Victoria Anna Elizabeth Cafasso
*Missing German woman
Nancy GRUNWALDT is mentioned several times on this page, click her name
to read her story.
Unravelling east coast mysteries
Reporter: Matthew Stanley - ABC
BARBARA PONGRATZ: We'll head to the icy south a bit
later in the program, but first a look back at a couple of disturbing
mysteries on Tasmania's East Coast.
About a decade ago, the disappearance of a young tourist and the murder of
another sparked two of the biggest and longest police investigations in the
26-year-old German backpacker Nancy Grunwaldt disappeared without trace and
police never identified who stabbed to death a 20-year-old Italian visitor
Next week, police will get another chance to sift through the details of
both cases, look for new leads and hopefully provide some solace to the
women's friends and relatives.
On Monday, the coroner will open an inquest into Ms Cafasso's death and then
take a look into Ms Grunwaldt's disappearance.
Matthew Stanley reports.
POLICEMAN, 1995: There's multiple stab wounds to both the body and head.
It's a particularly vicious attack.
JOHN MIDDENDORP, EAST COAST RESIDENT, 1995: Everybody here round the
neighbourhood is pointing at him, him or him.
ZANIA CAFASSO, MOTHER OF VICTIM, 1995: You don't just go on a beach, kill
someone and walk off.
LUPPO PRINS, TASMANIA POLICE, 1996: We really need a clue to point us in a
MATTHEW STANLEY: When police first issued a statement saying they were
concerned for the welfare of a young German tourist, the report rated just a
few lines on the news that night.
But the mysterious disappearance of Nancy Grunwaldt would feature in the
headlines for months to come.
It was the 12th of March, a hot Friday almost 10 years ago, when the young
Christian backpacker left this hostel in St Helens, having arranged to ride
the bicycle she'd rented in Devonport down the coast towards a rendezvous
with a friend in Hobart.
GRAHAM HICKEY, DETECTIVE INSPECTOR (RETIRED): We never reached a final
conclusion as to whether it was foul play or not.
Whether it was a bicycle accident or she was abducted by somebody, we don't
We are aware that all her money is still in a bank in Launceston.
It's never been touched and we've never heard anything or found anything of
MATTHEW STANLEY: Police quickly confirmed a sighting of the young woman on
the road south of the town.
But there the trail stopped dead.
Despite weeks of searching, police would not find a single trace of Nancy
GRAHAM HICKEY: We found no bike, found no clothing -- we found nothing.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Her grieving parents visited and it was as if Tasmanians as
a whole felt guilty for having lost their daughter.
But when they left, Nancy Grunwaldt disappeared again -- this time from the
With no new clues, there was nothing to report -- until a Wednesday in
October two years later.
That morning, Victoria Cafasso walked across the road Nancy Grunwaldt had
last been seen on and through the dunes to the beach.
The 20-year-old Italian law student had arrived in Australia just four days
earlier and was staying with a cousin at Beaumaris.
Hours later a woman walking her dog spotted Victoria's lifeless body at the
GRAHAM HICKEY: We don't know how she ended up in the water -- but she did.
MATTHEW STANLEY: She had been stabbed more than 40 times and wore only the
top half of a bikini.
Her valuables were found on the beach nearby.
But a shell necklace and several items of clothing, including her bikini
bottoms, were never found.
The murder stunned the East Coast community, shattering a casually held
assumption that their beautiful deserted beaches held no danger for anyone
lucky enough to enjoy them.
STEPHEN SALTER, BREAK O'DAY MAYOR: Everyone in the municipality and everyone
probably in Tasmania felt dreadfully sorry that something could happen like
Not only for the fact that a life was lost, but the fact that our peace and
tranquillity and safety and all those sort of things were sort of, for the
first time, put under some sort of scrutiny.
You know, we live in the safest place probably in the world and all of a
sudden we had two – well, one murder and another mystery.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Suddenly Nancy's ghost was back.
LUPPO PRINS: They were both in the same area and there's a possibility that
there is a connection, but we don't know that for sure.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Compared with the Grunwaldt case, Victoria's violent murder
But if her body had not been washed ashore, she too may have disappeared,
leaving few clues to her fate.
As it was, her mutilated body was washed clean by the water, robbing police
of crucial physical evidence.
GRAHAM HICKEY: We never got any scientific evidence because Victoria had
been in the salt water for some time.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Victoria Cafasso did not submit meekly to her killer.
GRAHAM HICKEY: There must have been a rather vicious fight.
I mean, she fought very strong and hard to save her life and whoever the
offender was he would have had to have certainly been covered in a lot of
blood -- he wouldn't have walked away scot-free.
MATTHEW STANLEY: But the sand where the struggle took place also gave police
few clues before wind and the rising tide erased the story it might have
The only significant clue was a single bare footprint.
GRAHAM HICKEY: Nothing stands still on the beach.
You've always got some sort of breeze and we, the personnel, there on that
day had to work against the tide.
It is probably one of the most difficult -- or perhaps even THE most
difficult murder inquiry -- that the State has had, certainly in my years.
And that was because of the location -- it was on a beach, there were no
witnesses and we didn't get any scientific evidence.
MATTHEW STANLEY: The brutal and bloody murder and speculation of a link with
the Grunwaldt disappearance fed a torrent of publicity and fuelled suspicion
in the community.
The spectre of a serial killer increased pressure on police for a result and
dozens of local residents were interviewed as possible suspects.
STEPHEN SALTER: It certainly once again raised a lot of rumours and innuendo
and finger-pointing and that was a concern, because a lot of the people that
were perhaps having the finger pointed at them are completely and absolutely
JANE CATO, HOTEL MANAGER: Everybody had a different story to tell, everybody
had a different idea as to who was responsible and what had happened.
MATTHEW STANLEY: The publicity was also bad for business.
JANE CATO: I know that the bus drivers were making a big thing of pointing
out the beach and saying “That's where the murder happened," as if it was a
tourist attraction almost.
MATTHEW STANLEY: Jane Cato and her husband moved to Scamander to run a motel
just months before the murder.
Over the next 12 months, their bookings would be down by more than $40,000.
JANE CATO: The fact that people were linking the two made some of the local
people more afraid of coming to the area -- especially younger people and
mainly women, I found.
The men weren't bothered at all, but the women's mothers were saying things
like, “You can't go there, there's a murderer there.”
MATTHEW STANLEY: As months passed, it became clear that police were again
There have been anonymous letters and other new leads.
A professional profiler was employed to produce a description of the killer
and a substantial reward still stands.
But still no witnesses and no murder weapon.
And in the case of Nancy Grunwaldt, no clues at all.
MATTHEW STANLEY: An inquest is a last resort.
The St Helens council chambers may prove a bit cramped when the first of 50
witnesses in the Cafasso inquest take the stand on Monday.
By contrast, the Grunwaldt inquest could be over inside a day, with the
coroner almost certain to return an open finding.
There's no reason to expect that either inquest will produce a breakthrough
and some East Coast businesses are not happy that murder and abduction will
be in the headlines again.
But others see it as a chance, however small, to somehow reclaim the
innocence the community lost all those years ago.
STEPHEN SALTER: There are still people that feel a little bit fearful of
walking along the beach.
Certainly there's a perception within the community that it is harmful to
I don't think that is correct, and I also believe that even if it was
slightly harmful for tourism by the fact that it is being bought up again,
so be it.
