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The Murder of Maureen Ferrari

Updated: May 19

Every suburb has its dark underbelly. Ashburton is no exception.

On 17 December 1965, Melbourne’s Sun newspaper ran a front page story on the Victorian Police’s pledge to ‘beat louts’ and put ‘many of these ruffians in gaol for Christmas.’[1] It seemed packs of young men were roaming from Springvale to Moreland, disrupting local dances, picking fights, and brawling with locals. The most notorious were rival gangs from Collingwood and Prahran. They called themselves ‘sharpies’ because they dressed in ‘sharp’ clothes with ‘soft’ (suede) shoes with either round or chisel toes.[2]

When asked by the reporter why sharpies were so aggressive, one gang member explained ‘If the cops don’t get us, the Viet Cong will,’ referring to the conscription effort occurring at the time to send young men to fight in Vietnam. Another had less political motivations. ‘Why should the surfies, who have the good jobs and whose parents have all the money, have all the fun?’ he sneered.[3]

Sharpies lived in the post-war housing commission estates of Melbourne’s suburbs, including Ashburton, Ashwood and Jordanville. Many were the children of absent fathers who self-medicated their war-related post traumatic stress with alcohol or violence. Their mothers formed tight-knit bonds and communities based around their streets and neighbourhoods, united in their financially stricken predicaments.

Many residents I spoke to don’t remember much about the violence in their neighbourhood as they were only 10 to 12 at the time. Yet the Sun regularly reported brawls at dances in the area. These often occurred because when confronted by sharpies, other groups of young men did not back down. Some deliberately sought them out for a fight or revenge. One former resident, who was 17 in 1965, confirmed to me that there were fights in the area all the time. ‘The Chinese shop in Ashwood had a security guard but one night about 50 sharpies came and smashed it up for no reason,’ he said. He and his friends got into regular fights with sharpies themselves. As far as he was concerned, it was just what young men did on a Friday night in Melbourne’s suburbs in the 60s.

Despite their rough reputations, the sharpies and their enemies did not fight to kill. No-one carried weapons, it was always hand-to-hand fighting. Of course, this made no difference to the detrimental opinion the police and the middle-aged had of them.

So when Maureen Ferrari’s life was taken from her on a dark footpath near Holmesglen Station on 17 December 1965, members of the local gangs were the prime suspects.

But Maureen was not murdered by some sniggering teenager looking for a fight. Nor was she killed by members of the community she lived in. Instead, the man who killed Maureen Ferrari was worse. He knew exactly what he was doing. And he lived in Ashburton.

An ordinary girl

By all accounts, Maureen Ferrari was a well-liked young woman. Petite and attractive, she wore her dark hair in the bouffant style popular at the time. An acquaintance remembered her as quiet and thoughtful; the kind of girl who called her father when she was going to be late so he wouldn’t worry about her. Maureen’s family moved to the Ashwood Estate and she grew up in Power Avenue where she attended St Mary Magdalen’s School in Chadstone.

After she left school, Maureen worked as a typist at the Commercial Union Assurance Company, in Collins Street. Every day, she would catch the train from Holmesglen Station to Flinders Street and walk up to her office. It was a busy time for clerical staff across Melbourne’s CBD. The Australian Dollar was arriving in 1966 and they had loads of work converting information from the old pounds and pence into the new currency. Early computers were also being implemented. Young women like Maureen were working a lot of overtime so it was a welcome reprieve to attend the company Christmas party on the evening of Friday, 17 December 1965.

Maureen’s Catholic faith was an integral component of her identity. She was known to attend Mass and Communion at a small city church during her lunch hour.[4] She had been making a Novena (a nine-part religious devotion) on Friday nights for seven weeks. According to John Truscott, the man Maureen had been ‘going steady’ with since October, Maureen enjoyed dancing and jiving.[5] A live band would be playing at the party, so Maureen decided to skip church to attend the party instead.

The Christmas Party

Maureen arrived at the party around 6.15 pm with three friends from her company. She drank only lemon squash. The band hired for the evening were late starting and, not willing to miss it, Maureen called her father at 8.15 pm to tell him she would be later than she anticipated. She had one obligatory dance with her immediate superior, Mr Peirce but mostly chatted only with her friends.

