Seven grisly murders in Ipswich from the last century

IPSWICH is no stranger to murder and skulduggery, but in the 20th and 21st century it's hard to imagine such gut-wrenching brutality carries on.

From bodies in freezers, toddler corpses on roofs, disappearing women and teens in shallow graves, read about it here.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

1. SPRINGFIELD: WOMAN STRANGLED ON QUIET STREET, DISMEMBERED

SHD News Photographs of Violet (Linjin) Ciu, the woman who was found chopped up in seven pieces and whose husband has been charged with her murder, after he was found trying to stuff the pieces of her body into a cement wall in his house.
SHD News Photographs of Violet (Linjin) Ciu, the woman who was found chopped up in seven pieces and whose husband has been charged with her murder, after he was found trying to stuff the pieces of her body into a cement wall in his house.

KNOWN to neighbours as Violet, 32-year-old Linjin Cui's butchered body was discovered by police in August 2009, after she had been reported missing by family in China.

Ms Cui was strangled by her ex-husband, 43-year-old noodle chef Jiagen Pan. After divorcing Pan, Ms Cui became engaged to an old school friend, Zheng Hongyu, back in her native China.

The couple had been fighting for a long time over an alleged $20,000 gambling debt, before Pan killed his ex-wife.

During a fight, Pan become enraged and strangled her, before attempting to dismember her body, moving her from their Springfield home to Woodridge, where it is believed he intended to entomb her in a wall.

After Pan's arrest, detectives obtained CCTV footage of him buying a saw, as well as cement and a trowel, at a Bunnings hardware store.

He told the Brisbane Supreme Court in 2011 he had "felt like a volcano", taunted with insults that he was "sexually incompetent" by his ex-wife moments before he killed her.

"I was really angry about it, I felt like all my blood went into my brain," he said.

"She kept on saying I'm useless, I'm sexually incompetent."

The judge described the attack as "sustained and gruesome" and sentenced Pan to 12 years for the manslaughter and 18 months for interfering with a corpse.

Neighbours at the time were frightened how such a crime could happen in their backyard and described Violet as a hard-working woman who used to give a friendly wave as she left each morning.

"She was a lovely girl but also very quiet - we never saw her much," one neighbour told the Queensland Times back in 2009.

"We are all bloody shocked - the poor thing," another added.

"This is a quiet, friendly neighbourhood. It's scary. You see this sort of thing on the TV but not in your own street."

Original reporting by Andrew Korner and Felicity Caldwell for the Queensland Times and the Brisbane Times.

 

2. RIPLEY: STRANGLED WITH AN EXTENSION CORD, BODY DUMPED IN A SHALLOW GRAVE

July 9, 2005: 29-year-old Jolene Mills was strangled to death by her husband Garry John Mills in Ipswich, Queensland.
July 9, 2005: 29-year-old Jolene Mills was strangled to death by her husband Garry John Mills in Ipswich, Queensland.

TEN years was the head sentence for Garry John Mills, 33, after he strangled and buried his 29-year-old wife.

Brisbane Supreme Court was told Mills most likely suffocated his wife, and childhood sweetheart, Joelene Ruby Mills or strangled her using an electrical extension cord during a violent brawl in their Ripley home in July 10, 2005.

Mills then removed Ms Mills's clothing, wrapped her body in garbage bags and dumped her in a shallow grave in a secluded area of bushland about 15km from their family home.

Mills then returned home and hid her possessions, including a mobile phone, handbag and her pyjamas, along with bed linen, his pyjamas and the extension cord in a manhole above the garage, before telephoning her friends to ask if they knew where his wife was.

During the entire episode the couple's two young children were sleeping in the next room.

The court was told that although police had already found some incriminating evidence against him stuffed in the manhole, they asked Mills to make an impassioned public plea for the safe return of his wife shortly after her disappearance.

During that media appearance, played to the court, Mills said his wife was "full of life" and "not a frightened person".

The following day police approached Mills with the evidence and he confessed to killing his wife.

He told investigators that after his wife returned home from visiting a friend at a nightclub the pair began to exchange insults and both admitted to sexual encounters with others and that the marriage was over.

Mills told police that the two then began to pull each other's hair with Ms Mills grabbing the extension cord and trying to put it around his neck.

Mills said he then "went into meltdown" and wrapped the cord around his wife's throat and neck to apply pressure and told police that he could see her face "going redder and redder, her eyes were blood shot and she was gasping for air."

He released his grip on the cord and stopped pulling as they fell on the bed and as his wife began to struggle he squeezed her face as hard as he could with his left hand.

They then fell to the floor and Mills sat on his wife's back and continued to strangle her until she went limp.

However he then refused to speak to investigators for many months before succumbing to his "Christian values"' by providing a map to a prison guard of the area where he dumped Ms Mills body.

The following morning police discovered her remains stuffed in a garbage bag.

Mills later told police that he believed his wife was having "an early mid-life crisis" and was having at least one extra-marital affair.

Mills also revealed that she had rented a house and intended to move out of the Ripley residence before he convinced her to try to repair their marriage.

Mills was convicted of manslaughter and originally sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The sentence was so light because he claimed Jolene provoked him. He only served five years and was released from jail in 2008. Mills moved back into the family home and regained custody of their children.

He still lives in the Ipswich area. Queensland drastically changed its provocation laws in the wake of Jolene's murder.

Original reporting by Jason Gregory at the Courier Mail.

 

3. GOODNA: BODY IN FREEZER MURDER

Accused murderer Bobby Andrew Weaver enters the Ipswich watch house. Picture: Cordell Richardson.
Accused murderer Bobby Andrew Weaver enters the Ipswich watch house. Picture: Cordell Richardson. Cordell Richardson

*Bobby Andrew Weaver's trial is ongoing, for legal reasons, the QT is unable to report some information.

TEACHER and car enthusiast, David Charles Thornton, 58, was unearthed from his own backyard, dismembered and stuffed in a freezer.

As of March 30, 2019 Mr Thornton had been missing for several weeks, with police making several calls to his Goodna home before arresting a young Peak Crossing father and volunteer firefighter, Bobby Andrew Weaver, 24.

Weaver was extradited from NSW, where he was holidaying in Byron Bay and formally charged with the murder of Mr Thornton between January 24 and March 30.

Mid-March neighbours reported someone on Mr Thornton's property burying two fridges with an excavator. That prompted a major forensic dig by detectives, which uncovered the items.

A rotting odour could be smelt in the street as officers worked to determine what was contained inside the fridges.

They were bound tightly shut with coils of rope and flies could be seen gathering over the whitegoods.

Neighbours said Mr Thornton was a car enthusiast and had been working on several big ticket machines such as a LandCruiser and a Mustang.

Weaver, a family friend of Mr Thornton's and also a car enthusiast, was additionally charged with inappropriately interfering with a corpse.

Investigations continued at Mr Thornton's property with police divers searching a creek not far from the spot where two freezers were unearthed.

Police and SES also searched another property at Peak Crossing believed to be related to Mr Weaver, diving creeks and walking paddocks searching for what the QT understands to be the murder weapon.

Mid-April Weaver's case was adjourned until August 2019, with defence lawyers citing it a "very complex case".

Prosecutors are now awaiting toxicology and Facebook analysis before his trial can continue. Weaver is remanded in custody.

Original reporting by Ross Irby, Navarone Farrell and Andrew Korner for the Queensland Times.

 

4. EASTERN HEIGHTS: TEEN STRANGLED, HIT WITH POOL CUE, STABBED WITH MACHETE

 

Shaune Lewis Gibson was murdered in Auguest, 2012 at a house in Eastern Heights.

He body was located a month later in a shallow grave in the Lockyer Valley.



Picture: 

Suppled.
Shaune Lewis Gibson was murdered in Auguest, 2012 at a house in Eastern Heights. He body was located a month later in a shallow grave in the Lockyer Valley. Picture: Suppled.

SHAUNE LEWIS Gibson was lured into a house, thinking he would reunite with a former girlfriend, when he was strangled to death with wire.

While naked in the shower Mr Giboson was struck twice over the head with a pool cue before he was hog-tied, bashed, stabbed in the lungs so he could not scream and strangled with a piece of wire.

But the horror - which resulted in two life sentences for murder - did not stop there.

Mr Gibson's lifeless body was then wrapped in a tarp, dumped into a car and taken to be buried in a grave on a Churchable country road.

The horror which unfolded that night in August 2012 was detailed in Brisbane Supreme Court.

Warrick David Lindenberg, 29, stabbed Mr Gibson's body in the back twice to make sure he was dead, and then buried him.

Lindenberg and Valerie Jeanette Mullins, 47, must serve a minimum 15 years behind bars for Mr Gibson's murder and for interfering with his body.

