Murder of Anita Cobby


Anita Cobby

Anita Lorraine Cobby (2 November 1959 – 2 February 1986) was a 26-year-old Australian registered nurse and beauty pageant winner. She was abducted from Blacktown, and raped and murdered at nearby Prospect, on the evening of 2 February 1986. Five men, including three brothers, were convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment, never to be released.

On the day of the murder, Cobby finished work at Sydney Hospital at 3pm and met friends for dinner in Redfern, Sydney. She then caught a train from Central Station to Blacktown Station. Aside from her killers, only two witnesses saw her after she left the train – a young brother and sister who witnessed the abduction taking place. Their older brother upon return home was told and unsuccessfully attempted to chase after the car.

Cobby was walking alone along Newton Road, Blacktown around 10pm, when the gang of five youths drove up alongside her and stopped their stolen Holden Kingswood. Two men leaped from the car, dragging her kicking and screaming into the car. She was ordered to strip off her clothes but refused, begging her attackers to let her go, saying she was married and that she was menstruating. Her attackers continued to punch Cobby repeatedly, then drove to a service station to purchase fuel using money stolen from Anita’s purse. She was then driven to a secluded paddock, while being held down in the car and raped and beaten by her five attackers. Cobby was reported missing by her family on 3 February. Her body was found in a farmer’s field on 4 February.

Hunt for the killers

On 6 February, the NSW State Government posted a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of her killers. On 9 February, police re-enacted Cobby’s movements on the night of her disappearance in the hope of jogging the memories of travellers or others who may have witnessed her movements. Constable Debbie Wallace wore similar clothing to Cobby and travelled the 9:12 p.m. train to Blacktown. Detectives interviewed the passengers and showed them photos of Cobby whilst Constable Wallace walked the length of the train during the journey.

Following a tip-off from a police informant regarding a stolen vehicle, police started searching for John Travers, Michael Murdoch and Les, Michael, and Gary Murphy after they discovered that some of them had a history of violence and Travers had a reputation for carrying a knife. On 21 February, police found and arrested Travers and Murdoch at Travers’ uncle’s house and Les Murphy at Travers’ house. Murdoch and Murphy were charged with offences relating to stolen cars and released on police bail. Travers, who admitted that he had stolen a car, had also made conflicting statements about the murder. He was detained in police custody.

While in custody, John Travers requested that a friend be called so she could bring him cigarettes. The phone number was handed to the investigating police who contacted the friend, a woman. The woman agreed to help with the investigation, met with an officer, and gave him details of Travers’ background. The woman, who became known as Mrs. X, talked to Travers and he confessed the crime to her. Mrs. X was subsequently sent back in to talk to him with a recording device, with which she was able to obtain a confession.

Eventually, five men were arrested and charged with the murder. Police were praised for their quick response in capturing all suspects involved. In total, 22 days had elapsed from the time of the murder to the time all suspects were taken into custody.

The accused

The five accused suspects had over fifty prior convictions for offences including armed robbery, assault, larceny, car theft, breaking and entering, drug use, escaping lawful custody, receiving stolen goods and rape.

anita cobby murderers

Four of the five men charged with the murder of Anita Cobby arrive at the Westmead Coroners Court, 13 March 1986. Four of the five men charged with the murder of Anita Cobby arrive at the Westmead Coroners Court, 13 March 1986.

John Travers

Main article: John Travers

John Raymond Travers, the eldest of eight children, was considered the ring-leader of the gang of attackers.

Michael Murdoch

Michael Murdoch was a childhood friend and criminal associate of Travers. Murdoch had also spent a great part of his childhood in juvenile prisons where he experienced sexual assaults. He was known to write to politicians during this period of imprisonment seeking protection from such assaults.

The Murphys

Les, Michael and Gary Murphy, brothers from an Irish family of nine children, were also accused of the crime.

Michael Murphy

Murphy was 33 at the time of the murder. He was the eldest of the nine Murphy children. Murphy was sent to live with his grandmother when 12 years of age.

Gary Murphy

Gary Murphy was five years younger than Michael Murphy. Hearing impairment affected Gary Murphy’s schooling and he left early to seek work. He was noted as being an able and willing worker before the crimes. His strong interest in cars led to him facing several car theft related charges in the years before the murder. Gary was also known to have a very violent temper.

Leslie Joseph Murphy

Les Murphy was the youngest of the Murphy children, but was known as having the worst temperament. He had faced Children’s Court on many occasions for a number of theft-related offences before being accused of the Anita Cobby murder. He was 24 years old at the time of the murder.

