Wednesday 22 November 2017

Man charged with murder 33 years after Irish woman's body found in Australian bushland

Elizabeth Dixon
Pic: Belfast Telegraph
Elizabeth Dixon Pic: Belfast Telegraph

Deborah McAleese

Police in Australia have made a major breakthrough in their hunt for the killer of an Irish woman who was stabbed to death in a frenzied attack in New South Wales more than 30 years ago.

The body of woman Elizabeth Dixon (31), from Holywood, Co Down, was discovered in her car in bushland north of Sydney in April 1982. She had been stabbed 27 times.

The scene where the body of Elizabeth Dixon was found
Pic: Belfast Telegraph
The scene where the body of Elizabeth Dixon was found Pic: Belfast Telegraph

Despite extensive police investigations, Elizabeth's killer escaped detection for three decades.

However, following a recent tip-off from a member of the public, New South Wales police have arrested their chief suspect. Rodney Lawrence (64) has been charged with murder and appeared in court today.

He has been remanded in custody to appear before Newcastle Local Court by video link next Wednesday according to Maitland Mercury newspaper.

Ms Dixon was last seen alive leaving her local squash club on Saturday, April 3, 1982. Her body was found three days later by a jogger, slumped over the steering wheel of her car in bushland.

Elizabeth Dixon
Pic: Belfast Telegraph
Elizabeth Dixon Pic: Belfast Telegraph

She had been stabbed almost 30 times in her chest and neck and beaten across the head several times with a blunt object. Her hands were bound behind her back with a black shoelace that had been tied in a neat bow.

Ms Dixon, who was known as Betty to her friends and family, travelled to Australia in 1979 with the intention of staying a year. However, she secured a job as a secretary with a mining company in Kurri Kurri, a small town in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, and decided to stay.

She lived in Metford, a suburb of the city of Maitland which is north of Sydney.

Ms Dixon's death has remained a mystery for many years, with local police unable to secure any vital evidence to lead them to her killer. The murder weapon has never been found, but police believe she was stabbed with a knife taken from her own kitchen.

Her car keys were found lying 19 metres from the car, but her purse was never located.

After years of failed attempts to find the murderer, the case was eventually passed over to the Unsolved Homicide Squad of New South Wales Police.

Two years ago, the New South Wales Government offered a reward of $150,000, almost £70,000, for information leading to an arrest.

Detectives also began the process of re-interviewing people who initially spoke to police in the hope of finally piecing together exactly what had happened to Ms Dixon.

Still they struggled to gather enough evidence to point them to the killer.

However, it is understood that police received a tip-off in recent days from a member of the public, which led them to arrest a man in New South Wales on Wednesday morning local time.

The man was questioned throughout yesterday by officers.

It is not known if Ms Dixon's family were informed about the developments by police.

It is understood her sister is still living in Australia.

Belfast Telegraph

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