real life

Anita Cobby: The murder we will never forget, the husband we never knew.

Trigger warning: This article contains graphic and upsetting content.

We will never forget what happened to this beautiful, young nurse, not just because she was young and innocent, but because the crime that took her life was so violent, so heartless and so random. I won’t say she was in the wrong place at the wrong time because she wasn’t. She was exactly where she should have been. She was simply walking from the train station to her home. She should have been safe.

It’s been 30 years today since Anita Cobby, 26, was pulled off the street by five men, raped, tortured and then murdered, left to rot in what was known as the Boiler Paddock on a property on Reen Road in Blacktown in Sydney’s West. Her naked body was found the by dairy farmer, John Reen, who noticed his cows were milling around the corner part of his property.

He got on his motorbike, rode out to the spot and found Anita.

Alan J. Whiticker released a book about Anita last year. Image: New Holland Publishers.

In his statement to police he described finding the body of 'a young female, completely naked and devoid of any means of identification other than three gold interlocking wedding rings on a finger on her right hand'. Anita had been reported missing 15 hours earlier by her concerned family who received a call from the hospital in which she worked, letting them know she hadn't turned up for her 1:30pm shift.

Garry and his wife, Grace, were immediately concerned about their daughter. She hadn't come home the night before and they'd assumed she'd stayed with friends, as she had done in the past.

Police who arrived first on the scene are still haunted by that day.

"The look in the girl's eyes I will never forget," retired Detective Sergeant Graham Rosetta of Blacktown Police told Mark Morri in his new book Remembering Anita Cobby: The case, the husband, the aftermath - 30 years on. 

"... she had gone through hell. You could see it. She was only a small girl."

After having dinner with her friends in the city near Sydney Hospital where she worked, she caught the train home to Blacktown and proceeded to walk a short distance to her family home. She had every right to feel safe.

Her screams as she was pulled into the car were heard by a handful of people and a 13-year-old boy and his sister even witnessed it. The boy ran to help but the car sped off. They called police and when their older brother arrived home they even drove around looking for her.

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The guilt they felt at not being able to stop what was to be be one of the most heinous murders in Australian history was nothing compared to her father John Lynch - who still wishes he had been there to protect his daughter - and her husband John Cobby.

It's taken John almost 30 years to be able to speak about the death of his wife.

John and Anita Cobby had been married for four years when she disappeared. They were separated but planning a reconciliation. Their plans to reunite were known by those close to them. They were in daily contact.

Anita even told her killers that she was married, in an effort to save her own life. The wedding ring found on her right hand after her murder had been given to her by husband John.

The murder of Anita Cobby has haunted Australia for three decades and will continue to do so because it is every parent's and every woman's worst nightmare. How could anyone be capable of something like this? How could this have happened? Why would anyone want to do this?

It wasn't a random accident. It was a deliberate, prolonged attack enjoyed by those carrying it out. Two men and three brothers, who I choose not to name, are sitting in prison for what they did, never to be released.

This photo presentation was shown at the Anita Cobby memorial on February 2, 2015, the 29th anniversary of her murder. Article continues after this video.

Since the murder of his wife John Cobby has battled depression and substance abuse problems. He has been reclusive and even changed his surname to Francis to evade the media who seemed to reach out to him every few years, no matter where in the world he had landed.

He did eventually marry and have two children. The marriage didn't last.

Not a day goes by that he doesn't think about Anita.

Shortly after her murder, John Cobby formed a relationship with a young journalist working on the story. His name was Mark Morri and he was writing for the then Daily Mirror. It was only a couple of years ago that John Francis nee Cobby felt ready to tell his story.

Anita's parents have since died, but not before they set up the Homicide Victims' Support Group that helps families of murder victims come to terms with their grief. They also campaigned in seeking tougher sentencing and truth in sentencing laws. Sister Kathryn Szyszka continues to advocate to end violence against women.

Today is the 30 year anniversary of the murder of 26-year-old Anita Cobby. Many Australians will pause to reflect on the day her body was found. Many of the women in this office vividly remember how they felt as it details were revealed. Some of us worked on the story.

The rest of us have no memory of her murder but are reading about it in horror. It's just as shocking today as it was then.

Rest in peace Anita Cobby. You will never be forgotten.

Purchase your copy of Remembering Anita Cobby here.

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