’DAY TO LOVE’

FAREWELL TO TOYAH

The Weekend Post - - Front Page - CHRIS CLARKE

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.

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