When Tracey’s beloved sister went missing, she knew there was more to it.
Here, Tracey Richmond, 39, tells the story in her own words.
T￼railing after my big sister Kim, I pestered her with questions.
‘Where are you going? Can I come too?’ I pouted.
Aged 16, Kim was the eldest. With me being 11 and our other sister Tina, 14, we looked up to her endlessly.
Kim was off to the movies with her boyfriend, Cory, and I wanted to tag along. ‘Of course you can come!’ she grinned.
Generous, kind and adventurous, she always had time for us – even after she met Cory.
The first few times he’d asked her out, she’d said no. ‘He’s a big dork,’ she’d giggled. ‘I wouldn’t go out with him.’ But he persisted and she’d eventually agreed.
When Kim was 17, she moved in with Cory at the farmhouse where he worked.
A few years later, they had a son, followed by two more gorgeous bubs.
When I got older, I’d often pop by for a beer or to watch the rugby.
Still in awe of Kim, she was a super-mum. She’d work hard on the farm all day, run half-marathons and be in the kitchen at 1am icing a cake! She tracked all her runs on her Fitbit watch and even lost a bit of weight.
On her 40th birthday, she arrived at her party in a gorgeous dress, beaming.Cory was sulking behind her.
‘Why are you wearing that? Who are you trying to impress?’ he snapped.‘Why is he being so awful?’ I whispered. We were all so shocked.
Then one morning two years later, my mum Raywynne arrived at my place to drive me to an appointment. As I hopped into the car, she turned to me with a worried look on her face.‘I need to tell you something,’ she said. ‘Kim is missing.’‘Missing?’ I asked.
My mind whirred with confusion, which quickly turned to panic. Cory had texted Mum that morning asking if she’d seen Kim. He said they’d had an argument and she’d stormed out – three days earlier. No-one had heard from her since.
In tears, we drove straight to the police station. I knew there was no way my sister would leave her babies behind. As she was legally deaf and didn’t have her hearing aids, we were frightened Kim had been attacked by someone she didn’t see coming.
We called Kim’s phone repeatedly, eventually draining its battery.Search parties combed the area too. Unbelievably, Cory didn’t join in any of them.
He’s done something to her! I thought, horrified. But I couldn’t say a word, especially when Mum and my dad, Matt, moved in with him to look after the kids. Plus I had no proof. They’d been together for 26 years. Why would he hurt her?
After police interviewed him, Cory broke down in tears to Mum. ‘I think they think I did it,’ he told her. ‘We believe you,’ she said, giving him a cuddle. He even got their youngest, then eight, to text Kim’s phone. Mummy, when are you coming home? she wrote. It broke my heart.
The police carried on searching, but the months rolled by with no sign of her. ‘Where is she?’ the kids asked constantly. ‘I don’t know,’ Cory told them. ‘But everyone’s looking for her.’
When Mum pored over maps planning where to search next, Cory helped. ‘We’re most likely looking for a body now,’ a detective told us gently, one day.
After 11 long months, in June 2017, Mum called me. ‘They’ve found her,’ she sobbed down the phone. I felt my heart shatter.
Divers scouring Lake Arapuni near their farm had found Kim’s body, trapped in her car. She’d been buried in an underwater grave.
After her autopsy, our family and Cory headed to the funeral parlour to say goodbye.
As I waited, I noticed a police car pull up. Suddenly, detectives swooped on Cory, arresting him for Kim’s murder.
I watched on as he was led away, his face expressionless. You monster! I thought, as Mum cuddled the kids.
‘Does that mean Daddy killed Mummy?’ their little girl asked. I felt sick with anger. ‘We need to go and say goodbye to Mum now,’ my mum managed to say.
In July, Cory Jefferies, 46, appeared at Hamilton High Court and pleaded not guilty to murder. The court heard Cory and Kim, 42, were returning from a party, when sometime during the seven-minute drive home, she took her last breath.
Kim had been submerged in the water for so long, her cause of death was unknown. Some of her clothing had been pulled up over her head, which was covered in a plastic shopping bag.
Her Fitbit watch, used as evidence, recorded her final heartbeat at 3.43am. Mobile phone records also helped detectives track Cory’s phone as it travelled to Lake Arapuni before it headed back home. Thankfully, the jury found him guilty.
Justice Sally Fitzgerald described the way he left Kim in the back seat of their car – with her chest exposed – as ‘degrading’. She sentenced him to life, with a non-parole period of 11 years.
‘May you rot in prison as you left Kim to rot in the lake,’ Mum said during her victim impact statement.
When he killed Kim, he tore our family apart. He took a sister, a mother, a daughter and a friend. Cory is an evil man who stole an angel from this world.
Read more in this week's issue of that's life, on sale now.