Five days later, they returned to the gravesite to make sure he was still there, digging until they could see his lifeless arm.

They then stopped at McDonald's at Gatton on the way home, the court heard.

Justice Boddice said that night he was murdered would have been a "truly frightening" experience for Mr Gibson.

"He was not only assaulted in the bathroom but he was then tied using wire, taken to the bedroom, assaulted again and questioned before being strangled, which would be a horrible death for anybody," he said.

"This was all part, I am satisfied, of a plan both of you had reached."

Justice Boddice said the pair showed no regard for Mr Gibson's dignity.

Last week a jury found Mullins, also known as Chambers, guilty of Mr Gibson's murder.

She had pleaded guilty to manslaughter but would not accept she intended to cause harm.

Lindenberg pleaded guilty to murder.

The court heard Lindenberg eventually confessed his crimes to police but initially tried to convince them bikies were to blame for Mr Gibson's disappearance.

A girl, who was 16 years old at the time and cannot be named for legal reasons, was also sentenced for her involvement in Mr Gibson's murder.

Original Reporting by Pamela Frost for the Queensland Times and Adam Davies for the Courier Mail.

 

5. IPSWICH: TODDLER BEATEN TO DEATH, DUMPED ON TOILET BLOCK ROOF

 

ashes27: Deidre Kennedy who was kidnapped and murdered in sickening circumstances in Ipswich in 1973 at the age of just 17 months.

Photo: Supplied
ashes27: Deidre Kennedy who was kidnapped and murdered in sickening circumstances in Ipswich in 1973 at the age of just 17 months. Photo: Supplied

JUST 17-months old, Deidre was snatched from her bed in Ipswich in 1973. Her body was found on the roof of a toilet block just hours after she was reported missing. She had been assaulted, beaten and murdered.

Deidre Maree Kennedy was born on November 22, 1971, the second and much-loved daughter of Barry and Faye Kennedy. She was just 17 months old when she was taken from her cot on April 13, 1973.

Her body was discovered the following morning, only 500m from her family home on the roof of the toilet block in Limestone Park by trotting trainer Westy Mills, who had been exercising his horse through the park.

During the post-mortem bite marks and bruises were noted on the baby's legs and it was these marks which led police to charge Raymond John Carroll of the murder.

Carroll, a former RAAF recruit who was investigated for breaking into women's quarters at Amberley, stealing underwear and a photo of an RAAF member which had been defaced with the holes cut out of the bras and the crotch of the underwear.

Police took hair samples and a cast of Carroll's teeth, and when the odontological evidence matched the marks with Carroll's teeth he was charged with murder.

It took police months of investigation to reach this point and finally in 1985, Carroll was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to life imprisonment, but the conviction was quashed on appeal.

Because of double jeopardy laws, Carroll could not be retried on the murder charge.

In a bold move, prosecutors decided to try Carroll for perjury, alleging he had lied in the murder trial when he said he had not killed Deidre.

On November 2, 2002, a Supreme Court jury found Carroll guilty of perjury. Less than one year later, the conviction was again quashed on appeal.

It was the case that stole the innocence of a community and was a catalyst for people to start locking their doors. A man faced two trials over 17 years, one for murder and another for perjury.

To top it off, Deidre's ashes were stolen from Ms Kennedy in 2010.

Original reporting by Renee Viellaris for the Courier Mail.

 

6. WILSTON, BRISBANE: IPSWICH DOCTOR AND HISTORIAN INVOLVED IN BAFFLING HISTORIC MURDER

 

How the QT reported in its page 1 lead the nationwide hunt for the killer of Betty Shanks.
Photo Contributed
How the QT reported in its page 1 lead the nationwide hunt for the killer of Betty Shanks. Photo Contributed Contributed

ONE of Australia's most shocking and baffling murder mysteries was set to be solved by an Ipswich historian Lyle Reed in his book The Thomas St Affair.

The brutal murder of 22-year-old Betty Shanks on September 19, 1952 at Wilston stunned a nation due to the horrific nature of her injuries, and ever since has been the source of books and much conjecture because the crime has never been solved.

Ms Shanks got off a tram at The Grange terminus at 9.32pm on that fateful September, 1952 evening and was walking home to Montepelier St, but she never made it.

Reed believed that a police officer struck 22-year-old Ms Shanks while riding the motorcycle, threw her badly injured body over a nearby fence and then returned to kill her an hour later.