The trial

The trial began in Sydney on 16 March, 1987. Before proceedings began, Travers changed his plea to guilty. Sydney newspaper The Sun published a front page story on the day the trial began, carrying the headline “ANITA MURDER MAN GUILTY” alongside a large image of Travers. A follow-up story in the same paper detailed Michael Murphy’s recent escape from Silverwater Correctional Centre, where he was serving a 25 year sentence for a string of burglaries and thefts, and his criminal convictions. The jury was discharged.

The trial for the remaining members of the gang lasted 54 days, with the men’s defence relying on convincing the jury of their minimal involvement in the beating and murder. On 10 June 1987, all five men accused of the murder were found guilty of murder. On 16 June, 1987, they were sentenced in the Supreme Court of New South Wales to life imprisonment plus additional time, never to be released. 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.”

Aftermath

Cobby’s parents were the founders of the Victims of Homicide Support Group, a community support group that helps families deal with heinous crimes. They also campaigned in seeking tougher sentencing and truth in sentencing laws which eventuated after Anita Cobby’s murder. Cobby’s father Garry Lynch died on 14 September 2008, aged 90, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

A September 2006 episode of Australian television series Crime Investigation Australia featured the Anita Cobby murder. A July 2010 T.V episode of Australian Families Of Crime, titled, Blood Brothers ,Murpheys, Murdoch And Travers also featured the Anita Cobby murder.

A park in Sullivan Street, Blacktown was named Anita Cobby Reserve in memory of Cobby.

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34 thoughts on “Murder of Anita Cobby

  1. Hello my name is Michelle, and im doing a assignment for legal studies on the case of Anita Cobby and i was wondering of there was any more information you have that i can have a look at..
    Thanks,
    Michelle Marshall

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    • Leigh Johnson was Gary Murphy’s lawyer. She was the Zarah Garde-Wilson of that era. Young, attractive, and got a bit too close to her clients.

      She cried when Cobby’s killers got life.

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  2. Pingback: goby fast photos » Blog Archive » Pictures of anita cobby

  3. I was only 12 when i remember when this horrific crime happen i have read the book someone eles daughter a few times and these dogs should spend the rest of there lives in jail and should be bashed and hang like the dogs they are i say anybody from the jail they are at please for anitas sake bash the fuck out of them dogs if they were in a Queensland jail we would have got them by know. GOD BLESS ANITA COBBY

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  4. absolute dogs… monsters like these deserve to have done to them what they did to poor Anita! i cant farthem how one human being can so such horrific acts to another human being!! i hope they live a extreamly painful life and rot in hell!!!

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    • rumour has it that Les Murphy isn’t rotting in hell.. he is out of prison and has been living comfortably in Cranebrook NSW for the past year under another name!

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      • I wuld like to know where you get ur facts from.Never to be released rotting in Goulburn check it out, so get ur facts right before u speak bullshit!

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      • Are u for real, I would not be saying that as thats how innocent people get hurt!! Never to be realised so get ur facts right!!

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  5. This is why the death penalty is appropriate. The ripple effects of this violence lasts far, far longer than just what the identified victim endured. Even if there is a so-called ‘Life Sentence’ there is a good chance criminals like this will eventually be let out and you are condemning some innocent person in the future to be another victim: an example is the Lawrence Singleton case in the USA; he was in his 70’s committing his last sex murder. We repeatedly hear the spurious bromide that to execute makes us no different than the murderer. Anyone who equates a state execution of murderers like this to the acts the murderer commits on innocent victims has a broken moral compass and lacks the moral and physical courage to do the right thing. To them I say, if you can or won’t do the what’s necessary, then you are part of the problem.

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  6. I fell sorry for her and i hope those cruel people out there have learnt there lesson

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  7. Talking about rumours this one is true 2 of the killers have had colostomy bags after they were beaten up by an inmate years ago they’ve been crapping through a bag for years.Those freaks will die in jail come on wardens hold back on the food and slowly starve them to death I’m waiting.

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    • I agree they r monsters to do that to another human been is beyond ME! Les is not out of prison on parole fuck use need to get ur facts right &this shit about him living under diff name in Cranbrook seriously they will only get out in a body bag fools careful what u right if u dnt know….. Never to b realeased get it!!

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    • U r stupid which to & use ur write name u must of been in boneyard get ya facts write how many murphy r there all up? There never to b released so dnt hurt the victims by talking SHIT…..