You know, we've got to find out who was responsible for this and this is the
only way it can be done.
GRAHAM HICKEY: Although some people may have been under suspicion, we never
really had any definite suspects and I suppose even though there were
numerous people spoken to, that person could be still on the East Coast as
far as we know.
So you can't rule anybody out until such time as you get the rightful person
that you want.
Cafasso inquest is ready to resume
Victoria Cafasso was described by a family member as being in "that
enviable time of life".
Twenty years old, she had left her law
studies in Italy to travel around the world. Her first port of call was
to see her cousin on the State's East Coast.
Less than a week into her world tour, she had fallen in love with
Tasmania and decided to find a job and spend time working here.
But on October 11, 1995, she was brutally murdered on a deserted
beach at Beaumaris.
More than 1000 mourners attended her funeral in Italy on October
The attack on Miss Cafasso was described as frenzied.
She was bashed about the head with a heavy, blunt object and
stabbed and slashed more than 50 times in the chest and head.
She was naked apart from a bikini top tied loosely around her
The killer had tried to dispose of her body by dragging it into
Her body was found in shallow water 50m from where the vicious
murder took place.
Senior police, who described the murder as one of the most violent
they had ever seen, said the attack was sexually motivated as Miss
Cafasso's wallet and bag were found nearby.
A massive investigation began with police searching the beach for
a weapon, stopping every car on the nearby Tasman Highway and
interviewing Beaumaris residents.
However, the murder weapon, thought to be a 20cm hunting knife,
was never found.
Police believed that the murderer was a local with intimate
knowledge of the beach and sand dunes.
Connections were drawn to the disappearance of German tourist
Nancy Grunwaldt, who was last seen at Scamander on March 12, 1993.
On March 19, 2004, coroner Peter Wilson found that Miss Grunwaldt
was murdered, although her body or possessions have never been found.
As the Cafasso investigation stalled, the Beaumaris community
became fearful of having a potential double murderer in its midst.
A police profile revealed that the killer was probably a family
man with an unpredictable violent temper.
Police believe the man is being protected by his family and urge
them to come forward with any information.
More than 150 locals attended a counselling session but anxieties
were not eased as house prices fell and people moved away.
On December 21, 1995, the investigation was reduced to four police
and, as the hunt for the killer slowed down, to two police in January
The investigation continued during the next two years with police
draining ponds, searching beaches and pumping out public toilets, all to
An anonymous tip in May 1996 lead police to women's clothing and
underwear in bushland 5km south of the murder scene, but police later
said it was neither Miss Cafasso's nor Miss Grunwaldt's.
New information was received after the television programme
Australia's Most Wanted featured the case, but the crime remained
A coronial inquest began at St Helens on March 3 last year,
hearing evidence from more than 50 witnesses.
After five days of evidence, coroner Don Jones adjourned the case
to allow the coroner's office more time to summon witnesses.
Originally expected to resume in May or June, 2003, the inquest
has just been set down to reopen on Monday.
Coroner's associate Sgt Terry Reaney said several Beaumaris
residents, as well as forensic scientists, would give evidence at the
New unit to look into Cafasso murder
Posted - ABC
Tasmania's Police Commissioner, Richard McCreadie, says
DNA technology will be central to the success of a new cold case unit.
Recruiting has started for the six officers who will be based in Hobart.
The Police Commissioner, Richard McCreadie, says the unit will focus on
cases such as the murder of Victoria Caffasso on Tasmania's east coast 13
years ago, and the disappearance of Nancy Grunwaldt, also on the east coast,
15 years ago.
He says similar units in other states have been successful.
"We're confident that it will produce some results," Mr McCreadie said.
"There's absolutely no doubt that DNA technologies have moved on."
Mr McCreadie says the disappearance of Hobart woman Lucille Butterworth
nearly 40 years ago may have happened too long ago to be re-investigated.
New look at Cafasso case
POLICE are re-examining the unsolved murder of
Victoria Cafasso after new information came to light.
Detectives consider Dr Roman Hasil, who is being
investigated for alleged malpractice interstate, to be a
person who can help them in their inquiries regarding the
stabbing murder of the 20-year-old Italian backpacker in
Police said Dr Hasil had been interviewed in 1997 in
relation to the killing but there may be a need for
subsequent questioning after recent information.
"He may be re-interviewed," said Detective Inspector
Michael Otley, of Launceston police, yesterday.
"Obviously, as a result of activity on the mainland
and New Zealand, information has come to us in relation to
some other aspects that we didn't know at the relevant
Slovakian-trained Dr Hasil botched sterilisations in
New Zealand and is the subject of 10 serious patient
complaints from his time working in Lismore between 2001 and
Police said Dr Hasil lived in St Helens at the time of
the Cafasso murder, not far from the crime scene at
Beaumaris Beach. He was registered in Tasmania in the late
1990s and worked at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Det-Insp Otley said Dr Hasil was interviewed in Hobart
in 1997 by Launceston detectives. "Nothing came of that
[interview]," he said.
It is understood Dr Hasil had been to St Helens police
station to get his Tasmanian driver's licence, to replace
his overseas licence, on the morning of the murder. He hired
a car and returned it the next day.
Dr Hasil was employed at the RHH after being released
from prison in Singapore. He was convicted for threatening
his second wife, Rose Doyle, with a 30cm carving knife. His
third wife has also alleged he physically assaulted her,
breaking her ribs.
The Medical Council of Tasmania later found he had not
declared the prior criminal conviction for domestic
The Medical Council of Tasmania yesterday declined to
comment on issues surrounding Dr Hasil, citing
confidentiality, but public documents following
investigations in New Zealand reveal Tasmania's concerns.
A report last February from the New Zealand Health
Commissioner notes: "In 1999, the Medical Council of
Tasmania advised Dr Hasil that he was not eligible to apply
for registration as he had not completed the multiple choice
question exam of the Australian Medical Council. The Medical
Council of Tasmania was also considering his false
declaration in relation to his criminal record in his
application for registration in January 1997.
"Due to the outstanding matters regarding his false
declarations, and his continued denial of them, despite
documentary evidence to the contrary, Dr Hasil is not
considered to be in good standing in Tasmania."
New Zealand health authorities found Dr Hasil drunk on
the job and he was sentenced twice late last year for
high-level drink driving in NSW.
Reports in NSW say he now lives in a homeless shelter
in inner Sydney.
Reporter: Airlie Ward - ABC
AIRLIE WARD, PRESENTER: The brutal slaying of Italian
tourist Victoria Cafasso on the north-east coast in 1995 is Tasmania's
most well-known unsolved murder. The crime sent shockwaves through the
tiny seaside town of Beaumaris, which became full of rumour and
suspicion. But despite a massive reward, no-one has ever been charged.
In recent months, a disgraced doctor has come into the frame. 14 years
after the killing, Victoria Cafasso's cousin is making a film about what
happened. It's a personal journey in a bid to find closure and justice.
But not only for his cousin.
