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The Australian murder mystery with a $6million reward

Police are offering the hefty sum in a push to finally bring the killer to justice.

Want $6million? Solve one of Australia's biggest murder mysteries

November 22, 1981 will forever be a black day for Catherine Warnock.

One day after she celebrated her 21st birthday, the new mum would learn from a television news bulletin that her aunt Joy Summers' body had been found in scrubland near Frankston, Victoria.

"It was so awful, this was the sort of thing that happened to other people, in other places, not to our family and not in Melbourne," says Catherine, 57. "We were all devastated, especially Mum because Joy was her younger sister and they were close. Our only consolation was at least we'd found her."

It confirmed what police had feared: a serial killer was preying on women around Melbourne, stalking them, charming them and luring them to their deaths. Joy was just one woman in a long line of six who was murdered in the sickening killing spree between May 1980 and October 1981.

Catherine, pictured with her then-baby son, James, heard about the death of her aunt, Joy, on her 21st birthday.
Catherine, pictured with her then-baby son, James, heard about the death of her aunt, Joy, on her 21st birthday.

Despite an extensive police investigation, the killer is still at large. Now Victoria Police are hoping to lift the lid on the case once and for all. They have embarked on a comprehensive review of what came to be known as the Tynong North Frankston murders, and late last year offered a $6 million reward for information that may lead them to the killer (or killers).

Detective Inspector Mick Hughes states: "We've recently had some success in [rewards] for cold cases, and we are keen to see this investigation resolved. We want that vital piece of information that will progress this case."

"Families are frustrated, and some very hard-working investigators have been frustrated by not being able to progress this over the years. There are a lot of teases [loose ends] in this case, a lot of little things that we think 'if I just knew a bit more about that', it might help us'."

It's been 38 years since the bodies of church-goer Bertha Miller, 73, Catherine Headland, 14, and Anne-Marie Sargent, 18, were found buried separately in shallow graves near an old sand quarry off Brew Road in Tynong North.

Bertha, who was the aunt of the then Police Chief Mick Miller, went missing from a tram stop in Glen Iris. When her body was found, she was still wearing the thick grey woollen dress she'd put on to keep warm during the short walk to church. Metres from where Bertha was found, investigators uncovered the remains of teenagers Catherine and Anne-Marie, who were both naked.

The shallow graves of these three victims were found near an old sand quarry in Tynong North, Victoria.
The shallow graves of these three victims were found near an old sand quarry in Tynong North, Victoria.

Just months beforehand, Allison Rooke – a 59-year-old mother of six - left home to catch a bus to go shopping and never returned. When her body was found in Frankston, her case was initially treated as a separate murder until the body of Joy Summers was found in a similar Frankston location a year later.

The body of the last of the Tynong North Frankston murder victims, Narumol Stephenson, was found on the side of the road at Tynong North in February 1983: she had gone missing in November 1980. Police believe Allison was the killer's first victim and they are convinced that all six are linked.

After finding each of the remains of each of the women, police, forensic and medical experts could not manage to establish a cause of death and personal items had been removed from the victims, perhaps to conceal their identifies, maybe to be added to a sick collection kept by the sadistic murderer.

All of the women were found on busy Melbourne roads, either walking or waiting for public transport in broad daylight. Detective Inspector Mick Hughes says this could be the key to solving the case. "All of the victims were on foot, all using public transport," he says.

"Someone, somehow has been able to engage with them, and if we had the key to that, we could have the answers we've been looking for. All we need is one lead, one piece of information".

Do you have any information pertaining to the murders of these six women? Contact Crime Stoppers Australia now on 1800 333 000.

To read the full story, pick up a copy of The Australian Women's Weekly's March issue, on sale now.

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