‘‘According to my biological uncle in the Philippines, the
Australian embassy contacted his family in 1987 because the
authorities believed that Nenita Evans had been murdered in
Melbourne,” Heimel, now 40, says.
After searching through migration archives, contacting detectives
and reviewing the coronial inquest, Heimel got in touch with me, as
I had reported on the cold case when it was reopened by detectives
more than 20 years ago.
“If she is alive I want her to know I am looking for her, and if
she was murdered we want to find the truth,” Heimel says. "Her
family in the Philippines deserve to know what happened.’’
As in the case of Milagros Dark, Leonardi seems to have taken a
shine to Nenita Evans, fast-tracking her promotion and driving
her home to Altona, even though it was an hour out of his way.
When she developed a migraine at work he was able to organise an
appointment with a specialist for treatment - which may just
mean he was a concerned supervisor.
Eventually her husband Greg received an anonymous phone call
claiming his wife and her boss were having an affair. They both
claimed it was untrue.
As a housekeeper, part of her duty was to buy and arrange floral
displays for the club. Her interest became a passion and after
enrolling in a flower-arranging course she resigned from the
Melbourne Club in November 1986. She dropped in to see club
staff, including Leonardi, on January 8, 1987.
She was upbeat, showing some a book of her flower arrangements
and telling them she was going to a job interview with a Fitzroy
florist. She has not been seen since.
One theory is that she went to the club to break off the
relationship with Leonardi, who flew into a rage. But a theory
is all that is, as Leonardi refused to talk to police and did
not give evidence at the inquest on the grounds of avoiding
self-incrimination. He retired from the Melbourne Club after 36
Leonardi's silence should not be mistaken for indifference.
Behind the scenes he was trying to manipulate the investigation.
He asked a Melbourne Club staff member of Filipino descent to
write to Evans’ brother. The letter, sent three months after she
vanished, tried to make Greg Evans the only suspect.
‘‘I also said that the husband treated Annie badly and that he
might've killed Annie and thrown her body away. I did not know
this is true, it is only from what I have heard,’’ the female
staff member later told police.
‘‘Vince [Leonardi] told me that Annie’s husband had mistreated
her. I heard rumours that Vince had an affair with Annie and
also with another woman, Mila Dark. I only heard rumours, I did
not see anything.’’
Another woman hired to replace Annie told detectives she always
remembered something her
supervisor once said: “I asked Vince how his weekend was.
Vince replied that he went with his wife for a drive to look
at a block of land. Vince said the land was big enough to
bury bodies in.”
Greg Evans told police: “Annie once mentioned to me that the
Filipino women were fighting at work. She said they were
jealous that the manager liked her. She said that she was
always working and was not lazy and he liked her.”
Senior Detective Kathryn Fairbank from Missing Persons told
the inquest: “Vince Leonardi was an extremely violent
father. He treated the family badly and as a result they
left home as soon as they could.
“He locked all the windows, nailed them all shut so they
couldn’t get out. Two of the girls were having an argument
over a pair of scissors one day and he threw an axe at one
of them ... He’s pointed firearms at them ... and he
assaulted one so badly she was in bed for three weeks.”
Fairbank said that when the daughter recovered she told her
mother she was leaving home because “next time he may kill
Coroner Iain West found: ‘‘After [Nenita Evans']
disappearance, innuendo and unsubstantiated rumours
circulated, implicating her husband and Vincenzo Leonardi,
who was her supervisor at work and the last known person to
see her alive. There is insufficient evidence before the
inquest to make a finding of contribution against either of
these individuals. And I further find that the deceased met
her death from foul play, however the identity of the person
or persons contributing to her death cannot be determined.’’
Leonardi moved more than 1000 kilometres away from the
Melbourne Club and the rumours, settling in Barnsley near
Newcastle, NSW. He died in January 2009, aged 84, apparently
estranged from his family, who were only informed of his
death after the funeral.
If Matthieu Heimel is to find answers it will not be from
his mother’s violent and manipulative boss, who chose to
take his secrets to the grave.