CHARLIE DE SALIS, VICTORIA'S COUSIN (excerpt from 'Someone's Daughter'):
My brother Simon and I grew up through the summers of our youth surfing
the beaches of Tasmania's north-east coast. North Shelley at the
southern end of Beaumaris beach was one of our favourite breaks and we
surfed here often. We loved the east coast. It was woven into the fabric
of who we were. But on 11 October, 1995, North Shelley became a place
where my Italian cousin, Victoria Cafasso, just 20 years old, was
AIRLIE WARD: The 20-year-old law student from Italy had just arrived in
Australia when she was bludgeoned and stabbed to death in broad daylight
on Tasmania's idyllic north-east coast.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: What happened here while we were standing at such a
beautiful place. And the place itself is innocent but what happened here
just was so awful and caused so much hardship to so many people.
I'm making a film about what happened to Victoria but more particularly
what happened to the other people around the murder afterwards.
AIRLIE WARD: Her mutilated body was found in the shallows by a local
walking their dog.
NEWSREADER (archive footage, ABC News, 1995): Victoria Cafasso's brutal
murder has police baffled. The Italian tourist knifed to death while
sunbaking on a deserted beach yesterday morning.
XENIA CAFASSO, VICTORIA'S MOTHER (archive footage, 1995): Unfortunately
she never really saw Australia, and that really has me because she
stayed here not even a week and she came to die.
AIRLIE WARD: A number of personal items Victoria Cafasso took to the
beach that day have never been found and no one has ever been charged.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: You know, Victoria was staying with my brother Simon
and Simon and Victoria's family - all those people who were right next
to what happened on this beach just had their lives torn apart, they
AIRLIE WARD: From the start, police had very few leads, and the case
provoked suspicion within the community.
JOHN MIDDENDORP, BEAUMARIS RESIDENT (archive footage, 1995): And
everybody here around the neighbourhood is pointing at him, him or him,
or me or the boys and that thinking they could be the murderers.
AIRLIE WARD: With no weapon and most DNA washed away, police suspected a
local was the culprit or had seen the crime.
JIM HARVEY, TASMANIA POLICE: We've probably spoken to 30 people in the
last couple of days that for whatever reason names have come forward.
I'm still not convinced that no-one saw the murder.
AIRLIE WARD: Police offered a $50,000 reward which was later doubled to
$100,000. The torrent of publicity quickly impacted on the community.
JANE CATO, BUSINESS OWNER (archive footage, 2003): I know that the bus
drivers were making a big thing of pointing out the beach saying,
"That's where the murder happened," as if it was a tourist attraction
AIRLIE WARD: Victoria Cafasso was staying with her cousin Simon de Salis
- Charlie's brother. Simon de Salis was one of the first suspects.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: Naturally, they are gonna look at Simon first. I mean,
it's just natural procedure. They looked at everybody around here really
hard. Simon was simply the person who was closest to Victoria. And in
any murder they go straight to the person who's closest to the victim.
The trauma to Simon wasn't so much because of that. I mean, it was
really horrible for him, you know, having that feeling of suspicion upon
him obviously. You know, Simon, he was - you know, Victoria was staying
with him and then, you know, the poor guy had to come to the beach to
identify her body.
AIRLIE WARD: For decades, the de Salis family had lived or holidayed in
the area. The murder changed that.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: Simon had to move away afterwards. He - you know, it
just wasn't viable for him to stay here after this dreadful thing
happened. And my father sold our house and he moved away up the Tamar
AIRLIE WARD: The police consistently said that they believed that it
probably was somebody local and that they said that they believed that
someone had either seen it happen or knew who did it.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: They didn't find anybody, though, did they?
AIRLIE WARD: Charlie de Salis was living in New Zealand at the time of
his cousin's murder and thought he'd never return to Beaumaris. But the
inquest into Victoria Cafasso's death changed his mind.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: When the coronial inquest drew a blank, that's when I
thought that this film needed to be made. Because I could see unless
something was done, there was never going to be any closure for anybody.
So the film's about finding justice for the hidden victims of the
murder, and it's about finding closure for the community here.
AIRLIE WARD: About 300 people were nominated as potential suspects. Over
100 people gave evidence at the inquest, including Simon de Salis.
Locals Gary Holmes and Tony Kirkland also came under intense
DON JONES, CORONER (archive footage, 2005): It is not possible to
conclude whether the attack was carried out by a person acting alone or
more than one person.
AIRLIE WARD: But a lot of mud was thrown.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: People who were considered suspects went to the
coronial inquest. They didn't have the right to legal representation,
they couldn't have a lawyer, and yet they were forensically cross
examined. This murder had so many other victims. I mean, Victoria's
father died of a heart attack at her memorial service three weeks later.
But there were victims all through the community. Anybody who became a
suspect or was perceived as the community by - perceived by the
community as a suspect has had to live with that stain forever.
AIRLIE WARD: Charlie de Salis admits it's a very personal film.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: The film started out first and foremost as my way of
finding justice for my brother.
AIRLIE WARD: Have you spoke to Victoria's family about what you're
CHARLIE DE SALIS: Yes.
AIRLIE WARD: And? What's their response been?
CHARLIE DE SALIS: I told Xenia what I was doing and why. And she said
that she understood that, but she would prefer me not to make the film.
Xenia lost one of her two daughters, she lost her husband. It's just - I
think just the idea of ever looking at it again. There were lots of
people hurt by the murder and the film is for them too. And Xenia's in
Europe. The film need never touch her.
I spoke to Tony Kirkland. I wrote to him first and explained what I was
doing. I then called him and spoke to him. He was perfectly polite but
firm that he didn't want to be involved. I also wrote and spoke to Gary
Holmes, Tony's friend, who was also a major person of interest,
particularly the coronial inquest. And Gary - I have interviewed Gary
and spoken to Gary at length. Gary's very supportive of the film.
You know, if you talk to the police on the taskforce now, I can't find -
I haven't found anybody who truly believes that any of those original
suspects were the murderer.
AIRLIE WARD: The Coroner was critical of the police during the early
stages of the investigation.
Charlie de Salis attempted to interview the first officer in charge of
the investigation, but has been unsuccessful. But he says police he's
spoken to have been supportive of the film.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: A number of them have said to me that they think that
this film is an opportunity to provoke some kind of new information.
AIRLIE WARD: Even if it doesn't, he hopes the film will help lay ghosts
to rest by giving people a chance to tell their story in their own
voice. Mr De Salis says unsolved crimes change the traditional notion of
innocent until proven guilty.
CHARLIE DE SALIS: I mean, that's the problem with being a person of
interest or suspect in an unsolved crime. Unless someone can prove you
were somewhere else at the time of the murder, then you're never
AIRLIE WARD: One person who wasn't called to give evidence at the
inquest but is considered a person of interest is former doctor at the
Royal Hobart Hospital Roman Hasil. His file is the most active part of
current police investigations. Police don't accept his account of not
going the beach at Beaumaris or that he didn't understand Italian.
Dr Hasil was in the area at the time of Victoria Cafasso's murder. The
Czech-trained gynaecologist arrived in St Helens a few weeks after being
deported from Singapore. He was deported after spending time in jail for
threatening his wife with a knife.
Dr Hasil worked briefly at the Royal Hobart Hospital in the late 1990s,
but wasn't re-employed because he failed to disclose his conviction in
He moved to NSW where medical authorities are now investigating
complaints about his work. He then went to New Zealand but had his
registration suspended after an inquiry found he botched operations.
It's understood Dr Hasil is currently homeless somewhere in NSW.
