Anita Lorraine Cobby (2 November 1959 – 2 February 1986) was a 26-year-old Australian registered nurse and beauty pageant winner. She was abducted from Blacktown, and raped and murdered at nearby Prospect, on the evening of 2 February 1986. Five men, including three brothers, were convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, never to be released.
Her murder has been remembered as one of the most horrifying and violent crimes ever perpetrated in Australia. The violent nature of the crime shocked most Australians and united the public in outrage.
Petitions containing tens of thousands of signatures were sent to governments, and thousands of telephones calls were made to television stations and talk back radio shows, supporting the reintroduction of the death penalty to Australia.
Anita Lorraine Lynch was born on 2 November 1959.
Anita met her future husband, John Cobby, while studying for her nursing degree. They married on 27 March 1982. At the time of her murder, though, the couple had separated and Anita was living with her parents in Blacktown, New South Wales.
On the day of the murder, Anita finished work at Sydney Hospital at 3pm and met friends for dinner in [[Redfern, New South Wales(Redfern). She then caught a train from Central Station to Blacktown Station. Aside from her killers, only two witnesses saw her after she left the train - a young brother and sister who witnessed the abduction taking place. The young boy unsuccessfully attempted to chase after the car.
Anita was walking alone along Newton Road, Blacktown around 10pm, when the gang of five youths drove up alongside her and stopped their stolen Holden Kingswood. Two men leaped from the car, dragging Anita kicking and screaming into the car. She was ordered to strip off her clothes but refused, begging her attackers to let her go, saying she was married and that she was menstruating.
Her attackers continued to punch Anita repeatedly, then drove to a service station to purchase fuel using money stolen from Anita's purse. She was then driven to a secluded paddock, while being held down in the car and raped and beaten by her five attackers. Anita was reported missing by her family on 3 February.
Garry and Grace Lynch assumed that Anita had decided to stay at one of her girlfriends after dinner when she had not called to be picked up at Blacktown Station by 10.30pm so they retired to bed.
The following afternoon the horrible truth began to surface when Sister Jolly from Anita's ward called looking for Anita who had failed to show for work. After a few frantic phone calls to friends and relatives Gary Lynch went to Blacktown Police Station and reported Anita missing.
The police report taken by Constable Murphy stated that Anita was last seen at 9pm on Sunday evening. It included Anita's vital statistics: 175cm tall, thin build, hazel eyes, black wavy hair, olive complexion. The time was now 7pm on Monday evening. Though it still had not been 24 hours since she had disappeared the constable filed the report - in hindsight it saved police a lot of time as two officers who were there when Gary Lynch made the statement were able to quickly identify Anita's body when she was found.
Early on Tuesday morning Anita's sister, Kathryn, and her husband Ray, arrived at the Lynch's house to see if there had been any news. John Cobby also called, he was as frantic as the Lynch family and decided to go and check around at some of Anita's friends to see if they had seen her.
At the same time Det Sgt Graham Rosetta and Snr Const Hugh Dundas drove down a dirt backroad where 3 uniformed police were waiting for them. The two men were immediately briefed by Tony Cassimatis. A young woman had been found dead in a paddock. They did not have an identification but she was between 18 and 30 and there was an incredible loss of blood. She was completely naked and the only item they had to use for identification was a Russian wedding ring on her finger.
The brutalised woman lay on her stomach, face down. Her left arm was under her body and her right arm under her head. Her eyes were open, vacant, staring. She was surrounded by a large congealed pool of blood. The cuts to her throat were easy to see even though she lay face down.
Det Sgt Ian Kennedy was also one of the police summoned to the paddock that day in the middle of a hot summer. He spoke with Det Paul Davies and Det Snr Const Phil Gaspert who had also been assigned to the case. Both of these officers had been at Blacktown Station when Const Murphy had taken Gary Lynch's missing person report on Anita. They were sure they had found her.
Det Kennedy took the bloodied Russian wedding ring in the evidence bag to the Lynch house. He sat down with the family and told them they had found a body in a paddock and it matched the description of Anita. Kennedy then held up the bag containing the ring. Kathryn said it looked like the one Anita wore.
John Cobby heard about the discovery of a woman's body on the news and called Anita's parents. Det Kennedy took the call and broke the news to him also.
The hardest part for Gary Lynch was now about to happen. Kennedy took the Lynchs to Westmead Hospital Mortuary where Gary had to endure the agony of identifying his daughter's brutalised body. It took him a moment - looking beyond the bruises and wounds on her face, Gary identified the broken and bloodied body as that of his daughter Anita.
A media frenzy ensued, with many reporters parked on the steps of the police station hoping for any information. The details of Anita's wounds and murder outraged the public who called for the police to swiftly find the killers and bring them to justice.
On Sunday February 9, exactly a week after Anita's murder, police staged a re-enactment of Anita's last known movements as she boarded the train from Central to Blacktown. The media filmed the event and it was televised in the hope it may jolt someone's memory.
The police then received a call from someone following up on a call they had made the night of Anita's abduction. A family witnessed a woman being dragged into a white and grey Holden Commodore at around 9.50pm. One of the witnesses ran to the car to see if he could help the woman but the car sped off. John McGaughey told his older brother, Paul, when he came home of what he had seen and the pair decided to drive around to see if he could see the car that John had described.
