A week of agonised waiting in Melbourne
The days between Jill Meagher’s disappearance and the discovery of her body were tense and emotional for her family, friends and the Irish communityJILL MEAGHER’S DESK at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in Melbourne was neatly arranged earlier this week, with a row of folders for staff rosters, safety procedures and leave forms, a bowl of binder clips, and highlighters. An envelope marked “Jill” rested by the computer screen with taxi receipts waiting to be filed.
“Jill is our unit manager. She keeps the place running,” said John Faine, a well-known presenter on 774, ABC’s Melbourne radio station, as they waited for news. “It’s impossible to imagine that something bad may have happened,” he said, calling her a delightful colleague.
Even before Meagher’s body was discovered, on Thursday, and a man charged with her rape and murder, her absence had been weighing heavily on the ABC office.
One of its managers issued a statement: “Jill is a highly valued and much loved member of the local radio team . . . Our thoughts are with Jill’s family and friends during this very difficult time.”
Richelle Hunt, a reporter, said it was “one of the most difficult stories any of us at the ABC has ever had to cover”. On Monday morning, Hunt sat in a police station in Brunswick with Meagher’s husband, Thomas, and brother, Michael McKeon, who had flown in from Perth.
“Jill is this tiny, petite gorgeous thing with a pale complexion and big brown eyes and long, dark curly hair . . . and possibly one of the finest shoe collections I’ve ever seen,” she had told listeners with a nervous laugh. “Everyone at the ABC is absolutely distraught.”
On the night she disappeared, Meagher had been socialising at the Brunswick Green and Bar Etiquette, on a stretch of Sydney Road in the city known for its lively nightlife and trendy bars.
She left at about 1.30am, turning down a colleague’s offer to accompany her on the short walk home. She assured him that she knew the area well and, as her husband repeated throughout the week, “she had walked home that way hundreds of times”. The last confirmed sighting of her was 10 minutes later.
“It’s messed up. Just messed up,” says Aaron Murphy, an Irish electrician working in the area. “This part of town is good craic, and we all go out here. You just wouldn’t think something like this could happen.”
Murphy recalls meeting Meagher at a party, and he had a few drinks with her husband once. “She was a lovely girl, and he seemed like a decent lad too.”
Gary McCruddin, another electrician from Ireland, says Meagher’s disappearance played on everyone’s minds. “The Irish community here is very close, and straight away when we heard [about her disappearance] we were ringing each other. I just thought, that could have been my girlfriend.”
CCTV footage from the Duchess Boutique, a few hundred metres north of Bar Etiquette, captured the last confirmed sighting of Meagher, at about 1.41am. It showed her talking to a man wearing a blue hooded top as she walked along Sydney Road. At 1.43am she made a two-minute call to her brother in Perth, concerned about their father’s health.