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"I remember seeing dad's body on the ground": The Irish murders that rocked Melbourne

A new documentary looks at what happened, and the impact it has on the families.

Image: Alexandra Dellaportas

First published 6 March

IT IS A NIGHTMARE scenario: a convicted armed robber, fresh out on parole, enters a jewellery shop and stabs the owner to death, badly injuring his wife.

At a backpackers’ party, a man with a criminal record viciously attacks two housemates.

A woman is taken, raped and killed by a man with a string of convictions.

Murder in Melbourne

Many Irish people have flocked to Melbourne in Australia to start a new life. But for Dermot and Bridget O’Toole, David Greene and Jill Meagher, their time abroad turned to tragedy.

Now the murders of three Irish people living in Melbourne between 2012 and 2013, and their families’ fight for justice, is explored in a new RTÉ documentary due to be broadcast on Monday night.

The documentary also looks at the parole system in Victoria to examine its role in these otherwise unrelated murders.

MURDER-IN-MELBOURNE-Dermot-O-Toole-his-wife-Bridget-and-sons

Dublin couple Dermot and Bridget O’Toole (pictured above, with their sons) moved to Melbourne in 1972. ”We just fell in love with it,” recalled Bridget.

They went on to have three children, and the family was a tight unit. They moved to Hastings in 1981, where Dermot opened a shop called The Jewel Shed. 

“We were exceptionally happy,” said Bridget, who worked with her husband in the shop. “They were the perfect couple,” said a family friend.

But in July 2013, a man came into the shop during the day, accompanied by his girlfriend and child.

After he looked at the jewellery, he wiped his fingerprints off the counter and door.

That evening, he returned.

“I heard the buzzer going in the shop and I said to Dermot ‘I’ll get this’. And then I saw something come at me so I pushed my hands up to stop whatever it was coming at me, which was a knife,” said Bridget.

He was just screaming. Unmerciful screaming like a wild animal.

The man stabbed Bridget and then stabbed Dermot to death. One of the last things Dermot said to his wife was:

“Call an ambulance, I’ve been stabbed.”

MURDER-IN-MELBOURNE-Jeweller-Dermot-OToole-and-wife-Bridget Source: Alexandra Dellaportas

“I remember trying to bargain with God to spare him,” said Bridget.

“And the more they worked on him, there was just volumes of blood coming out of him and eventually I just said ‘I know he’s dead, you can stop working on him’.”

Dermot was the third Irish national to be murdered in Melbourne within one year. His killer was Gavin Perry, who was sentenced to 27 years in prison for his crime. Perry was out on parole and had around 200 offences to his name, including armed robbery.

Vicious attack

A year before Dermot O’Toole’s death, a 30-year old Cabinteely man David Greene – Davey to his friends – was attacked in Melbourne.

“The whole thing, it is like a dream,” said his father Aidan.

Greene was described as a character. ”He’d just charm anybody,” his mum said.

MURDER-IN-MELBOURNE-Dubliner-David-Greene-who-was-died-in-Melbourne-following-an-attack-in-Aug-2012 David Greene

Work had dried up at home in Ireland so, like many Irish people, Greene went to Australia, where he ended up working in a hostel.

He told his family that a man – named Luke Wentholt - who was a “bit weird” had moved into his shared house.

One night there was a party at the house. Towards the end of the night, Wentholt accused Greene of making a move on his girlfriend, then attacked him viciously.

He also attacked another Irish man who came to his defence. The two men were admitted to hospital in serious condition. David’s life support machine was turned off after more than a week, and he died in hospital.

The other Irish man, David Byas, survived his injuries. “No one knows unless they go through it themselves what the pain is like losing a child that way,” said Greene’s mother.

Wentholt, who had a number of previous convictions, was charged with Greene’s murder and sentenced to at least 15 years in prison.

Jill Meagher murder

MURDER-IN-MELBOURNE-The-Jewel-Shed-where-Dermot-OToole-was-murdered-in-July-2013 (1) Source: Yanni Dellaportas

That same year, Jill Meagher went missing in Brunswick, Melbourne during a night out. She was taken, raped and then murdered by Adrian Bayley, a rapist out on parole. 

Public anger grew over a parole system that allowed Bayley out when he was a danger to the public. Gavin Perry was also allowed out on parole by the Parole Board of Victoria just months after Meagher’s death.

O’Toole family’s now campaign for tougher sentencing and tighter restrictions on parole in Victoria after Dermot’s tragic death.

Murder in Melbourne follows as these Irish families deal with their devastating loss and follows their journey to get justice for their loved ones.

Murder in Melbourne is broadcast on Monday 7 March on RTÉ One

Read: Man who raped and killed Jill Meagher convicted of three more rapes >

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