SALLY HASIL, WIFE (TVNZ): He didn't like women. For him, it was more of
a controlling, um, issue with women.
AIRLIE WARD: Police say the murder of Victoria Cafasso was not a crime
of passion, but of hatred.
TVNZ's 'Sunday' program spoke to Roman Hasil's second and third wives.
ROSE DOYLE, WIFE (TVNZ): "I will kill you and cut you up into little
pieces and nobody will find you."
SALLY HASIL (TVNZ): He hurt me many times. On one occasion I was left
with four broken ribs.
ROMAN HASIL, SUSPECT (TVNZ): Maybe really something wrong with me.
AIRLIE WARD: Sally Hasil was with him in Tasmania when he was questioned
over Victoria Cafasso's death.
SALLY HASIL (TVNZ): He drank huge amounts of alcohol. He was violent. I
had to ask the question: did you murder her? And his response to me was
that maybe I did murder her, but I don't know. I don't recall it. I
don't remember it.
AIRLIE WARD: Dr Hasil told police he was at home at the time of the
murder, but had no alibi. Police took DNA samples from him and a cast of
his foot when he was interviewed. But that didn't happen until 1997, two
years after the murder. He also admitted to police that he had scratch
marks on his face at the time, but said he'd fallen over drunk.
Do you think it strange he wasn't called to give evidence at the
CHARLIE DE SALIS: It's puzzling. And it's certainly a question that
needs to be answered, yes. I've made inquiries about Roman Hasil, yes,
because he's a person of interest in relation to my cousin's death. So,
obviously, he comes into the frame of this film. But at this point, I
can't comment on those discussions.
AIRLIE WARD: Is that because it's something that you're hoping to
progress as your film gets underway?
CHARLIE DE SALIS: There's a number of reasons I can't comment, but that
would be one of them, yes.
AIRLIE WARD: Tasmania police wouldn't comment on whether they intend to
re-interview Roman Hasil, saying as it's an ongoing investigation, it's
inappropriate to comment. Stateline also asked police why Dr Hasil
wasn't called to give evidence at the inquest. We were referred to the
Coroner. The Coroner's office was unable to say why Roman Hasil wasn't
called. However, they're reviewing the file to see if relevant
information had been received.
Record of Investigation into Death
Coroners Act 1995
Coroners Regulations 1996
I, Donald John Jones, Coroner, having investigated a death of
Victoria Anna Elizabeth CAFASSO
WITH AN INQUEST HELD AT St Helens Coroners Court in Tasmania on the 3rd day
of March 2003.
FIND THAT :
Victoria Anna Elizabeth Cafasso died on or about the 11th day of October
1995 at Beaumaris Beach, Beaumaris.
Victoria Anna Elizabeth Cafasso was born on the 8th day of June 1975 in
Surrey England and at the time of her death was aged 20 year(s).
Victoria Anna Elizabeth Cafasso was a single woman whose occupation at the
time of her death was a Student.
I find that the death of the deceased was due to exsanguination due to
multiple stab wounds including wounds to the right atrium.
At the time of the deceased’s person’s death she was not being treated by
a medical practitioner.
CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE DEATH :
I commenced this Coronial Inquest with a plea for public assistance,
requesting members of the public to provide information which may lead to the
apprehension of the person(s) involved in the murder of Victoria Cafasso; this
plea could not be compared to the plea for help that I have no doubt was
screamed by Victoria immediately prior to being rendered unconscious and then
In handing down my findings, I want to publicly acknowledge and express my
gratitude to all of those persons who came forward with further evidence for
consideration in this Inquest.
I would like to assure members of the public that I have caused a
significant number of those matters received through the help line to be
investigated, and have carried out many investigations by myself with the
personal desire of bringing closure for the family and friends of Victoria
Cafasso and all Tasmanians to the tragic circumstances which resulted in the
brutal murder of a daughter, a sister, a friend and a tourist to our State.
I should add that some information received required an in depth
consideration of matters, which arose outside of this investigation, but which
some believed may have had relevance. To those persons they have my assurance
that those matters were fully investigated by me personally and I found no
evidence which satisfied me that there was any link between those matters and
the Inquest before me.
Again some persons indicated that they were in possession of matters
relevant to the Inquest, but as at this date they have not come forward and
produced the evidence that they say exists and is available. Notwithstanding, I
have still investigated the veracity of the suspicions and existence of such
evidence. To those people who believe they hold evidence or are aware of its
whereabouts, unless they come forward with the information or produce the
evidence it is impractical to continue to investigate the allegations or
suspicions. To the extent that I have been able to investigate them they have
not assisted me in making findings in this Inquest.
Any investigation of this nature is always difficult. The vagaries of
human nature and the imprecision of the memories of people make it more so.
The ephemeral nature of time and its effects over the past ten (10) years
has, in my view affected the recollections of many persons who were spoken to at
or about the time of the brutal murder. Matters that were certain at that time
have become less focussed and uncertain, whereas in other instances vague
recollections have become definite and beyond question, notwithstanding they may
be at variance with other memories recorded in writing those many years ago.
It is my belief the reception of information through the hot line and the
subsequent Inquest has crystallised the evidence with the acknowledgement to the
effects of time, and some persons who were suspects at the time are now unlikely
to have been involved considering the current state of the evidence.
To comprehend the depth of the investigation, I refer to the incident of
the jacket purportedly located at Diana’s Basin during the Inquest. Much
publicity local, national and international was given to the finding of this
jacket. The jacket had in it the name of the daughter of one of the persons of
interest in the initial investigation. This jacket, under my direction, has been
the subject of extensive forensic analysis and several lines of enquiry have
been pursued to determine the relevance or otherwise of this jacket. As a
consequence of those investigations I am satisfied that the jacket does not, and
has not belonged to, been owned by, or worn by the daughter of the person of
interest. Forensic analysis has not detected any blood that matches the DNA
profile of Victoria. The size of the jacket does not appear to match the size of
the daughter, as she would have been at the date of the murder. There is
absolutely no evidence linking the jacket in any way with the murder of
Victoria. I am satisfied that the investigation in respect of the jacket and the
surrounding area where it was purportedly found was thorough and comprehensive.
I am at a loss to understand the mentality of the person or persons who
must have planted this jacket in the location where it was purportedly found.
Conduct of this type wastes public resources and importantly can direct an
inquiry away from issues that should be investigated. I hope that Tasmania
Police continue to investigate this matter and if evidence is found which links
any persons or persons to the planting of the jacket that the person or persons
I would like to express my gratitude to Tasmania Police, and in particular
Commissioner McCreadie and Deputy Commissioner Johnston who placed police
officers under my authority during the period I have had carriage of this
Inquest. I have used their services extensively and they have carried out many
enquiries and interviews pursuing information that came before me and which
required further consideration. I have been granted access to a wealth of
documents that have been collected over the period of 9 years, and even other
documents relating to other matters that may have been relevant. These documents
would total thousands of pages and whilst I have not minutely examined each and
every document, to do so would take another 10-20 years, I am satisfied that I
have considered all relevant material available.
I should also make mention of the thorough investigation and review
carried out by Inspector Colin Little. Inspector Little had not been involved in
any part of the Cafasso investigation and approached the review with total
impartiality and highlighted a number of matters which until that time had not
been considered or investigated. I am aware that he spent numerous days reading,
compiling, researching and organising further investigations to assist me in
making my findings. I publicly acknowledge and thank him for his thoroughness
and his comprehensive reports.