Around 9.30 pm, Maureen left the party and walked with a new acquaintance, Annette, to Flinders Street Station. Annette remembered noticing Maureen heading for the Glen Waverley line platform, where the train was due to leave at 10.06 pm. Other witnesses at the station remembered seeing her boarding the 10.06 train.

On the train home

One witness, a 17 year old RAAF apprentice called Leonard, was on the train with Maureen that night. He remembered that sitting opposite Maureen were two youths, aged about 19 or 20. They did not talk to each other and he decided they were not together. One of the youths was about 6 foot, smartly dressed, with light brown hair in a ‘type of college cut’. Some Googling revealed that this seems to mean a slicked back, heavily greased hairstyle long on top and shorter on the sides.

Another older witness described the two young men as “Teddy Boy” types. This was a British term for the rebellious and disruptive teenagers of the 1960s who slashed cinema seats, threw fireworks and set off a moral panic in the media over ‘feral youth’ and ‘the teen menace’. In Melbourne terms, they would have been ‘sharpies’. Today they call themselves ‘eshays’.

Leonard particularly remembered Maureen’s large white handbag. He noticed her because they both got off the train at Holmesglen. He didn’t recall seeing where the two men disembarked. ‘I think the girl must have gone up a ramp beside the railway line as I recall that she was not walking in front of me as I was walking past the shops [towards Batesford Road],’ he told the police in his statement.

However, the older woman remembered seeing the two men at the station but not which way they went. She noticed Maureen crossed Warrigal Road and entered the pathway on the south of the railway line (where the Holmesglen Bouldering Wall is now -pictured here) then walked up it towards Collins Street.

Holmesglen Station

None of the women I spoke to for this article ever walked home alone from Holmesglen station, especially at night. In the 1960s, the MitchDowd site was a Streets Ice Cream factory and the Holmesglen TAFE was a manufacturing plant. The path that ran between the Streets factory and the train tracks was not lit up brightly like it is now. Thomas Ferrari, Maureen’s father, told The Sun that Maureen was ‘frightened of the dark patch near the Holmesglen Station and usually telephoned if she was a bit late, to be picked up.’[6] In addition, Holmesglen station had no attendant after 8.30 pm.[7] There was also no public telephone booth at the station. In fact, it was unusual the Ferraris even had a telephone, as most people living in Ashwood and Jordanville at the time did not.

At least two witnesses remembered seeing Maureen walk up the ramp towards the darkened path, rather than crossing Warrigal Road and heading towards Power Avenue, the street she lived in.

The decision was made more unusual because Maureen lived towards the end of Power Avenue and it curved away from the train tracks, so the path along the train line would not have cut off very much time from the journey.

No-one mentioned seeing anyone following her off the train or up the path. One witness still on the train remembered seeing her walking up the path towards the dark area and wondered whether this was safe.

The dark was not the only frightening thing about Holmesglen Station. After Maureen’s murder, at least 12 women came forward to report being hassled or molested by a man (or men) at the station.[8] According to the police, most of them described a man ‘about 20, 5 feet 9 inches tall, with dark hair and brown eyes.’

One woman, who did not report her attack, relayed to me her encounter with a man a few days before Maureen was killed. She was 16 and walking up Batesford Road towards Collins Street when a man appeared suddenly in front of her, deliberately blocking her path. He grabbed her arm and said to her, ‘you’re coming with me.’

‘I am not!’ she retorted and whacked him with the fold-up umbrella she always carried in hand on the walk home from the station. She ran off as fast as she could and went to her aunt’s house, who lived further up Batesford Road.

Once there, she told her aunt a man outside had assaulted her. Her aunt told her to wait until he’d gone away. She begged her aunt to let someone in the house walk her home but her aunt dismissed her concerns. When it was time to leave, the terrified girl ran the whole way home.

Today, 56 years later, she is still angry at her aunt’s attitude about what happened to her. She also regrets not reporting the incident to the police. But it was not that easy back then. No-one in her family had a phone so it meant getting someone to drive her to the police station and fill out a report. Her aunt’s attitude was also more the norm than the exception. The fact a dozen women had not deemed their harassment significant enough to report it to police until after a young woman was murdered spoke volumes of how this kind of sexual harassment and threatening behaviour from men was par for the course for young women in Melbourne.

