that (murder)."
Denyer has consistently denied involvement.
In contrast, he confessed during a police interview in 1993 to the brutal murders
of Elizabeth Stevens, 18, Debbie Fream, 22, and Natalie Jayne Russell, 17.
Last week's interview, for which Denyer volunteered, went for less than an hour.
Ms MacDiarmid, 23, had been playing tennis in the city with friends and caught a train home,
getting out at Kananook railway station, near Frankston, on July 11, 1990, about 10.20pm.
She was walking through a dimly lit car park to her red Honda Civic when she was attacked.
Bloodstains indicated she had been set upon.
Ms MacDiarmid's parents, Peter and Sheila, have never lost hope they would find an
answer to their daughter's disappearance.
"Sarah could be in someone's back yard or under someone's property. We don't know but
we want to find out what happened to her," her dad said.
There is a $1 million reward for any information that leads to a conviction.
Call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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The never-ending search for Sarah
It is every parent's greatest fear; their child going missing and never being seen again. Denise Gadd reports.
For Sheila and Peter MacDiarmid it has been a long 14 years since their daughter Sarah, then 23,
disappeared from Kananook station, near Seaford.
But today, for the first time since they moved to Queensland in May 1991, they will not make the
journey to the station car park to mark the anniversary by laying flowers at the memorial to their
daughter - a flame tree planted in the car park on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance.
Instead they will spend a quiet day at home. It will be hard for them, but the MacDiarmids visited
the car park in February.
"We know that was the last area where she was known to be so we just said 'Sarah, we're back to where
you last were, let us know where you are'," Mrs MacDiarmid said.
Not long after the night Sarah disappeared, they bought a golden labrador puppy to welcome her
home. The two never met and the dog, Jenny, died a few months ago. It was a "huge milestone"
for them both, Mr MacDiarmid said, because it was "another piece of distance" between them and Sarah.
Since moving from their Frankston home, the MacDiarmids have tried to get on with their lives
despite the tragedy.
They were sad to leave Frankston, where they had moved from Pascoe Vale in January 1990. But
after Sarah's disappearance, the MacDiarmids couldn't stay there. "Strange things happened.
We had stuff thrown in the front garden and our car was graffitied, plus we kept wondering if
she'd been put in the boot of a car and we kept thinking, 'is it that car?' so we had to
move on," Mr MacDiarmid said.
They have kept in touch with Sarah's friends although, at one stage, they tried to put some
distance between them.
"We were worried that they were young and we were a bad reminder of what had happened to Sarah
but when they found out they said 'no way, you must never do that'," Mrs MacDiarmid said.
They never plan too far ahead. "We've learnt our lesson that you never know what's going to happen,"
her husband said.
The loss of their beloved daughter is more intense now than it was 14 years ago.
"Peter and I have been feeling it more of late. It's something that's catching up with us, probably
because we're getting older and you get more uptight and frightened that you're never going to
find out what happened."
Learning the truth is paramount to Peter, Sheila and their son Alisdair, who took his sister's
absence hard. He loved the bagpipes but hardly played them after Sarah's disappearance. Then,
for the 10th anniversary, he composed Lament to Sarah which he played to commemorate the planting
of the memorial tree.
Sarah was last seen in the station car park about 10.20pm on July 11, 1990. She had been playing
tennis with friends in the city. They caught the train home but her friends got out at Bonbeach.
Sarah went on to Kananook, the nearest station to her parents' Skye Road home. The train was late.
She was seen getting off the train, walking along a ramp and down some stairs towards the car park,
then the trail went cold.
Police found blood near her red Honda Civic but Sarah's body has never been found, despite the State
Government increasing the reward to $1 million in February.
An inquest into Sarah's disappearance in May 1996 determined that she had met her death as a result
of foul play but the exact circumstances were unknown.
The most popular theory, according to some police, is that Sarah was attacked by a group of homeless
drug addicts, led by a prostitute, as she went to get into her car.
The original police investigator, Inspector Laurie Ratz, now the head of corporate security at Qantas
in Sydney, has never been "red hot" for that theory.
"The homicide squad received a fair bit of information from different sources but nothing was ever
confirmed. Things didn't add up. We didn't find a body and if it had been a random street
kid/drug-related incident we would have found a lot more than we did."
Mr Ratz, who also led the investigation into the abduction and murder of Rosebud youngster
Sheree Beasley, still keeps in touch with the MacDiarmids and says the unsolved
case "enters my mind frequently".
Sarah's file is still active, according to another investigator on the case from day one,
Senior Sergeant Charlie Bezzina from the homicide squad.
Information trickles in occasionally, some after the posting of the million-dollar reward,
but it was only "repeat stuff".
"We didn't get much after the $50,000 reward was announced all those years ago so it's hard to
say what conclusion one can come to," he says. "Are all the people who know about Sarah's
disappearance dead? Are those who were involved so fearful of other people that they won't come forward?"
For Peter and Sheila MacDiarmid, finding the truth will help to put some of their demons to rest.
"There are still people out there who know what happened and it's good that when there's any
publicity about the case, those people know that it's not a forgotten issue and that we're
looking at them," Mr MacDiarmid said.
A help for them, to a point, would be if someone came forward and told police the location of Sarah's remains.
"That would be huge if it could be proved to be Sarah. That's what we want to know," he said.
"We don't know how we'd deal with it but at least we'd know where she was."
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