On August 10, 2002, 28-year-old David Breckenridge was wearing blue jeans, black work boots, a long-sleeved shirt and a dark coloured windproof jacket. The medical student had just finished a double shift as a city barman and, carrying a single satchel bag and a six pack of beer in his hands, was ready to head back to his best friend Phillip Noyce’s place.
As massive rugby fans, the friends – who were mates from their days at Barker College – had planned to watch the Tri Nations match between South Africa and New Zealand at Phillip’s place in St Leonard’s.
At 11.45pm, CCTV footage shows Breckenridge entering the St Leonard’s tavern to pick up a six-pack of beer – a gift, it would later emerge, from his boss. The day before, Breckenridge had celebrated his 28th birthday.
At 11.52, he made a phone call from a nearby phone box.
“He said, ‘Noycey it’s me, I’m coming over. I’ve picked up a sixpack and I’ll be there soon,’” Phillip Noyce would later tell The Daily Telegraph.
Between 11.52pm and 12am – in the space of just eight minutes – David Breckenridge was stabbed in a frenzied attack in a St Leonard’s laneway, his body found slumped on the ground. Some 16 years later, his killer has never been found.
David Breckenridge was one of three children, the third child to Stephen and Karen. He had an older brother, Keiran, and an older sister, Kirsty. The family lived together in Sydney’s leafy north shore and, the family have told The Daily Telegraph, he was someone who rarely looked for trouble. He was “intelligent” and “charismatic”, they told the paper in the aftermath of his death, and not only was he seldom in trouble, but he actively avoided it.
A 2005 inquest of the murder delivered an open finding, with coroner John Aberneth criticising the amount of police resources devoted to homicide investigations, urging the Police Commissioner to increase the number of officers involved in such cases.
Two nights before Breckenridge was murdered, he spent the night with a 19-year-old woman named Hannah Orlik. At the time, Orlik was dating a man named Paul Stapleton and Stapleton, according to The Daily Telegraph, was “furious about it”.
Why are we so obsessed with true crime podcasts? Post continues after audio.
He told police he was with three friends watching the rugby game at the time of the murder, though Eight Minutes recently revealed the coroner was told, at the time of the inquest, that two of the friends Stapleton relied on for his alibi deny he was with them at the time. The other friend does not remember.
Stapleton was never charged and denies any involvement in the murder. Orlik broke it off with him five days after Breckenridge’s death, going straight to police with information that he drove a black car after hearing a black car was part of the police’s case.
However, it’s important to note the coroner found there was a lack of evidence linking Stapleton to the scene of the crime, stating it was a “very remote possibility” for him to be involved.
In a 2003 interview with Fairfax, David Breckenridge’s father, Stephen, said he woke every night, thinking about his son’s death.
“I wake up at 12 o’clock every night, listening to David screaming out for help and that’s the end of me for the night.
“Invariably, [David’s mum] Karen cries herself to sleep.”
In the same interview, Karen said she think often of the moments that led to the murder.
“I can’t imagine how it felt when he was attacked and how savage and what a nightmare it must have been.
“That goes through my head so much, probably hourly, every day. It would just give us perhaps a little bit of peace to know who and why.”
In the wake of the podcast’s release, Karen told The Daily Telegraph that in 16 years, they remain baffled that no one saw David killed. Only two people, with varied and confused accounts, came forward about that night. Very few have been suspects.
“I am astonished that no one saw David being attacked,”she said. “If you look at the Pacific Highway, cars are just streaming past. This was a question we had initially — why is that only two people came forward as having seen something? I imagine several people saw his body and just keep driving.
“Why didn’t anyone stop to save our son?”
You can listen to The Daily Telegraph’s investigation into the murder here.