opinion

There's a woman's name we must never forget. It's Toyah.

We need to remember Toyah Cordingley.

The vibrant 24-year-old, a foster carer for cats and dogs, was murdered on October 21, on a beautiful but quiet stretch of beach near Cairns.

Far from the big cities down south, Toyah’s death didn’t initially get as much coverage as the deaths of Melbourne’s Eurydice Dixon or Jill Meagher. Perhaps it all seemed too distant. Perhaps there weren’t enough details available at first.

But this “beautiful soul”, so full of love for animals and other people, needs to have her story told. She needs to be remembered.

Toyah’s mother, Vanessa Gardiner, says she was “full of life” from the day she was born. She loved animals from a young age. She also loved everything to do with Harry Potter.

In Port Douglas, Toyah worked at the Paws and Claws Refuge and Boarding Centre.

“She had a way with animals, even the most loud, vicious animals – she could calm them in minutes,” local councillor Michael Kerr said in the Brisbane Times.

Later, Toyah moved to Cairns, where she got a job at a pharmacy. She had a boyfriend, Marco Heidenreich, who shared her love of animals.

Toyah Cordingley
Toyah Cordingley with her dog, Indie. Image: Facebook.

Sunday, October 21, should have been just like any other Sunday for Toyah. Around midday, she went to Rusty’s Market in Cairns. Her image was captured in CCTV footage as she crossed a road afterwards. She was wearing a crocheted singlet top, carrying a colourful striped bag.

Later that afternoon, Toyah drove 40km to Wangetti Beach, along with a much-loved dog. She left her Mitsubishi Lancer, with the registration plate “TOY 146” in the car park, and went for a walk on the sand. It was between 2pm and 2.30pm.

Sometime after that, on Wangetti Beach, Toyah was killed.

Later that day, her boyfriend began telling people she was missing. Her mum, Vanessa Gardiner, heard the news, and immediately started searching on Wangetti Beach, along with her son Jack and Toyah’s father Troy. They searched through the night with torches. They found the dog Toyah had been walking, tied up.

When Vanessa’s phone battery went flat, she and Jack went home. There, they found police and SES. Jack took police back to the beach where they’d found the dog, and it was then that Toyah’s father discovered her body, in the sand dunes, marred with what police describe as “visible, violent” injuries.

“Troy had discovered Toyah not long after Jack arrived with the officer,” Vanessa later said in a statement released through police.

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“It was a truly a heartbreaking moment. The days that followed did not seem real to us.”

toyah and troy cordingley
Toyah and her father Troy. Image: Facebook

In early November, Toyah’s funeral was held in Cairns, with more than 350 people gathering to farewell her. Her boyfriend turned up to the funeral with the dog Toyah had been walking when she was killed.

“You captivated me with your beautiful soul,” Marco wrote in a message that was shared with the mourners.

“Each moment I spent with you made me love you more.”

Vanessa talked about her love of fairies, and how her own mother had joked that Toyah would be born with wings.

“Spread your wings, my little Toyah, and fly away with those fairies,” she said. “I know you'll be forever safe in their arms. We love you.”

In mid-November, Vanessa issued a public plea for information that might help find the killer.

“You can help our broken family by bringing hope and justice for Toyah’s senseless death,” she said.

Just over a week ago, Toyah’s stepfather Darren “Snake” Gardiner posted on Facebook that Toyah’s car had been returned to them by police. 

“Normally she would pull up in the driveway and the dog would go nuts because it knew the attention it was going to receive from Toyah and having her come back home to visit us was always a special time for our family,” he wrote.

“Now all Vanessa and myself and Troy have physically of Toyah is a box with her ashes in it.”

He encouraged people to keep up the efforts to find Toyah’s killer.

Reports are now circulating about a suspect, and there’s speculation about whether or whether not he could have killed Toyah.

But let’s not forget Toyah, the “beautiful soul” who had so much love to give others, and was the victim of such shocking brutality. Let’s not forget that she was killed when she was walking her dog in the middle of the afternoon. Let’s not forget that although it happened on a quiet beach near Cairns, it could have happened to any of us, anywhere in Australia. Let’s not forget her family.

“Christmas this year will be unbelievably hard without Toyah as she will never open the presents I already have for her,” Vanessa said. “Life for us will never ever be the same.”

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