true crime

Nicole Cartwright circled Sydney by train. Three days later, a stranger found her body.

It was a council worker who made the discovery last week. A woman’s body dumped in a park in the affluent Sydney suburb of Hunter’s Hill. Beaten, hands bound. Wrapped in an orange blanket, and covered in leaves and bark.

It was seven days before we knew her name. Nicole Cartwright, aged 32.

How the Sydney woman, whom police have described as “well liked” and a “free spirit”, met such a tragic fate remains unclear. No arrests have been made. No suspects named. As NSW Police Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, told media: “Most homicides… once they go beyond a certain number of days, they become quite baffling.”

Here’s what we know so far.

The discovery of Nicole Cartwright’s body.

Roughly 7:30am on Wednesday October 3, NSW Police were called to Pittwater Road, Hunter’s Hill, after the body of a woman was found in Buffalo Creek Reserve.

She was dressed in a dark, hooded jacket, a black and white dress, long black pants, black boots and a purple collar.

It’s not clear precisely how long Nicole’s body had been there, but police say it’s likely it was dumped late the previous night or in the very early hours of Wednesday morning.

According to the ABC, drag marks stretching up to 30 metres were discovered nearby.

Detective Superintendent Cook said a cause of death is yet to be determined, but further forensic testing is due to take place over the coming days.

“But [Nicole] did suffer injuries, suffice to say they’re consistent with assault," he said, according to The Daily Telegraph, "she was bound, with hands in front of her body.”

Nicole Cartwright's last movements.

The last Nicole Cartwright's family heard from her was on Friday, September 28. A picture message, sent from the coastal suburb of Maroubra.

Though Nicole lived with her parents at Lansvale in Sydney's south west, NSW Police noted that she "had a wide circle of friends", and would often spend time in Sydney’s CBD, Eastern Suburbs and surrounds.

In the two days that followed, CCTV and OPAL Card travel logs seem to have captured her doing just that, circling the city via train and bus.

According to NSW Police, she travelled from Bondi Junction to St Marys early on Saturday September 29, and then via Strathfield, Central, Ashfield and then Museum Railway Stations the following afternoon and evening.

The last confirmed trace of her was when she exited Museum station in the CBD at roughly 9.15pm on Sunday - less than three days before her body was found.

Image: NSW Police
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According a Facebook post written by Nicole's sister-in-law, Jackie Cartwright, the 32-year-old deleted her social media accounts prior to her disappearance.

“We are trying to find people that she was friends with to invite to her funeral but are finding it hard as she deleted all her social media,” Jackie wrote.

The investigation.

Detectives from the State Crime Command’s Homicide Squad and Ryde Police Area Command have established Strike Force Winkurra to investigate the circumstances surrounding Nicole's death.

Investigators are appealing for public assistance to pinpoint her movements in those final days before her body was discovered.

"Investigators have been able to place Nicole on buses and at various railway stations between 27 and 30 September, but we are seeking information from then until she was found,” Det Supt Cook said.

“Nicole had a very distinct style and vibrant personality, so we believe other commuters or members of the community may recall seeing her early last week.”

For her family, answers can't come swiftly enough. Supt Cook said they were "devastated" to learn what had happened to Nicole.

Her brother, Ben Cartwright, shared his grief via social media on Wednesday.

"It is with very sad and heavy hearts that we announce that our beloved daughter, sister and friend Nicole Cartwright has sadly passed away. Details at this stage will not be discussed," he wrote.

"Thank you for all the love and support we have received from family and friends over the last few days.

"Rest in Peace my little sister! I love you with my all."

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or via the website. All information is treated in strict confidence.

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