On 18 July 1985, 42-year-old greengrocer Dominic Marafiote disappeared from Mildura and soon after, his parents Carmelo and Rosa Marafiote were found murdered in their Adelaide residence. Both had been shot in the back of the head in an apparent execution-style murder.
This double homicide was only the beginning of one of the most challenging cases in Ron Iddles’ illustrious career as a detective.
For the case file: Five things learned
1. Early Theories are Sometimes Wrong
An early police theory centred on Dominic, after his truck was found by the side of the road with no signs of foul play. They considered the possibility that for some unknown reason he could have murdered his parents and then staged his own disappearance.
A Mafia connection was also considered – shots to the back of the head were supposedly a Mafia trademark.
“So, the question is – is this an execution?” – Ron Iddles commenting on the early investigation.
However these theories led to a dead-end and little progress was made for another two years. Ron Iddles was then moved onto the case.
2. It Costs Nothing to Listen
In August 1987, a breakthrough came when Billy Lees, a small-time criminal, approached Ron Iddles with an amazing story. He claimed that an acquaintance, Sandy MacRae, had confessed to the killing of all three Marafiotes over a drug deal.
Lees was not widely regarded as a reliable witness, but Ron Iddles’ tried and true mantra in such cases was simple – “It costs nothing to listen”. Lees also provided some information that was not divulged in the media, adding considerable credibility to his story.
“People hold secrets, people have knowledge and depending on the circumstances is to whether they ultimately come forward and tell you.” – Ron Iddles after his interview with Billy Lees.
3. Sometimes You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover
MacRae was well known to the police as a particularly dangerous and violent offender, capable of high-end criminality, and this added further weight to Lees’ story.
On December 9th 1987, police decided to arrest MacRae at his rural property, but were well aware of the dangers. Not long after dawn, they knocked on his door, ready for a confrontation.
“My first impression is that he was a creep. He showed no emotion. He had these piercing eyes that stared straight through you. He just looked evil.” – Ron Iddles after MacRae opened the door and saw the police.
4. Respect and Trust Can Produce Results
Sandy MacRae and his partner Judith Ip were brought in for questioning and Ron Iddles then showed his true mastery of the interrogation process. In a one-on-one interview with Judith, he was careful to build up trust with her, creating mutual respect and gaining her confidence.
She responded with truly explosive evidence. She confessed to having seen MacRae shoot Dominic Marafiote and his two parents, all over a drug deal gone wrong. She also told Iddles where Dominic Marafiote was buried, a claim verified soon after when his body was discovered underneath the chook shed on MacRae’s property.
“An interview is a conversation, it’s not a race, it’s a journey.” – Ron Iddles.
5. A Partner’s Evidence can be Vital
MacRae was charged with murder and remanded in custody – but escaped from Pentridge Prison some 6 months later. Iddles considered MacRae to be one of the most dangerous men he had ever encountered and was greatly relieved when he was recaptured soon after.
Both MacRae and Ip went on trial in 1989 with Ip agreeing to testify for the police. A partner’s evidence can be vital in securing a conviction, and it was in this case.
MacRae was charged with a fourth murder when another body was discovered on his property in 1990, and he was eventually sentenced to life in prison.
“Sandy MacRae was convicted of the four murders, and was given a life sentence. He’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars.” – Det. Sgt. Brendon Murphy, following the conviction.