When Megan Norris was young, she’d wait for her parents to leave the house.
Once she knew they were gone, she’d sneak into her father’s study and read the newspaper. It wasn’t the gossip columns that peaked her interest, nor was it the fashion, opinion or comic sections.
It was news of the world. In particular, the crime reports.
Megan was fascinated with words like ‘dismembered’ and ‘amputation’. Unsure of their meaning, she’d turn to a dictionary to look them up. And then the questions began.
“How can anyone do that? How can they get away with it?”
It’s a fascination that turned out to be no passing trend. Because four decades later, she is in possession of a portfolio covering some of Australia’s most high-profile crimes. From bizarre stalkings and abductions, to domestic violence and rape cases, there isn’t a lot that Megan Norris hasn’t seen.
Listen to Meshel Laurie and Emily Webb speak with Megan Norris on Mamamia’s Australian True Crime podcast. Post continues after audio.
The UK-born author, journalist, court-reporter and crime-writer now lives in Melbourne, Victoria with her husband and two sons. But the career path she took to fame and notoriety in the world of crime journalism was by no means a smooth one.
At 18-years-old, Norris landed a job as one of two token ‘girl’ cadet reporters with her local paper. And with her cadetship, came an introduction into the world of crime she craved so badly.
“I started covering court when I was really young… in 1977 as a token ‘girl’ reporter.”
According to Megan, her male colleagues frequently joked she wouldn’t last in the role until Christmas. It was nothing to do with her talent – she was fantastic – but the other girl was “prettier”.
Now a famed journalist and best-selling crime author, Norris is a veteran of the industry.
Her most recent book, On Fathers Day, explores the infamous revenge murders taken upon the three children of Cindy Gambino, by her newly-estranged husband Robert Farquharson on Fathers Day in 2005.
This horrific triple-homicide is one of hundreds - possibly thousands - within her journalistic portfolio. And over the 40 years her career in the industry has spanned, she's developed a critical ability to distance herself from the emotions many of these cases invoke.
"In court you're an invisible player," she tells Meshel Laurie on Mamamia's Australian True Crime podcast. "As a watcher, there's no room for emotion."
She goes on, "I'd watch people telling the most heartbreaking stories and I'd go home feeling dirty from it. I'd stand under the shower for an hour and I'd still feel dirty."
By the time Norris covered the Farquharson case she'd been overseeing trials in court rooms for 30 years. And in terms of breakout stories from court cases, she had her strategy more or less perfected.
"I would go with a colleague to a very high profile trial... we'd cover the case, I would run out, and I'd read it straight off my notes to a girl at head office. I'd go in and my colleague... he'd run out, and he'd pick the story up from what I'd just missed, and he'd heard."
As you could imagine, Norris has been privy to a side of the human race few others are allowed - let alone have the opportunity - to witness.
"I remember once doing a really awful serial rape case. I remember looking at this guy smiling", Norris says. "I looked at him and I remember thinking 'You look so ordinary, I could've sat with you on the train today.'"
She goes on, "We're all capable of being driven to big extremes... I guess the difference is people might have thought it, but never gone there."
Megan Norris is especially well-known for her involvement in cases of rape and sexual assault. In 2008, she won the Eliminating Violence Against Women (EVA) Award for her journalistic services.
"The common factor likely to put you at greatest risk of violence is being female," she says.
"[I remember when] drug rape was this new crime. There was this guy... he'd drug [women's] drinks with Rohipnol. They would have no memory, and he'd get them back to his apartment where he'd photograph or film himself raping them... the women had no idea he had done this."
She goes on, "It came to light because he carried this briefcase around with a padlock on, almost attached to him, and he had a new girlfriend who used to watch him going into the shower with this briefcase. One day he left the briefcase, she forced it open, and there were all these images of what looked to her to be dead women. She freaked out and she went to the Police."
Among Norris' biggest critics, she recalls, were family members of the criminals on whom she reported.
"I'd get hysterical mothers ringing up saying 'You called my son a monster!', and I thought, 'No I didn't, the judge called him a monster.'"
She also recalls a case of child abuse she reported on, after which "the mother [of the criminal] threatened to burn my house down."
The job, according to Norris, has never been a popular one. Rather, it's confronting; harrowing; an ongoing glimpse into a side of the human race often hidden from the greater population.
She's sits at the top of her field, though.
And her male colleagues never thought she'd get there.
You can listen to the full episode of Australian True Crime with Megan Norris, here:
You can buy Megan Norris' latest book, On Fathers Day, here.