true crime

"I'm growing up." Quanne convinced her parents to let her walk to school. Then she vanished. 

With AAP 

It was raining on the morning of July 27, 1998, when Quanne Diec awoke and started to get ready for school.

It was her first year of high school at Strathfield Girls High School and 12-year-old Quanne was excited that she’d convinced her parents to let her walk to nearby Clyde station to catch the train to school.

During term one, her dad Sam had driven her to school, but Quanne wanted to take the train.

“I’m growing up, don’t worry about me. Let me go to school by myself,” she pleaded with her parents.

Her parents relented, she was growing up after all, and in the second term of Year 7, Quanne would happily make the 850 metre walk to nearby Clyde station every school morning.

That Monday, Quanne put on her freshly washed school uniform and packed a lunch of fried rice. As she left, she stopped by her older sister Tina’s room. She was still in bed so she called out, “I’m going for school now, sis!”

She didn’t get a chance to say bye to her elder brother Sunny but she’d given him a big hug the night before, happy that he’d return from his ski trip.

Quanne’s mum A Muoi Ngo, also known as Ann, walked her out the door but Quanne told her mum to go back inside. She was getting wet from the rain.

“While she was walking, heading off, she was waving to me,” Anne recalled to the NSW Supreme Court. “I saw her until she disappeared.”

It was the last time Quanne’s family ever saw her.

She never made it to school that day. Somewhere along that 850 metre walk to the train station, Quanne vanished. Her body has never been found.

For 18 years, Quanne’s parents Sam and Ann never lost hope that their youngest daughter might one day walk through the doors of their home again. They refused to move from their Sydney home, despite the painful memories they relived there everyday.

“Quanne knows this is her home and that we are waiting for her here,” Sam told the Daily Telegraph in 2016.

But on November 20, 2016, the Diec family’s hopes were shattered.

There had finally been a breakthrough in one of the longest unsolved missing persons cases in NSW.

A man named Vinzent Tarantino walked into Surry Hills police station and told police he wanted to confess to a murder.

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Tarantino was the Diecs’ neighbour at the time. He was living at his father’s home, just around the corner from them.

He admitted to abducting and strangling Quanne Diec, telling them it was a “a stupid ransom attempt” which just went wrong. He agreed to lead detectives to where he buried Quanne’s body.

It was not the outcome the Diecs had prayed for for the past two decades, but they hoped they could finally give their daughter a proper burial.

“She’ll never come home now. I’m so, so upset,” Ann said, according to the Daily Telegraph.

“I just want to know where the body is. I want that man to tell the police everything,” Sam added.

But despite extensive searches of bushland near Wollongong, Quanne’s body was never found.

“My wife says it’s over but I still pray a miracle will happen and Quanne will return. I don’t know what to think any more, I’m waiting for the police to tell us,” Sam said.

Quanne Diec’s murder trial. 

As the murder trial for Quanne Diec began in September, prosecutor Pat Barrett told the NSW Supreme Court that Vinzent Tarantino, then 31, lured Quanne into a white van as she walked to the station, strangled her at his father’s home, and later disposed of her body in the bush south of Sydney.

The 52-year-old has pleaded not guilty to murdering Quanne Diec.

Quanne Diec
Sam Diec and Ann Ngo, the parents of 12-year-old Quanne Diec who disappeared on her way to school in 1998, leave the Supreme Court after giving evidence in Sydney, Tuesday, September 10, 2019. Image: AAP/Dean Lewins.
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The jury was told that Tarantino has repeatedly confessed, including to police, to having abducted and killed a schoolgirl in 1998.

Tarantino’s girlfriend of two months at the time, Laila Faily, recalled driving in a van with him to a national park. While she waited quietly in the front seat, he stopped the van, took a wheelie bin out of the back and returned about an hour later. He allegedly later told her he had kidnapped Quanne because he wanted to get a ransom.

On another occasion, Tarantino told a one-time friend, Geoff Maurer, he had taken an Asian girl, but things went horribly wrong as she was uncooperative and he “cancelled her out”.

Years later, Tarantino admitted to another girlfriend he had killed Quanne during a botched ransom bid.

Just before he confessed to police in 2016, Tarantino told his brother he had been on drugs and “did a horrible thing”.

“I killed a kid Alan. I am f***ed,” Tarantino allegedly said.

But Vinzent Tarantino’s lawyer Belinda Rigg SC disputed he made admissions to Laila and Geoff and described what he told police and others as “false confessions” made because he believed he needed to do so to save his own life and his loved ones’ lives.

She said Tarantino was a bouncer at Sydney's Blackmarket nightclub in 1997 and was the first witness down in the cellar where three bikies were shot dead by rivals.

"Mr Tarantino became paranoid after the shooting and expressed his view that the clubs were out to get him," she said.

"It is expected the evidence will show he had on occasions taken very extreme steps to try to deal with the threats he believed he faced.

"He has been in abject terror and extreme fear on many occasions."

Once when he believed he was about to be abducted by bikies, he made contact with authorities so "he would be locked up and kept safe," she said.

Vinzent Tarantino found not guilty.

VINZENT TARANTINO
Vinzent Tarantino is led to a waiting Corrective Services transport van at the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney, Thursday, October 17, 2019. Image: AAP.
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Vinzent Tarantino was today found not guilty of abducting and murdering 12-year-old Quanne Diec.

Despite previously confessing to the crimes, Tarantino denied murdering the schoolgirl. His defense team said he had made false confessions.

The NSW Supreme Court jury, which deliberated for more than a week after sitting through the seven-week trial, returned the not guilty verdict on Wednesday, October 6.

Tarantino repeatedly nodded at the jury and bowed at them after their verdict was declared.

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