Paul drove down the desolate road where Anita would eventually be found and stopped next to an empty car that vaguely matched his brother's description. However on closer inspection he saw it was not the same model as his brother, a car enthusiast, had seen and so he drove on.
Little did he know, but it had been the right car and Anita was being raped and murdered only metres away.
The incident witnessed by John McGaughey fit the time frame of Anita's final moments so police assumed that the incident was indeed the abduction of Anita.
On Monday February 10, Anita's funeral was held. The Lynchs remained stoic throughout the heartbreaking event, and the public outpouring of emotion would only be equalled by the later rape and murder of schoolgirl Ebony Simpson a few years later.
The police, the press and the public were outraged. Polls were done on the reintroduction of capital punishment with resounding results.
Then the break came.
Hunt for the killers
On 6 February, the NSW State Government posted an $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of her killers.
On 9 February, police re-enacted Anita's movements on the night of her disappearance in the hope of jogging the memories of travellers or others who may have witnessed her movements. Constable Debbie Wallace wore similar clothing to Anita and travelled the 9:12 p.m. train to Blacktown. Detectives interviewed the passengers and showed them photos of Anita whilst Constable Wallace walked the length of the train during the journey.
Following a tip-off from a police informant regarding a stolen vehicle, police started searching for John Travers, Michael Murdoch and the Murphy brothers after they discovered that some of them had a history of violence and Travers had a reputation for carrying a knife.
On 21 February, police found and arrested Travers and Murdoch at Travers' uncle's house and Les Murphy at Travers' house. Murdoch and Murphy were charged with offences relating to stolen cars and released on police bail. Travers, who admitted that he had stolen a car, had also made conflicting statements about the murder. He was detained in police custody.
While in custody, John Travers requested that a friend be called so she could bring him cigarettes. This simple request was his downfall, as the phone number was handed to the investigating police who contacted the woman. Although she was terrified of Travers, she agreed to help with the investigation, and met with an officer and gave him details of Travers sadistic and violent background.
The woman, who became known as Mrs. X, talked to Travers and he confessed the crime to her. Mrs. X was sent back in to talk to him with a recording device, which she was able to get a confession on.
Eventually five men were arrested and charged with the murder. Police were praised for the quick response in capturing all suspects involved. In total, 22 days had elapsed from the time of the murder to the time all suspects were taken into custody.
The five accused suspects had over 50 prior convictions for offences including armed robbery, assault, larceny, car theft, breaking and entering, drug use, escaping lawful custody, receiving stolen goods and rape.
John Raymond Travers, the eldest of eight children, was considered the ring-leader of the gang of attackers.
Michael Murdoch was a childhood friend and criminal associate of Travers. Murdoch had also spent a great part of his childhood in juvenile prisons where he experienced sexual assaults. He was known to write to politicians during this period of imprisonment seeking protection from such assaults.
Les, Michael and Gary Murphy, brothers from an Irish family of nine children were also accused of the crime.
Michael was 33 at the time of the murder. He was the eldest of the nine Murphy children. Mick was sent to live with his grandmother when 12 years of age.
Gary Murphy was five years younger than Michael. Hearing impairment affected Gary's schooling and he left early to seek work. He was noted as being an able and willing worker before the crimes. Overall it was said he was a likable person.
Gary's strong interest in cars led to him facing several automotive theft related charges in the years before the murder. Gary was also known to have a very violent temper.
Les Murphy was the youngest of the Murphy children, but was known as having the worst temperament. He faced Children's Court on many occasions for a number of theft related offences before being accused of the Anita Cobby murder. Les was 24 years old at the time of the murder.
The trial began in Sydney on 16 March, 1987. Before proceedings began, Travers changed his plea to guilty. Sydney newspaper The Sun published a front page story on the day the trial began, carrying the headline "ANITA MURDER MAN GUILTY" alongside a large image of Travers. A follow-up story in the same paper detailed Michael Murphy's recent escape from Silverwater Correctional Centre and a history of his criminal convictions. The jury was discharged.
The trial for the remaining members of the gang lasted 54 days, with the men's defense relying on convincing the jury of their minimal involvement in the beating and murder.
On 10 June 1987, all five men accused of the murder were found guilty of murder.
On 16 June, 1987, all were sentenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales to life imprisonment, never to be released. Justice Maxwell described the crime as "One of the most horrifying physical and sexual assaults. This was a calculated killing done in cold blood. The Executive should grant the same degree of mercy they bestowed on their victim."
Anita's parents are the founders of the Victims of Homicide Support Group, a community support group that helps families deal with heinous crimes. They are also campaigners in seeking tougher sentencing and truth in sentencing laws which eventuated after Anita's murder.
A September 2006 episode of Australian television series Crime & Investigation Australia featured the Anita Cobby murder.
The first episode of a new Channel 9 show, Crime Investigation Australia, hosted by Steve Liebmann, detailed the crime. Several police officers who were involved in the investigation and subsequent solving of the case were interviewed for the show. This show was broadcast on August 14, 2007. A repeat was screened on Sunday, 29 June, 2008 on WIN Television (Australia) at 10:30pm.
Anita Cobby, 26, the victim.