that's life (Australia)




Friends described Paige Birgfeld’s smile as being so radiant that

‘it made the sun jealous’.

The busy single mum cherished every moment with her three children, ferrying them to school and sports – even letting them sleep in her bed.

When friends enquired about how she maintained her svelte figure, Paige, 34, said she got all the exercise she needed swimming and jumping on the trampoline with her little ones.

‘We did everything with her. She provided us with everything we needed,’ her daughter Jess would say.

And it wasn’t just Paige’s children who adored her.

‘The way she talked, the way she acted, the way she treated you, everything about her was just so wonderful,’ friend Barbara Campbell told reporters.

Paige worked multiple jobs to provide for her kids Jess, then eight, Taft, six, and Kohl, three, after divorcing their father Robert Dixon in 2006.

Living in an expensive home, Paige managed to maintain a lavish lifestyle.

She hosted cookware parties, made and sold baby slings and taught kids’ dance classes – anything that could be done around school drop-offs and pick-ups.

But what her friends and family didn’t realise was that Paige had a secret life.

The shocking truth only came to light when the devoted mum mysterious­ly vanished... On June 28, 2007, Paige enjoyed a romantic picnic with her teen sweetheart and first husband, Howard Biegler. They had rekindled their relationsh­ip, and friends said Paige was smitten. But she never made it home from the date.

The children and Howard

Her car was found on fire in a parking lot

tried to call her, but when Paige didn’t answer her phone, the family’s live-in nanny reported her missing.

When police informed Paige’s father Frank, he immediatel­y knew a crime had occurred.

‘If Paige broke both her legs three miles from her house, she’d have crawled on her elbows to get back to her kids,’ he told a reporter.

A huge manhunt was launched and divers began searching nearby rivers.

Three nights later, the missing mum’s red Ford Focus was found on fire in a parking lot.

There was no sign of

Paige herself, but her diary – which wasn’t burned – was found in the boot, the last four pages ripped out.

As the investigat­ions stepped up a notch, police found some very disturbing evidence.

Initially they’d assumed Paige was just an everyday single mum.

But it transpired that she had been living a secret double life, moonlighti­ng as an escort under the pseudonym ‘Carrie’, offering

clients a variety of services from stripping to nude massage.

Her family was stunned. It soon became clear Paige was drowning in debt. Her home loan repayments alone were almost $6000 a month, yet her bankrupt ex-husband was only paying $500 a month in child support.

Investigat­ors began focusing on her clients, one of whom – Lester Ralph Jones – had a violent criminal record. He had served three years in prison for kidnapping and sexual assault charges.

Jones had previously threatened to take his estranged wife to a remote location and kill her.

Though he denied any wrongdoing to Paige, evidence against Jones quickly mounted.

One of the last conversati­ons Paige had before she vanished was with someone on a throwaway mobile phone.

Records showed that phone made only five calls – all of them to Paige.

Though it wasn’t

This devoted mum-of-three was hiding a secret from her loved ones

Hikers found a skull that had been buried

registered, investigat­ors were able to track down the exact location and time the phone was purchased. CCTV footage showed Jones at the cash register.

He claimed he was in the shop to buy a can of soft drink, but packaging for that make and model phone was found in the rubbish at Jones’ place of work. And it didn’t end there. On the night Paige’s car was found ablaze at 9.58pm, Jones’ wife revealed he left the family home at 9pm, explaining he thought he’d left the lights on at work. He didn’t return home until around 10pm.

The torched car was found right opposite the auto repair shop where Jones worked and a tracker dog traced a scent directly from the car to Jones’ place of work.

Then inside Jones’ locked tool box, officers found a black bra, phone numbers, a condom, Viagra and notes about escorts and what type of sex they would have.

Police were convinced they’d found their man.

But without a body, there was no hope of a conviction.

It wasn’t until five years later, in 2012, that there was a breakthrou­gh when hikers found a skull with duct tape over the jaw.

Heavy rain had unveiled the buried remains, but who was it? Dental records showed it was Paige.

Though it was unclear how she died, her cheekbone had been smashed and it appeared she’d been beaten.

In December 2016, Lester Ralph Jones, 64, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

But for Paige’s devastated loved ones, nothing will bring her back and they refuse to let her memory be tainted.

‘She did everything for her kids,’ daughter Jess, 17, had told the court.

‘I don’t really see it as leading a double life. I see this as one more thing to help her children,’ friend Jaime Silvernail said.

‘Paige loved her kids more than life itself.’

 ??  ?? Lester Ralph Jones had a criminal r ecord Paige’s car was found torched but her diary
was intact Paige was a devoted single mother
Lester Ralph Jones had a criminal r ecord Paige’s car was found torched but her diary was intact Paige was a devoted single mother
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