THE last thing a workman expected to find while cutting a section of the Newman Nullagine Road in Western Australia was a human skull and the personal belongings of a murdered man.
The road grader operator noticed the skull two metres off the road, about 64km north of Newman, at 4.30pm on Saturday, February 27, 1988.
He stopped the grader and upon closer inspection found a shallow grave containing more human bones, as well as a pocket knife and sharpening stone, Toyota ignition key, fob watch holder, a comb, sunglasses, two belts, a black felt hat, and Australian money.
The victim, estimated to be 30 to 40 years old at the time of his death, appeared to be wearing a maroon T-shirt, underwear, shorts and “Grosby” brown suede elastic side boots.
He was about 175cm tall, with a moderate build and light brown hair.
“The fact the deceased was located in a shallow grave and the grave had apparently been concealed leads investigators to believe this person was a victim of homicide,” WA Police told news.com.au.
To this day, the murder victim or his killer(s) have not been identified.
But it’s not an isolated case.
A special news.com.au investigation has revealed that the remains of at least 20 people suspected to have been murdered have been located throughout Australia over several decades but never identified.
They include the remains of newborn babies, infants, women and men, found in every state and territory except Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, according to police.




WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Western Australia is home to the highest rate of unsolved suspected murders involving unidentified victims with more than eight unsolved cases.
Among them, is the baffling case of a man shot in the chest and found dead just 35m from the entrance track to Chidlow Rifle Range on August 27, 1978.
The body was located in bushland near Chidlow water catchment area adjacent to the Great Eastern Highway.
It is not certain if the victim was killed where he was found or if it was purely a disposal site. WA Police told news.com.au “some indicators at the scene suggest the victim may have been dragged there”.
“The victim was found in a state of advanced decomposition and partially buried in bushland,” police said.
His height was between 171cm and 178cm and he was aged 35 to 45 years. He was wearing red socks, bone coloured ‘Yakka’ brand jeans with brown beading on the pockets, multicoloured ‘Jockette’ underpants, a brown belt with silver buckle, a grey cardigan with green/grey and off-white stripes, a grey/blue roll neck jumper, and a yellow long-sleeved ‘Nile’ brand skivvy.
A pair of “Palermo” brown leather slip on shoes and a “Malabones” pig skin money belt were found close to the body.
The victim and killer(s) have never been identified.

On Friday, October 6, 1972, the remains of a man wearing shorts were located in a tidal creek, known as Pretty Pool, near Port Hedland, WA. It was estimated he had been there for several months. He was never identified.
The skeletal remains of a woman aged 20-40 years were found inside a burnt out tree trunk at Fitzroy Crossing, about 50 years after she was murdered, according to police.
The discovery was made on January 20, 1996. Police told news.com.au “the remains had been there for at least 50 years, indicating (the woman) died in the 1940s or earlier.
This victim was never identified.
In a separate incident, ‘Baby Rijul’ was found dead in a toilet bowl at the Kambalda Caravan Park on Wednesday, July 12, 1995. WA Police said it appeared the baby boy was born in the cubicle on July 11, 1995 and murdered shortly after.
Despite an extensive investigation including media appeals, as well as large scale screening of females in the Kambalda area, neither the infant nor the mother were identified.


NEW SOUTH WALES
In New South Wales, there are six unsolved cases of unidentified human remains as the result of suspected murder.
The most recent cases include the gruesome discovery of male body parts found at Paddy’s River Marulan on February 20, 1997 and in Salt Pan Creek, Padstow, March 31, 1997.
The 1970s saw the discovery of a boy’s remains in Redfern (May 15, 1973), a female body in the Royal National Park (November 29, 1973), an infant girl at Bass Hill (November 24, 1974) and skeletal remains at Blackheath (May 6, 1978). A NSW Police spokeswoman said she was unable to provide any further details.


SOUTH AUSTRALIA
According to South Australia Police, “the number of recorded unidentified human remains from within our jurisdiction is four” but the cases have not been officially classified as murders due to a lack of evidence.
“(The cases include) a man whose remains were found inside a shipping container from overseas; a baby found deceased; and a probable suicide of a man in the Adelaide Hills,” a spokesman for SA Police told news.com.au.
One of the state’s most prominent cases includes that of The Somerton Man, aka Tamám Shud.
The mystery first came to attention at 6.45am on December 1, 1948, when two jockeys found the body of a man slumped against a sea wall on Somerton Beach in Adelaide.
Despite the warm weather, he was dressed in an expensive suit and tie but the labels were removed from his clothes. A half-smoked cigarette rested on his shirt collar. There were no signs of violence to his body, no signs of a struggle. The sand around him was dry and undisturbed.
The pathologist was unable to establish a cause of death. He suspected the man had been poisoned but found no trace of poison in his system.
It’s one of the most baffling cold cases in modern history and, such is its power, people from all over the world have devoted huge chunks of their lives trying to solve it. They include academics, police officers, former intelligence agents and ordinary Joes who found themselves intrigued, then obsessed by this enduring mystery.





