The random and senseless nature of her brutal murder by a complete stranger forced Australian women to question their own safety. Her killer, now locked up for the next three decades, has left behind a legacy of fear. We want to share her story and let the legacy of Renea Lau – a talented pastry chef, loyal friend and fearless traveller – be that of the remarkable kindness she showed during her lifetime and the bravery she mustered in her final moments. Mamama Investigates her story…
TRIGGER WARNING: This post deals with issues of sexual assault and murder and may be triggering for some readers.
Had Renea Lau not randomly crossed paths with Scott Miller on her way to work early on June 28 last year, she would have continued on to her morning shift at a South Yarra chocolate shop. The next day, she would have sung hymns with her church choir for residents at an aged care home. The day after, she would have sat her driving test to obtain the freedom she desperately desired. Weeks later, she would have visited her much-loved family in her native Hong Kong.
But, because of a crime a veteran criminal judge branded “positively evil”, Renea Lau never got to do any of those things.
Born Yuk Ling Lau, the 32-year-old was known as Renea – though her boyfriend called her “Mungum”, the Chinese word for allergy, because she had so many of them. She met Dennis Wong in early 2013 at the Melbourne Chinese Baptist Church in Kew, where they were both hymn leaders. He said her singing wasn’t the best, but she sang anyway because she loved to. It must have been one of the few areas in which Renea did not excel.
The youngest of five children, she was an active child with an affectionate personality and the most studious of her siblings. She was a talented swimmer, the dux of her high school and a popular student.
Renea lived the high school dream – she was the associate captain of the school prefects, a highly respected role, and her high school sweetheart was the captain. They dated for nine years, ending their relationship only when Renea decided to move to Australia in 2009 in pursuit of work and travel opportunities.
A pastry chef at Ganache Chocolates, Renea was passionate about making desserts and very good at it.
Dennis said he could not understand why anyone would want to hurt the love of his life, his closest friend, and a woman so kind and peaceful to everyone around her.
He will never understand, because it is inexplicable.
Even her killer could not explain the motiveless crime, telling police he “didn’t even think about it” but “just exploded into this violent, violent rage”.
In the hours before her death, Renea, Dennis and their friends practiced songs for their upcoming gig at an aged care home, while Miller – a man who refused the assistance of the Salvation Army and instead chose to ‘sleep rough’ – was out drinking and harassing women on the dancefloor.
And as Renea walked to Flinders Street station around 5.30am the next morning, their paths tragically crossed.
It’s not known what Miller did or said to Renea as he approached her, but it terrified her. CCTV footage shows her bolting across four lanes of Melbourne’s St Kilda Road in an attempt to escape Miller, who gave chase. On the centre island of the road, he caught up with and overpowered the petite woman, despite her valiant attempts to fight back.