Can you help solve the most baffling crimes in Australian history? Justine Ford hopes you can.
As a kid, Justine Ford would run around her neighbourhood with a magnifying glass. Inspired by her collection of ‘Junior Detective’ books Justine Ford never imagined that one day she would get to play the role for real.
Justine has appeared on several TV shows such as ‘Australia’s Most Wanted’ and ‘Missing Persons Australia’, plus has written several books about the darker side of our society.
Her new book, ‘Unsolved Australia’ takes a look at 18 of the nation’s most puzzling, sometimes horrific crimes, that to this day remain unsolved, including a case of a body tied to a bed frame found in the Hawkesbury River in 1994 that to this day has everyone involved mystified.
For every high profile case, there are hundreds of others that don’t get the same publicity, something that drives Justine on.
“There are some good reasons and worrying reasons why some cases get coverage and others don’t” Justine said. “The Daniel Morecombe case for example, his parents made sure that the search for Daniel got attention. I think that’s so important, and sometimes families have to go to that extent. “Unfortunately sometimes cases with for example, beautiful women, interest the public more than others, but they are ALL worthy. Everybody…every victim is important.
“I was always interested in solving crimes, and as a kid I would run around with a magnifying glass in my hand looking for clues which was pretty silly. When I was older I worked on ‘Australia’s Most Wanted’, and I saw the role the media could play in helping police solve crimes.
“Then I was a producer on ‘Missing Persons Unit’ and it highlighted for me, that I had to actively do something to help other people.
“When I was researching this book I went straight to the police. I’m fortunate in that I’ve built strong relationships with investigators into missing persons or unsolved murders, so I went to them and asked what cases they thought I could put out there, then ask for information.
“Often I get asked if I can put cases in a book by the families. Sometimes it starts with the families, and I talk to them first to make sure that I have the facts from them…often without doing any research, as I want to get the story from them first.”
With so many crime shows on TV the question has to be asked why are people so fascinated with murder and crime?
“I think its so many things. The drama of it, and I guess people want to know why others behave in such extreme ways. It’s so far removed from how most of us think.
“The ‘body on the frame’ is one such fascinating murder. In this case they don’t know who he he is, as nobody was reported missing. His fingerprints were washed away and there was a poor DNA sample. They did a facial reconstruction and put it on TV, yet so far no match. He could be from overseas, and this one is particularly mysterious because its such an old case and nothing the police have done has resulted in an identity. With no identity you don’t have much to go on.
“Every year in Australia we have about 300 homicides, but I also look at missing persons cases. We have about 35,000 people go missing every year. That’s one person every 15 minutes. Australian Federal Police figures say 1.7 people per thousand a year in Australia go missing, and as a comparison in the UK that number is 3.6 per thousand, so that puts it in perspective.
“I do think it is much harder to get away with crime now, especially with the advances in technology. Sometimes peoples ask me ‘is there such a thing as a perfect murder?’ and the answer is no, because of the technology.
“Murderers for example will have a much harder time getting away with it now and in the future. I thought about being a cop for years, but I thought no, get real you don’t want to get up that early in the morning….but I’m doing it anyway!
“A book like this has to be run past the police and I allow them to read it, just to make sure its factual and safe legally, plus also the lawyer at the publishers reads it to make sure it is okay to go ahead. You want to do your utmost best to make sure its right.”
So what are the chances of falling victim to a crime like murder? Justine puts it in perspective.
“Sadly the truth is most victims are known to their killers. In many cases it’s where things have simply got out of control in the home, and I’m not diminishing that in any way. But we do have to mindful that not around every corner lies a serial killer!”
‘Unsolved Australia: Terrible Crimes. Incredible Stories’ is out now through Pan MacMillan
Photo courtesy of Sally Flegg
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