Megan Louise MULQUINEY

 Megan Louise Mulquiney standing in a white jacket and skirt and a pink shirt.


Age at time of disappearance:
16 years
Build: Slim
Height: 157 cm
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Unknown
Distinguishing Features/Other:
Circumstances:
Megan Mulquiney commenced work at 8:25am on Saturday 28 July 1984 at Woolworths Big W, Woden Shopping Square, Canberra ACT. She ceased duty at 12:05pm and was later seen inside the Shopping Square about 12:15pm. She has not been seen since. Her mother stated that it was totally out of character for Megan to stay out late without contacting her.

Forensics gives hope in solving cold cases

04 Aug, 2006 11:00 PM -  Canberra Times

 

ADVANCES in DNA technology could help solve some of ACT's historic murders and missing-person cases, some of which are now being reviewed by detectives.

Old exhibits, which police have kept in storage for many years, are being looked at again in the light of new forensic techniques which can pick up microscopic shreds of DNA.

The case of missing Canberra schoolgirl Megan Mulquiney is one of several cold cases being re-examined by ACT police. Megan vanished from a suburban shopping centre 22 years ago and has never been found.

The 16-year-old had clocked off from her part-time job at Big W in Woden Plaza and walked outside to catch a bus home to nearby Mawson. That was just after noon on July 28, 1984.

Her disappearance has long baffled detectives, who have had few leads to follow and never found a body.

Family and friends have said it was totally out of character for Megan to disappear without telling anyone.

For Megan's mother, Dorothy Mulquiney,the past two decades have been a roller-coaster of emotions.

On top of the grief and sense of loss, there have been unanswered questions and hope that Megan would one day come home.

In her quest for answers, Dorothy was lured in by clairvoyants and private detectives who cost her a fortune. She has been clutching at any straw that might lead her to her daughter.

''It is something that will never go away,'' she says. ''Things happen that trigger memories or you read about a missing person in the paper. You relive it every day of your life.''

The review of Megan's disappearance has been sparked by new forensic possibilities. During a visit to Canberra in May last year, British forensic expert Professor David Barclay examined the case. Barclay, a forensic scientist of 35 years, is a consultant to West Australian Police and has reviewed a number of cold cases in Australia. About the time of his visit, ACT detectives had also been looking at old exhibits in the Mulquiney case. It was suggested that those exhibits should be re-examined using low copy number DNA technology - the latest in forensic science.

Through the technology, DNA profile results can be obtained from microscopic amounts of DNA material. It was developed in Britain and used in the case of murdered British tourist Peter Falconio. DNA tests using the new technology were conducted on cable ties found around the wrists of Joanne Lees, Falconio's girlfriend. The results of those tests were presented as evidence during the trial of Bradley John Murdoch who was later convicted of Falconio's murder.

Some DNA testing on exhibits in the Mulquiney case is under way in Canberra but there are plans to send other items to Britain for specialist testing.

ACT police have interviewed a suspect possibly connected with Megan's disappearance and obtained a DNA sample from him.

The man in question is an inmate at Risdon Prison in Tasmania and has been convicted of rapes and abductions in the ACT and Tasmania.

Originally from Tasmania and now in his 40s, he was a suspect in the Mulquiney case in 1984. It is believed that he had been living in the ACT about that time.

Police obtained vacuumings and a number of items from his home and vehicle after Megan's disappearance.

Those exhibits had been kept in storage and are now being re-examined using the new DNA technology.

In the past 12 months, police have also been reviewing statements taken after the disappearance and speaking again to witnesses, Megan's friends and associates. Their investigations have taken them around Australia. And there has been discussion about holding a coronial inquest into the disappearance.

Police are preparing an updated brief of evidence and are expected to meet ACT Chief Coroner Ron Cahill this month.

ACT Deputy Chief Police Officer (Response) Commander Leanne Close said new forensic possibilities were exciting, but they could not on their own solve cases.