I also wish to express my gratitude to Chris Lawrence, the State Forensic
Pathologist, who has spent innumerable hours discussing forensic issues with me,
and for his untiring efforts in reviewing the entire forensic evidence collected
since the murder. Chris was not involved in the original investigation. The
original Forensic Pathologist had left the State having gained another
appointment and I should also thank Tim Lyons the former State Pathologist who
has made himself available during the Inquest and assisted in the review of the
I wish to thank Terry Reaney and Trudie Lusted the Coroners Associates for
the untiring assistance in preparing the Coronial file and assisting at the
Finally, I should not overlook the Press. I thank all of those who aired
my opening remarks when I appealed for public assistance in providing any
further information that may lead to me making the necessary findings at the
conclusion of this Inquest. I thank them for their courtesy and the professional
manner in which they reported the matter. A number of reporters offered
assistance in obtaining information that was not readily available, and I
especially thank Rohan Wade for his assistance.
I will now proceed to make findings as to the circumstances surrounding
the brutal murder of Victoria Cafasso as I am able to find on the basis of the
evidence adduced at the Inquest and the documents and statement s that I have
The deceased was a dual Italian/English citizen who spent most of her time
residing in Italy but regularly visited her grandparents in England. She lived
with her parents and younger sister in Italy and was described by her mother as
a trusting person. The Cafasso family has been described as affluent, due to Mrs
Cafasso managing a travel agency owned by the family and Mr Cafasso practicing
as a solicitor until his death in November 1995.
The deceased held a British passport and spoke fluent Italian, English and
French and was well travelled, having travelled several times with her mother as
well as previously acting as a tour guide. She was well educated and attended
University in Italy where she was studying Law. She deferred that course in July
1995, against her father’s wishes and travelled to England to stay with her
grandparents which was a common event to consider her options. She enrolled in a
language course at Portsmouth University due to start in August 1996 and she
expressed a desire to travel to Australia and stay with her cousin, Simon Howard
DeSalis. This was to be the largest journey she had undertaken alone and she had
only met De Salis on two (2) previous occasions.
The deceased rang DeSalis from England and made arrangements to travel to
Tasmania from England via Hong Kong and Melbourne arriving in Launceston at
1.50pm on Friday the 6th day of October 1995. She was met by De Salis and a
visiting friend of his, Peter Holder of Sydney and conveyed to De Salis’s
residence at “Larby’s Cottage” Charles Street, Beaumaris.
Whilst being driven to the cottage from the airport, DeSalis had decided
to go surfing and for this purpose had gone to Shelleys Point, being at the
southern end of Beaumaris Beach. It was at this time that the deceased had her
first contact with other residents of Tasmania, being Hilda Jackson, Mark
Jackson and Mario Agius. This contact occurred on the lookout constructed on
Shelleys Point which provided a full view of Beaumaris Beach and what was
subsequently to be the ‘‘Crime Scene’’.
Between the time of her arrival in Tasmania until the 11th of October
1995, the deceased had remained with De Salis at Beaumaris and had very limited
contact with other person(s) except for a social event they attended, being a
small private birthday party for a Mandy-Lou Larby on Monday the 9th of October,
the owner of De Salis’s residence. There were two other occasions only where she
could have had contact with other person(s) and that was two (2) short walks on
Monday the 9th and Tuesday the 10th. There is evidence that on the 9th of
October, the deceased visited the residence of Hilda Jackson and remained there
for approximately half an hour.
The lack of evidence enables me to draw the inference that the deceased
visited no other person(s) during her short time in Tasmania, and this indicates
clearly that her contact with other people was extremely limited.
According to the evidence presented to the Inquest, it was at about 8.10am
on Wednesday the 11th of October 1995, that the deceased informed De Salis that
she was going for a walk to the beach and asked to borrow a small carry bag.
From other evidence, it would appear that the deceased left the cottage at about
9am and commenced walking in the direction of the beach.
There is a lack of cogent evidence as to what the deceased was wearing on
this particular occasion. Accounts given by witnesses are varied and vague.
There is no evidence to suggest that the deceased was wearing a tee shirt with a
wolf motif and from the evidence it would appear that the grandmother (C153) of
the deceased on examining the deceased’s clothing noted the item was missing
along with a pair of beige linen trousers and a large beach towel.
From this statement a conclusion was drawn that the deceased must have
been wearing the missing clothing. On reviewing the evidence of Iris Smith (C15)
and if her recollection was accurate, it was her belief that if the person she
saw was the deceased, she was wearing ‘……a light brownish skirt or similar and a
darker top …… a sleeveless singlet type.’
From the evidence I can be satisfied that immediately prior to her death,
the deceased was wearing a two piece bikini, being blue and white floral. There
is evidence from which I can find that white sand shoes, a watch, bangle, ring
or necklace were located in an area of disturbed sand some 55 metres form the
deceased’s body. There is no independent evidence that the deceased was carrying
a borrowed carry bag which contained a large beach towel, a flask of water, a
Sony walkman (radio), sunglasses, sun cream, scarf and a purse containing
personal papers, $509.00 in Australian currency and some foreign currency,
although these items were located within the area of disturbed sand.
On reviewing the evidence, some six (6) witnesses gave various conflicting
accounts of the deceased’s movements from “Larby Cottage” to Beaumaris Beach on
the day of her death. From that evidence, it is believed that the deceased
entered Beaumaris Beach via a footway opposite the Surfside Hotel situated on
the Tasman Highway at Beaumaris. The deceased was allegedly seen sunbaking by an
Iris Smith some 700 metes south of where she had entered the beach. These
sightings were reportedly about 9.55am and again about 10.10am.
Beaumaris is a seaside township on the east coast of Tasmania, lying
between Scamander (1.5km south) and St Helens (6km north). The town consists of
one (1) motel and approximately 150 homes/shacks with a population of
approximately 350 persons made up of retirees, employed and unemployed persons.
Due to its location, the population rises significantly over the summer and
holiday periods. The beach itself is a popular attraction for local residents
and visitors and on the day of the deceased’s death, it would appear from the
Police evidence that in excess of fifty (50) people visited the actual beach
between 8.30am and the time the deceased’s body was discovered by Margaret
These people were performing such activities as fishing, walking, a young
child bathing at the water’s edge and being supervised by his mother just to
name a few.
The Tasman Highway runs north/south through the town and parallel to the
beach and is the main coastal route. The town comprises five (5) separate areas
with all but eight (8) houses located on the inland side of the highway.
Beaumaris Beach stretches for 4 km, including the 2 km length of the town. The
beach lies 75 metres to the east of the highway and is predominantly shielded
from view by a coastal reserve strip of low dunes and light scrub. The northern
and southern ends of Beaumaris Beach are defined by rocky points which prevent
easy access further along the coast. Inland of Beaumaris exists extensive pine
plantations, forested areas and a network of gravel roads that stretch to the
At about 1.30pm on Wednesday the 11th of October 1995, Ms McIntyre (now
deceased) was walking her dog north on Beaumaris Beach near Freshwater Creek
when she discovered the deceased’s body at the waters edge and being lapped over
by the tidal action of the sea. Ms McIntyre went to a nearby house where she
spoke to a Russell Harwood (C37) and a Geoffrey Adams (C38) where she raised the
alarm. These two men accompanied her back to the beach where Harwood and Adams
approached the deceased’s body and upon identifying it as a human, Ms McIntyre
and Harwood left the beach to contact Police. From this time until the arrival
of Sergeant Galloway (C39), Senior Constable Pedder (C33) and Constable Ferguson
(C73) at approximately 1.37pm, Mr Adams remained with the body.
