true crime

In 1977, Suzanne and Susan were killed in their Easey Street home. The case remains unsolved.

In January 1977, the bodies of 28-year-old Suzanne Armstrong and 27-year-old Susan Bartlett were found, three days after they were brutally murdered in their three-bedroom home.

Suzanne’s son, 16-month-old Gregory, was still in his cot, unharmed but dehydrated.

A neighbour had walked in to the cottage, from the back, after noticing a peculiar lack of activity from next door as well as their dog’s seemingly unsettled behaviour.

Three days prior, on the night of January 10, the housemates had been visited by Susan Bartlett’s brother, Martin, and his girlfriend, Vicki. They had dinner at the Easey Street house, in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood, before leaving at around 9pm.

What happened next in the rental home has never been solved.

Gladys Coventry, who was in her late 70s and lived across the road from the women, remembers seeing a man carrying a knife step out of the kitchen, past the gate and into the back lane on the night of the murders.

Another neighbour, who says he was up until the early hours of the next morning, recalls hearing a door slam, followed by two car door slams, followed by a car driving off.

On January 13, the next-door neighbour walked down the narrow blood-stained corridor to see one of the women’s feet were black. She called the police immediately, as she looked at the two dead women who had suffered a collective 82 stab wounds.

Listen: Mamamia’s podcast True Crime Conversations talks to Helen Thomas, author of ‘Murder on Easey Street’, who walks us through the case of Suzanne Armstrong and Susan Bartlett. Post continues after audio.

A swarm of emergency services arrived with the sound of sirens filling the usually-quiet neighbourhood.

The police did not ask for an official statement from Coventry, who explained she had seen a man with a knife on the night of the killings. When they went back to her a couple of days later, it is reported she was not cooperative with the detectives.

To this day what happened to the “two Sues” has never been solved.

Officials believe that Suzanne was reading in her bed when she heard a knock on the door and let a person(s) in, suggesting she may have known him.

The women were then killed, and Suzanne was raped after she was murdered.

It is also known that friends of the women had entered the house between the time of the murder and the police arriving on January 13.

Suzanne had recently been dating a man named Barry Woodard, who she last saw on the Sunday night, January 9.

ADVERTISEMENT

He had called her a number of times since their last meeting, but to no response, leading him to visit the house with his brother. On Wednesday afternoon – the night before the neighbour discovered the bodies – he went in to the back of the house, and left a note asking Suzanne to call him. He says he didn’t go further than the kitchen, because he thought it would be impolite.

Another man, who was ‘seeing’ Susan Bartlett, went to her home on the Tuesday to check if he had the right number because she wasn’t answering his calls. He went through her bedroom window, leaving a footprint on her bed sheets, and went to the lounge room (not where the bodies were) to check the number. He had the right number and so left, claiming he did not see anything. His friend was waiting for him outside, who corroborated his statements.

When he saw the reports in the media in the following days, he went to the police to let them know he had been at the house, but didn’t see anything. The police believed him.

According to Helen Thomas, who was a cub reporter at The Age at the time of the murders and has since authored a book ‘Murder On Easey Street: Melbourne’s Most Notorious Cold Case’, there was an original suspect list of eight people, all of whom have been cleared by investigators.

Detectives have a DNA profile of the killer, but it does not match any of their suspects.

In 2017, Victorian police announced a $1 million reward for anyone who could help solve the crime. But that’s yet to be claimed, and the case remains cold.

Two days after that reward was announced in 2017, another development occurred. Journalist Tess Lawrence, a well-known reporter at the time who had been invited by police into the house to write about the scene, revealed that she had received an anonymous call from a man who mentioned details she had missed about the house from her original article. She informed the police, but they didn’t seem to follow it up at the time.

The murder case remains unsolved, more than 40 years after the crime took place.

“The thing that sticks in my mind is, why didn’t they talk to the next door neighbour?” author Helen Thomas says on Mamamia‘s podcast, True Crime Conversations.

“I just can’t believe that they had someone living next door who says she saw something and they didn’t take that statement. Or if they did, they didn’t put that on the Coroner’s list.”

You can listen to the full True Crime Conversations episode here.

If this episode brings up any issues for you please reach out to the National Sexual Assault and Family Violence Hotline on 1800 RESPECT, that’s 1800 737 732.

00:00 / ???