After that incident, the young woman ensured her mother or sister always met her at the train station and walked her home.

The woman also remembered Maureen from their regular train journeys home. They were friendly and chatted on the train but did not socialise together. She knew Maureen’s father usually met her at the station and that she usually walked towards Power Avenue, not along the dark path.

To this day, she can not fathom why Maureen chose to go that way that night.

Maureen is found

In his statement to detectives, Maureen’s father told them, ‘I fully expected Maureen to ring again, I thought it was almost certain she would be given a lift from the office.’ But she did not call. By 11 pm, he had grown very worried and began calling people to see if they had seen her. But no-one had. He and his wife waited anxiously all night for Maureen to come home.

Maureen’s body was found early the next morning in the brush at the end of Collins Street (pictured here in 2021). There is a myth her father found her but in fact it was a local man crossing the pedestrian path at Collins Street at 6.30 am. He spotted Maureen’s handbag first, noting its scattered contents and the money still inside her wallet. Then he saw her body and immediately contacted the police.

The investigation begins

Maureen’s cause of death was readily established: asphyxiation and strangulation. Some of her underclothes had been removed but she had not been sexually assaulted. Part of her coat was stuffed into her mouth as if to silence her. For the police, it was not common for a person to be murdered by a complete stranger without any motive. With little clue to the perpetrator, the police quickly put out a plea for witnesses to come forward.

Two young men sought out the police. The first lived with his family in Vision Street, Jordanville. The night of the murder, he had got into a fight with one of his brothers and had gone for a walk to cool off. He couldn’t remember the time but knew it was ‘just as The Untouchables was starting on TV’.

He was walking down Power Avenue and started to walk up the bank to the train track when a city bound train went past. As he walked towards Holmesglen Station, he was around 30 or 40 yards from the crossing at the end of Collins Street when he saw something moving in the grass.

‘I thought it was a dog, [so] I said, ‘here fella,’ and a bloke stood up about 30 seconds later. I though he must have been a poofter or something.’ The man walked towards him and when he drew level, the witness said ‘Do I know you?’ and the man replied ‘not bloody likely’ in a strong Australian accent. Then the witness watched as the man crossed the tracks, ran through the grass and jumped the fence. The witness continued his walk and returned home.

The young man described the man he saw in the grass as ‘5ft 9 inches tall, of medium build, with dark hair and wearing dark trousers.’[9]

The police were quick to connect the suspect to youth violence. ‘He could have been a member of the “Goose” group of teenage hoodlums, who staged two brawls in the area just before the murder,’ detectives told the Sun.[10]

Another witness I spoke to was also in the area at the time. He was walking up Warrigal Road from the Matthew Flinders Hotel when he recalled seeing the same city bound train go past.* As he got to the crossing on Warrigal Road, he saw a man running towards Power Avenue. It was very dark but he remembered him as a stocky, short man. Then when the witness reached Power Avenue to walk up the hill to his home on Reid Street, he saw the man cross Warrigal Road and run up Victory Boulevard. He didn’t think anything of it until he saw Maureen’s murder splashed across the front page of the Sun on Monday 20 December.

He resolved to immediately call the police. But when he told the police officer he had been out drinking that night, his credibility as a witness was immediately questioned. He tried repeatedly to tell the police what he had seen but they continually dismissed him ‘because he was drunk’. He knew the police were talking to some of the youth gang members in the area and that they were making up all sorts of stories.

‘If they had just taken what I had said seriously, maybe that little girl would still be alive,’ he told me. He was not talking about Maureen.

The investigation stalls

After a flurry of press coverage about Maureen’s murder in the lead up to Christmas, the investigation stalled. The police had found little evidence of who had killed her. ‘Somewhere there is someone who can help us further, Inspector Holland told the Herald in early April 1966.[11] But they still had no clue of who the murderer was.

