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Jill took a chance - like so many do on a night out

JILL Meagher didn't do anything wrong. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She did what so many young girls do after a night out -- she simply walked home alone.

She had probably walked that route hundreds of times. She thought she'd be safe. She thought she'd be home in a few minutes.

But tragically that was not the case. Every weekend hundreds of girls do the same thing -- they want to get home to their loved ones and rather than wait on a friend or a lift, they head for home alone or jump into a car without checking the driver's credentials.

They don't think they are taking a chance -- but they are.

Jill's case brought back memories of my own career in An Garda Siochana when I was involved in the investigation of too many women who were murdered in similar circumstances.

But it also brought home an incident far closer to home. My own daughter, Eleanor, as a student in Yorkshire in the 1980s, endured a horrifying ordeal in Darton. She was attacked in an underpass.

Mercifully, she fought off her attacker without sustaining physical injuries or worse. This man had attacked two or three women in the same area. Some hadn't been as lucky as my daughter.

I met my share of monsters over the years. Men who seemed normal on the surface but committed unspeakable acts and thought they could get away with them. In the mid-70s, I was a detective assigned to investigate the disappearance of two young women, Elizabeth Plunkett, who was abducted from Brittas in Co Wicklow, and Mary Duffy, who had been abducted from Castlebar, Co Mayo.

After a lengthy investigation, we located the bodies of both women and charged Ireland's first serial killers, John Shaw and Jeffrey Evans.

When I was stationed in Bray I was involved in the 1999 investigation of the murder of 16-year-old schoolgirl Raonaid Murray who was murdered on her way home. It's one of my greatest regrets that her killer is still at large, after one of the biggest investigations in the State's history.

Like Jill, Raonaid was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jill's death has touched Ireland and Australia and has reverberated around the world.

Thousands have signed books of condolence in Drogheda and Australia and 30,000 marched in solidarity and sympathy in Melbourne. The reaction has been a spontaneous and true outpouring of grief.

But it is a tragic reminder there are monsters out there.