On the evidence I am satisfied that Galloway, Pedder and Ferguson were the
first police Officers to attend the scene. This is supported by the evidence
given by Harwood and Adams. I am unable to reconcile the evidence of Constable
Stingel when he stated that he was in fact the first Police Officer to attend
the scene, or that at the time he did attend the scene there were no other
person(s) present on the beach. To do so would mean I would have to find that
Harwood, Adams, Galloway, Pedder and Ferguson were all mistaken or deliberately
As to the next sequence of events, there is a considerable amount of
confusion of the evidence of the three (3) officers and the accounts given by
Harwood and Adams as to their movements, state of the tide and actions
undertaken by Police at this time.
Firstly, Mr Adams in his evidence refers to two (2) footprints
approximately 6 - 7 metres north west of the body. He described these footprints
as being ‘…… bare foot prints and seemed to be of a man, the front part of the
foot print appeared deeper than the back and they were pointing towards the
water.’ It would seem that no Police Officer observed these footprints nor were
they photographed or casts made of the impressions. Mr Adams evidence was that
he had observed these footprints during the estimated twenty (20) minutes that
he stood with the body of the deceased whilst waiting for the arrival of the
I also note in his evidence, that he stated that the water was rising and
I can therefore assume that high tide had not been reached at the time he was
awaiting the police. This is consistent with photographs tendered (C36) that
clearly show the body of the deceased being lapped by the tide.
There is some confusion as to when these photographs were taken and by
whom. I do not intend to try and reconcile the conflicting evidence save and
except to say in my view it is obvious that one of the photographs in the bundle
marked C36, shows the body on the water’s edge where as the remaining five (5)
photographs show the body out of the water. It could be assumed that these five
(5) photographs had been taken after the body had been moved by police. To which
I will refer again later. The other photographs tendered and marked C34 show the
body clearly out of the water with the tide receding and therefore must have
been taken at a later time although I would infer taken within a short period of
time of the first set of photographs.
Whilst a number of police gave evidence indicating that they were not
aware that the deceased’s body had been moved from its original location, I am
satisfied and I accept the evidence of Mr Harwood that the police did in fact
move the body. This is supported by the evidence of Mr Adams who stated that he
was present when some photographs were taken of the deceased’s body where it had
been found and he had left the area at the request of Sergeant Galloway to
obtain a tarpaulin to cover the body.
I can draw the inference that during the period that Adams has left to
obtain the tarpaulin the deceased’s body was moved and this was observed by Mr
Harwood who had a clear memory of the body being moved. I am unable to say which
Police Officer(s) were involved in the moving of the body but I am satisfied
that it was done for the purposes of preserving evidence and with the
authorisation of the CIB, Launceston. These inferences are clearly supported by
the photographic evidence tendered and marked C34 and C36.
I am satisfied that the tarpaulin was placed over the body shortly after
the first set of photographs were taken and after Mr Adams had returned to the
beach with the tarpaulin and prior to the attendance of other Police Officer(s).
It was at or about this time that the three (3) attending Police Officers
conducted a search of the general area and an area of disturbed sand commonly
referred to during the Inquest as the ‘‘Crime Scene’’ was located some fifty
five (55) metres on the northern side of the body together with assorted
personal items and various footprints. Again there is much confusion as to the
state of and/or existence of footprints in the area.
Evidence was given by Constable Ferguson (C73-78) that he had walked in a
northerly direction along the beach and in doing so came across the first set of
footprints which he described as being parallel ones and angling in towards the
‘‘Crime Scene’.’ He described one of these impressions as being made by a person
wearing sand shoes or similar and the others being ‘……female footprints.’ He has
then travelled in a general westerly direction and walked along an overhanging
sand bank where he had observed a number of footprints. He followed these
footprints to a location which was immediately to the west of the ‘‘Crime
Scene’’ where he noted, from his observations that it appeared a person had
moved from the overhang and moved towards the location where it was presumed
that the deceased had been attacked. Constable Ferguson had previously been
employed as a shoe salesman and the pattern from the footprint was of such
clarity he was able to give a clear description of the ripple sole of that shoe
which was different to the sand shoe impression he had seen earlier.
Constable Ferguson stated that no casts were made of this footprint and at
the Inquest accepted full responsibility for this oversight indicating in
hindsight he should have preserved it by covering it with his jacket.
It was Constable Ferguson’s opinion that the footprint that he had
observed was connected with the deceased’s death and using his own words, that
he was ‘…… so convinced when I found it and I’ve never ever deviated or changed
my mind since.’
Detectives and Forensic personnel from Launceston subsequently attended,
as did the Forensic Pathologist and Forensic Scientists from Forensic Science
Services Tasmania (FSST).
An examination of the ‘‘Crime Scene’’ revealed the presence of some items
that it was assumed belonged to the deceased. These items were described as a
bangle, sun glasses, a multi coloured shoulder bag, sand shoes, ring and watch.
These items were spread over an area up to 8.5 metres from the ‘‘Crime Scene’’
or the area that has been commonly referred to as the ‘‘‘Disturbed Area’’’ and
most of them to the north. The area which is depicted in many photographs show
an area of sand measuring approximately 2.5 metres by 2.5 metres of
significantly disturbed sand which has been described by some witnesses as
suggestive of a violent struggle having taken place.
Located within the ‘‘Crime Scene’’ were a number of footprints which were
referred to by a number of police witnesses. Of these footprints only one was
cast and this has been subjected to much forensic testing and has been used to
exclude a number of person(s) as potential suspects. Unfortunately the cast is
not of sufficient clarity to exclude the deceased as being the person who made
the impression. Of the items located neither the glasses nor the ring appeared
to be damaged in any way where as the bangle showed signs of damage and the
watch had a broken band.
The deceased whose body was located some fifty two (52) metres from the
“‘Crime Scene’’ was naked except for a bikini top which was intact above her
breasts. Her face and head had been stabbed, lacerated and bludgeoned resulting
in horrific and extensive wounds. She had also been stabbed to the back and
chest. Examination of the ‘‘Crime Scene’’ did not produce any teeth missing from
the deceased as a result of these injuries.
Initial action at the scene on following discovery of the deceased’s body
included a preliminary examination of the body by Dr T Brain (state
pathologist), scene examination by Police and Forensic Scientists, the
establishment of road blocks, door knocks and searches of the immediate beach
area including the sand dunes.
Forensic evidence establishes the likelihood of two (2) distinct weapons
being used in the attack, one of which appears to be a blunt object and the
other a pointed object such as a knife. Whilst it can not be stated with any
certainty it appears highly likely, according to the medical evidence, that the
blunt object was used first and that the initial blows may have been to the
buttocks and the right upper arm. It is highly likely that one of the subsequent
blows to her face was delivered with such force that it knocked out three (3)
teeth from the upper jaw, causing fractures to the alveolar bone and around the
bridge of the nose.
