It was crisp enough for breath to curl into the cold night air. The pavement glittered as if there were diamonds underfoot and the absence of cloud cover meant the stars twinkled overhead. It might have been a romantic setting if it hadn’t been for the bloodied body on the pathway.
A dog walker had called in the murder and she stamped around in an effort to stay warm while keeping her dog on a, by now, short leash. It was part of her normal routine, she said, to take a walk along Great Western Road but the dog had slipped the leash and run off towards the Botanic Gardens, perhaps alerted by some noise or other. But no, she hadn’t seen any one else running off or heard any noises herself – just the occasional person returning home or out walking their dog before retiring to bed, just the usual nightly custom performed mechanically – almost without thought.
Margo McLean eventually told her to go home and they would contact her if there were any more questions. By that time Colquhoun had finished his preliminary examination and enough photographs had been taken of the scene for closer examination later. Colquhoun indicated that the girl had been killed fairly recently as although the body was cold, true rigor had not set in. The pooled blood had come from a single stab wound to the stomach but there were defensive wounds to the hands. There was no sign of a weapon in the immediate vicinity but a more thorough search in a wider area was ongoing now the dawn light was breaking. The first few hours were always crucial, with clues sometimes overlooked by officers too keen to return to the station. A fingertip search of the undergrowth was carried out and casts of footprints taken but there was no immediate sense of why this young girl had been stabbed or who the perpetrator was.
There was no handbag but she had a phone and a bunch of keys in an inside pocket in her pink coat and her skirt and underwear weren’t so disheveled that it suggested a sexual attack but only an autopsy would find this out for sure. After the preliminary examination the body was taken to the morgue for a fuller examination by Colquhoun and his team. Margo scrolled through the phone directory but there was no ICE number and no helpful “mum” or “dad” entries. She had about twenty contacts all listed by their first name only and, as the battery was about to die, Margo returned to the station. By the time she arrived, word was waiting that a blood covered knife had been found in a nearby bin and it had been sent off to forensics to see if there was a match. As murder investigations went, things were zinging along.
After finding the right charger, Margo started calling the names on the phone directory in alphabetical order although the numbers just rang out or went straight to voicemail until Margo tried Cameron. Cameron was quite helpful and said that the number calling him was from one of his flatmate’s number and that Zara hadn’t come home last night. Zara, he said was an architecture student and it wasn’t unusual for her to stay late to finish off projects that were due in. In fact all of the students on that course had keys to the building so that they could come and go at odd hours. He gave his address and said he would be in until 10 but had an important lecture to go to. Margo and Brian went round to the house in Warden Road which would normally have been too big for students but there were five of them sharing. After a cursory look around and asking when Cameron and Stuart, one of the other flatmates, had last seen or spoken to Zara, Margo and Brian carried out a search of the room that Zara had called home for the last two months. It had a laptop which they bagged up and there were lecture notes and drawings in tubes but nothing much to indicate what kind of life Zara had away from the house – no photos adorned the walls and there were no helpful diaries. Both Cameron and Stuart agreed that they didn’t know Zara that well because she wasn’t on the same course but that one of their other housemates, Kiera and Mel sometimes spent the odd evening with her down at the Union if someone was performing at the weekend. Her life though seemed to mostly revolve around studying for her course and Zara was a bit of a “brain”. Oddly the boys didn’t know much about her family but thought Kiera in particular would have wormed all that our of her. Kiera though was out at her part time job in Cup, a cafe known for its cakes, coffees and cocktails, and would be going to her lectures later in the day before going back to her job in the evening. Margo and Brian made their way to Cup and Kiera took a break, looking puzzled when they asked her questions about Zara’s family and routines. Zara, it turned out, had told her she had no family as they had died in a car crash a few years before but that they had left her with enough money to fund her studies for the six year course, including the work experience which she was hoping to have in Europe and Australia.