Every year in Sydney, three long-time friends get together to raise a glass to their absent friend Paula Brown.
“I think about her a lot,” says Carla Vestering, who was pregnant with her first child when she last saw Brown 20 years ago. “Would she be married? How many kids would she have?”
This year marks two decades since the young hairdresser's broken body was found dumped in Sydney scrubland in a murder that has remained unsolved.
The grim discovery came eight days after Brown, 30, vanished from the harbour city’s bustling party district along Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, leaving a trail of heartache and mystery.
Now, whenever her pals—Margo Hendriks, Pearl Stuparich, and Vestering—catch up, the three are always painfully aware their friend is missing.
“Paula would light up a room as soon as she walked into it,” says hairdresser Hendriks, who had been her business partner. “She was such a beautiful girl and she was in all of our lives in such a special way.”
Unravelling the crime fell to Homicide Squad detective Michael Fitzgerald. And while no one has ever been charged over the murder, Fitzgerald, now a superintendent, is confident he knows who the killer is.
A 2002 coronial inquest heard that Sydney painter Martin Trejbal, who lived 2km from where Brown’s body had been discovered and had volunteered wild theories to police in the days after Brown’s disappearance, was a person of interest in the case.
In April 2005, the case went cold—possibly forever—after Trejbal died in his backyard of a drug overdose that police decided was suicide.
Says Fitzgerald: “He is the person I believe did it.”
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