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  8. The parents of those Murphy brothers,Travers & Murdoch must have gone into hiding knowing they conceived absolute sickening evil for sons how on earth could anyone connected to this scum be able to sleep soundly at night the families must be all interbred throwbacks from the back blocks of bankstown you can tell they are useless and were never going to fit into mainstream society just by looking at their ugly freaky heads they should have been drowned at birth. They were ticking time bombs and the people connected to them knew and didn’t alert the public until it was too late they are just as bad scum breeds scum its a vicious circle.

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  9. The victims are dead get it and we know they are still inside and they will die there so let’s leave it at that hey. We get the point.

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  10. I was 18 when that happened and I still remmebr it like it was yesterday. I grew up in seven hills and worked in blacktown and remember my parents and other making curfews and checking on us all the time as we ran around those streets till all hours.. :(

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    • How traumatic for you Sharon as well as every decent person that cared in your area unfortunately 27 yrs later and we are still disturbed and talking about it. I am sad and annoyed that the killers outlived Anita’s parents because its just not fair that they still had the privilege of breathing all these years maybe our only hope of closure will be when these killers finally die the question still remains.

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  11. HOW Could our nation every forget this horrific crime.she didn’t stand a chance & were around 25 yrs now she will never be forgoten.@-}–

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  12. I went to school with Anita knew her very well in my teenage years in fact she was the girlfriend of my best friend .A lovely girl who had a bad word for no one. Too clever for a lot us she never let on. Just let us do our own thing and smiled reassurangly.She deserved much more out of her life.

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      • And as for the murderers defence lawyer she was nothing but a kinky lowlife scumbag that fancied her clients as mentioned above she cried when the cobby killers got life. It would be great if a current affair could track her down and ask her a few questions on why she fell in love with evil, see how she handles that because the past can come back to haunt her because some of us don’t forget.

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  13. First of all NO NEED TO SWEAR and second of all they r not dogs they r worse then dogs. Dogs are at least cute and can be loved and they don’t do no harm but those sons go a cow have absolute no heart and they are sick in the head so there u have it. Rest in peace Anita cobby

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  14. Yes I do think that the death penalty should be reintroduced. with D&A forensics the way they are now there is less chance that innocent people would be put to death. I remember the time Anita was killed like I imagine a lot of other people do. It’s not right to keep savage killers alive.

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  15. I was in the area where Anita died today. It has a big cyclone fence now, no access, no cows and is overgrown. The street name has also changed. There sitting on the fence was a dried out bunch of red flowers, others still pay homage to an angel. Not forgotten. Again I stopped and sat still for a while, I can’t begin to describe the overwhelming heaviness that is still there.

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    • I can only imagine being in that place and the feeling of sadness.

      I will never forget that crime, the search for the pigs that committed it, and the utter degrading torture and murder of that poor woman Anita Cobby.

      They were depraved animals before this crime and proved so afterwards laughing at every opportunity.

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  16. I too, grew up in Seven Hills and I will never forget the terror these animals put upon our little town. I was 11 yrs old, playing in the caravan with my cousins at my grandparents house when heard and saw the choppers and the lights above us while they were searching the housing commission blocks the street behind us. We were terrified and were all ushered into the house and had granddad locked everything up. I will never forget the horrible feeling and the absolute anguish over how that beautiful woman left this world. The terror and desperation she must have felt in her last moments would be indescribable. God bless her brave parents and family. There must not be a day that passes that they do not miss her terribly. These animals deserve everything they get in jail. May they rot in hell.

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  17. I too, remember this well. I spent my childhood in Blacktown, but moved interstate as a teenager. That weekend I was in Blacktown to visit my mother. I later recalled I was parked on the opposite side of the train station in Main Street around 9.30pm -10pm. I happened to be there because I was set to drive the 6 hours to get home, and I’d had a headache most of the day that wouldn’t quit. Back then, the train station was on the left after you came into town over the bridge that crossed over the railway. There was a small offshoot/island where the local buses (Rowes buses from memory – orange and white) would pull into just outside the train station. I still recall it wasn’t very busy that night – a few people around. I pulled into where the buses parked (traffic could also drive there) drove around the small island, and made a right-hand turn on Main Street. I parked in front of the Chemist that was opposite the station. I didn’t hear about Anita’s murder until some days later when I was back at home. It was only then that I realised I was in the vicinity about the time Anita would have left the train station. I often wondered if I didn’t have a headache that night – would I have noticed something? Because I knew one of the Murphy brothers from sight – I went to the same high school (Doonside). Even then, it was obvious there was something very wrong with the Murphy’s and the friends they kept. I sincerely hope none of them are ever released – people like that don’t change.

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