True Crime

Killed after watching the footy

When Kathleen encouraged her girl to embrace a fresh start, she never imagined it would end in tragedy.
that's life!

Dear Justine,

My beautiful girl with the heart of gold. I’ll never forget how your smile lit up a room. Growing up, there was rarely a moment when you and your older sister Jackie weren’t laughing or dancing.

You were so sweet, so gentle. That’s why you were so upset when you broke up with your high school boyfriend after seven years. It was agonising watching you struggle.

You dreamt of becoming a travel agent and seeing the world, but in our small coastal town it was hard to move on.

‘Why don’t you go and live with Jackie on the Sunshine Coast?’ your dad Michael and I urged when you turned 20. We thought it’d be a fresh start.

If only we’d known.

Moving into a share house with your sister and four others, you were quick to make new friends and find a job at a bar.

Whenever we spoke, you sounded so cheerful. ‘Work’s going really well,’ you told me.

(Credit: that’s life!)

I was thrilled you were moving on, but missed you terribly. And you knew me so well – knew I’d have been there in a heartbeat if I thought something was wrong.

Perhaps that’s why you downplayed your relationship with Richard, then 26. He was one of Jackie’s housemates and not long after moving in, the two of you started dating.

When you broke things off a few months later, you decided to move in with another friend. If only we’d known the secret you were hiding.

It wasn’t until a few months later that we noticed the scar on your back. ‘I had an accident with a broken bottle,’ you told us.

But we weren’t convinced, and you finally confessed Richard had hurt you. ‘You must never see that man again,’ your dad and I told you, worried sick.

(Credit: that’s life!)

‘Everything’s fine,’ you reassured us. ‘He’s not in my life anymore.’ Looking back, I can see that you just didn’t want us to worry…

Then one Sunday in July 2010, I’ll never forget the excitement in your voice as you told me you and Jackie were planning to go to a music festival. It was the last time we ever spoke.

Three days later, it was time for the third State of Origin footy match. As I sat down to watch it at home, I thought of you. I knew you’d be cheering on the Blues!

But the next day, Jackie called me in a panic. ‘Have you heard from Jussy?’ she asked. I tried to reassure her that you had just forgotten your phone, but the knot in my stomach told me otherwise.

The next day you still weren’t answering any calls. As Jackie phoned the police, I raced to be at her side, trying to stop panic taking over as I searched every place I thought you might be.

It was eight awful days before there was any news.

When the police told me a body had been found, wrapped in a doona at Nambour tip, I knew. I just knew… It was you.

Soon, police made an arrest. Richard Peter Coburn, then 26, of Sippy Downs, Qld, was charged with murder. I couldn’t help but blame myself. Why hadn’t I seen this coming?

Although that man denied being involved in your death, when he appeared at Brisbane Supreme Court in July 2013, we learnt the horrifying truth.

Justine and Jackie as toddlers (Credit: that’s life!)

The court heard there was a history of domestic violence in your relationship with Richard, including an incident where he’d tried to choke you.

You’d reported that to the police, but that’s when your big heart betrayed you. You always wanted to forgive…

In spite of that attack, the pair of you kept in touch and Richard became infatuated, writing you endless letters.

I want to spend the rest of my life with you, he wrote.

Then on the night of the State of Origin match, he went over to your place to watch the game and enjoy some drinks.

When your flatmate Roxanne left for the night, she said that things between you seemed fine. But you were never seen again.

The court heard that at some point later that night, Richard assaulted you before wrapping your body in a doona and dumping you and many of your belongings in a wheelie bin.

A forensic pathologist found you’d been so badly crushed by the garbage compacting truck that a cause of death couldn’t be determined. It was heartbreaking thinking that you’d been thrown away like you meant nothing. You meant the world to us.

The jury accepted it was possible you and Richard had argued and he’d struck you while drunk, causing you to fall. Then, motivated by panic, he’d tried to cover his tracks.

The 30-year-old was acquitted of murder but found guilty of manslaughter and a charge of interfering with a corpse. He was sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison.

Because he’d already spent 1115 days in jail since his arrest in 2010, that man will be eligible for parole in 2015. It breaks my heart all over again to imagine him walking free while we serve a life sentence without you.

I hope anyone reading this who is in a violent relationship takes action right away to keep themselves safe.

You were a gorgeous daughter, sister and friend. Your chance of a bright future was cruelly snatched away, but our special memories will remain in our hearts.

Remember this my darling, you will always be loved.

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