Suburban Nightmare: Australian True Crime Stories

Suburban Nightmare: Australian True Crime Stories

by Emily Webb

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Think nothing ever happens where you live? Suburb an Nightmare is a collection of stories that are hard to believe, except they really happened – and all in the streets and homes of the Australia many of us know and live. The suburbs. These cases range from recent murders to some historical stories that will shock and surprise. One of Australia’s best young true crime writers, Emily Webb probes the black underbelly of our towns and suburbs, and exposes the darkness at the heart of Australian life." • An afternoon of random violence by a nursing student armed with a shovel • 18-year-old Annette Morgan, murdered in the grounds of Sydney University and still unsolved the sad tale of 60 animals slaughtered at the Adelaide Zoo by two 18-year-olds on a murderous rampage a series of cases about men who kill their families – sadly, there was no shortage of cases• The main suspect for the Tynong North and Frankston murders is now in his 80s – will there be justice for the victims of these 1980-81 murders?• And more

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781760402334
Publisher: Bonnier Publishing Australia
Publication date: 08/01/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Emily Webb is a Melbourne-based journalist now working in communications. Suburban Nightmare is her third true crime book. Emily lives in the outer east with her husband and two children.

Read an Excerpt

This book was a natural progression from my first true crime book Murder in Suburbia (The Five Mile Press, 2014). There were still so many stories I had found of unimaginable crimes – many of them cases of random killings and family violence situations.

I am still fascinated with the darkness that can lie behind the veneer of suburban life. I live a suburban life myself – I’m a mum and wife and I am part of my community. It seems such an innocuous existence to breed such violence. But human nature is complex and there are so many things that can go wrong in a person’s life. We see this more than ever today with drug use, mental illnesses and emotional trauma.

The feedback I have received from readers about Murder in Suburbia has been so interesting. Several people who have been able to fill me in with more information about the cases featured have contacted me. In one case, a parish priest who was assigned as the pastor to one of the killers I wrote about actually sent me more newspaper clippings and information about the quite tragic background of this young man. The information was in no way condoning his terrible crime but rather the retired priest was filling in the greater picture of the complex nature of the case that the public never got to know.

Then there was the couple who attended a talk I did for a seniors’ group. They had a personal connection to another of the crimes I wrote about in Murder in Suburbia – the axe-murder of 19-year-old Patricia Cogdon by her mother Ivy, who was in a sleep-walking state at the time. The couple knew the family back in the 1950s and remembers the tragedy like it was yesterday, though they commented they were very surprised to hear it mentioned by me 65 years later.

The case that motivated me to write another book, Suburban Nightmare, was that of Kurt Michael Dumas, who was a very sick, dangerous young man who murdered his female friend with a crossbow in 1985. The details of the case are shocking and what happened after his release from prison was another tragedy. I expect readers will be left wondering if it could have been prevented.

Another case that will leave readers outraged is that of Jeremy McLaughlin who murdered a 13-year-old girl in her Christchurch home and then set fire to the property. McLaughlin had been deported from Australia to New Zealand after serving his jail sentence for the murder of another young person – a 14-year-old boy in Perth. He was a danger to society and no-one around him knew, especially not the family of his teenage victim in New Zealand.

Another theme I found unconsciously runs through this book is the vengeful nature of men when their relationships end or a woman they have feelings for does not respond in the way they want. Clearly the notion of unrequited love is just a front for these men’s deeper desire for power and control over women. With the issue of violence against women in the public spotlight like never before, it is disheartening to see that things have not really changed much over the decades that span the stories in this book.

One of the cases in which I have developed a personal connection is that of the disappearance of Suzie Lawrance in 1987. In 2012, I contacted Suzie’s mum Liz Westwood and interviewed her for a multimedia project I did at Leader Community Newspapers called ‘Unsolved East’. Liz and I stay in contact and, I would say, have become friends. Liz is a lovely, dignified woman who needs to know what happened to her daughter. Suzie’s case is one that I would dearly love to see solved. I hope if anyone reading this book knows something about the fate of Suzie, they will feel compelled to offer any information they may have to police. There are some other chapters on so-called cold cases in the book. In particular, the case of Annette Morgan is one that you’d hope could still be solved, but the march of time means with each passing year it’s unlikely. Annette, 18, was raped and murdered on the grounds of Sydney University on a Saturday morning in 1977. Annette was on her way to visit a friend who lived at one of the university’s colleges and it appeared she was targeted at random in the deadly attack. The case is still unsolved and there has been barely any coverage or updates on the case since the dreadful crime. Unless the killer is in jail or dead, there is a man out in society who has literally gotten away with murder.

Recently I watched a British crime drama called Unforgotten, which was about the investigation into a cold murder case from the 1970s. When a young man’s bones are unearthed from the floor of a demolished house the investigation cracks open secrets of people who knew the victim at the time. As the investigation heats up, the lead character Detective Chief Inspector Cassie Stuart poignantly says to her police partner, ‘How do you think a person lives a life having murdered someone, without anyone suspecting them of doing anything beyond awful.’

In the cases featured in this book, the victims were ordinary people – and in some instances, children – who were going about their everyday lives. A cleaner doing her early morning duties at a shopping centre is bashed and stabbed to death. The licensee of a popular hotel is robbed and killed. A mother and her three children have their throats slashed in their comfortable suburban home.

These cases are all the more disturbing because the nature of them strikes at the heart of all of us who live our ordinary lives in suburban settings all around Australia.

Emily Webb


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