Thursday September 27 2012
– Life can turn on a split-second decision.
When Jill Meagher wanted to disengage from the mystery man who engaged her in conversation at 1:41am on Saturday, she called her brother, Michael, in Perth, where it was still relatively early.
She did not call her husband, Thomas, presumably because it was so late and she did not want to bother him when she was so close to home.
The kindly, cheerful Irishwoman had already waved off an offer from colleague Tom Wright to escort her home.
She seemed determined to get herself the rest of the way – almost certainly by walking west down Hope Street.
At least that’s the way it now looks to investigators, who yesterday released security footage of a man in a blue “hoodie” going out of his way to talk to the young woman wearing high heels and carrying a handbag.
After routine forensic tests of the couple’s apartment produced little to contradict statements by Thomas, the man in the blue top now seems to have the Homicide Squad’s undivided attention.
Watching the footage supplied by a boutique in Sydney Road near Hope Street, investigators were struck by what a senior policeman calls the man’s body language.
First the man is seen walking north past the shop – purposefully, as if heading somewhere. At that point he has just overtaken Ms Meagher, who left Bar Etiquette – a block south – eight minutes earlier.
But almost a minute later, the man returns – towards where Ms Meagher is approaching still out of camera range. His head up, he is walking more slowly, as if trying to engage her attention.
While both are still out of shot, south of the shop, they apparently share an exchange that makes another passer-by turn his head. That witness is one of five passers-by police want to talk to.
Almost two minutes after the man in the hoodie’s first appearance, he passes the camera a third time – walking slowly just ahead of Ms Meagher.
He gesticulates as if making a point – or to convince her of something. When she stops walking and produces her mobile phone, he stops too, looking back at her.
He then moves out of sight. A few minutes later, Ms Meagher follows – and this is the moment that makes a watcher wince.
It looks as if she thinks she has got rid of a pest by stopping to make the call.
Telephone records show she speaks to her brother for about two minutes. She asks about their father’s ailing health. During their talk he hears a male voice (or voices) in the background.
Until police find the man in the blue top they will not know what happened next.
All they know is that Ms Meagher vanished, probably in the next few minutes. Certainly before dawn.
Senior investigators last night told the “Herald Sun” they don’t believe she reached the couple’s apartment in Lux Way, a five-minute walk from Sydney Road.
But any suggestion that there is security film to prove this is wrong. The Meagher’s apartment block does not have security cameras, according to their neighbours and local estate agents.
Had there been footage from the apartment block – as suggested by a reporter yesterday – it would immediately have shown whether Ms Meagher had reached home. If she had, abduction or assault by a stranger would have been ruled out instantly.
Instead, her husband and her family have had to endure the unspeakable torment of not knowing what happened after 1:43am on Saturday. As the hours have turned into days, they have hoped for the best and feared the worst.
If the man in blue has nothing to hide, he should come forward and clear himself before police find him.
At least they have something to work with.
He did not have the hood over his head, even if the vision was partially obscured by shop fittings.
He appears to be of medium height and build, with short greying (possibly bleached) hair. He was wearing a darker shirt underneath the hoodie, blue jeans and white runners.
That Ms Meagher was carrying a handbag seems to fit the original fears she was attacked near a dimly lit lane where the bag was found on Monday morning, well after an earlier police search.
No one knows if the police missed it the first time – or if the attacker later planted it in the lane. Either way, it doesn’t matter much.
Only one thing does, now. To find the man in the hoodie.
But who knows what twist another day will bring? – Andrew Rule


About Jumpin' Jack Cash
This entry was posted in Homicide, Rape and Sexual Assault, Serial Rapists and Sex Offenders, Strangulation and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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