The police deeply interrogated Maureen’s life. In a statement reflective of attitudes to female victims of crime at the time, detectives told the Herald, ‘many young girls courted disaster, but Maureen was an innocent, trusting and friendly girl, who didn’t deserve to die as she did.’[12] They had been ‘deeply impressed by Maureen’s exemplary life.’

Although not considered suspects, the two ‘Teddy Boys’ on the train never came forward. Based on little evidence, the police focus remained on youth gangs in the area. Detectives told the Herald they were ‘still unsatisfied with the stories told them by some youths who lived in the area. One youth had altered his story three times.’

Speculation of what Maureen was doing on the dark path bubbled around the case. Former residents of the Ashburton, Ashwood and Jordanville estates today remember their mothers furtively discussing the murder and the fear instilled among them of a murderer on the loose. However, if anyone thought it was done by one of their own, they did not come forward.

After several months, probably in an effort to revitalise interest in the case, Maureen’s heartbroken family gave an interview to the Herald published on 2 April 1966. Maureen’s father spoke of the family’s despair. ‘I still sit and wonder for hours about it all,’ he told the reporter. ‘It has ruined our life. It seems like a nightmare and I keep hoping it hasn’t happened. The thought that the killer is uncaught and could strike again never leaves me.’[13]

Fourteen days later, he did strike again.

The murder of Rhonda Irwin

Residents found the naked body of five-year old Rhonda Irwin on vacant land at the southern end of Stawell Street in Burnley on Sunday 17 April 1966. The afternoon before, Rhonda had been playing in Farmer Street with other children who also lived nearby. When her mother had gone outside to call her in for dinner, Rhonda was missing. A desperate search quickly followed. Rhonda was found the next day near the banks of the Yarra, strangled and sexually assaulted.

For many people, a missing child in Melbourne brought to mind the kidnapping and murder of Sydney school boy Graeme Thorne in 1960. Graeme’s murder prompted one of the biggest manhunts in Australian history. Hardened criminals were so shocked they offered police assistance. Although Graeme’s killer was eventually captured and convicted, Graeme’s murder, combined with the murder of two teenage girls at Wanda Beach in Sydney and the unsolved disappearance of the Beaumont children in South Australia, are among the markers of the end of Australia’s innocence as a country. There was now no denying that Australia housed people depraved enough to kill children.

Nobody remembered seeing Rhonda taken. But some people did see a man they knew in the area at the time. As soon as they heard about Rhonda, they all jumped to the immediate conclusion that the man they knew had something to do with it.

Keith Ryrie

In 1965, Keith Ryrie was 24 years old and living with his parents and two brothers in Warner Avenue, Ashburton. Growing up, neighbours knew him as ‘quiet’, ‘weird’, and a person to be avoided. Around 1960, he had a child who ended up living with his parents. Ryrie worked at the Kew Mental Hospital as a driver. He was known there by the name Terry Ryan.

A former girlfriend described Ryrie as having a ‘very violent temper’. She had been to the Burwood Drive-in with him on Saturday, 20 December. Then they had gone to the back of ‘some golf course’ [Malvern Valley Golf Course - pictured here] where they had parked for a few hours before he drove her home. After witnessing Ryrie assault another man on New Year’s Eve 1965, she called the relationship off. Ryrie then struck up a relationship with a woman he had known most of his life who had separated from her husband. At the time of Rhonda’s murder, she had been living at his Warner Avenue address for a few days.

The day Rhonda disappeared, several people remembered seeing Keith Ryrie drinking at the Grand Hotel in Burnley Street, Richmond. Ryrie's red hair made him stand out. He left the Hotel around 3.40 pm. Around 4 pm, a woman who had lived next door to Ryrie in Ashburton saw him at the corner of Cutter Street and Farmer Street, leaning against a pole, watching children playing. ‘I didn’t call out to him or stop the car to speak to him,’ the woman told police later. When she got home, she told her husband George about the encounter.

Later that day, George met up with a few friends at the Grand Hotel. He heard that Ryrie was looking for him and received a message to visit Ryrie in Warner Avenue the next day.

The next morning, George was at a friend’s house when the friend’s wife received a call that ‘Herb Irwin’s girl Rhonda was missing.’ George went to see the friends from the Grand Hotel. ‘I told them that I thought I knew who the man was that had killed Rhonda Irwin,’ he said in his police statement.

