In a dreadful murder committed on 6 November 1997 at Niddrie, a northwest suburb of Melbourne, 34-year-old Jane Thurgood-Dove was gunned down in her driveway in front of her three young children. The killer escaped in a getaway car that had parked behind Jane’s vehicle, driven by another man.
The brutal and entirely callous execution-style murder shocked Australia and police launched a massive investigation.
For the case file: Five things learned
1. The ABC of Homicide
In many cases involving the murder of a woman, her partner is an automatic suspect. The statistics behind this line of thought are overwhelming: 98% of homicides are committed by someone known to the victim. That statistic alone put Jane’s husband Mark firmly on the list of suspects.
This suspicion was backed up when Ron Iddles was contacted by Des “Tuppence” Moran – a well-known Melbourne criminal – who claimed that he knew Jane’s husband Mark had organised the murder.
However there was another strong possibility – a policeman who knew Jane and was said to be infatuated with her. Were they having an affair? There was also a large amount of circumstantial information that pointed to this policeman as a prime suspect.
With two prominent persons of interest in the cross hairs of the investigation Ron Iddles went in deeper. But it would take time – years in fact – to sort out the tangled web of information.
After eighteen months of investigation there was no conclusive evidence, one way or the other.
“The ABC of Homicide: Assume nothing, believe nothing, check everything.” – Ron Iddles
2. A Polygraph Test is Useful
A watershed moment came more than two years after the murder. At the request of Ron Iddles, the two main persons of interest – Mark Thurgood-Dove and the suspect police officer took polygraphs, or lie-detector tests.
Mark passed this test but the police officer failed – thereby becoming the main suspect. But to Ron Iddles, despite all the circumstantial evidence – it still didn’t make sense. Eventually the officer was cleared, but it had taken several years of investigation to get to this point.
And Ron Iddles was back to where he began – all the leads had evaporated.
“After years of investigation, two prime suspects eliminated – we’re back to square one. For me personally it’s devastating.” – Ron Iddles after the police officer is cleared.
3. Rewards Can Work
A turning point in the case came in 2003 when the Victorian Government offered a million dollar reward for relevant information. This development was the result of strong lobbying by John Magill, the father of Jane Thurgood – Dove.
The police soon received a “tip” that utterly changed the entire profile of the investigation. They were told that the murder was a “hit” committed by contract killers and in another bizarre twist an informant told Ron that the killer had taken out the wrong victim.
“I’ve got to tell you – this is a case of mistaken identity. They’ve shot the wrong woman. I’ll tell you who the killer is but he’s dead. His name’s Steven Mordy.” – the Informant talking to Ron Iddles
4. Sometimes the Murderer Kills the Wrong Person
Investigating this development, Ron Iddles came to the conclusion that the killing may have been a targeted operation gone wrong – that Jane Thurgood-Dove was not the intended victim.
He identified two men he thought were involved. Stephen Mordy, a former member of an outlaw motorcycle club, and Jamie Reynolds, an associate of Mordy who may have assisted him at the time.
Mordy had died in 2000 of a suspected heart attack. Iddles came close to arresting Reynolds but could not shut the case down due to a lack of manpower at the time.
“Had I got the resources, there’s no doubt that I would have done a considerable amount of work on Reynolds” – Detective Ron Iddles
Then the investigating team were devastated to discover Reynolds had also died – in a boating accident in 2004.
5. The Police Don’t Give Up
The chances of solving the crime were severely set back by the deaths of the two prime suspects.
But the police have not given up. The investigations continues, concentrating on the third man in the operation – the driver of the getaway car who has still not been identified.
Ron Iddles is confident that the murderer has been named – Stephen Mordy – but there is unfinished business to complete. The file remains open.
Unsolved homicide cases are never closed.