opinion

"A place that held so much joy for me now tells a story that pierces our hearts."

Like for many Melburnians who live in the inner north, Princes Park has been the scene of many a treasured memory in my last 10 years.

I remember tottering past on my walk home after an evening at the uni pub. I remember evening strolls with my housemates, our fingertips numbing in the cold. I remember seeing the first ever AFLW game in the grounds of Carlton Football Club. I remember dog-watching and sun-soaking and beer-swigging. I also remember cheering on my partner from the dewy grass as he dribbles the soccer ball.

On Thursday night when I returned, a cold curtain had been drawn over it. This exact soccer pitch, this park normally full of families and schoolchildren, now tells a story that pierces our hearts: that the life of 22-year-old Eurydice Dixon has been savagely and senselessly taken. That a young woman who is only trying to get home after a night working cannot be safe in her own neighbourhood. That you never know when you will stumble into the orbit of a monster.

With the police tape and officers now cleared away, it is eerily silent. On a Thursday evening that is usually brimming with activity, the tennis courts and sporting fields are deserted. There is barely a soul to be seen on the jogging paths. All that is left is piles of flowers, trembling in the wind in the place where Dixon’s body lay.

By all accounts from loved ones, Dixon was smart and funny and kind. She was a daughter, a sister, a lover and a friend. She was a comedian with so much brightness ahead of her, and so much brightness to give.

Eurydice Dixon was a promising comedian. Image: Facebook.

She spent her last night in this world making a packed crowd laugh at the CBD's Highlander Bar - the very place she'd performed sold-out shows at during the Comedy Festival in April. Hours earlier, she shared one final, crushing Facebook post: "You guys should come along and watch. It will be a good night."

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After her gig ended, she had a drink with her partner to celebrate and left the venue about 10.30pm. According to the Herald Sun, she blew him a kiss and began to make her way home. It was a crisp Melbourne night and she told him, "I think I feel like walking tonight". And so she did.

But she never made it to back to the flat she shares with her single dad and 16-year-old brother, she never got to snuggle into the warmth of her bed.

Instead, her body was found by a passerby five hours after her show ended. She was allegedly raped and murdered, and left in the middle of an empty, dark Princes Park soccer pitch about 4km from the bar and tragically, only 900m from home.

What is so chilling is that this spot where she was found is the darkest, quietest part of Princes Park. It is the corner that sits beside the cemetery and a one-way street. It is the small sliver where street lighting is sparse, where there are no facing homes, no buildings. And it is where a predator chose to prey upon a young woman.

Today, the country is mourning for Dixon, and women are feeling her death on a deep, almost vascular level. Because while most of us did not have the fortune to know Dixon, her death encapsulates the fears that dictate how we conduct our lives, every single day.

As Dixon walked a path home beside Princes Park she'd no doubt walked countless times before, The Age reports she sent a text message to her partner about midnight. "I'm almost home safe," she wrote.

eurydice dixon
"She was mature beyond her years, and that's the tragedy in all this." Image: Facebook.
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It's the text message every woman sends as she walks home, trying her best to keep herself away from harm. It's heartbreaking and infuriating. Because while police are urging women to "have situational awareness" and "carry a mobile phone", it would appear that Dixon did just that. And it didn't save her.

Dixon was entitled to feel safe. Women should be able to do things as simple as walk in parks and streets alone without risking their lives.

We are already doing everything we possibly can to keep harm at bay. We keep our keys clenched in our fists, we have our phones at the ready, we keep our earphones in our bags, we drink in our surroundings every time we turn a corner. We know every trick in the book. And most of the time, we make it home. But when a person is prepared to murder a stranger, we cannot be expected to take responsibility for not being killed. The onus is not on us, the onus is on the minority of men who have violent attitudes towards women. We need prevention programs and protection measures. We, quite simply, need men not to rape and murder.

In a terrible irony, Dixon's accused 19-year-old killer Jaymes Todd has had his photos suppressed to protect him from harm while in prison before he faces court again in October. Dixon, meanwhile, had nothing to protect her - except, apparently, a phone.

As her friends crawl through the depths of their grief, they say they do not want Dixon's death to define her life.

She was a fervent feminist and a fearless performer. She wore bold lipstick and put flowers in her thick curls. She was beautiful, intelligent and brave.

"She had life experience, she was mature beyond her years, and that's the tragedy in all this. She was doing all the right things," friend Kieran Butler told The Age.

Staff from the Highlander Bar described her as "a remarkable, talented, kind, unique and universally loved person".

Her partner Tony Magnuson, speaking to the Herald Sun, remembered her as "iron-chested" and a "deep soul who never took herself too seriously".

Princes Park may never be the same again, but Australia needs to remember Eurydice Dixon's name. And we need to say it. Then keep saying it, over and over.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Eurydice Dixon's family and to support some of her most beloved charities. You can donate here.

You can follow Sophie Aubrey on Twitter.

Tags: crime-2 , current-affairs , eurydice-dixon , news-3
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