The pain is still raw for Trixie Falzon, who wants her sister’s killer brought to justice.
The last time Trixie Falzon went anywhere near Sydney’s Wanda Beach, it was 45 years ago – the day her older sister Marianne Schmidt and friend Christine Sharrock were murdered there. ‘It left a hole in my heart that I’ve never gotten over,’ says Trixie, who was at the beach with her sister the day she was killed. ‘We were very close.’ Now, for the first time, she’s speaking out about the crime that remains one of Australia’s most baffling murders in the hope of jogging someone’s memory.
‘It is important that people remember what happened to Marianne and Christine. They must not be forgotten,’ she says. ‘My greatest wish is that someone is brought to account for their murders. That was Mum’s wish, too.’
Sadly, mum-of-seven Elizabeth Schmidt did not live to see her daughter’s killer brought to justice. She died from cancer six months ago, aged 88.‘Mum knew that because the girls had been murdered, she could have lost all of us that day,’ Trixie, 55, says. ‘It haunted her.’
Young and innocent
It was January 11, 1965, when Marianne and their next-door neighbour Christine, who were both 15, took Trixie and her younger brothers to Cronulla Beach. Marianne and Christine had trekked across the Wanda Beach sand hills on a recent trip and had been keen to do it again.
Excited, the children packed their lunch and set off on the train, travelling south from their homes in West Ryde.
‘Dad had died from cancer six months before, and our mother was doing the best she could in a foreign country,’ recalls Trixie, whose family had migrated from Germany seven years before.
Trixie was just nine on the day the teenagers were murdered, but she clearly remembers the group had decided to walk towards Wanda Beach, a few hundred metres north of Cronulla.
Dangerous seas and southerly gales had closed the beach to swimmers and sand whipped up against the children’s legs.
‘Marianne said they would go back to Cronulla where we had left our gear, and they found a place for us to shelter from the wind,’ Trixie says. ‘We were told to stay there until they returned.’ But in an odd move that still haunts Trixie, the two teenagers walked in the opposite direction, continuing on towards Wanda Beach. ‘My brother Wolfgang yelled out to them: “You’re going the wrong way!” but they didn’t stop.’ It was the last time Marianne and Christine were seen alive.
An anxious wait
The other kids waited for the girls to return as the hours ticked by.
‘It was getting towards five o’clock,’ Trixie says. ‘Peter, 10, said we’d better go home. It was 8pm by the time we got in the door.’
Their older brother Hans, who had not gone to the beach, told their mother the terrible news that the girls were missing. Their nightmare had started.
The following day, a young man stumbled on the girls’ bodies in the sand hills at Wanda Beach. Both had endured multiple stab wounds and sexual assaults, an attack so savage and frenzied that police refused to release all the details. Their killer, a psychiatrist opined, was young, cunning and given to sudden violence. But despite a massive police effort in the first few months, the trail grew cold.
The family hunkered down with their grief. ‘They were terrible days,’ Trixie recalls. ‘We were all just stunned and shattered.’
Two months after the murders, Trixie told police about the ‘tall, 15-year-old boy’ the girls had spoken to on the train. ‘Who was that boy?’ she asks. ‘Was it child killer Derek Percy?’
Percy, a sexual sadist found not guilty by reason of insanity for the vicious murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Victoria in 1969, has been in prison since that time. Now 61, he is a suspect for no less than eight murders. At the time the girls were murdered he was staying with his grandmother in West Ryde and he matches the description of the boy on the train. ‘In 2008 police raided a shed in which Percy stored gear from prison,’ Trixie says. ‘They found a lesbian cartoon on which he had scrawled the word Wanda. But he refuses to tell police anything.’
Trixie says no-one in the family has heard from NSW police for more than 20 years. While the police are no longer actively investigating the murders, they ask anyone with information to come forward.
‘If and when new information comes to light, police will reassess the matter,’ a police spokesman says.
Trixie’s eyes brim with tears when she reflects on the life that Marianne, who would now be 60, has missed out on. ‘I’d ask her killer: “Why did you do it?” They were innocent young women.’
Just days before she died, a semi-comatose Elizabeth pointed at an unknown presence. ‘It was strange, as if Mum could see something we couldn’t,’ Trixie recalls. ‘What was she looking at? I like to think it was Dad and Marianne calling her home.’
• If you have any information, call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.