’DAY TO LOVE’
FAREWELL TO TOYAH
FOR long-time Cairns residents the recent discovery of a brutally murdered young woman on a tranquil beach is a crime all too familiar.
On August 4, 1985, emerging Sydney TV scriptwriter Miranda Downes, 35, set off for an afternoon jog along Buchan Point Beach, 25km north of Cairns.
Approaching her in a yellow Ford Bronco four-wheel-drive was invalid pensioner Ernest Arthur Knibb. There was little Miranda could do to save herself. Knibb ploughed into her. But he wasn’t done there.
The crime had a sexual motive, police believed, and Miranda’s clothes were found torn from her body.
Rape was likely, an expert witness later told the court at his trial, before Knibb strangled the last remnants of life from her as the tide rose around them.
Knibb was released from custody in 2013, aged 72, and was last known to reside at a retirement home in Brisbane’s east.
But this week – more than 30 years after Miranda’s death – old wounds were reopened when the lifeless body of 24year-old Toyah Cordingley was found on nearby Wangetti Beach.
And some residents find the similarities between the killings too close for comfort.
Cairns councillor Max O’Halloran remembers Miranda’s murder all too well.
He called the similarity between her killing and that of Toyah “eerie”.
“It’s terrible actually. And (Miranda’s murder) does come back to you,” Cr O’Halloran said. “Young people in the prime of their life – words don’t do it justice. It pulls the community up with a wallop.”
Knibb’s actions were the height of arrogance following Miranda’s death. He volunteered for questioning in the months following, after another young woman reported having a run-in with a 4WD that matched Knibb’s in the same area.
He even took a lie-detector test and agreed to answer questions while hypnotised. With police unable to charge Knibb due to a lack of evidence, he all but boasted about his alibi in newspaper and TV interviews.
During his chats with journalists – before he was charged – he was vocal in his denial about killing her, making up a series of stories to help convince the public of his version of events.
But he slipped up, giving a different version to 60 Minutes reporter Ian Leslie to the one he gave police. It helped lead to his conviction and subsequent life sentence two years later.
Residents are praying justice is served far more swiftly for Toyah in 2018.
VICTIM: Sydney TV scriptwriter Miranda Downes was run down and murdered north of Cairns in 1985.
KILLER: Ernest Arthur Knibb was jailed for the murder of Miranda Downes.
EERIE: The Buchan Point scene has a similarity to the recent killing at Wangetti Beach.