There is the possibility no DNA will be found on the items or that, given the time since it was taken, it may have deteriorated.

''It is an opportunity but there is no guarantee that this will assist in closing the case or bringing anyone to court in relation to it,'' Close said.

''But we are going to investigate every possible line of inquiry.

She revealed some reasons police had pinpointed a particular suspect in the Mulquiney case.

''It's more events after what happened after Megan's disappearance - the fact that [the suspect] has been charged with other rapes and abductions,'' she said. ''Through looking at his profile, looking at circumstances of those other offences, that is why  we are looking at him as a person of

interest.

''But we are also not just focusing on this  person. We have to make sure we discount any other suspects. There have been other persons of interest in the past.''

The DNA testing being undertaken was complex, expensive and lengthy, and it formed only part of a broad investigation.

''We can't really put a time frame on it because as well as forensics issues there a whole range of investigative lines of inquiry we really want to follow,'' she said.

Advances in DNA technology were exciting, given their potential to help police in their quest to solve cold cases.

''The possibility for historic homicides  with the new forensic technology, particularly DNA, really does give us some new avenues of inquiry,'' she said. ''But we still have to temper that ... we can't just rely on forensics.

''There are all the other investigations we have to compile and bring before a court to prove beyond reasonable doubt that someone has committed an offence.''

Dorothy Mulquiney is desperately hoping a DNA development will provide her with some form of closure. But she understands that that may never be a reality. ''I would love for there to be closure but it will have to have some very solid foundations,'' she said. ''At the moment all we can do is just

wait and see - we are trying not to get our hopes up.''

During Missing Persons week in 2004, she approached Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty asking for an inquest into her daughter's disappearance.

So recent discussions about the possibility of holding such an inquest have provided her with some hope.

''At least we will know what exactly police have done ... the whos and the whats,'' she said. 

''An inquest really should have already been and gone.'' 

Police were not prepared to disclose details of other cold cases in the ACT now under review.  But they did say several such reviews were under way, largely as a result of new forensic possibilities.

''What we've done is gone through our exhibits and identified cases where we believe there might be some strong possibility to get some DNA,'' Close said.

Murder inquiries were a particular focus at the moment. But police hoped to take a fresh look at more historic missing-person cases in the future.

''Looking at the list of missing people, a lot of cases haven't gone to inquest,'' she said. ''I'm not saying we can do it straight away but we need to start assessing some of  these.''

ACT Chief Coroner Ron Cahill said it was important that cold cases in the territory were reviewed and coronial inquests considered.

''I think it is important we do it but it is a question of looking at each individual case and assessing it to see if anything can be gained from an inquest,'' he said. ''If there appears a crime is involved we should try and get closure on those cases.''

Megan's mystery: holding out for hope

BY SALLY PRYOR COURT REPORTER - Canberra Times
12 Nov, 2008 06:16 AM

 

A serial rapist recently released from a Tasmanian prison could hold clues into the 1984 disappearance of Canberra teenager Megan Mulquiney.

Paul Vincent Phillips, 49, will likely be brought to Canberra to give evidence at a coronial hearing into 17-year-old Megan's disappearance and presumed death when it resumes in January.

Megan, a Year 12 student at Narrabundah College, was last seen about noon on July 28, 1984, shortly after completing her shift at Big W at Woden Plaza.

Her mother, Dorothy Mulquiney, told The Canberra Times yesterday that the hardest thing for her family was that they may never know what happened to Megan that day.

''She was just a loving, kind, good person,'' she said.''There was no conflict at home, there was absolutely nothing that I could put my finger on. There's no way she would run away.''

She said Megan had always been so reliable and punctual that she knew something was wrong within two hours of Megan not returning home from work.

The inquest, which began in February last year after police reopened the case in 2006, resumed yesterday, with updated evidence relating to the police investigation.

Counsel assisting the coroner Marg Hunter took the step of recommending to Chief Coroner Ron Cahill that Phillips be subpoenaed to give evidence in January

A violent rapist, Phillips had been living in Canberra at the time of Megan's disappearance.

