On October 21, 1983, Michelle Buckingham vanished from the rural Victorian town of Shepparton.
Michelle was just 16 years old at the time of her disappearance and she was last seen walking towards Strayleaves Caravan Park, after spending the day at the pub with her friends.
The bright and bubbly teenager wasn’t reported missing for about a week as her parents, Elvira and Geoff, were divorced and they both assumed she was staying at the other one’s house.
Then about two weeks after her disappearance, a farmer found Michelle’s badly decomposed body dumped in a roadside drain near Violet Town Road, Kialla.
She had been stabbed at least 19 times. The teenager was still clothed in the jeans and Mickey Mouse jumper that she was wearing on the day she was last seen.
The murder sent shock waves through the close-knit regional town and the local police launched a massive investigation to find her killer.
LISTEN: How they found Daniel Morcombe’s killer. Post continues after audio…
But Michelle’s family would not get answers for another 32 years.
Despite initially honing in on a suspect, the case quickly went cold. It was only reopened in 2012 when Tammy Mills, a young reporter at the Shepparton News, decided to look into it.
Mills spoke to Meshel Laurie and Emily Webb on the Australian True Crime podcast about her involvement in solving Shepparton’s biggest cold case.
Determined, the young reporter wrote a letter to Michelle’s mum asking her permission to write about the case so Michelle’s murder – and her life – wouldn’t be forgotten.
She then got in touch with Ron Iddles, the homicide detective who opened and headed the Cold Case Division in Victoria for many years.
After a little bit of convincing, Iddles decided to take on the case.
“I kept telling her we didn’t have the staff or resources to work on it but she kept calling me and kept asking questions. Eventually I agreed to reopen the case, and that if she wrote about it, any leads would be followed up,” Iddles told John Silvester at The Age.
Mills wrote a comprehensive five day series about Michelle for the local newspaper and within a week a lead emerged.
All up police received 30 tips from the public. But Iddles’ interest was piqued by one man who agreed to meet him at the Shepparton East Football Club.
The man’s name was Norman Gribble and he had been keeping a secret for three decades. A photo of Michelle’s mum, Elvira, in the newspaper pushed him to finally come forward.