The Truro Murders
Collecting mushrooms in bushland near Truro, South Australia on 25 April, 1978 a man made a tragic discovery. Laying partially in the sand were the scattered remains of a young woman. It was the first body, of many, to be uncovered in the “Truro Murders” and leading to the capture of James Miller.
Police investigating the scene were definite that the woman had met foul play. As is often the case in murder, the woman’s body had been dumped in the bush after the murder. The woman was identified as teenager Veronica Knight, the case would remain open, as no clues were found with the body to suggest a suspect at the time.
Later, in 1978, another young woman’s body was found near the Murray Bridge, east of Adelaide. The body was skeletal and identification was difficult but they were eventually identified as belonging to 20 year old Maria Dickinson, who had gone missing eight months earlier. Evidence showed she had been shot through the head.
The following March, the body of Lina Marciano, also 20, was found at a rubbish tip in Adelaide. She had been abducted, severely bashed and stabbed numerous times. Police were concerned that the last two murders were connected.
All three women had been reported missing within a 2 month period.
The police checked for other missing persons reports. They were interested to find that many young women had been reported missing from December 1976 onward. Including Veronica Knight, the pattern was too frightening to ignore. Young women had been abducted. The police begun to investigate the disappearances of seven women as the possible work of a serial killer.
A profile was drawn up: A local man, sex offender, more than likely to have been released from jail just prior to the first abduction and may have returned since the last one. Police kept investigating the abductions and murders trying not to raise suspicions of the killer.
On Ester Sunday in 1979, the remains of Sylvia Pittman were discovered near Truro, a mere two kilometers from the site where Veronica Knight had been found a year earlier. Sylvia was on the list of missing girls. Soon the media got wind of the case and the story was splashed across the country. Newspapers offered rewards of $10,000 to catch the killer and the Government increased its offered a reward to $30,000.
The reward offer brought some results. A man approached police to tell them that a friend of his had had an unusual conversation with James Miller. Miller had told the woman that he and another man, Christopher Worrell, were responsible for the murders. The conversation had taken place on February 22, 1977, two days after Worrell had died in an automobile accident. This date was very significant to police. It was eight days after the last abduction.
The woman who James Miller had told the story to, made a formal police statement. She told police that Miller and Worrell would often pick up gay men, go back to the man’s house and rob them, threatening to tell others they were gay. James Miller went on to tell her that he and Chris would pick girls up and kill them. She questioned Miller further. He said that Chris was responsible for the actual murders, but he felt he was to blame because he couldn’t stop him. Worrell would rape the women they had picked up and strangle them. James Miller admitted he only drove the vehicle.
Miller told the woman that he could take her to a place near Truro and show her the bodies if she didn’t believe him. She thought he had said there had been about 6 victims and that the killings had increased just before Worrell had been killed. The woman decided not to tell the police because James had said that Worrell was responsible and he was dead, so there wasn’t anything that could be done anyway.
Worrell’s profile fitted the police’s description perfectly. He had been jailed for attempted rape and rape and was released from Yatala Prison in Adelaide in October 1976. And the car accident accounted for the cessation of the murders.
In April 1979 searchers at Truro found two more skeletons, the remains of Vivki Howell and Connie Iordanies. They were found close together and a kilometre from where Veronica Knight’s body was found.
Police surveillance of James Miller spotted him in inner Adelaide and asked him to accompany them to Police Headquarters to answer a few questions. Miller was question for a while but made no admissions. The interview was completed and the police decided to take James Miller to the charge room. Miller conceded and he decided to show the police where the bodies were.
Police procedure made things difficult, but in the end they took Miller out to Truro, along with forensic and pathology, that evening, just to make sure James Miller didn’t have time to change his mind. The media of course found out and two reporters were waiting at the scene when the police and Miller arrived.
James Miller first directed the police to the positions where the first four bodies had been found.
Further into the bush, Miller stopped at a large shrub and told police that they may find another one there. Curled up under the tree was another skeleton, that of Julie Mykyta.
The party then drove to Port Gawler Beach. Eventually, after extensively searching, police discovered the body of Deborah Lamb. Her body had been buried in a hole which was covered with wood. The forensic team concluded that this victim suffered the most brutal attack. Her ankles and wrists were bound with cord, her pantyhose were wrapped around her neck and mouth. Sand and shell grit found in her lungs suggested she was buried alive.
The final victim, according to James Miller, was buried at Gillman, an isolated area on the outskirts of Adelaide. Police were unable to locate any remains there for quite some time. They did, in the end, find the skeletal corpse of Tania Kenny. The Police had located every girl on their missing persons list.
James Miller was charge with four counts of murder, then the other three were added after further examination.
On March 12, 1980, after a six-week trial, James Miller was found guilty of six counts of murder. He was acquitted of the murder of Veronia Knight. He was jailed for life. Miller however claims he is innocent of murder. He said that his love for Worrell had made him keep quiet about the killings.
James Miller died in prison on October 22nd in 2008.