Remembering Anita Cobby, by Mark Morri

cobby.jpgThe murder of Anita Cobby shocked 1980s Australia, perhaps more than any other crime.

A young nurse, travelling home from her shift at a Sydney hospital didn’t make it home. She had caught the train from the city to Blacktown and then started walking from the station to her parent’s place.
Her body was found a few days later, naked and severely injured. Her throat had been brutally cut, almost decapitating her.

someone-else-s-daughter.jpgI came across this book when I was looking for a copy of Someone Else’s Daughter, an earlier account of the case. Gloria had read a borrowed copy of that book not long after Cobby’s murder.

Gloria was also a nurse who relied on public transport to and from work, having to walk to the bus stop each night to catch a bus to the hospital. Her interest in Cobby’s fate was understandable.

Remembering Anita Cobby looks beyond the case itself, for the first time giving John Cobby’s story. As Anita’s husband, John was the initial prime suspect – even if only for a short time. He has never recovered from his wife’s murder and the subsequent treatment he experienced.

Anita had been dragged from the street into a car while walking home from the train station. In the car she was  sexually abused and brutalised by its five occupants. They took her to a paddock, dragging her through a barbed wire fence, to a place where they raped her, and after realising she’d be able to identify them, murdered her.

Mark Morri developed a friendship with John Cobby starting when he spent three days interviewing him the year after Anita’s murder. Years later Mark and John agreed to this book being written as a tribute to Anita, telling John’s side of the story.

He had been incapable of telling it all those years ago but now he was as ready as he’d ever be. It would never be an easy process for someone who, thirty years later, was still dealing with the trauma he’d gone through.

The story of Anita Cobby’s murder was big news for several years, but throughout the telling of that story, there was rarely any reference to her husband John. Crippled by grief, he avoided everything related to the case as much as he could, trying to escape through drugs, by fleeing overseas, and even committing himself to a psychiatric facility. To avoid attention, he changed his name to John Francis.

After a while he remarried and had a family, but could never be freed from the memories, feelings of guilt and the nightmares associated with Anita, so the marriage eventually failed. His children were in their teens before they learned of their father’s relationship to Anita. That knowledge helped them understand things about John that they’d been seeing throughout their lives.

This is a “sneak peak” of a TV show I saw on the weekend. I’ll try to post the full version later in the week. Like the book it tells the Anita Cobby story without omitting the effect her murder had on her husband.

Remembering Anita details John struggles through grief and addiction and how he was eventually able to reclaim the name Cobby.

I mentioned above that Gloria had worked as a nurse, and therefore felt some affinity with Anita. John was also a nurse and had met Anita when they were working at the same Sydney hospital.

John continued nursing, and through this book I found out that at one time he worked (possibly as relieving agency staff) within the same ward of the same hospital on the same shift that Gloria usually worked at the time. Whether their paths ever crossed we don’t know.