The friends decided to go out to Ryrie’s place and confront him. George went into the house alone.

‘Did you hear about the little girl yesterday?’ he asked Ryrie. ‘They are looking for a fellow and the description fits you to a ‘T’.’

Ryrie didn’t reply immediately but he started to shake. Then he said, ‘if they get me for that they will try and pin that Ferrari girl on me.’

George summoned his friends with the intention of taking Ryrie to the police himself. But Ryrie’s mother ordered them all out. So George went back to the Irwin house and told them of his suspicions. Herb Irwin called the police.

Ryrie’s first confession

Ryrie broke under questioning. He described how he had tried to lure a little girl on Farmer Street with an ice cream but her father had intercepted them. Then he targeted another little girl closer to Swan Street. This was Rhonda Irwin.

In his statement, he described the events that followed as if they were all Rhonda’s idea. Rhonda was going to the shop, she told him. So he decided to go with her. ‘We started walking, she held on to my hand.’ They walked under the railway line at Swan Street towards the river. When they reached the factory where Rhonda’s body was found, he attacked her. Rhonda screamed.

‘I didn’t want to kill her, I just wanted her to be quiet,’ he told police. ‘I didn’t mean to kill her,’ he repeated. ‘I only wanted to make her unconscious so I could get away.’

Later that day, he was charged with the murder of Rhonda Margaret Irwin.

Ryrie’s second confession

Two days later, Ryrie told police that he had murdered a girl and buried her body on the cliffs in Port Campbell, along the Great Ocean Road. He said he would tell them where the body was if they drove him out there.

At Port Campbell, Ryrie directed the police to a track a short distance away from the cliff edge. Two detectives had hold of Ryrie when he began to struggle violently. He pulled himself away and ran towards the cliff edge. Then he suddenly swung around and stood with his arms outstretched. He called out, ‘I’m going over the edge, don’t come near me or I’ll take you with me.’

The two detectives stopped. Then Ryrie said, ‘I’m going to finish it, but I want to tell you first, I did kill the girl Ferrari.’

Detective Ford said to him, ‘tell us what happened.’

‘I saw her walking along the path, she told me to go away. At first I thought it was a girl I knew, when it wasn’t I was going to rape her. But I just couldn’t. I grabbed her and choked her.’

Then Ryrie sat down on the cliff.

‘I’m sorry I did it, there is no hope for me. I’m going to finish it. I’m not fit to live.’

For the next hour, the two detectives sat with Ryrie trying to persuade him to walk away from the cliff and turn himself in. Eventually they succeeded.

‘I’m sorry for causing this trouble, I would have gone over, but I didn’t want to get you into trouble. You have been decent to me,’ Ryrie told them.

Back in Melbourne, Ryrie was charged with Maureen Ferrari’s murder.

What happened on the dark path at Collins Street

At Russell Street police headquarters, Ryrie’s confession to Maureen’s murder took shape. The night he killed her, he had been visiting his aunt at the flats on Elliott Street, he told police. His aunt owed his mother money and he had gone there to collect it.

‘I was drunk and didn’t want to start a fight,’ he said. He waited outside his aunt’s house for his cousin to come home, preferring to speak to him. Under questioning, both Ryrie’s aunt and cousin denied ever seeing him that night.

This map shows his location:

‘I was standing there waiting and I saw this girl come along the path on the other side of the railway line. I thought it was a girl named [suppressed]. I walked over, she saw me coming and she sort of stopped. I said I was thinking it was [girl’s name] and she said, ‘I’m not her, go away, or something like that.’

Then Ryrie grabbed Maureen and said, ‘don’t kid me’. Maureen screamed out. As Maureen struggled to get away, Ryrie grew angry and forced his hand over her mouth. He started dragging her towards the railway line.

Maureen fought ferociously for her life. At one point, she almost got away. That’s when she said to him, ‘I’ll see you get into trouble for this.’ But he caught her again. Every time she managed to push his hand away from her mouth she would scream as loud as she could. So Ryrie forced her coat in her mouth and kept his hands around her throat, squeezing. As her struggles grew weaker, he intended to rape her. Then he saw someone [the young man] coming down the railway line. By then, Maureen was dead.

