"She was a young woman, simply going about engaging in ordinary activity and died in that process."
-Retired Supreme Court Judge Frank Vincent
It was the 21st of September 2012. A Friday. Twenty nine year old Jill Meagher was out that night with her co-workers in Melbourne, Australia. Jill worked as a Unit Co-ordinator at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and that night, she was out with some of her co-workers as one of them was celebrating their Birthday. Jill planned to stay a while before heading home to her husband Tom Meagher. Jill and Tom met at University in Dublin, Ireland and moved to Australia in 2009. Jill's family, her parents and brother, lived in Perth in Australia so it seemed like a good fit for them and they both loved living in Melbourne.
In the early hours of the Saturday morning, the 22nd of September, Tom woke before 4 am and noticed that Jill wasn't home which was extremely out of character for her so he called her. Her phone rang for a while and then went to voicemail. He tried a few times and called a few of her friends but they didn't know where she was. Tom left the house and walked down some of the streets close to their home looking for her but there was no sign of her. He reported her missing.
Jill Meagher and her husband Tom Meagher
Police searched the area and retraced Jill's movements. They discovered that she left the party with three other co-workers at around 9pm on the Friday night. They went on to the Brunswick Green Hotel in Sydney Road, Brunswick for a few drinks. At 1am, Jill went to the Bar Etiquette with a co-worker for one last drink before heading home. Jill's co-worker offered to walk her home but Jill declined the offer as it was a five minutes' walk away.
The police questioned Tom but were able to rule him out as a suspect. Sergeant Butler said:
"We were able to eliminate Tom reasonably quickly in this case. And the important thing with that was, let's say we never solved the case, the important thing with that is that we can front the media and we can say 'listen, it's not him, we've proven beyond any doubt that it's not him'."
If Jill walked home after the Bar Etiquette, she would have likely walked along the route north along the west side of Sydney Road. Police obtained CCTV Footage from a store on Sydney Road and saw that Jill walked past. A man was walking next to her and talking to her and the footage showed Jill stopped walking at one point and looked back before she continued on her journey.
Police identified the man from the footage as Adrian Ernest Bayley. Adrian was a notorious sex offender who was out on parole at the time of Jill's disappearance.
Adrian was asked where Jill was and he said he didn't know her. He said that the night Jill went missing, he argued with his girlfriend and spent two hours looking for her before he went home.
He was taken to the station for questioning. As part of their investigation, the police tracked Jill's phone and Adrian's phone and discovered that Adrian's car showed up on a toll transaction on Moreland Road at the same time Jill's phone was traveling through that area. Both phones reached Gisborne in Victoria but only Adrian's phone returned. What happened to Jill?
When police were questioning Adrian, other officers searched his house and car. They found Jill's sim card in his house. Police asked him about the sim card and his phone records. And he told police that he couldn't explain it.
As the evidence against Adrian began to mount, he confessed. He told police that he was on the same street as Jill. He saw her around 1.30am. Police knew from Jill's records that that was around the time she was on the phone to her brother Michael McKeon. She called him as their father had recently had a stroke and she was worried about his health and was upset on the call.
When the call ended, Adrian approached Jill. He walked next to her along Sydney Road. Jill turned off Sydney Road at Hope Street. Adrian attacked her at the first laneway off Hope Street. He became enraged when she rejected his advances. He touched her bottom and tried to kiss her and Jill stepped back and slapped him across the face.
Adrian raped Jill in the laneway. She told him to stop and that she would tell the police. Adrian strangled her to death. He left her body lying in the laneway while he returned home to Coburg to get his car and a shovel. He returned to the laneway at 4.22am and put Jill's body in the car and drove to Gisborne South in Victoria, about 45 km away, dug a shallow grave and buried Jill there.
Adrian showed police where he buried Jill.
Dr Matthew Lynch, a Forensic Pathologist, conducted a post mortem examination on Jill's body. He determined her cause of death as "compression of the neck." There were bruises and lacerations on her body that were consistent with an attack and rape.
At his sentencing hearing, the Court heard that after he raped and killed Jill, Adrian sat down and began crying and panicking. But those tears were for himself. He did not want to return to prison. Judge Geoffrey Nettle said that Jill had been subjected to a “savage and degrading” assault:
“This was a woman who was unknown to you, who you dragged off the street as she was going about her peaceful business. As a strong man, you physically dominated her and subjected her to a savage and degrading rape.”
Adrian was sentenced to life in prison, with a 35 year non-parole period, for the rape and murder of Jill Meagher.
He was found guilty in May 2015 of three more violent rapes and was sentenced to 18 years in prison for those crimes.
At the time of Jill’s murder, Adrian was on parole for raping five women in the bayside suburb of Elwood in 2002. Over a twenty three year period, eleven years of which he spent in prison, he was found guilty of twenty rapes.
Adrian committed his first known rape when he was just eighteen years old. He raped a sixteen year old girl in his house. He raped two other women within a year and was sentenced to five years in prison but served only two years. When he was released from prison, he raped five women in Elwood. They were working as prostitutes and he attacked them in the same way. He parked his car close to a wall behind a row of shops so they could not open the door to escape. They had no way out.
Tom Meagher and Jill Meagher
After those attacks, he was sentenced to eleven years in prison for sixteen counts of rape against five women but was released after serving seven years. Before he murdered Jill, he attacked a man in Geelong. The attack was so vicious that he broke the man's jaw and knocked him unconscious. He was sentenced to three months in prison but he appealed it which meant his parole was not revoked which was why he was free to walk the streets. His parole should have been revoked as he had breached it but the appeal stopped that process taking place.
Coroner Ian Gray found that Jill's death had been preventable:
"A more rigorous, risk-averse approach by Community Correctional Services (CCS) and the Adult Parole Board (APB) would have led to a cancellation of Bayley's parole. The approach taken is difficult to understand. It did not bring dangerous and high risk parolees immediately to account."
The Coroner noted Victoria's parole system had been amended since Jill's murder and had it been changed when Adrian was charged with the Geelong assault, his parole probably would have been cancelled automatically when he was convicted of that offence.
Jill's husband Tom Meagher said:
“I think of the waste of a brilliant mind and a beautiful soul at the hands of a grotesque and soulless human being."
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“She's not with me, and she's not with my parents, and at that moment I know that my sister's dead.”
- Alayne Katz, Gail's sister
"Madness, as you know, is a lot like gravity. All it takes is a little push."
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