It would seem highly likely that this particular blow would have rendered
the deceased unconscious. It seems incongruous that a person receiving such
blows prior to being rendered senseless would not have been screaming until that
time, yet despite the presence of in excess of fifty (50) people visiting the
beach on that day, and the presence of workers in the immediate vicinity, no
cries were heard at all. It is also surprising that an area such as Beaumaris
which has frequent visitors and person(s) walking along the highway, that none
of these person(s) heard any cries of distress.
No offender(s), weapon or eye witnesses to the attack was ever located. I
do not intend to give any further description of the murder weapon(s) as it may
only cloud the issue and transfer my perception(s) of the weapon(s) into the
minds of others and lead to persons discounting any object which may be relevant
to the murder.
The time of death was unable to be easily established through body
temperature as at the time of discovery the body had been subject to the tidal
actions of the sea for an unknown period of time and the wind chill fact of the
breeze on the wet body once removed from the water. Therefore an interpretation
was made of the ‘‘Crime Scene’’ to determine the time at which the ‘‘‘Disturbed
Area’’’ was created and it is a presumption that it was created very close to
the time of death.
It was reasoned that the ‘‘‘Disturbed Area’’’ occurred at or about the
time of high tide, as it was partially in moist sand and it was reasoned that as
the lower part of the ‘‘‘Disturbed Area’’’ had been ‘washed out’ by waves, the
disturbance took place when the water was at that level on the beach and
receding. The Harbour Master at St Helens, Colin Andrews was consulted for his
opinion as to when the tide was at the approximate level on the beach and in his
opinion the relevant time would have been 11.30am to 12.35pm.
A subsequent interpretation of the scene using the same logic was
undertaken by an Oceanographer employed at the Atlantic Research Centre, Dr John
Hunter who determined the ‘‘Disturbed Area’’ to have been created at 12.15pm and
allowed a 20 minute margin of error either side for local inconsistencies in
reported tide heights/times.
Accordingly, the investigation into this death has used a relevant time as
11.30am to 12.40pm when considering alibis’ of person(s) nominated as persons of
interest during this enquiry.
On the 12th of October 1995, a post mortem examination was undertaken at
the Royal Hobart Hospital by the (then) State Forensic Pathologist, Dr Tim Lyons
who gave the cause of death as exsanguination due to multiple stab wounds
including wounds to the right atrium.
The autopsy determined the following:
- There were 21 "stab" wounds to the body, all except one (1) which was
on the right side of the body in the area of the shoulder/chest/neck;
- there were a large number of injuries to the head, neck, arms, legs
and torso including "slashes", "lacerations", abrasions and bruises;
- there was a bruise on the right wrist, possibly due to a bangle that
was being worn;
- there were abrasions on the left wrist possibly due to a watch strap;
- there were three (3) teeth missing from the upper jaw, fracture to
the alveolar bone and fractures around the bridge of the nose, attributable
to blunt force injury;
- there were fractures sustained to bones in the right hand
attributable to blunt force injury;
- "luminol positive" areas were detected on various parts of the body;
- an examination of the body with “magni-powder” technique did not
- no obvious signs of sexual penetration of the vagina or anus; and
- there were no signs of natural disease processes, old injury or
recent medical intervention.
A number of swabs, fibres, blood and tissue samples were taken for further
analysis. There was nothing significant arising from this analysis. No evidence
to assist in the identification of the offender(s) was detected as a result of
- Dr Lyons, following his examination of the deceased made the
- a knife may have been used to inflict the stab wounds;
- a heavy straight edged object may have been the second weapon;
- the injuries to the forearm and hands are consistent with the victim
having defended herself; and
- innumerable minor bruises and abrasions could have been caused
through a variety of mechanisms.
In December 2002, the current State Forensic Pathologist, Dr Chris
Lawrence conducted a review of the autopsy findings of Dr Lyons and as a result
determined the following:-
- there are 17 separate stab wounds;
- the two (2) fatal stab wounds are in the right front of the chest and
penetrated the heart;
- there are seven (7) stab wounds in the right back, two (2) of which
have penetrated into the chest, damaging the lung;
- the knife used to inflict the stab wounds is likely to be as
described by Dr. Lyons, and the knife appears to be thick bladed; such as a
diving or hunting knife;
- it is not possible from the autopsy to determine whether the attacker
was left or right handed;
- there appears to be blunt force injuries on both arms - which are
consistent with defensive wounds - and these show significant bruising;
- blunt force injuries are randomly distributed on the body and show
- the stab wounds are concentrated on the right side of the body and
are associated with only a small amount of bruising; and
- all defensive wounds were associated with blunt force rather than
Dr Lawrence concurred with Dr Lyons as to the cause of death. He offered
the most likely scenario leading up to the death of the deceased is an assault
with an object causing the blunt force injuries which subdued the deceased prior
to the stabbing attack.
The task of investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of the
deceased was allocated to the Launceston Criminal Investigation Branch with the
operational aspect of the enquiry being directed by Detective Sergeant Jim
Harvey (now retired). In order to piece together the circumstances leading to
the death of the deceased, members of the Tasmania Police Service used the
- traditional/conventional investigative practices and procedures by
- scene and body examinations by expert personnel;
- historical profiling of the deceased; and
- psychological profiling of a person likely to commit such a crime.
The activities performed within this framework were:
- the use of search patterns of the precincts (land & water) of
Beaumaris Beach to locate further evidence that could be connected to the
deceased or offender(s);
- interviewing persons who had recent contact with the deceased;
- door knocks in the vicinity of Beaumaris Beach to elicit information
in connection with the investigation;
- the presence of a permanent police contingent at Beaumaris Beach, to
speak with members of the public who may have had information in relation to
- the use of regular media releases through the television, radio and
print media, to prompt responses from the public about suspicious activities
in the Beaumaris area;
- public meetings at Beaumaris to prompt responses from the public
about suspicious activities in the Beaumaris area;
- the interviewing of selected persons in relation to any knowledge
they may have had in relation to the investigation;
- the collection of alibi statements from selected persons for the time
of the murder;
- the collection of foot samples from selected persons for the purpose
of comparison with impressions detected at the scene;
- the use of forensic experts both within and external to Tasmania
Police Service to manage the scenes and conduct forensic examinations;
- close liaison with the Forensic Pathologist, to provide information
that may be of primary concern to him;
- extensive background checks to profile selected persons and thereby
establish a motive; and
- development of an offender profile by Detective Inspector B. Killmier
of the Australia Violent Crime Analysis Centre, Australian Bureau of
From October 1995 to March 1996, a team of personnel under the command of
Detective Sergeant Harvey was stationed at the St Helens Police Station and
tasked with the ongoing investigation into the deceased’s death.
On the 12th of February 1996, Tasmania Police conducted a review of the
investigation and this was overseen by Detective Inspector M Wicks (now
retired). In a report to the Assistant Commissioner (Crime & Operations), this
review identified thirty five (35) aspects requiring further attention. As a
result, Detective Inspector Wicks assumed control of a special Task Force,
charged with carrying out all investigatory matters relating to the review.
From the 8th of March 1996 to March 1998, another team of personnel under
the control of Detective Sergeant P Gregory were dedicated to the investigation
of this death. This team continued to investigate avenues previously identified,
with intense focus upon selected person(s) of interest.