Nobody in the nearby houses heard a thing. Ryrie ran away: up Collins Street, down under the Railway Bridge and back along Power Avenue towards Victory Boulevard, then to his house in Warner Avenue. Just as the witness who the police refused to take seriously said.


At the inquest into Maureen’s death, the young woman Ryrie alleged to have mistaken Maureen for was revealed as a victim of a gang rape he had participated in with two other Ashburton men in 1962. The girl had been from Winlaton, a correctional home for wards of the state later revealed to have a long history of child abuse and sexual assault.

Little of Ryrie’s past appears in the inquest documents. But he did make two revealing admissions. The first was that his friends’ suspicions of him were based on ‘things that happened before’. The second came when a doctor examined him after his remand for Rhonda’s murder. He had been beaten up by prison guards. When the doctor asked if he’d received psychiatric care, Ryrie replied, ‘no, but I should have.’

Despite his confession, Ryrie pled not guilty to the murder of Rhonda Irwin. Although he had coerced his mother and girlfriend into lying about his whereabouts he told the court at his trial that he had only made admissions to deflect the police from his family.[14] Nevertheless, eye-witness evidence and clothing taken from his house placed him at the scene. He was convicted for the murder of Rhonda Irwin first and sentenced to the death penalty. He appealed unsuccessfully.

Ryrie’s conviction for Rhonda’s murder coincided with an Australia-wide push to abolish the death penalty. A year after Rhonda’s death, the Victorian Premier, Sir Henry Bolte, commuted Ryrie’s death sentence to 50 years in prison. Sir Henry stated the Government’s duty to the public demanded that ‘special and detailed consideration be given to each death sentence coming before it.’[15] Bolte’s Cabinet had made the decision based on psychiatric reports in the Ryrie case. In 1975, Victoria abolished the death penalty entirely.

Keith Ryrie was never prosecuted for Maureen Ferrari’s murder. Under Victorian law at the time, ‘it was not the practice of the Crown to present for trial an accused person who had been sentenced to death on another charge of murder,’ the Attorney General told the press.[16] The decision came one week after his sentence changed to life, instead of death.


Ryrie remained in prison for Rhonda Irwin’s murder until 1993. By then, another set of criminal law reforms swept through Victoria. Murder convictions in Victoria were regularly coming in with sentences for 13 to 20 years, not the 50 years Ryrie received. Several of Victoria’s worst killers of the 1960s and 70s were becoming eligible for parole, having spent far longer in prison than those being convicted for similar crimes in the 1990s. By 1992, Keith Ryrie was Victoria’s longest serving prisoner.

For 26 years, Keith Ryrie was allegedly a model prisoner who completed, apparently without incident, 98 occasions of unsupervised leave.[17] Under the Sentencing Act 1991, Ryrie became eligible to have his life sentence fixed at 26 years.

Despite heated objections from the community and Rhonda’s family, in March 1993, Keith Ryrie was released from prison.


Maureen’s murder and the numerous women who came forward with stories of harassment did nothing to effect any improvements to security around Holmesglen Station or new lights along the path. Ryrie’s red hair made him an unlikely candidate as the dark-haired perpetrator of the harassment. However, the heavily greased hairstyles of the time made hair much darker than it naturally was, so it is impossible to say.

Maureen’s decision to walk along the dark path on the opposite side of the railway line from where she lived instead of along the more brightly lit Power Avenue remains a mystery. Perhaps she was being harassed by one of the young men who got off at the station. Like numerous other women before her, maybe she had not wanted them to follow her home and hoped the dark path would scare them too. Maybe she chose it to get away from them, only to fall into the clutches of Keith Ryrie. Or perhaps Keith Ryrie was one of the young men on the train that night. He clearly knew the area very well. He could easily have headed down Power Avenue away from the station, then turned down Elliott Street, knowing he would intercept Maureen on the path near the pedestrian crossing at Collins Street. Unfortunately, as there was no trial, we’ll never know.