In March 1985, he was jailed for four years for abducting and raping a young Canberra woman, two months after Megan disappeared.

Phillips spent seven years in Tasmania's Risdon jail, after being sentenced for the rape of a teenage hitchhiker in 1998. He also served jail time for assaulting a woman in New Norfolk in 1988, four months after being paroled in the ACT.

Police took samples vacuumed from his car and unit after Megan vanished, although subsequent DNA testing revealed no link to Megan.

According to police, inquiries have also implicated Phillips in three other cases an abduction and rape in Canberra in 1983, a rape in Queanbeyan a month after Megan's disappearance, and an attempted abduction in Fyshwick weeks after that.

Although not charged, police say that Phillips has admitted his involvement in one attack and has been identified by the victim in a second. Phillips served out his sentence and was released without parole in January this year. He has been placed on the Sex Offenders Register for the maximum 15 years.

The court heard an updated report yesterday from a now retired detective, Peter Baldwin, noting the striking similarities between many of the victims and the behaviour of the attacker. Several of the victims were teenagers with a petite build and dark colouring, a description matching that of Megan.

The inquest is set to resume in January.

 

Week a time for soul searching

The Canberra Times

July 31, 2010

 

SOMEWHERE stashed away in evidence storage are Megan Mulquiney's nightie, bed linen and hairbrush.

They've been there for 26 years now; it's been that long since their owner had need of them.

Megan Mulquiney has not been seen since July 28, 1984.

The then-17 year old finished her shift at the Big W in Woden Plaza shortly after noon, but never made it home.

She is one of the seven ACT people listed by the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre. Six women, one man.

The disappearance of Kate Alexander stretches back more than three decades. For the family of Laura Haworth the pain is much fresher, much rawer.

Statistically, all seven are anomalies.In 95 per cent of the 35,000 missing persons cases reported each year one every 15 minutes the individual is found within a short period of time.

But there are 1600 of these nightmarish rarities, the "long- term missing" cases.

This week is doubly significant for Megan's mother Dorothy.

Today is the start of National Missing Persons Week, and last Wednesday Mrs Mulquiney marked 26 years to the day since her little girl vanished.

Megan's disappearance has been the subject of a cold case investigation. A coronial inquest ended in January 2009, returning an open finding. The last person of interest in the case, convicted rapist Paul Vincent Phillips, was hauled before the inquest last year.

The inquest found Megan was probably murdered by persons unknown, and Phillips remained a person of interest. But that's as far as it went. And for Mrs Mulquiney, closure is nowhere in sight.

"There's a big hole there for me. In one way, I suppose I'd like not to think [Phillips] did what they say he did to Megan."

Mrs Mulquiney wants to know what happened in her lifetime.

"Really, now that the coronial inquest has happened, Megan's case is hidden in a box somewhere.

It's a sleeper."

The disappearance of mother- of-two Laura Haworth is the territory's most recent long- term missing person case.

Beth Cassiles last saw her daughter Laura at a Christmas lunch in 2007. Ms Haworth was in good spirits. She was in the midst of moving house, and expressed relief when her mother offered to pay to keep larger items in storage temporarily.

"Looking back, I think she might have known she was going away and was relieved someone would be taking care of her things," Ms Cassiles said.

"She was quite attached to her things."

On the day she went missing Ms Haworth and a friend were headed to the Cotter Dam for a swim. It is believed they returned to her friend's home in Queanbeyan.

During the day Ms Haworth received a call from someone, who she went out to meet later that evening. She has not been seen since.

Her car was found dumped at Kanangra Court in Reid two weeks later, with paperwork and clothes neatly arranged inside.

Her two children are now six and nine years old. Every time they visit their grandmother in Curtin, they have new theories about where their mother might be. Sometimes she's on a skiing holiday. Sometimes she's dead.

"I'm really hopeful that she's alive, and [has] made a new life for herself somewhere," Ms Cassiles said.