In September 1998, a further review was carried out this time by Detective
Inspector G Frame. Essentially this review was aimed at consolidating the
evidence and information on hand and making a determination as to the future
direction of the investigation.
On Monday the 3rd day of March 2003, I commenced the Coronial Inquest into
the death of the deceased at St Helens and after hearing evidence for a week
adjourned it to a date to be fixed. Due to the volume and complexity of the
evidence tendered, I arranged for a review to be carried out before
re-commencing the Inquest.
In June 2003, Detective Inspector Little was appointed by the Deputy
Commissioner of Police, Mr J Johnston to assist me with the investigation into
the death of Victoria Cafasso.
His initial investigations focussed on a review of the ‘Crime Scene’
material commonly referred to as the ‘‘Crime Scene’’ and all available
forensic/scientific material relating to the murder of the deceased. This
included the re-examination of all relevant file material, analysis of evidence
already tendered to the Inquest and extended to interviews with person(s)
positioned to contribute to a better understanding of the ‘Crime Scene’. Where
additional information was available, formal affidavits and reports were
obtained from witnesses at my direction.
As part of this process, in July 2003 a number of experiments directed at
gaining a better understanding of the quantity of blood, it’s staining and the
impressions and marks visible in the sand at the scene, were conducted at the
scene of the murder on Beaumaris Beach by police officers from Forensic
Services, Hobart. These experiments were video recorded and overseen by the
State Forensic Pathologist, Dr C H Lawrence.
In November 2003, an extensive interpretive analysis, designed to assist
in the interpretation and understanding of the ‘Crime Scene’, forensic
examinations and other physical evidentiary material relating to the ‘Crime
Scene’, was finalised with a written report being made available to me together
with the video recording and affidavits/reports obtained during the review.
The review also determined that the efficacy of any forensic examination
of the deceased, at the time she was located, was principally determined by the
fact that she had been fully immersed in salt water, and therefore exposed to
the degrading effects of the wind and ultraviolet light for a significant amount
of time before it was discovered.
Also during this review, Lester Franks Survey & Geographic, a company with
expertise in the area of spatial information and terrestrial photogrammetry,
were commissioned to undertake a photogrammetric survey of points of interest in
the police photographs of the ‘‘Crime Scene’’ with a view of fully dimensioning
and modelling those points of interest.
In April 2004, the Managing Director of Lester Franks Survey & Geographic,
Mr Malcolm Lester supplied a report detailing the results of this survey. I am
now satisfied that the ‘‘Crime Scene’’ has now been mapped appropriately
utilising all current technology. Although I do not accept that a general line
of blood stains were evident on the beach as depicted in the plan submitted by
him as all evidence adduced indicated that the effects of the tide had washed
away any significant areas of blood, although there is evidence that traces of
blood were located in and around the area identified.
Dr John Osborn, Senior Lecturer in Spatial Information Services at the
University of Tasmania was also consulted during this phase of the review. Dr
Osborn agreed to investigate the possibility of photogrammetric mapping of the
plaster cast derived from a footprint located on Beaumaris Beach the day of the
deceased’s death and tendered during the Inquest.
The mapping was undertaken using digital stereo photogrammetric techniques
and a stereo model of the cast can be viewed in 3-dimensions. Whilst this
technology was in existence in 1995, I have been informed that it was an
emerging technology and did not form part of the ‘Crime Scene’ examination
protocols used by the Tasmania Police.
I now believe that investigations conducted by Lester Franks Survey &
Geographic and Dr Osborn have produced data that is likely to be of benefit in
the conduct of any further oceanographical calculations relating to the timing
of events on Beaumaris Beach on the day the deceased was killed.
On Monday the 19th day of April 2004, I re-commenced the Coronial Inquest
at St Helens and finished hearing all the evidence relevant to Ms Cafasso’s
death including the new information gathered during the last review done at my
During the course of the investigation and follow up reviews, some 1,200
information reports have been recorded with over 300 individuals being nominated
as potential suspects. Despite numerous requests for public assistance and the
offer of a reward leading to the conviction of the person(s) responsible for the
deceased’s death, no information has been received regarding the whereabouts of
any property of the deceased or an eye witness to the crime itself. Enquiries to
identify the weapon(s) used have been undertaken, however the weapon or object
used has not been located.
It is apparent to me, that the Tasmania Police Service has devoted
considerable time and resources to this investigation and despite this, the
offender(s) remain at large. However some aspects of the investigation are open
to criticism especially in the early stages of the investigation. These
- the non-attendance at the scene by the State Forensic Pathologist;
- delay in attendance of all specialist ‘Crime Scene’ examiners -
Tasmania Police and Forensic Science Service Tasmania (FSST);
- establishment of inadequate cordons of the ‘Crime Scene’ - that is,
non-closure of the entire beach itself;
- contamination of the scene by the introduction of foreign objects (eg.
the tarpaulin used to cover the body);
- the scene not being recorded on video;
- oversight of all potential sources of evidence/exclusion of suspects
(eg. foot impressions);
- only casting one (1) suspect footprint at the scene;
- lack of communication between local police and CIB officers; (eg.
moving of body and photographs);
- omission to cast the foot of the deceased; and
- the co-ordination of the ‘Crime Scene’ examination to ensure that a
thorough examination occurred having regard to the impending loss of the
scene through natural forces (tidal and wind action).
Since this death, the Tasmania Police Service has addressed the issue of
management of a ‘Crime Scene’ through the enhancement of Major ‘Crime Scene’
protocols and the establishment of the Integrated Crime Management Strategy (ICMS)
which allows for training and increased forensic awareness for metropolitan
Based upon the evidence, I can draw the following conclusions:-
- the deceased died at Beaumaris Beach;
- death occurred between 10.10am and 1.30pm on Wednesday 11th October
1995 - most likely between 11.30am and 12.35pm;
- prior to her death, she had been involved in a violent struggle,
during which the deceased attempted to defend herself;
- it is probable that the person(s) responsible for her death were
- the ‘blunt object’ used in the attack was used whilst the deceased
was still defending herself;
- the knife used in the attack was used after the deceased was subdued;
- death was caused by two (2) fatal stab wounds in the right front of
the chest, penetrating the heart;
- following death, the body was left in the water;
- it is highly probable that the body drifted south along the beach
with the prevailing current; and
- the distance from the site of the main attack and where the body was
subsequently located is consistent with the body drifting on the current,
rather than being moved by a person(s) along the beach.
However it is not possible for me to conclude:-
- whether the attack was carried out by a person acting alone or more
than one (1) person acting in common purpose; or
- a motive for the attack.
COMMENTS & RECOMMENDATIONS:
I find that the death of the deceased was due to exsanguination due to
multiple stab wounds including wounds to the right atrium.
I find that Victoria Anna Elizabeth CAFASSO died on Beaumaris Beach on the
East Coast of Tasmania on the 11th day of October 1995 as the result of foul
play by person(s) unknown.
Although this concludes the Coronial side of Ms Cafasso’s death, it should
be remembered that her death is the subject of an ongoing Police investigation
by members of the Tasmania Police.
Before I conclude this matter, I wish to convey my sincere condolences to
the family of the deceased.
This matter is now concluded.
DATED : 23rd March 2005 at Launceston in the state of Tasmania
Donald John Jones