true crime

'He was soulless.' The reality of sharing a cell with one of Anita Cobby's murderers.

This article contains graphic descriptions of violence and may be distressing for some readers.

“I describe him as the first person I have ever met who did not have reflective eyes. I know that sounds like a strange thing to say, but I stand by it,” said Greg Fisher of his once cellmate, murderer John Travers.

The kidnap, murder and rape perpetrated by Travers and four others in 1986 was so horrific Fisher found himself terrified. “I wasn’t prepared to shut my eyes,” he admitted to Mamamia.

Anita Cobby was walking home from Blacktown railway station in Sydney after dining out with colleagues in Surry Hills when she was abducted by five men.

Sunday Night investigated the story of Anita Cobby in 2017. Post continues after video.

Video by Seven

She was bashed, tortured, forced to perform fellatio on all five of her attackers and raped repeatedly.

It was Travers who convinced the group to kill her, scared she’d recognise their faces if they let her go. He slit her throat to the point of almost separating her head from her body.

Her body was found with multiple stab wounds and barbed wire lacerations and all of her attackers were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Greg Fisher’s crime was small fry in comparison to his bunk mate.

Greg Fischer
Greg Fisher on Insight. Image: SBS.
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He'd been given seven years and 10 months for drug supply and corporate offences. But he'd been placed with the murderer because apparently Travers was a "model prisoner."

A model prisoner, without a shred of remorse as Fischer came to realise.

"I have never ever been with someone before where I've looked into their eyes and seen the back of their head. It absolutely looked like a black hole," he told Mamamia.

"He really was soulless, emotionless and cold," he added.

Fisher will go into greater detail about his experience with the killer on tonight's episode of Insight on SBS which is exploring how the law handles remorse.

Travers had been in prison 20 years by the time Fisher was placed with him in Lithgow prison, and he ran a tight ship.

"When I went in there he was reasonably welcoming to be honest. I hadn't put two and two together as to who he was at that point," said Fisher.

Fisher was informed that he was on the top bunk, and that the cell was to be immaculate at all times.

"When you're put in with 'lifers' as I was at Lithgow, you feel like a guest. You can't mess things up or impose anything new," he explained.

Despite being offered a cell change, Fischer decided not to rock the boat. It would have looked like he was "ratting on an inmate" if he'd decided Travers was "too scary" to sleep in a room with.

John Travers
A young John Travers. Image: Supplied.
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But after a while, once they'd built up a rapport and shared hours in each other's company, Fisher found himself asking questions.

Did he feel bad? Why hadn't he written to Anita's family to apologise?

But this was a man with no soul.

"He always said; 'that was a long time ago, I was a lot younger then. Things have changed, I have done my time, and it's time to move on,'" said Fisher.

He didn't seem to have the slightest understanding of his crimes, and was completely disassociated to the point where he thought he was the victim.

When Fischer was with him, he was obsessed with convincing a university legal group to take on his case and advocate for a shorter sentence on his behalf.

Travers wasn't the only killer Fischer spent time in a cell with.

Matthew Elliott raped and murdered Janine Balding in 1988. He kidnapped the 20-year-old from Sutherland railway station in Sydney with a group of other men, raped her and drowned her in a dam.

His crime was equally as hideous as Travers, and eerily similar, but his response couldn't be more different.

"He was placed in my cell on a mattress on the floor in Cooma jail while I was acting as a peer support inmate," Fischer explained. Elliott was on suicide watch and had slashes and cuts all over his body.

"He said he couldn't live with himself for what he had done. He didn't want to go back to the community, he didn't think he deserved it, and just wanted to die," said Fisher.

Despite Elliott feeling a kind of remorse Travers was incapable of, it didn't change the way Fischer thought about either.

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"They were both animals," he said. "I had absolutely no compassion for either."

Matthew Elliot
A 1990 police photo of Matthew Elliott, found guilty of the 1988 murder of Janine Balding. Image: Supplied.

He says life in prison for these men is the ultimate punishment, and the death penalty would be the easy way out.

"If you have the death penalty it's done - the consequences are done. If you're there for life, there's nothing nice about that.

"It's repetitious, oppressive, and there's nothing to look forward too. If you don't have hope (of getting out one day) you have nothing."

For Fischer, remorse is something he started practising as soon as the cell door clanged shut behind him.

"Remorse is a doing word," he explained.

He was clean of drugs from the first night in prison, he spent his time up-skilling himself and was always working towards getting his life back on track and paying for his dues in any way he could.

Despite being 38 when he entered prison, Fischer sees his time behind bars as his "formative years."

"Before jail I was just a person who wanted to get very rich. But I wasn't a nice a person. I like myself now - I was a wanker back then," he told Mamamia.

But Fischer didn't murder anyone. For the killers in prison, Fischer doesn't think remorse makes that much of a difference.

"I don't think it will make the slightest bit of difference to Anita's parents if Travers says he is sorry.

"Nothing could take away the visual of what happened to their daughter," he said.

Greg Fisher is a guest of Insight’s episode titled ‘Remorse’ airing tonight at 8.30pm on SBS.

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