National Missing Persons Week has, in years past, been a time for Ms Haworth's family to get a measure of "recognition and acknowledgement" for their suffering.

But Ms Cassiles is upset about a decision not to hold the traditional service for the families at the All Saints Church in Ainslie. Police this year decided not to ask the church to host the event, and Ms Haworth's mother is hoping to negotiate some other way to mark the occasion in Canberra.

Whether two years have elapsed, or 26, or more, the families of the missing maintain hope.

For Mrs Mulquiney, it's about closure, and the promise of that crucial piece of information that could help police close the case.

"Somebody out there must know something," she said.

And Ms Cassiles has a message for her daughter Laura.

"I'd like her to know that I'm waiting for her call. And I'll wait forever."

Do you know something?

Visit the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre at www.missingpersons.gov.au/home.

All information will be treated as confidential.

 

ACT community still searching for answers over Megan Mulquiney's 1984 disappearance

It's been more than three decades since Megan Mulquiney was last seen after work at Woden Plaza, but time hasn't eased the sense of loss and despair felt by her family and community.

She is one of six long-term missing ACT residents police have shone the spotlight on during National Missing Persons Week, an annual event that aims to raise awareness of missing persons nationwide.

This year's theme was "Follow your instincts" and encouraged people to understand they didn't need to wait 24 hours to report someone as missing.

About 35,000 people go missing in Australia each year, which equates to one person every 15 minutes, and about 20,000 of those are young people.

More than 99 per cent of people are found, 85 per cent within a week.

 
 

Megan Louise Mulquiney was 17 when she was last seen at the south side Canberra shopping centre at noon on Saturday, July 28, 1984.

She was never seen again.

Megan was 158cm tall, with straight, dark brown hair that was parted in the middle.

When she went missing she was wearing a black corduroy jacket and skirt, a pink and grey checked blouse, black leather flat-heeled shoes and purple stockings.

ACT Policing criminal investigations Detective Sergeant Donna Parsons said her disappearance was still being investigated by cold case detectives in the homicide team.

 

She said the Mulquiney family's loss had reverberated in the tight-knit Canberra community and had devastated her family.

"Obviously for her family, and particularly for her mum Dorothy, it's been a really difficult time for them.

"They just want closure, and I think the community understands that."

Police posted a fresh plea for the public's help to find out more about Megan's disappearance on their Facebook page this week.

It attracted dozens of comments, many from community members who knew Megan or her family, or who recalled they were at Woden Plaza the day she vanished.

 

"A lot of people who were born and bred Canberrans remember that day and I think the community has a lot of compassion for Megan's family.

"Canberra's a small community and people know people and when something big happens it sticks in people's minds."

Detective Sergeant Parsons urged anyone with information to come forward and help end years of uncertainty for the Mulquiney family.

"Someone still must have seen or heard something. It might not have seemed significant or it might be something small that's been niggling at the back of their mind, or something from a conversation with someone.

"We say it all the time, but every little bit helps and could be the piece of information we need to find out what happened."

 

■ Visit the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre at missingpersons.gov.au/home. All information will be treated as confidential. People can also contact ACT Policing, 131 444 or Crime Stoppers, 1800 333 000.

 

 

'I need proof': Mother of Megan Mulquiney still desperate for answers

Dorothy Mulquiney’s agonising search for answers could be a little closer to ending, as police probe new leads into the disappearance of her teenage daughter Megan in 1984.

“The police got in touch with me about two weeks ago and said they needed to see me about something. To me that was a godsend,” she said.

“I just pray that we can find out what happened to Megan.”

On Thursday morning ACT Policing revealed they were investigating new avenues related to Megan’s disappearance from Woden Plaza on July 28, 1984. She was 17 at the time.

Convicted rapist Paul Vincent Phillips was never charged in relation to Megan’s disappearance, but was identified as the prime suspect during a 2009 inquest that found it extremely likely the teenager was murdered.

