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The crime stories that moved, horrified and intrigued us this year

The crime stories that moved, horrified and intrigued us this year
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Read Time:18 Minute, 3 Second

This year didn’t differ much from others when it came to crime in Australia.

Throughout 2023, we still saw tragic crashes, gang shootings, domestic violence charges, mysteries and allegations that dominated headlines for weeks.

In many cases, the allegations will play out in courts well into the new year.

Watch the latest news and stream for free on 7plus >>

Here, we take a look back at some of the biggest crime allegations of 2023.

Mushroom mystery

On July 29, Erin Patterson hosted a lunch at her Leongatha home, in Victoria, allegedly serving up a deadly dish of beef wellington.

Attending the lunch were Erin’s ex-husband’s parents Don and Gail Patterson, Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson, Heather’s husband Ian Wilkinson and Erin’s two children.

Don, Gail, Heather and Ian became critically ill following the lunch, their symptoms consistent with having eaten toxic death cap mushrooms.

Erin claimed she too ate a serving of the beef wellington and later became sick. Her children are believed to have eaten a different meal than the rest of the group.

Days later, on August 4, Heather and Gail died. Don died the next day, on August 5. Ian Wilkinson spent almost two months in hospital but survived.

Police raided Erin’s house that same day but released her pending further investigations.

A few months later, police arrested Erin and charged her with three counts of murder over the deadly lunch and five counts of attempted murder, four of which related to her ex-husband.

Heather Wilkinson, Gail Patterson and Don Patterson died after the lunch. Credit: AAP

CBD school murder

On the evening of October 25, St Andrew’s Cathedral School water polo coach Lilie James was killed inside the school’s gym bathroom, in Sydney’s CBD.

Her colleague Paul Thijssen, who is understood to have been in a brief relationship with her, is believed to have followed her into the bathroom and murdered her.

After killing James, Thijssen used her phone to send a text message to her dad, asking him to collect her from the school.

James was found dead with horrific head injuries later that night, after Thijssen called triple-0 to inform police of her body.

He is then believed to have travelled to Diamond Bay Reserve in Vaucluse, about 11km from the city, where he took his life.

Lilie James and Paul Thiyssen. Credit: 7NEWS

His final moments were captured on CCTV and show him arriving at the reserve and walking up and down a path and getting in and out of his car.

A hammer and other “property associated with the homicide” was found at the reserve.

Police investigating the case spent a day searching for Thijssen, whose body was found on rocks at the bottom of cliffs near the reserve on October 27.

James was remembered as a “vibrant, smart, compassionate young lady who impacted the lives of many”.

Wine country wedding ends in tragedy

Hours after Mitchell Gaffney and Madeleine Edsell tied the knot at the Wandin Valley Estate in the Hunter Valley on June 11, 35 of their guests boarded a bus to return to nearby Singleton.

During the drive, bus driver Brett Button allegedly took a roundabout on Wine Country Drive in Greta too fast and lost control of the vehicle.

The bus slammed into a guard rail and rolled on to its side, killing 10 people and injuring 25 others.

Those killed in the crash were: Nadene McBride and her daughter, Kyah, 22, Kane Symons, 21, Andrew Scott, 35, and his wife Lynan, 33, Zach Bray, 29, Angus Craig, 28, Darcy Bulman, 30, Tori Cowburn, 29, and Rebecca Mullen.

Button was charged with 63 offences, including 10 counts each of dangerous driving and negligent driving causing death, over the crash.

The crash is one of the worst road accidents ever recorded in Australia.

Ten victims of the Hunter valley bus crash are unaccounted for: (Left) Darcy Bulman, (top L-R) Tori Cowburn, Kyah and Nadene McBride, (middle L-R) Andrew Scott, Kane Symons, Rebecca Mullen, (bottom L-R) Zachary Bray, Angus Craig and Lynan Scott. Credit: 7NEWS

‘Unfathomable’ offending

In August, an unnamed childcare worker was arrested and charged with more than 1600 child abuse offences, shocking the nation.

The allegations included the abuse of 91 children, all except four of which were in Australia.

Up until October, the man could not be named until laws in Queensland changed and he was identified as Ashley Paul Griffith.

The 45-year-old is accused of targeting pre-pubescent girls at 10 childcare centres in Brisbane in 2007-2013 and 2018-2022.

There were also alleged victims at a centre in Sydney between 2014 and 2017, and he also allegedly offended against four children overseas in 2014-2017.

The charges include 136 counts of rape in Queensland and 110 counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 in New South Wales.

He allegedly used his offending against the girls to create more than 4000 child abuse images and videos.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough described the allegations as “deeply distressing” and “unfathomable”.

