true crime

Why the case of Monica Schofield will haunt Peter Cox for the rest of his life.

The morning of June 17, 1963, began like every other school morning for 12-year-old Monica Schofield and her family.

The Schofield family had recently emigrated from England and they were living in a migrant hostel in the Sydney suburb of East Hills.

Her dad left early for work and Monica had woken up, showered and had breakfast with her mum and her younger brother.

The schoolgirl then headed off towards ‘the desert’, an isolated stretch of land that she and the other migrant kids would walk through every morning, before trekking down a bush track and across a footbridge to reach East Hills High.

Monica would normally walk with a friend but she was sick that day, so the 12-year-old schoolgirl headed off on her own.

Every day the migrant kids would take this path to and from school and all of them would arrive home safe and sound. Except on this day.

monica schofield
The 12-year-old schoolgirl.

On this day, somewhere between the hostel and her school, Monica came face-to-face with a monster. A week later her body was found in Deadmans Creek, she had been brutally raped and murdered.

Monica Schofield's vicious murder will haunt former police detective, Peter Cox, for the rest of his life. He wrote about the case in his book True Australian Crime Stories.

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When Monica didn't arrive home from school that afternoon her mum called one of her school friends who told her she hadn't seen Monica all day.

Immediately Mrs Schofield felt like something terrible had happened. She called the police and they soon arrived at the hostel to get a photo of Monica and a description of the young girl from her mum.

According to Peter Cox, Monica was just under five foot tall, she had long light brown hair, and she was wearing a light grey school uniform and carrying a school bag.

Soon the police, Monica's family, and all the migrant kids and their parents from the hostel began searching the surrounding area for the young schoolgirl.

Witnesses said they had spotted a man acting intimidating in the area and two girls said a man in a car had been looking at them and acting suspiciously.

The next day detectives from the Sydney Central Intelligence Bureau (CIB), including Peter Cox and his partner Detective Sargent Bob Walton, became involved in the case.

Police divers searched the creek and found the body of young man submerged in a car - the same man the two witnesses said was acting suspiciously the day before.

A police constable who was walking near the rubbish tip on the Georges River, spotted a man with a brown suitcase between his legs.

The man was Floyd Foster, 49, and the detectives would later find out that he was carrying Monica's school case.

Foster would later approach police while they were searching the tip and tell them that he found the case after he spotted a man and girl having sex in some bushes.

“I got some information for you fellas. I found a suitcase that might belong to that missing girl," Cox says he told them in his book.

“When I was there on Monday morning, I saw a man and a girl having sex in the bushes and after they left I found this case.”

He later revealed that he saw a shiny blue Austin A40 sedan pull up at the tip. As he got closer he saw a girl on the ground and a man on top of her, he then decided to steal the bag.

Floyd hung around the tip eating Monica's sandwiches until 4pm when he saw the blue Austin return. The man got out and looked around for a little while before leaving again.

LISTEN: Jessie Stephens recommends the podcast which captures the moment they caught Daniel Morcombe's murderer, on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues after audio...

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On Tuesday June 25, the search party finally located Monica's body at Sandy Point in Deadmans Creek. She had been buried under a piece of sandstone that was holding down piece a plywood and some lino.

“Bob Walton and I observed an indentation around Monica’s throat, which confirmed she had been garotted,” Cox writes in his book.

“What a dreadful sight. The poor little girl was still partly dressed in her school uniform.

“That vision has haunted me to this present day."

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The man in the blue Austin would soon be identified as 24-year-old Barry Rodrick. Rodrick had abducted and raped a 15-year-old girl in the same area in 1960.

In the days following Monica's murder Rodrick had quit his job at an engineering firm, left his wife, and taken a train to the NSW town of Grafton.

When he arrived in town he was immediately arrested by a police officer and brought in for questioning. He eventually told Cox and his partner everything. He said after he had raped the schoolgirl, she said to him, “you’d better let me go now, my mother will be worried".

But Rodrick knew he had to kill her because she would be able to identify him. He admitted he strangled her with a rope and “it was all over in a flash”.

Although Rodrick pleaded not guilty at his November 1963 trial, the jury took just three hours to come back with a guilty verdict.

On the seventh anniversary of Monica's murder, Rodrick died by suicide in his cell.

Not long after the tragic death of their daughter the Schofield's moved back to England, taking Monica's remains with them to bury in their hometown.

Monica's brutal murder haunts Peter Cox and the former kids of the migrant community to this day.

Listen: Why everyone is talking about The Keepers. 

You can buy a copy of True Australian Crime Stories here. 

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