 
 

Phillips died in April, with police saying a number of people had been in touch with new information since.Saturday marks 34 years to the day since Megan was last seen but mum Dorothy said the pain of not knowing what happened to her daughter had never left her.

“It has been 34 years and it never goes away,” she said.

“I need answers and I need to know the facts. I need proof.”

Memories of Megan’s disappearance would come flooding back every time Dorothy heard someone else had gone missing.

“When I hear of another person going missing it brings all of those feelings back,” she said.

“It never leaves you. You know what those other parents are going through.

“It will be 34 years on the 28th. That’s a long time.”

The major breakthrough revealed by police on Thursday was that they now believed Phillips had an accomplice.

"We’ve been presented with the unique opportunity, since Paul Vincent Phillips’ passing, to revisit friends, family and associates of his, in the search for answers," Detective Senior Constable Patrick O'Brien said.

"... We now believe that Paul Vincent Phillips did not act alone in his offending."

Senior Constable O'Brien said he believed there were still people out there who knew what had happened, and he implored them to contact police and help bring closure to Ms Mulquiney's family.

"It may be that those people carry a significant burden, whether they know the whereabouts of Megan or the circumstances [surrounding her disappearance]," Senior Constable O'Brien said.

"We implore them to come forward and speak with us, to assist us in gaining closure for the family."

Detective Senior Constable Emma-Lea Beere said Phillips spent the majority of his adult life in prison after being convicted of violent sexual offences against young women.

She said while police had lacked evidence to charge Phillips in relation to Megan's disappearance, she matched the description of his known victims.

"His victims would often appear young, have child-like features, they were petite in build, approximately 5 foot 4 inches tall, and would wear their shoulder-length hair out," Senior Constable Beere said.

"This description matches that of Megan."

Senior Constable Beere said Phillips was nomadic, and had lived in 17 different places during his time in the ACT.

He was also known to prey on young women as they entered open car parks, with one such incident taking place about two months after Megan was last seen.

"The investigation into Megan’s disappearance did not die with Paul Vincent Phillips, and we continue with our search for answers," Senior Constable Beere said.

Police have set up a dedicated hotline for information on the case, and will also be at Woden Plaza about 12pm on Saturday - the 34th anniversary of Megan's disappearance - to talk to anyone with information.

 

Anyone with information is urged to call 0457 844 917 to speak to the officers investigating the case.

Information can also be provided anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website.

 

 

 

 

Canberra cold case breakthrough after prime suspect in teenager's disappearance dies

By Elise Pianegonda and Jake Evans - ABC

Updated 

There has been a breakthrough in one of Canberra's longest-running missing persons cases following the death of the prime suspect.

Police said a number of people had given them fresh information about the disappearance of Megan Mulquiney, since serial sex offender Paul Vincent Phillips died in April.

Ms Mulquiney, then 17, was last seen outside the Woden Plaza on Saturday July 28, 1984.

She had completed her shift at Big W and was due to catch a bus home, but never arrived.

Almost 34 years later to the day, ACT police have announced they do not believe Phillips acted alone.

A 2009 inquest into Ms Mulquiney's disappearance determined it was extremely likely she was murdered by a person or persons.

Since Phillips' death in April, Senior Constable Patrick O'Brien said a number of people had come forward to assist police with fresh information.

"We believe there are people in the community who do know the circumstances of Megan's disappearance, or may be able to assist us in our investigation," he said.

"It may be that those people carry a significant burden, whether they know the whereabouts of Megan or the circumstances — we implore them to come forward and speak with us."

Megan fit profile of Phillips' victims

Phillips spent the majority of his adult life behind bars for a series of violent sexual offences against young women.

Detective Senior Constable Emma Beere said he lived a nomadic lifestyle and, while in Canberra, stayed in 17 different locations, including caravan parks and camping grounds.

"Paul Vincent Phillips was known to prey on his victims as they entered open carparks," she said.

"One such incident occurred only two months after Megan was last seen leaving her workplace in Woden Plaza.