Just how much the people of Keith Ryrie’s acquaintance around Ashburton knew about his potential involvement in Maureen’s murder is impossible to say. His actions indicated some level of remorse for what he did. Notes on his inquest file from police officers say he was in a ‘highly anxious and emotional state’ during his confessions. If this was the case, it seems improbable he was able to hide his guilty conscience for all those months until he took Rhonda.

It’s also possible that the common assumption that women are complicit in crimes against them helped protect Ryrie within the community. Perhaps people blamed Maureen for her decision to walk along the dark path that night. Because, to quote the detective on the case again, ‘some young women court disaster’. However, the actions of George and his friends showed that killing a child clearly severed any community protection Ryrie may have been under after he killed Maureen.

The Ferrari family moved away from Power Avenue shortly after Ryrie’s trial. The constant reminder of what they had lost had proven to difficult to bear. One person I spoke to remembered Mr Ferrari died of a heart attack a short time later. Everyone knew he died of a broken heart. Another remembered his mother bumping into Maureen’s mother some years later and barely recognising Mrs Ferrari for the devastation Maureen’s death had inflicted on her.

The children of the communities of Ashwood, Ashburton and Jordanville are now connected through community Facebook pages. Within them, they post pictures of happy childhood memories, not stricken with Friday night violence, fights with sharpies, and murders. On these pages, Maureen’s name appears occasionally and she is always remembered fondly by her surviving acquaintance.

But mentioning her murder also raises hackles. Some people believe that out of respect for Maureen’s surviving family members, the past is best left in the past. Others recognise that Maureen’s murder showed that life in the post-war housing commission estates was not always idyllic and carefree.

*Edited to note: the Matthew Flinders did not open until 1968 but the site it now occupies did have a bottle shop so this may have been what he meant.

With thanks to the people who gave their time to share their memories of Maureen. This article was compiled through oral histories, newspaper articles and publicly available documents at the Public Records Office Victoria.

[1]Dearn, Alan, "'Beat Louts' Pledge by Police," The Sun, Melbourne, 17 December 1965. [2]Reporter, Herald Staff, "This Is Gang 'Warfare' Says Sharpie," Herald, Melbourne, 18 December 1965. [3]"The Louts Tell Why They Brawl," Sun, 18 December 1965. [4]Clancy, Geoff, "The Night That Ruined Their Lives," Herald, 2 April 1965. [5]"The Xmas Party Murder "Quiet... But Loved Dancing"," The Sun, Melbourne, 20 December 1965. [6]Ibid. [7]"No Clue yet to Girl's Killer," Canberra Times, 20 December 1865. [8]"Women Tell Police of Attacks," Canberra Times, 28 December 1965. [9]"Police Question Youths in Murder Hunt," Canberra Times, 22 December 1965. [10] Ibid. [11] "The Night That Ruined Their Lives." [12] Ibid. [13] Ibid. [14] "Accused Denies Any Link with Child Murder," Canberra Times, 12 October 1966. [15] "Sir Henry Explains Sentence," Canberra Times, 31 May 1967. [16] "No Second Trial," Canberra Times, 3 June 1967. [17] "When a Sentence Has to Come to a Stop," The Age, 24 February 1993.

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2 comentários

17 de nov. de 2023


I read this with great interest and sadness. Rhonda Irwin was my mother's cousin and it ruined our family's life, Ive never seen anything published that goes into so much detail about it.

However, I believe you had an erroneous detail. Rhonda wasn't playing with kids when she went missing, her mother (my great aunt) sent her and her younger brother to go get something at the milk bar, and the monster lured her out of the store and took her. The little brother eventually came back to the house and told her that Rhonda had left with a man. That's the stories I've been told anyway. Curious to hear your source on that one. Cheers, Sarah

17 de nov. de 2023
Respondendo a

Hi Sarah

Thanks for reading. I've heard from quite a few people connected to this case since I wrote this post but you are the first from Rhonda's side. Sadly, the effect of it on them has been the same as you.

The events around Rhonda's disappearance and murder were taken from witness statements from the investigation. I think her mother and father made one at the time but I remember them being quite short, obviously because they were deeply distressed. Her killer also provided his version of events in his confession. This was quite detailed. If you are interested in reading them and are able to get to North Melbourne, they are available at the Victorian Public Records Office.…

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