Australian Story: June 5

This week Australian Story turns investigative with “Murder by the Sea” on the unsolved murder of Lynette White 43 years ago, with new evidence and interviews.

The unsolved murder of beautiful young Sydney mother Lynette White has baffled Sydney detectives for more than 40 years.

But since the case was reopened two years ago and new evidence has emerged, a breakthrough may loom tantalisingly close. Australian Story was granted rare access to this ongoing investigation.

“The case is open and very much active,” says Detective Chief Inspector Chris Olen, co-ordinator of the Unsolved Homicide Unit. “Cold cases are very, very difficult to solve [and] there’s a great responsibility and burden on the investigators because the hopes of the families ride on us.”

Lynette’s husband Paul discovered her lifeless body 43 years ago when he returned home from work. Her throat was slashed and she’d been stabbed multiple times. The couple’s 11-week-old baby was unharmed in the cot beside her.

“It was a frenzied attack,” says Detective Senior Constable Deon Kelly, who is leading the investigation. “They needed to leave nothing to chance that she was dead.”

There was a series of unsolved rapes in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in the early ‘70s and a climate of fear was building. When the body of a second young woman, Maria Smith, was found in similar circumstances a few months after Lynette’s murder, women battened down the hatches.

“I was going crazy, I’m sure,” recalls a friend of Lynette’s, Lyn Louis. “Police told me to have a can of pepper spray inside the front door.”

Paul White lobbied police tirelessly to reinvestigate his wife’s murder but it wasn’t until he joined forces with an old mate, former ABC journalist Bob Wurth, that his efforts began to bear fruit.

“There were a lot of people who should have interviewed during the first investigation,” says Bob Wurth. “There were mistakes made. One of the appalling mistakes [of the 1973 investigation] was that a lot of the evidence was lost in police storage. Deon Kelly, the new detective on the case, is really starting to uncover things.”

New evidence suggests Lynette may have known her killer and may have willingly opened the door on that fatal day. New eyewitness reports indicate there were other people of interest close by. And a breakthrough late last year discovered DNA in the room where Lynette died – information that may ultimately lead to the killer.

‘You think, well, is it somebody I know?” says Paul White. “To know who that person is would give me a lot of joy and closure. I’d go to my grave a happy man.”

“I think the urgency to find out who killed Lyn is as great now as it was when it happened,” says Detective Senior Constable Deon Kelly. “It’s by no means too late to come forward.”

The Murder by the Sea program includes exclusive access to some of the research of Parramatta detectives and to friends and family who are speaking for the first time in the hope that people will come forward to assist the investigation.

Monday 5 June at 8pm on ABC.

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