30 year mystery remains unsolved: A history of murder in Cowra

Murder and manslaughter has filled pages of the Cowra Guardian and the national print media on more occasions than we should be comfortable with since the late 1950s.

Not every murder from that time is included in this summary but these are some of the tragic events from our recent past.

January, 1959

A 64 year-old shearers cook, William John Gleeson was found on a wooden seat in Cowra’s main street on a Friday evening in late January suffering from a severe head wound

Gleeson died in hospital about 5.30am the following morning.

A post mortem showed he had a fractured skull.

June, 1960

The disappearance of Isa Chambers from a property near Holmwood remains a mystery.

Mrs Chambers was 39 when she went missing.

On June 1, 1960 Isa had arranged to pick up two friends and drive into Cowra to see a movie matinee but she never turned up – a most unusual occurrence for the punctual and reliable Isa.

When asked about her failure to turn up Isa’s husband told a friend she had walked out on the family on June 1 and had not been seen or heard from since.

Human bones were found in a paddock on the property in 1981 and Mrs Chambers’ husband was committed to stand trial for her murder but found to have no case to answer.

The Missing Persons Bureau file on Mrs Chambers went missing in 1980.

June, 1963

A 12 year-old girl was killed when she was stabbed about 20 times in a park at Cowra.

She was Jill Margaret Bailey, of Macquarie Street, Cowra.

Police said the girl left her home after lunch and rode her bicycle in the caravan park.

A man was alleged to have stabbed the girl in the chest and dragged her through the park to the river bank, stabbing her repeatedly in the back and chest.

A woman called the Cowra police and an ambulance took the girl to hospital. She died within minutes of reaching the hospital.

December 11, 1965

Donald John McKay was shot dead at the Cowra Bowling Club on December 11, 1965 after disturbing a man breaking into the club.

Two witnesses saw a man running from the bowling club carrying a rifle.

McKay was shot in the chest with a .22 rifle.

In September, 1967 a man identified by two witnesses as the man carrying the rifle was acquitted of McKay’s murder.

April 1987

Georgina Watmore and Katherine Holmes died in a Jindalee Circuit home after being bashed with a heavy, sharp instrument.

Ms Watmore was still alive when she was found at 1.15pm on Wednesday, April 15 but died on the way to hospital.

Ms Holmes had died before she was found from head wounds suffered during the attack.

Their murders remain a mystery that has haunted Cowra for 30 years.

August 2002.

The body of 37-year-old Paul Anthony Callaway was found in his backyard at Darby’s Falls.

A Supreme Court jury found William Patrick Heffernan guilty of his murder after one day of deliberations.

The two-and-a-half week trial heard the pair was involved in a fight the night before Mr Callaway's body was found.

Heffernan appealed the decision.

June, 2003

Kristy Lee Williams died from a single stab wound to the chest on June 21, 2003 in Front Street in Cowra and to date the killer has not been identified despite a $100,000 reward being offered.

She was 22.

June 30, 2008

Sixty nine year-old John Walsh, fled Cowra after murdering his wife Mabel and his grandchildren, a seven-year-old boy and a girl, 5.

He also attacked his daughter, a police officer, when she returned home from work to discover the murders.

In January this year Walsh was charged with the murder of a fellow inmate at Sydney’s Long Bay prison.

February, 2011

Paul William Mundy, 56, jumped off the traffic bridge at Cowra after he killed his wife, Michele Ann Mundy, in the apartment they shared above his butcher shop in Kendal St at Cowra on February 2, 2011.

She suffered severe head injuries and a knife was found embedded in her chest, with a hammer located nearby.

Mundy, who was discovered floating in the Lachlan River later that day, told police he had jumped from the bridge because he "injured Michele".

The victim had suffered several severe head injuries on the left and right sides of her head, her forehead and her face, with a large amount of blood on her head and face.

Mr Mundy was located downstream from the Cowra Bridge at or about 4:30pm on February 2.