A forensic pathologist on the one case he will never forget.

Johan Duflou has seen a lot of dead people. More than 200 every year in fact. 

As a forensic pathologist, Duflou's job is to perform autopsies. In other words, he examines dead bodies to determine a cause of death. Sometimes it could be a disease, other times, an accidental injury. In some cases, he's helping solve a murder

Usually, Duflou isn't negatively impacted by his job, even though most people would probably find it morbid, traumatic even. But Duflou is used to it. He does it every day. 

But in 1991, something strange happened. It was an ordinary Saturday, and Duflou had arrived at Strathfield Plaza in Sydney's Inner West with his wife. It's not their local shopping centre, but on this particular day, they needed something specific. When he got to the entrance though, he froze. 

Watch: A Day In The Life Of A Forensic Cleaning Team. Post continues below.

Video via YouTube/The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

"As I approached it, tried to walk in, I couldn't," Duflou tells True Crime Conversations"I just had this overwhelming anxiety. I just could not walk in."


Duflou became out of breath, the thought of taking another step paralysing him. He simply couldn't walk in. 

He describes it now, as a form of a PTSD-induced panic attack. The incident happened several months after Duflou performed a series of particularly harrowing autopsies - the seven victims of 1991's Strathfield Massacre. 

At the time, he thought he'd put it behind him, but the very nature of the horrific crime had proved, that he was, in fact, human. And despite his profession, wasn't immune to the impacts of death.

It was around lunchtime on a busy Saturday in August when Wade John Franken arrived at the Strathfield shopping centre. He sat in a cafe, drank a coffee, before pulling out a knife and stabbing the teenage girl sitting behind him, in a completely unprovoked and vicious attack. 

He then pulled out a gun, shooting five people dead. Innocent people who were simply enjoying some time with their friends or family at their local cafe. He gunned down the cafe owner too, before fleeing the diner, and killing one more person as he did so. 

As police gave chase, he fled to the rooftop, where he then shot himself dead. 

"I went to the scene … And it was quite confronting," notes Duflou

He performed the autopsies with a colleague and the process was unremarkable. 

"There are some interesting aspects, you know, horrible injuries. And that was it. As far as I was concerned, I move on."


But, it turned out, he hadn't.

Listen: Meet the man who does 200 autopsies a year. Post continues after the podcast. 

"I suppose what I was having was a form of PTSD there. And I examined myself in detail as to what's going on, I sought some professional help. I mean, obviously, this is a problem."

After seeking help, Duflou concluded it was the nature of the homicide that made this case different. 

"Most homicides, you can sort of rationalise in some way, you know, that sounds horrible, because it's victim blaming. And I don't want it to be that at all. But in your mind, you can rationalise. Now, if you look at the Strathfield shopping centre, what happened there for me was people on a Saturday afternoon were out shopping. There are a whole lot of people who are sitting in a coffee shop having coffee, and they just end up getting shot," he said.

"They were absolutely uninvolved in anything. And they got shot. That's the reason why it affected me, you know, that I could, in fact, identify with the people that died."

But it didn't hit him until he was at the scene. 

"When I did the autopsies, I was just doing the autopsies, as I do usually, I had a job to do."

 A few years later, Duflou was asked to attend the scene of another shopping centre murder, but he was hesitant. 


"I actually tried very hard not to go to the scene. Police wanted me to attend the scene and I said, 'Hey, you really sure you want me to attend the scene? I'm not so sure.'

"I was really worried about attending because I didn't know how I'd react. Would I be able to do it? And I actually told police when I arrived, 'Look, I'm not trying to get out of this, but this is why I'm worried'."

In the end, he did attend, and found, it was actually okay. 

"So I think I've been able to cope with that episode of PTSD. Maybe I've compartmentalised it again further, I don't know," Duflou said.

That being said, he hasn't returned to Strathfield shopping centre. 

"You know, for whatever reason, and I think it's important as a forensic pathologist, I think, as a person who investigates anything, that they have a fairly dispassionate approach to it. We are not advocates. It's up to the lawyers. We're not out to get someone. We're just trying to find out what happened, you know, and we use our tools, which is essentially medicine, to try and get to the bottom of the case as far as we can."

You can listen to the full story on True Crime Conversations now. 

Feature Image: Forensic Medicine Associates/The Sun Herald