Someone Else’s Daughter, Julia Sheppard

I could wish it was someone else’s daughter, but I can’t can I? They would then have to go through what we’re going through. (Garry Lynch, Anita’s father)

someone-else-s-daughterI have now read two books and seen two documentaries* about Anita Cobby’s murder,  and the effect it had on individuals close to her and wider Australian society.

I’ve seen there is a  third book available, but I’m not sure what more it could offer that wasn’t covered in Mark Morri’s Remembering Anita, or in this one.

Written by a journalist who followed the case closely, and developed a good relationship with Anita Cobby’s family, Someone Else’s Daughter gives a wider perspective to the story of Anita Cobby.

Sheppard looks at most aspects of the case, apart from the effects on Anita’s husband John. That isn’t surprising considering John shut himself off from the wider world and did what he could to avoid everything to do with the investigation and subsequent publicity surrounding his wife’s murder.

There is a brief mention of him at the beginning of the book, but some of the details given differ from those in John’s account of events. Sheppard says John was driving to Wollongong to see some friends when he heard on the radio about the discovery a woman’s body that he suspected could be that of his missing wife.

John’s own account, as reported in Mark Morri’s book, Remembering Anita, is that he was driving in the opposite direction, to the central coast where he and Anita had planned to meet up with John’s sister.

Sheppard also states that there was no chance of Anita getting back with John after they had separated, however John’s side of the story is that in the following week they had been planning on looking at a house where they could reconcile and resume their marriage.

These discrepancies could probably be attributed to the fact that John’s withdrawal into himself after the murder, also removed his opportunity to contribute to the inevitable narrative others would create without him.

Sheppard’s wider examination of this case gives the reader details of the police and how the case took a personal toll on some of them, putting strain on their marriages and even leading to the end of the career of at least one as they struggled to cope with what they’d witnessed. She also heads into territory that Morri avoided:  details of the five perpetrators and their background.

She writes about the dysfunction of their families and how the lives of the men who were ultimately convicted of the crime, had already shown a disregard for the law. One of them, John Travers,  had already boasted to others of violent rapes of men, women and animals , and in the case of the latter he had already violently killed the victim afterwards with a knife.

He was the only one of the five to plead guilty at trial. The others all claimed personal innocence and pointed the finger of blame at the other four. To me, the fact that three of that four were brothers – willing to throw their siblings “under the bus” – adds an even more unpalatable aspect to an already repugnant situation.

Sheppard doesn’t back away from reporting some of the brutal aspects of what Anita Cobby endured prior to her murder. But I suspect a lot has been held back (many years ago I heard rumours of some things that hadn’t been made known to the public). But who would want to imagine what she was subjected to? Any select descriptions or list of facts would be inadequate to convey the reality  – and would any of us really want to know more ?


* I posted the better of the documentaries earlier on my blog. The other one is available on YouTube, but while it was interesting, I found it’s more graphic re-enactments of the crime a little unsavoury.