The next morning at 5:39am an off-duty policeman, Alex Stewart, discovered her battered body in the front garden of his neighbour's house on the corner of Thomas and Carberry St.

Ms Shanks, a University of Queensland graduate and Commonwealth public servant with the Department of Interior, was returning home from a lecture on the night of her murder.

In the manuscript Reed identifies two witness statements that he deems critical to his version of the murder, although they are by no means the only ones.

He writes that a woman who tendered a statement to investigating police at 10am on the morning after the murder stated how she had set her watch at 9.35pm and then heard "two very loud cries" and then the sound of a vehicle going up the street.

 

Betty Shanks.
Photo Contributed
Betty Shanks. Photo Contributed Contributed

There was an inquest the following year and some people reported muffled screams followed by the sound of a motorbike.

The Sunday Truth of February 15, 1953 reported on the evidence at the inquest presented by ex-Sheffield Shield cricketer Jimmy Coats, who had just listened to a boxing bout on 4BK radio station.

The newspaper said that the main bout finished at 10.30pm and that Coats "retired about 10 minutes later and almost immediately heard a slight moan".

"It was sufficient to make him inquisitive, and he got up," the report continued.

"Just then a motorcycle passed by.

"Coats waited until it had gone, to see if he could hear anything more, but there was nothing.

"He looked through the window, but saw nothing."

Reed refers to Coats evidence in his manuscript and how it ties in with a key aspect of his theory on the murder.

He writes that "Betty was almost across the Carberry St intersection, only a metre from stepping onto the footpath", when she screamed as an oncoming motorcycle bore down on her.

"Betty was struck with such force she was thrown heavily upon the grassy area beside the asphalt footpath, landing on both knees beside the Bauhinia trees and rendered into an immediate unconscious state," he says.

Reed states the motorcyclist then "dragged Betty to the cover of the Bauhinia trees, picked up Betty's limp and bleeding body and callously threw her over the nearby fence of the Hills' residence".

He asserts that an hour later, around 10.40pm, which ties in with Coats' evidence, the panicked motorcyclist returned to make sure she was dead.

He tampered with her clothing to make the crime appear to be sexual in nature and was then startled when she let out a loud moan.

"He instantly placed both of his enormous hands around Betty's throat and proceeded to strangle the remaining life from Betty's battered body," Reed writes.

Reed is adamant that the culprit deliberately ran Betty down and came back later to complete the horrific crime.

"Excluding the eventual cause of Betty's death by forced strangulation, I have no doubt whatsoever that Betty's facial injuries were not inflicted by the hands or feet of a human being," Reed states.

"Betty's injuries were inflicted by a vehicle travelling at a moderate speed, such as a large motorcycle. During my long hours of research I discovered certain abnormalities of Betty's horrific facial injuries.

"They were definitely not inflicted by a human fist or a heavy boot, especially the most prominent laceration inflicted on Betty's right mandible.

"The specific injury was definitely inflicted by a sharp tapered metal object which penetrated and fractured Betty's mandible.

"This horrific gaping wound was not caused by a large knife or a blunt instrument.

"The gaping wound to Betty's mandible was inflicted by an elongated tapered metal object that measured approximately three or four inches long.

"The point of the metal object pierced her jaw fracturing her mandible in two separate places, then dislodged her molar and badly lacerated her tongue and palate."

Reed asserts that the motivation for the murderer was jealousy, after he was rebuffed when Ms Shanks discovered he was married. He put forward the theory that her injuries were caused possibly by a brake or clutch lever attached to the handle bars of a motorcycle.

"That has gone straight through her mandible because there is no bruising around that laceration," he told the QT.

"If that was a punch a haematoma would have developed instantly.

"She was still alive when she was thrown over the fence.

"I have shown the photos of Betty's injuries to a doctor and he determined they were caused by either a motorbike or a vehicle."

There is a Police Minister-approved reward of $50,000 for information which leads to the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the murder, the oldest reward on offer in Queensland.

 

Feature about the 60th anniversary of the unsolved murder of Betty Shanks. Ipswich doctor Donald Carter. Photo: Contributed CONDITIONS OF USE UNKNOWN / FEES MAY APPLY
Feature about the 60th anniversary of the unsolved murder of Betty Shanks. Ipswich doctor Donald Carter. Photo: Contributed CONDITIONS OF USE UNKNOWN / FEES MAY APPLY Contributed

Over the years several suspects emerged, including "the moon-faced man", "the man at the terminus", "the bloodstained man", "the Ipswich doctor" and "the man in the brown suit".

