To say Australian true crime stories have surged in popularity over recent years would be an understatement.
However, there are still plenty of arguably lesser-known cases that have yet to receive the attention they deserve.
Without further ado, we’re counting down five of the wildest Australian true crime stories that you have never heard of.
The Rack Man
Back in 1994, the body of a man was found tied to a crucifix and dumped in Sydney’s Hawkesbury River. Fast forward 26 years and the identity of the person dubbed the ‘Rack Man’ still remains one of our country’s most intriguing mysteries. It was estimated the man’s body had been submerged in the water for six to twelve months by the time it was discovered, making it near-impossible for DNA to be gathered.
However, what was obvious was that it was a highly premeditated and painstaking killing, and the weight of the crucifix seemed to indicate there were several perpetrators involved. While many have speculated as to the significance of the crucifixion, suggesting it may have been the work of a satanic cult, the motive behind the crime remains just as unclear.
The Luna Park Ghost Fire
The case of the Luna Park Ghost Fire is like something straight out of your childhood nightmares. In 1979, seven people who boarded the ghost train at Luna Park Sydney did not make it out alive. Six children and one adult had perished in a fire, and while it was originally declared an electrical fault, many have speculated as to whether there was something more sinister at play.
A since-resurfaced photo taken on the day of the fire depicts a devil-horned stranger standing behind one of the children who died. The image of the unidentified man has become the subject of much scrutiny, with some theorising that the satanic-looking figure may hold the answers to what really happened that day.
The murder of Rachel Barber
The tragic case of Rachel Barber deserves to be discussed in order to preserve Rachel’s memory if nothing else. In 1999, 15-year-old Rachel was murdered by her former neighbour and babysitter, 19-year-old Caroline Reed Robertson. Although Robertson’s exact motive remains unclear, the court was told during the trial that Caroline had an unhealthy obsession with Rachel and was considering assuming her identity.
So captivating was the case that it was made into a movie, 2009’s In Her Skin. Despite starring a number of A-list Aussie actors, the underrated film never received a widespread cinematic release. Meanwhile, Caroline was released on parole in 2015, after serving a mere fifteen years for the crime.
The Frankston/Tynong North Serial Killings
Between May 1980 and November 1981, six women were murdered in Melbourne’s Frankston and Tynong North. Spine-chillingly, most experts agree that the crimes appear to have been the work of a serial killer. Despite an eye-watering 6 million reward being on offer since 2017, the case remains unsolved.
To make matters even more complicated, one of the case’s prime suspects died in August 2020. Harold Janman became a suspect when he admitted to offering women lifts along the Frankston-Dandenong road, where two of the victims disappeared. Despite the connection, Janman repeatedly declared his innocence to both police and the media.
The kidnapping and murder of Graeme Thorne
Although the devastating case of eight-year-old Graeme Thorne was one of last century’s most notorious crimes, it seems it may have slipped under the radar of newer true crime buffs. Back in 1960, Graeme was kidnapped and murdered for part of the money that his parents had recently won in an Opera House lottery.
The crime, which marked Australia’s first-ever kidnap for ransom case, occurred as a result of Graeme’s parents acquiring the equivalent of $3 million in the 10th draw of the lottery. The perpetrator behind the twisted plan was Stephen Bradley, who was said to have ultimately killed Graeme as a result of panic over the mounting media attention.