Sunday, November 1, 2020

New forensic link could bring closure in brutal Canberra cold case murder

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Michael Whyte
Crime Scene Officer and Fingerprint Expert with over 7 years experience in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Analysis. The opinions or assertions contained on this site are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as those of any professional organisation or policing body.
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Fifteen years on from one of Canberra’s most brutal unsolved murders, a new forensic link has brought the killer closer to justice.

Police say they have used fresh forensic evidence to link the brutal murder of Canberra grandmother Irma Palasics to a putt-putt business break-in, involving one of her killer’s close relatives, more than a decade after her death. Elderly couple Irma and Gregor Palasics were watching television when two men wearing balaclavas stormed their McKellar home on the night of November 6, 1999.

Irma, 73, and Gregor, 74, were bound, gagged and savagely beaten.

Seeking justice: Liz Mikita is the daughter of Irma Palasics, who was bashed to death.Their attackers ransacked the Grover Crescent house and stole cash and jewellery.

Bloodied and battered, Mr Palasics freed himself once the offenders left, and called police.

His wife died at the scene.

Almost 15 years later, police are still searching for those responsible.

In an interview with Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes that aired on Sunday night, ACT Policing Senior Constable Jarryd Dunbar said brand-new forensic tests connected one of the attackers to one of five young men who broke into Pitch and Putt at Phillip on May 16, 2010.

Police previously alleged the group damaged a metal roller door to a storage facility at the since-closed business when they charged at it in the early hours of that morning.

Australian Federal Police chief scientist Simon Walsh used a new forensic search that picked up “familial DNA”, which linked criminals to genetic material belonging to a relative, to trace blood belonging to one of the men found at the putt-putt facility to Mrs Palasics’ murder scene.

“In this case, a familial link on a parent-child comparison came up as a strong link,” he told 60 Minutes. Police believed that connection indicated one of those five men was likely the son of the murderer.

“We can say from that DNA link that whoever was here in 2010 is a close family relative of one of the males involved in her murder in November 1999,” Senior Constable Dunbar said.

Police allege CCTV footage indicated the group had been at an 18th birthday party at the Slovenian-Australian Association acoss the road from the facility earlier that night. They previously drew a link between Mrs Palasics’ death and the Phillip break-in when they upped the reward for information which could help solve the murder, to $500,000, in late 2012.

Senior Constable Dunbar reminded members of the public that reward was still standing and he believed it was now “inevitable” the killer would be tracked down. “Whoever was at that party will be able to identify who those persons are in the CCTV,” Senior Constable Dunbar told 60 Minutes.

“So if you do know who that person is, it’s important that you contact us and provide that information.”

Police had also suspected two previous burglaries, one at the couple’s Red Hill home in 1997 and another in 1998, were linked to the fatal attack. Senior Constable Dunbar said hair from a balaclava Mrs Palasics pulled off her attacker’s head in the second home invasion revealed “conclusively” that at least one of the men involved in the 1998 burglary was present at her murder.

The couple’s daughter, Liz Mikita, told The Canberra Times the new leads had given the family renewed optimism the attackers would finally be brought to justice.

“This is the first time that there may be a hope that something might tie in with Mum’s murder,” she said.  “We are hoping that the public will pull their finger out finally and come forward. “But we’ve learned to be neutral and not to get our hopes up too much.”

Mrs Mikita had braced herself when police contacted her about two months ago with news there had been a major breakthrough in the case.

“Every time something happens, it brings it all back. “We’ve sort of suppressed everything for such a long time because we wanted to get on with our own lives.  “No one wanted to relive the horrific events of that night.”

She said her father, who lived with Mrs Mikita after his wife’s murder, was traumatised and lost his will to live in the years before his death in 2004. Mrs Mikita said she desperately wanted the offenders off the streets: “They don’t deserve to be breathing the air we breathe”.

“I feel police have done their utmost to catch these maggots, scum. I still haven’t found a word to describe them. “They’re not humans, they’re animals.”

“I would love to see them in court, I really would. “But there will be no forgiveness. I don’t have it in my heart; not for the way they did it.”

An ACT Policing spokesman declined to comment on the developments in the case, but investigators were expected to address the public on Monday.

Mrs Palasics’ murder is one of six major unsolved homicides in the ACT.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or go to act.crimestoppers.com.au.

Source: Canberra Times

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