VICTORIA Police has announced a $1 million reward for information leading to a breakthrough in the 43-year-old murder of Denise McGregor, whose body was found in Wallan East.
Denise, who was 13 at the time, was reported missing on March 20, 1978, after she and her sister Sharon left their home on Bell Street in Pascoe Vale to collect food from a local hamburger shop at about 6.15pm.
After paying at about 6.30pm Denise sent Sharon home with the food, telling her she was going to buy drinks from a milkbar on the corner of Andersen and Bell Streets.
When Denise failed to return home, her mother and Sharon drove around the neighbourhood looking for her before reporting her missing to Coburg Police.
Denise’s body was found at about 11.25am the next morning on Merriang Road in Wallan, about three kilometres from Beveridge Road.
Her body was only partially clothed and showed signs of having been sexually assaulted before she was beaten to death.
Homicide squad Detective Inspector Tim Day described Denise’s murder as an appalling case that deserved to be closed for the sake of her remaining family.
“How do we as a society reconcile our claim to being civilised when a 13-year-old girl can be snatched off the street, raped and then brutally bashed to death, her lifeless body left alone, degraded on the side of a country road?” he said.
“Denise’s murder is a particularly devastating case. This has remained with the investigators who initially looked at this matter for 43 years and will do so for the rest of their lives.”
Det Insp Day urged anyone who believed they had any information about the case, no matter how seemingly trivial, to come forward.
“Over the past 43 years the homicide squad has … interviewed dozens of suspects and persons of interest and followed up thousands of leads,” he said.
“Whilst at the time of Denise’s death DNA was not even on the radar in this country, advances in forensic technology since then, specifically in recent years, provide us with new avenues of inquiry and new opportunities in relation to our unsolved cold case.
“Detectives believe there are still people out there with information who know or at least suspect who might be involved in this matter.
“We would ask that the public come forward with any information they think might assist police, even if they think that the person or persons involved in this horrific crime may have since passed away.
“As much as this is about holding those responsible accountable, it is also about giving Denise’s desperate family answers that they haven’t had for over four decades.”
Denise’s sister Colleen said the murder still haunted the family and pleaded for anyone who believed they had information to come forward.
“When mum was alive a big chunk of her hair at the back used to fall out every anniversary of [Denise’s] murder,” he said.
“Anyone out there [who believes they might know something] … it might be that tiniest piece of information that gels it all together.
“You might feel silly saying it, but how do you know it’s not the piece that’s missing?
“Until all the avenues are exhausted and ruled out, you move onto another bit. I just want somebody to come forward and give us that bit.”
Of particular interest to investigators is the fact Denise had previously used a CB radio on a couple of occasions at one of her girlfriend’s houses.
During the calls, she had made contact with an unidentified male with the call sign ‘Lightning One’.
Denise was well known and popular among children of her age from the area and was known to frequent an amusement parlour in Broadmeadows.
The $1 million reward will be paid at the discretion of the Chief Commissioner of Police for information leading to the apprehension and subsequent conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of Denise McGregor.
The Director of Public Prosecutions will consider, according to established guidelines, the granting of indemnification from prosecution to any person who provides information as to the identity of the principal offender or offenders in this matter.
Any information given will be treated as confidential and may be given at any time to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
Further information about the investigation is also available on the Victoria Police Cold Case hub at www.police.vic.gov.au/cold-case-stories.