Death on a Summer Night – The Murder of Anita Cobby

Death on a Summer Night – The Murder of Anita Cobby

The 2nd February 1986 had been a very hot day. The temperature in Western Sydney had risen to 39.7C and very warm temperatures persisted well into the evening as nurse Anita Cobby returned towards her home via train from Central Station.

She left the train at Blacktown Railway station and began walking down Newton Road towards her house. The time was close to 10 pm.

Suddenly a Holden car pulled up beside her and two men leapt out, grabbing her and forcing her inside. Three other men were inside the car, and four of these began to beat her repeatedly and forced her to commit sexual acts as they drove down the road. They all ignored her appeals for mercy and continued to brutally assault her.

The car finally arrived at a remote paddock in Prospect, a suburb in Western Sydney where she was dragged from the car, through a barbed wire fence and repeatedly raped by all five men. She was then stabbed and had her throat cut, dying some time around 11 pm.

A massive police investigation soon led to the arrest of the five men – John Travers, Michael Murdoch and the three brothers, Les, Gary and Michael Murphy. As soon as details of the atrocities committed against the defenceless Anita Cobby were made public, there was unprecedented public outrage, with widespread calls for the re-introduction of the death penalty. There was particular anger directed against John Travers when it was revealed that he was the one that had cut Anita Cobby’s throat.

All the accused were found guilty of sexual assault and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, never to be released. The presiding Judge, Justice Alan Maxwell described the crime as “One of the most horrifying physical and sexual assaults. This was a calculated killing done in cold blood. The Executive should grant the same degree of mercy they bestowed on their victim.”

Further public anger was generated when it was revealed that all five murderers had extensive criminal records, including charges of assault, rape, armed robbery, car theft and drug use.