Trace by Rachael Brown

trace.jpgI first came across Trace as a Radio National podcast on the ABC.

Recently this book was published.

Rachael Brown has been investigating the 1980 murder of Maria James. That investigation led into some very dark places with disturbing implications.

Maria James was found murdered in her home, with multiple stab wounds. Several leads and witness reports led to dead ends, and her killer was never found, leaving her young sons with no answers about why they lost their mother.

Brown tries to follow up surviving witnesses to see if she can find anything that was missed in their stories.

Possibly the biggest breakthrough comes about when a witness ignored by the investigating police finally has his story heard. That witness is Adam James, the victim’s youngest son, who reveals he was subjected to sexual abuse by local Catholic priests.
Just before she was killed, Adam had told his mum what had been happening to him and she planning a confrontation with the abuser(s).

One of the priests later became implicated in earlier child sex-abuse cases, including allegations of conducting satanic rituals involving murder. As far-fetched as that may sound, what can be made of this? :

Melbourne’s Catholic Church has paid $33,000 to a man who says he was abused by a Melbourne priest who took part in satanic rituals in which three people were killed… the independent sexual abuse investigator for the Melbourne Archdiocese, barrister Peter O’Callaghan QC, ‘substantially accepted’ the victim’s claim…(Age, 27 May 2006).

In addition to the possible involvement of a priest in Maria James’s murder, other disturbing questions are raised about police action surrounding the case. A mix up of evidence from the murder site compromised investigation for decades. Rachael Brown also found that documents related to interviews associated with the case could not be located.

Incompetence or conspiracy

Again the far fetched implications of the latter don’t seem so unlikely when events from the past are taken into account – when there was “a conspiracy to cover up the crimes [of priests that] went right to the top” of the police force in the 1950s. (also see * below)

Maria James’ sons are currently hoping for a new inquest into their mother’s death.


The ABC Podcast of Trace can be found here:

Guardian review here: