Melbourne police search Meagher flat twice

Wed, Sep 26, 2012, 01:00

POLICE IN Melbourne investigating the disappearance of Irish woman Jill Meagher yesterday twice searched the apartment she shares with her husband.

Ms Meagher (29), from Drogheda, Co Louth, has been missing since the early on Saturday morning after a night out with work colleagues at a bar close to her home in the suburb of Brunswick.

Forensic police and homicide detectives spent almost three hours at the flat of Ms Meagher and her husband Tom before emerging with six large sealed brown paper bags. Officers of the homicide squad then returned to the apartment several hours later.

Police say the search is a routine part of the investigation.

The police earlier said they were investigating whether Ms Meagher’s handbag, which was found by a passerby on Monday morning, was planted by someone involved in her disappearance.

The bag was discovered in an alley close to where she was last seen, but Det Insp John Potter said police had already searched the area. “There’s two options – either police in the original search missed the bag or the bag has since been placed at that laneway after the police searched it originally,” he said.

Det Insp Potter said the police were in regular contact with Ms Meagher’s family.

“We are attempting to keep them up to date as best we can,” he said. “We can’t speculate at this stage; we don’t know what’s happened to Jillian so we have to be thorough.”

The police have identified Ms Meagher on CCTV footage which shows her walking on Sydney Road, close to where her handbag was found on a lane off Hope Street, at 1.41am on Saturday morning.

Investigators fear Ms Meagher may have met with foul play as her mobile phone is switched off and her bank account has not been used since she went missing. Her phone was not found with her handbag.

The police are also focusing on several reports of past assaults and attempted kidnappings of women in the Brunswick area. One woman said on the Help Us Find Jill Meagher Facebook page that she was grabbed by a man who tried to abduct her.

In another Facebook post, a woman said a relative was walking home late one night earlier this year when she “had someone try to pull her into a car” about four blocks away from Hope Street.

More than 60 people have contacted the police with information.

Det Insp Potter said police are looking into whether there are “any links with previous assaults in the area”.

Some of the attacks mentioned on the Facebook page have not been reported to police, and he encouraged those victims to make formal reports.

“There has been quite a lot of dialogue, if you like, on the Facebook page set up to find Jillian and, in particular, women have been reporting possible or attempted or actual assaults in the area, so we will be looking at that as well,” he said.

ABC Radio, which is where Ms Meagher works, yesterday interviewed the state of Victoria’s police chief commissioner Ken Lay, who rejected suggestions the investigation was too slow initially.

“I’m more than satisfied that our members treated it seriously; there was a good response on the Saturday and there was a good response on the Sunday and we’ve put the resources to try and resolve this. This is a difficult, difficult case,” he said.

Mr Lay admitted that police sometimes withheld information, “to try to understand whether in fact the person is missing by choice or missing by misadventure”, but he was not sure that was the case in this investigation.