Ashley Paul Griffith. Credit: Supplied

Clare Nowland

Clare Nowland, a 95-year-old aged care resident, died days after allegedly being tasered by NSW Police Senior Constable Kristian White at the facility where she lived in Cooma in the early hours of May 17.

Nowland, who weighed 43kg and lived with dementia, was using a walking frame and holding a steak knife when she was confronted inside the facility.

She did not drop the knife when asked by those at the scene.

She was then tasered and fell, hitting her head on the ground. She was taken to Cooma Hospital, where she died on May 24.

White was initially charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault.

In late November, an additional charge of manslaughter was laid after investigators received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Following the incident, criticisms were made of the police response and there were calls for healthcare and police reform.

Clare Nowland. Credit: AAP

Tatiana Dokhotaru

Tatiana Dokhotaru was found dead inside her Liverpool unit, in Sydney’s southwest, on the evening of May 27, a day after she made a call to police.

The 34-year-old’s estranged husband Danny Zayat, 28, was found with her body.

On the day before she was found dead, it’s alleged Zayat smashed Dokhotaru’s television, prompting her to ring triple-0, but police were unable to locate where the call was coming from, a court was told.

Police allege the call ended abruptly before a phone was hurled out of the apartment.

CCTV of a mobile phone being tossed from the unit was released as part of investigations.

Zayat was initially charged with 22 domestic violence-related offences, before being charged with murder in August.

Tatiana Dokhotaru. Credit: 7NEWS

Siva Auvae

Siva Auvae, 31, was fatally stabbed by her partner Anaru Ormond, 32, on December 9 after he set fire to their Kallangur home, in Queensland’s Moreton Bay region.

Ormond was arrested in a stranger’s front yard and died in hospital the next morning after sustaining serious burns in the fire.

Following the deaths, Ormond’s family revealed he was taken to Petrie Police Station on December 3 by his brother, where he was referred to the Prince Charles Hospital for treatment after his mental health declined.

He was released just two days later.

Auvae and Ormond had been together for 15 years, Ormond’s sister wrote on social media, and had four children together.

They had lived in Australia since 2016, and had recently moved from NSW to Queensland.

Anaru Ormond (left) killed his partner Siva Auvae (right) days after she asked family for help with his declining mental health. Credit: Facebook

Tayla Black and baby Murphy

On August 10, Queensland man Matthew Cox walked into a Brisbane police station and allegedly told officers his wife Tayla and their 11-week-old daughter Murphy were dead at their home hundreds of kilometres away in Rockhampton.

When police attended the home for a welfare check, they found the pair dead inside the property.

It’s alleged Cox murdered his partner and their baby on August 8, before flying from Rockhampton to Brisbane that evening.

Cox, 31, was charged with two counts of murder over the deaths.

The pair were not known to police.

It was later revealed Cox had sought mental health support about a year before the incident.

Matthew Cox was charged with his wife and daughter’s murder. Credit: Supplied

Alice McShera

Much-loved lawyer Alice McShera, 34, was allegedly murdered by her partner Cameron John Pearson.

The 34-year-old was found dead inside a room in Perth’s Crown Towers in October.

Pearson was also found inside the room with self-inflicted wounds.

He was treated in hospital and discharged into police custody before being charged with murder.

Police said McShera suffered serious head injuries that were believed to have been caused by a blunt instrument.

Alice McShera. Credit: 7NEWS

Domestic violence

Tragically, 2023 saw dozens of other women also allegedly killed at the hands of their partners.

They include:

Dayna Isaac, 28, who was allegedly murdered by her new partner in Penrith, Sydney, in JanuaryKrystle Monks, 19, who was allegedly murdered by her partner in Bundamba, Ipswich, in FebruaryJanet Guthrie, 21, who was allegedly murdered by her partner on Bribie Island in FebruaryAnastasia Slastion, in her 30s, who was allegedly murdered by her partner in Greystanes, Sydney in FebruaryLisa Fenwick, 59, who was allegedly murdered by her partner in Mascot, Sydney in AprilEmmerich Lasakar, 35, who was allegedly murdered by her partner in Kewdale, Perth in AprilHeather Ball, 29, who was allegedly murdered by her “on-off” partner in Caboolture in MayKristy Armstrong, 36, who was allegedly murdered in a crash with her estranged husband in Molong, NSW in JuneAmira Moghnieh, 30, who was allegedly murdered by her husband, from whom she had been separated, in Bexley in JulyChristine Rakic, 54, who was allegedly murdered by her former husband in Rooty Hill, Sydney in JulyGeorgia Lyall, 32, who was found dead inside her South Guildford home in Perth in July. Her former partner was found dead shortly after in what’s beileved to have been a murder-suicideJean Morley, 92, who was allegedly murdered by her husband at a home in Fisher, Canberra in AugustTiffany Woodley, 35, who was allegedly murdered by her former partner in Bedford, Perth in AugustDrew Douglas, 31, who was allegedly murdered by her partner in St Marys, Sydney, in AugustJodie Jewell, 55, who was allegedly murdered by her husband, who was later found dead, Modbury North, Adelaide in NovemberMaria Dimasi, 85, who was allegedly murdered by her husband in Findon, Adelaide in DecemberCatiuscia Machado, 40s, who was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend in Chiswick, Sydney in November

Erin Gilbert murder

Erin Gilbert was found murdered inside her Merrylands home in Sydney’s west on Easter Sunday.