QUEENSLAND
In Queensland, the body of a man believed to be murdered was found at Poonah Dam, Nambour, on September 9, 2008.
Despite the man’s distinctive tattoos — a shark, an eagle, Indian squaw and a warrior, on his upper arms — his identity remains a mystery.
He was described by Queensland Police as caucasian with a fair complexion, possibly 45 to 60 years of age, 102kg, 185cm tall and “had his own teeth”, brown eyes and “sandy/greying” hair.



Artists’ impression of the man who was found dead at Poonah Dam, Nambour, on September 9, 2008 and never identified.Source:Supplie d


NORTHERN TERRITORY
One of the Australia’s most shocking unsolved mysteries emerged when a baby, who had been strangled with a stocking and posted from Melbourne, was discovered in a mailbag at Darwin post office.
A Darwin post office worker noticed a “putrid smell” emitting from the bag and made the horrific discovery on May 3, 1965. The baby, its parents and killer(s) have never been identified.
TASMANIA and the AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory were the only jurisdictions in Australia to report zero cases of human remains suspected of being the result of murder that remained unidentified.
VICTORIA
Victoria Police did not respond to questions from news.com.au relating to human remains linked to unsolved suspected murders. Victoria Police referred the query after six days to the state Coroner’s Court, which is yet to provide a response.


THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS
There are hundreds more cases of people, believed to have died naturally or by other causes, whose remains have been found in Australia but not been identified, according to NSW Police.
Professor of Forensic Science at the University of Technology Sydney, Claude Roux said it was a common misconception that all human remains could be matched on a national database for identification purposes.
He said a national DNA database existed but that only a “very small minority of people including criminals with convictions” were registered.
It was often “the first port of call” for forensic investigators to cross check dental and medical records with human remains and the missing person they are suspected to have belonged to, he said. But investigators first needed to know who the victim was thought to be in order to compare the records with the remains.
“If the person is not reported missing or identified it makes the job of forensic investigators very difficult,” Prof Roux said. “Whereas if you have potential missing persons and other information, the police can go to the dentists who have treated the missing person, for example, and can match them together and answer ‘yes, it is them’.
“Without a suitable database or access to personal items of a missing person, DNA is not going to give you much information in routine.
“However, there is research out there trying to develop inference of facial features, hair and eye colour, etc from DNA (that) may assist such investigations in the future.”
Prof Roux said fingerprints and traces of DNA had expiry dates.
“Fingerprints are only usable for a short period of time as the body decomposes quickly,” he said. “Primary identifiers include fingerprints, DNA, and dental and medical information like if someone has a prosthethis.
“Some are very resistant but it’s very dependent on environmental factors including temperature, humidity, and soil. Sometimes all that’s left to check is dental records.
“But if you have nothing to compare the results with, a DNA test on its own isn’t going to tell you the (victim’s) name and address.”
THE TRUTH SOMETIMES PREVAILS
The brutal murders of Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter Khandalyce took years and months, respectively, to come to light.
Their remains were discovered years and hundreds of kilometres apart but it wasn’t until October this year the gruesome discoveries were linked to the 20-year-old mother and her little girl, 2.
The last known sighting of the victims was in November 2008 near Coober Pedy.
A missing person’s report was filed by Karlie’s mother but dropped just days later when she was reportedly informed her daughter and granddaughter were safe and living interstate.
Two years later Karlie’s bones were found in the NSW Belanglo State Forest but nobody, except the killer(s), realised they belonged to the young mother.
Another five years passed until the remains of ‘the little girl in the suitcase’ were found by the side of a South Australian highway in July this year.
Khandalyce had been unofficially missing for at least six years but it wasn’t until this month the remains in the suitcase were identified as hers. A public tip off led police to also identify Karlie’s remains — five years after they were discovered — and link the murders.


MISSING PERSONS
There are 1600 long-term missing persons in Australia who have been missing for more than six months, according to the Missing Persons Unit.
“The very definition of a missing person is where there are ‘concerns for the safety and welfare of a person’, and ‘their whereabouts is unknown’; but still, the common misconception, often reinforced by US television shows, is that you cannot report someone as missing until the clock clicks over the first 24 hours,” an AFP spokesman said.
“The vast majority of Australians believe they have to wait 24 hours to report a missing person. “This is not true — if you have fears for the safety and well being of someone, report to police immediately.
“While the majority of missing persons are found safe and well within a short period of time, there remain too many across Australia still missing.”


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