True Crime

Mum’s fight: I’ll solve my girl’s murder

'She lay dying as people drank and partied'
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Fifteen years on, Cathy is desperately searching for justice.

Here, Cathy Ryan, 59, tells the story in her own words.

Speaking on the phone with my daughter Kristy, I felt like my heart might burst.

My lovely girl, 22, had been living with her dad’s family for a few years.

He’d died when she was only 10, and as a teenager she’d decided she wanted to live in Cowra, NSW, to feel close to his memory.

But lately, she’d been getting homesick and needed her mum. I missed Kristy so much and I was more than happy to welcome her back to Queensland.

We’d speak on the phone all the time and when she visited, we’d enjoy long walks together. It wasn’t the same as having her with me though.

Kristy
My girl Kristy (Credit: Supplied)

‘You can come home whenever you want,’ I said. ‘Thanks Mum, I’ll see you soon,’ she replied. I really hoped so.

But a couple of weeks later, in June 2003, my aunt Ruth called. ‘Cathy, something has happened to Kristy,’ she said, gently. 

Sitting down, I braced myself. ‘I’m so sorry Cathy, but she’s passed away,’ she said.

In shock, I let out a guttural scream. Not my girl, I thought, horrified. How could this have happened? But Ruth didn’t know any more.

Leaving my four youngest kids – Tenica, 15, Kaya, 13, Silia, 11, and Steven, seven – with my partner, I set off on the long drive to Cowra.

On the way, I broke the news to Kristy’s older brother, Robert, 24.Meeting up with a friend, she said she’d seen something sinister on the news.

‘Kristy didn’t just die,’ she whispered. ‘She was murdered.’ Murder? The thought of someone robbing me of my baby girl was agonising.

Not long after, the police contacted me and repeated the same awful news.

In a daze, I didn’t think to ask more questions. All I could do was listen to the officer, as his words blurred in my brain.

He told me Kristy and some friends had been attending a wake at a house for their mate.They were all drinking and music was playing, as people wandered in and out of the house.

My beautiful daughter had been found dead in a room with a single stab wound to her chest.

She lay dying as around 15 people drank and enjoyed themselves in another room. She was alone in her last minutes on earth, I tortured myself.

Staying with family in Cowra, none of us could make sense of it.

When the autopsy report came back, it showed Kristy had been pierced through her heart. She also had bruising on her arm, lips and eyes.

memories with Kristy
Happy memories: Me and my Kristy (Credit: Supplied)
family shot
A precious photo of Tenica, Kristy, me, Robert, Silia and Kaya (Credit: Supplied)

Launching a murder investigation, police interviewed the dozens of people who had been in the house that night.

Despite all the potential witnesses, it was a complete mystery as to what had happened.

After her funeral, without any new developments, I had to go home.

Arriving back in Queensland, the gravity of my daughter’s death hit me like a tonne of bricks. My legs would just buckle beneath me and I’d break down in tears. Who would do this to her? I wondered.

Frustratingly, the weeks and months slipped by with no new information. Eventually, the murder case went cold. As I raised my other children, Kristy was constantly in my thoughts.

I imagined what she’d be doing with her life, whether she’d have kids, married.

Other times I closed my eyes and could hear her voice, saying ‘Mum’. It was heartbreaking to think she might have cried out that very word as she was dying.

Five years after we’d lost her, an inquest heard it had been a ‘vicious crime’.

A year after that, NSW police offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to a conviction. Still nothing.

This year – the 15th anniversary of Kristy’s death – I decided I couldn’t wait any longer.

Visiting Cowra, I started knocking on doors and asking questions about that terrible night. But people didn’t want to talk.

Now the NSW homicide squad are going to formally review the investigation. Along with more than 500 other cold cases, Kristy’s murder will be re-examined with fresh eyes and cutting-edge technology in an attempt to catch her killer. I so desperately want justice for my daughter. And I still have so many unanswered questions.

Who would do such a thing and keep the dark secret for so long? Was more than one person involved? Was it an accident gone wrong? Is their conscience like a time bomb ready to explode?

Kristy has eight nieces and nephews who wish they could hug their beautiful aunt. And her brothers and sisters miss her more than anything. One of my granddaughters is even named Kristy, after the aunty she’ll never meet.

Every year, on Kristy’s birthday and the anniversary of the day she died, we all visit the cemetery and share some fish and chips, one of her favourite meals.

I hope that with some fresh eyes on the case, Kristy’s murder might finally be solved.

Kristy never harmed anyone, she was the most beautiful soul.  But someone decided to take her life and I want to know why. I need closure.

search for daughter
I want Kirsty’s killer brought to justice (Credit: Supplied)

That fateful night

In the early hours of June 21, 2003, Kristy Lee Williams was stabbed to death in a bedroom of a house in Front Street, Erambie. Fifteen years on, there are still no answers as to who caused her death.

Anyone who has information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life!, on sale now.

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