"His victims would often appear young, have child-like features, they were petite in build … and would wear their shoulder-length hair out.

"This description matches that of Megan."

During the 2009 inquest, Ms Mulquiney's mother Dorothy said she believed Phillips had some involvement in her daughter's disappearance.

"I know [the DPP] tried really hard to get an admission out of him," she said.

Ms Mulquiney said she did not hold out hope that Megan was alive.

"But I'd like something to be found out so I can put it to rest, because without knowing it's a nightmare," she said.

"As a mum, I really need to know what happened to Megan."

Anyone with information has been urged to contact ACT Policing on the dedicated mobile number 0457 844 917 or speak to them in person at Woden shopping centre this Saturday at midday.

Information can also be provided anonymously via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

Suspect in 1984 disappearance of Megan Mulquiney a chilling figure

It’s hard to know what to expect when a prime suspect is called to give evidence in a 25-year-old missing persons case.

But when serial rapist Paul Vincent Phillips appeared at the 2009 inquest into the 1984 disappearance of Canberra schoolgirl Megan Mulquiney, the most - or perhaps least - surprising thing about him was how creepy he was.

Tall, weatherbeaten, with dark, piercing eyes and a long, white beard, he could have come straight from central casting.

The news that he would be brought before the court in Canberra to give evidence at a re-opened inquest into Megan’s disappearance had been another installment in what was already a horrifying case.

Seventeen-year-old Megan, a year 12 student at Narrabundah College, finished her shift at Big W at noon on July 28, 1984, and left the mall to catch a bus home to Mawson.

 
 

She was last seen soon after midday, but never made it to the bus.

There has been no trace of her since then, just a heartbroken family and a well-worn image of a smiling teenager with a 1980s flick in her hair.

It’s that hair that serves as a reminder - obvious but important - that Megan went missing in a time before CCTV, mobile phones, or a solid understanding of DNA.

But when the same family was told that one of the few persons of interest in the case - a serial rapist who was living in Canberra at the time of Megan’s disappearance - would be brought before the court almost 25 years later, it was like an episode of a modern police drama brought to life.

 

When Phillips, who had been in jail for most of his adult life, entered the courtroom, you could feel the air shift. He was tall, and forbidding, and, worst of all, defensive.

By this time, he was just a year out of prison after a nine-year stint in Tasmania’s Risdon jail, for the abduction and rape of a teenage hitchhiker.

He had earlier been convicted of the abduction and rape of a Canberra teenager in September 1984, also at Woden Plaza, just two months after Megan disappeared, and the attempted abduction of a woman in Tasmania four months after he was released from prison for this offence.

During the hearing, which lasted two days, he was cross-examined about his childhood in Tasmania and Canberra - one marred by abuse and neglect - as well as details about the offences for which he served a combined 16 years in prison.

He agreed and offered further details as counsel assisting the coroner, Margaret Hunter, gave chilling accounts of each of the attacks.

A key part of the evidence at the inquest was that each time Phillips had attacked a woman, he had been at a low ebb in his life.

On the day before Megan vanished, a Friday, Phillips was sacked from his job at an autowreckers in Queanbeyan.

Twenty-four years later, he was still unable to explain why he had given police three false alibis to account for his whereabouts on the day Megan went missing.

But during the 2009 inquest, when Ms Hunter asked him what it would take for him to admit what he had done to Megan's family, he said, ''It would take for me to have done it. I swear that on my children. I have children of my own.”

He agreed with the coroner that while there was no physical evidence, there was a range of circumstantial evidence that pointed to him as a prime candidate.

''I'd be thinking that too, your honour,'' he said.

And with that, he was gone - a free man who had done his time and given no closure to a family desperate for answers.

Chief coroner Ron Cahill was left once again to deliver an open finding into Megan's disappearance and presumed death, saying it was likely Megan was murdered by an unknown person.

But he said Phillips would remain a person of interest - words that have taken on a new meaning now that Phillips is dead.