Original reporting by Joel Gould for the Queensland Times.

 

7. RIVERVIEW: SHARRON PHILLIPS DISAPPEARS WITHOUT A TRACE

WHEN Sharron Phillips stepped out of a phone box after calling her boyfriend for help, the 20-year-old walked "into a void".

Sharron Phillips went missing at Wacol in May 1986
Sharron Phillips went missing at Wacol in May 1986

Earlier, Sharron had been driving along Ipswich Road in Wacol, west of Brisbane, when she ran out of petrol and went knocking on the doors of a nearby army barracks for help. Soldiers turned her away and she instead went looking for a payphone.

She had called her boyfriend from a service station and asked him to pick her up but when he arrived, she was gone.

It was May 8, 1986 about 11pm - almost certainly the end of her life, but the beginning of one of Queensland's most enduring mysteries.

 

The scene where Sharron Phillips called her boyfriend after her car ran out of pertrol on Ipswich Road in 1986.
The scene where Sharron Phillips called her boyfriend after her car ran out of pertrol on Ipswich Road in 1986. Rob Williams

Since that day 29 years ago, there have been dozens of theories and speculation about what could have happened to the popular shop assistant.

Most recently has been a suggestion a soldier "bragged" about killing Ms Phillips and buried the knife later, as well as revelations that detectives had seized clothing from one soldier and searched properties belonging to another.

No charges were ever laid. Then in 2013 truck driver Tony Prowse revealed he saw a "carload of hoons" speeding down a rarely used road with no lights the night Ms Phillips vanished.

As of 2016 police believe Sharron Phillips may have been killed by a taxi driver after her car ran out of fuel on Ipswich Rd.

After three decades of the case being treated as a homicide investigation, it has now been revealed it could be treated as manslaughter after a member of the public came forward with "specific" new information.

The information is believed to have been supplied by the taxi driver's son, who said his father may have been the one to blame for 20-year-old Sharron's death.

The man allegedly told police his father accidentally hit Sharron as she was walking along the road the night she disappeared in 1986.

He said his father then phoned him to ask for help to dispose of the body.

Police said the man came forward with the new information after being prompted by his conscience and that his father passed away a number of years ago.

A number of Sharron's eight siblings still hold suspicions that her father Bob Phillips was responsible, saying the alibi he gave detectives at the time did not stack up.

Homicide detectives have spent a second day at the site they believe could hold the key to one of the state's most enduring murder mysteries.

Police revealed this week a new witness had come forward and provided them with highly credible information surrounding the 1986 disappearance of Sharron Phillips.

 

Sharon Phillips murder 1968 HK Holden sedan that was seen driving in the area on the night Sharron disappeared.
Sharon Phillips murder 1968 HK Holden sedan that was seen driving in the area on the night Sharron disappeared.

Police said the person had come forward in the past two weeks after their conscience got the better of them.

They said the new witness had not been spoken to previously and would not divulge what relationship, if any, the person had with Ms Phillips.

Ms Phillips has not been seen or heard from since and is presumed to have been murdered.

No one has been charged over her death.

Police immediately acted on the new information and secured a crime scene warrant to dig up storm water drains on Cobalt St at Carole Park.

An anthropologist is also at the site to assist police should they make a discovery when sifting through more than 100 cubic metres of soil.

Detective Inspector Damien Hansen told media earlier this week police had started digging at the site after receiving credible new information which correlated with previous investigations.

He said the person told police Ms Phillips was murdered and her body left in the stormwater drain - information that had been verified in some detail during previous investigations.

The sister of Ipswich woman Sharron Phillips, who vanished in 1986 after her car ran out of petrol, is pleading for a new inquest into her death.

Detectives and forensic teams hunting for Ms Phillips' body began excavating a site on an industrial estate at Carole Park in Ipswich yesterday after a tip-off from a member of the public.

But in her first TV interview, her sister Donna Anderson repeated calls for detectives to instead hunt for a grave at the family's old home at Riverview, Ipswich.

She also repeated her suspicions that her father Bob Phillips was responsible, saying the alibi he gave detectives at the time did not stack up.

Police say they are confident that a taxi driver, who died 15 years ago, murdered young Ipswich woman Sharron Phillips in 1986.

Original reporting by Joel Gould for the Queensland Times and Andrew Koubaridis for news.com.au.



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