‘He doesn’t know it yet, but this one will bury its hooks into him.’
On 17 June 1980, Maria James, 38, was found murdered in her bookshop at 736 High Street in Thornbury, an inner suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. Her murder was brutal, and it remains unsolved. This was Ron Iddles first investigation as a 25-year-old recruit to the homicide squad.
On 25 November 1982, a coronial inquest found that Ms James’s murder was committed by a person unknown.
On 30 November 2018, the coronial inquest was reopened, with the earlier finding set aside.
I picked up this book having not listened to Rachael Brown’s podcast of the same name, after hearing that the coronial inquest was to be reopened. I found the book difficult to put down. Ms Brown has undertaken her investigation with a mix of determination and sensitivity. Sensitivity for Ms James’s two sons, Mark and Adam, who were aged 13 and 11 when she was murdered, and determination to try to get some answers. Ms Brown found that that a pillow, mistakenly included in Ms James’s evidence bag, had resulted in the police not having the killer’s DNA. Suspects were ruled out based on this faulty DNA analysis. A quilt, which should have been in the evidence bag and may have contained useful DNA, was missing. But there are other elements of concern as well, leads that may not have been followed up or seem to have been ignored.
The narrative shifts between the time of the murder, significant events in the years following, and the present. The picture I had when I finished the book was of a devoted, dedicated mother who was trying to protect her son from abuse by a priest. This story is not yet complete.
I hope that the reopened inquest can provide Mark and Adam James with some answers about their mother’s brutal murder. I understand that the Victoria Police are also undertaking their own official investigation of this cold case.
‘Sometimes the truth can never be fully told, because it breaks your heart forever.’