Her husband Nic came home and made the horrifying discovery, finding she had been “brutally” attacked in the living room.

Nic said he tried desperately to save his wife and was performing CPR when police officers arrived at the unit, but Erin could not be saved.

Four months after she was found dead, 32-year-old Morten Jensen was charged with her murder.

Erin Gilbert with her husband Nic. Credit: 7NEWS

‘Hit-run’ kills police commissioner’s son

Son of SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, Charlie Stevens, died in an alleged hit-and-run crash on November 18.

“Charlie, your mum and I love you and we are devastated that you were taken from us so soon,” Grant Stevens said at a memorial service.

“You were a force of nature — full of energy, unstoppable, unforgettable.

“We will love you forever, Charlie Boy.”

Dhirren Randhawa, 18, faces four charges, including causing death by dangerous driving, over the fatal crash at Goolwa, about 90km southeast of Adelaide.

The death devastated the community, with more than 1000 people attending a memorial held for the teenager.

Charlie Stevens and his dad South Australia’s Police Commissioner Grant Stevens. Credit: Sunrise

Teen disappears

Shyanne-Lee Tatnell, 14, was last seen walking near the North Esk River, in the city of Launceston, Tasmania, on April 30.

She was believed to be on her way to visit a friend.

Thorough searches found no trace of the teenager until July 26,when Tasmania Police launched one of the biggest searches in the state’s history.

Shyanne-Lee’s remains were discovered near a bush track in the state’s northeast that same day, more than 12 weeks after she was last seen alive.

Scottsdale man Christopher Mark Jordan, 36, was charged in relation to her death the day after her remains were found.

It is alleged Jordan murdered Shyanne-Lee on April 30 at Scottsdale.

Shyanne-lee Tatnell. Credit: AAP

Pub crash

On November 5, three families were seated on the front lawn of a pub in Daylesford, Victoria, when their lives changed forever.

William Swale, 66, was behind the wheel of his BMW SUV, on his way back from a clay shooting tournament, when he allegedly mounted the kerb and struck the families.

As a result, Pratibha Sharma, 44, her daughter Anvi, 9, and partner Jatin Kumar, 30, and their friend Vivek Bhatia, 38, and his son Vihaan, 11, all died.

Swale, who lives with diabetes, was later charged with five counts of culpable driving causing death, two counts of negligently causing serious injury and seven counts of reckless conduct endangering lives over the crash.

Prosecutors alleged the 66-year-old ignored repeated alerts to treat his low glucose levels for more than 50 minutes before the crash.

Pratibha Sharma, her partner Jatin and daughter Anvi, left, and Vivek Bhatia and his son Vihaan, right. Credit: 7NEWS

The daughter who ‘poisoned her parents’

Raelene Polymiadis, 62, was charged with the alleged double murder of her elderly parents, who died about a year apart in Adelaide.

Brenda Anderson, 94, died in March 2022, while her husband Lynton Anderson, also 94, died in May this year.

Police began investigating their deaths as a major crime because of similarities and abnormalities in the couple’s toxicology reports.

Prosecutors allege the 62-year-old had administered her own insulin to her parents.

It will be alleged Polymiadis carried out her crimes while visiting her parents — mum Brenda while she was being treated for unrelated issues in hospital, and dad Lynton at his Hackham home.

Raelene Polymiadis, centre, has been charged over the alleged murders of her parents. Credit: 7NEWS

Missing man ‘murdered’

Father-of-two Steven Murphy was last seen in the Kudla in Adelaide’s north in February.

In April, following a tip-off, the 38-year-old’s body was found buried in a bunker on a nearby property during an extensive search.

Forty-six-year-old Keith Yandle, who was already in custody, and his 19-year-old son Marco, both from Kudla, were charged with murder.

It’s understood Murphy had been squatting in local farm buildings, and tried to break into the bunker before he disappeared.

Murphy’s family say he was sleeping rough in the area as he wanted to be closer to his children and had nowhere to stay.

His connection to the Yandles is unclear.

