Suburban True Crime, Emily Webb

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The collection of cases covered by Emily Webb's SUBURBAN TRUE CRIME go back to the 1940's, through to more recent times, covering a wide range of different murders and disappearances that have occurred in Australian suburban locations.

In the author acknowledgement at the front of the book she provides some context for this collection:

It's been several years since my books MURDER IN SUBURBIA and SUBURBAN NIGHTMARE were published in 2013 and 2016 respectively.

SUBURBAN TRUE CRIME features some cases that were included in MURDER IN SUBURBIA and SUBURBAN NIGHTMARE, and it has been updated with new information and interviews. There's also two new chapters about the still unsolved 1967 murder of a woman named Margaret Pavarno in an armed robbery at her workplace, and the 1984 murder of six-year-old Kylie Maybury.

For further context, Emily Webb teamed up with Meshel Laurie in 2017 to create the podcast AUSTRALIAN TRUE CRIME. She says in the acknowledgement as well that she doesn't take true crime writing lightly, believing she has a responsibility to do what we can in our communities to reduce the systemic causes of violent offending and to help people who have been affected by crime and trauma.

Whilst some true crime writing does have a tendency to either dwell on details, or insert the author into the storyline in some manner, Webb avoids both of these traps. Her telling of a range of tales reads as factual, careful and very considered. She describes unsolved murders, abductions, rapes and the most awful of events with an awareness of loved ones left behind, and in a way that doesn't glorify or give potential offenders a sense of power and/or achievement. That doesn't mean that she shies away from explaining what happened to many of these victims, it, fortunately, lacks the sensationalism that can sometimes be found in these sorts of accounts.

It's also rather sobering to discover the number of cases that are still unsolved, and the number from this reader's own living memory. But the one aspect that has really stayed with me is from the chapter "The Unsolved University Murder", which relates the murder in 1977 of a young woman at Paul's College, Sydney University. In that chapter Webb discusses the issue of safety of women on university campuses. 

Disturbingly, many women students came out and spoke of a culture of sexual humiliation of women on campus that was regarded by men as part of 'college fun'. (Detailed in a letter to The Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald).

Women on campus pushed for better security after the shocking murder, with "good results". Better lighting, gatekeepers at the main gates, and phones placed around campus, with a direct line to a 24-hour security office. An evening mini-bus service was instigated. 

In 1977 there's no mention of what was done to address the appalling behaviour of men involved in the culture of sexual humiliation. 

The 'root and boot' ethos (St Paul's College) that was revealed in a Facebook post on the St Paul's 2017 page gave tips for young men at the college to be 'rescued' after a one-night stand when they couldn't 'get rid' of the women they'd had sex with.

The post had almost 100 likes.


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Chilling cases of murder and crime that have happened in the quiet streets of Australia’s suburbs.

Featuring contemporary cases as well as some shocking historical murders you’ve probably never heard of, Suburban True Crime proves you shouldn’t say “it could never happen here”.

This collection of cases that are hard to believe, except they really happened – and all in the streets and homes of the Australia many of us know and live. The suburbs.

These cases range from recent murders to some historical stories that will shock and surprise. Some of the cases you’ll know and there’s crimes you’ve never heard of. These cases will shock and surprise you including the still-unsolved mistaken identity murder of Melbourne mother Jane Thurgood-Dove and the horrifying story of a man who killed in Australia and then was released from prison, only to kill again in the United States.

There’s also some historical crimes that shocked the community at the time but have now faded into obscurity, including cases of child murder in the 1970s. Think nothing ever happens where you live? Think again.

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