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Saturday 23 November 2019

Police probe how close missing Jill Meagher got to home

Jill Meagher
Jillian Meagher's home in Hope Street Brunswick
The couple on their wedding day.
Tom Meagher, husband of missing woman Jill Meagher, outside Brunswick police station yesterday.

Breda Heffernan and Helen Walsh

POLICE in Australia are now investigating just how close Jill Meagher got to her own doorstep before she disappeared.

Crucial CCTV footage obtained by police shows the 29-year-old just minutes from her home and less than 100 metres from the street where her handbag was found.

The investigation took a significant step forward with the revelation that she was only a short distance from her house when last seen.

The disappearance has been the main story on Australian media for days.

Officers want to discover just how close to home she got before being possibly abducted.

Police have gone on the record with the theory that her handbag may have been planted on a laneway off Hope Street.

It was discovered there by a passer-by on Monday morning -- two days after police officers had combed the area.

Forensic officers spent several hours yesterday afternoon searching the apartment Jill shares with her husband Tom as the search for the Co Louth woman enters its fifth day.

Detectives returned there again last night and spent just over two hours inside, before emerging with a blue cooler box and more evidence bags.

Detective Inspector John Potter said the search was standard procedure and that police did not have a suspect.

Speaking after detectives had left his home, an exhausted-sounding Mr Meagher told the Irish Independent he didn't want to comment and was leaving things with the police.

The new CCTV images are helping detectives establish a timeline of Ms Meagher's last known movements in the early hours of Saturday morning.

After a night out with work friends, she is believed to have left Bar Etiquette, in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, at around 1.30am, intending to make the short walk home to her apartment on Lux Way -- a journey of only minutes.

CCTV footage places her walking north on Sydney Road at 1.41am and just a short distance from Hope Street. Two minutes later, she phoned her brother Michael McKeon to ask about their father George, who had recently suffered a stroke.

That conversation ended after a couple of minutes when Ms Meagher hung up. Mr McKeon said he could hear males voices in the background and he tried to phone her back but there was no answer.

Her husband became concerned when she failed to return home at 2am. After repeated attempts to contact her by phone, he left their apartment at around 4am to search for her.

He reported her missing to police later that morning.

Ms Meagher's mobile phone was not found in her handbag, which contained her ID.

Det Insp Potter said police had now narrowed her last known movements but the exact location of her disappearance was still unclear.

"Whether the handbag is a smokescreen or not, we don't know. We had searched the area. There are two options: either police in the original search missed the bag or the bag has since been placed at that laneway after the police had searched it originally."

He added that there was nothing to indicate there had been a struggle on Hope Street or the lane.

CCTV

"If there was a struggle, you would assume the contents of the bag would be strewn. High heels -- you could argue she would break those or they would come off," he added.

Police are investigating potential links between Ms Meagher's disappearance and a number of attempted abductions in the Brunswick area.

Ms Meagher is originally from Termonfeckin, Co Louth, but has been living in Melbourne for the last three years and working for ABC radio. She previously worked for RTE in Ireland.

Her uncle, Michael McKeon, who lives in Drogheda, said the family was now living through a "nightmare".

He said the search by detectives of Jill's apartment yesterday was part of "due process".

"People tend to read in different things to what the police do. The bottom line is we just want her back."

Tom Meagher's parents, Joan and Kevin, were at the family home in Cabinteely, Dublin, yesterday. Mrs Meagher told the Irish Independent: "We don't know any more than what has been reported (in the media)."



Irish Independent

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