Babysitter charged

Ronan Davies, a 17-month-old toddler from Ottoway in Adelaide’s north west, died on June 9, two days after being rushed to hospital.

The child had suffered head injuries and other internal wounds, leading detectives to believe he died following a fatal assault.

In the two days before he was taken to hospital, the toddler was in the care of family friends, before he was handed back to his parents on June 7.

It’s understood detectives were told Ronan was injured when he fell out of his pram.

In July, after police revealed they had launched a murder investigation into the boy’s death, a 30-year-old man was charged over his death.

“It will be alleged the arrested man inflicted the injuries upon Ronan while in his care on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 7, prior to returning him to his father,” police said.

Ronan Davies. Credit: 7NEWS

‘Pure fear’

On May 16, a group of children being driven home from school in Eynesbury, Victoria, were injured when the bus they were on collided with a truck and rolled.

“It was crazy, the screams and cries for help all the kids and the looks on their faces was horrible. Pure fear,” one of the first people on the scene said.

Ten children — aged from five to 11 years old — were left with a range of traumatic injuries including crushed limbs, severe lacerations from glass shards, and spinal injuries.

Three children underwent surgery to amputate injured hands and arms.

The crash in Eynesbury left 10 children — aged from 5 to 11 — with a range of traumatic injuries. Credit: AAP

Truck driver Jamie Gleeson, 49, was charged with four counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury over the crash.

A court heard the father-of-two told police he was driving behind the bus when he noticed flashes of sunlight coming through the trees.

He said he hit the brakes after seeing the brake lights on the bus in front of him, but he didn’t have enough time to swerve before hitting the back.

Gleeson, a truck driver for 18 years, returned negative blood tests for both drugs and alcohol and was granted bail.

Bourke St incident

One person was killed and six others were injured when a car was driven down Melbourne’s Bourke Street and ploughed through pedestrians before crashing into two cars — Mazda CX-5 and a Hyundai — in September.

The driver of the Hyundai, a 76-year-old man from Brunswick, died at the scene.

The three pedestrians, the driver and passenger of the Mazda CX-9 all aged in their 20s and 30s, were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Zain Khan, 26, was arrested at the scene.

He was charged with one count of murder, three counts of attempted murder, three counts of intentionally cause serious injury and two counts of conduct endangering life.

Police said the 26-year-old was known to them, including for a mental health transfer in 2020.

Gang activity

2023 was no different when it came to the activities of the underworld.

Several figures were allegedly murdered in brazen hits, including drug lord Alen Moradian in June, Marvin Oraiha in May and Taha Sabbagh in March.

Those carrying out the killings used the same methods, burning two getaway cars to destroy evidence and throw police off their trail.

And while some investigations remain open, police have made major arrests in other cases.

Tragically, innocent victims got caught in the crossfire.

In July, in a case of mistaken identity, 25-year-old Ahmed Al Azzam was killed, and two other people were injured in a shooting in Greenacre.

Ahmad Al-Azzam, 25, died days after he was shot while sitting in a parked car in Greenacre. Credit: Facebook/7NEWS

Besides murders, 2023 became the year we learned of some of the more gruesome tactics gangs use to get what they want.

Kidnappings tend to fly under the radar, usually going undetected by police and unnoticed by the public.

But in March, it emerged that a man who was allegedly kidnapped and held for random in a Sydney house for close to a week was tortured by his captors, having his teeth removed.

In separate ordeals, one man’s fingers were allegedly severed with garden shears and a 21-year-old woman allegedly had several of her fingers and toes amputated after allegedly being held and tortured.

Major drug busts have also occurred, with police intercepting significant amounts of drugs and dismantling local clandestine drug labs.

Most recently, officers discovered more than 700kg of cocaine worth an estimated $1 billion after responding to reports of a robbery at a Sydney apartment.

Atlantis Beach Baptist College shooting

A 15-year-old WA school student fired gunshots at a classroom, sparking fears of a US-style school shooting, in May after telling a friend he was going “shoot up the school”.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested after taking two rifles to the Atlantis Beach Baptist College in Two Rocks, about 70km north of Perth’s CBD.

The 15-year-old fired three rounds from a parked car and two bullets hit buildings, one of them a demountable classroom, as a teacher and students scrambled for cover and the school went into lockdown before heavily armed police took him into custody.

The boy pleaded guilty to eight charges, including two counts of unlawfully acting with intent to harm, in early December.

He also admitted three counts of possessing a firearm without a licence, discharging a firearm to cause danger or fear, possessing a prohibited weapon and driving without a licence.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.

Advice and counselling for men concerned about their use of family violence: Men’s Referral Service, 1300 766 491.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

– With 7NEWS.com.au staff and AAP

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