Glaring clue cops missed in child murder

COLD cases are notoriously tricky to solve.

But top homicide detective Ron Iddles says the secret to cracking a decades old murder is almost always in the original case file.

This was proved in the 1982 cold case rape and murder of six-year-old Bonnie Clarke, whose killer wasn't brought down until 20 years after she died.

A man dubbed "Australia's greatest detective" - with a conviction rate of 99 per cent - Mr Iddles stars in Foxtel's new show Ron Iddles: The Good Cop, a riveting six-part series profiling some of the country's most fascinating cold cases.

In the next episode, on Crime + Investigation tomorrow night, a now retired Mr Iddles revisits the mysterious murder of Bonnie Clarke, who was raped, asphyxiated and stabbed in her own bed in Northcote, Victoria.

Bonnie Clarke was found lifeless in her bed.
Bonnie Clarke was found lifeless in her bed.

The man who would eventually be convicted of her murder, Malcolm Joseph Thomas Clarke (no relation to the victim), boarded with the family from January to September 1983 and was known to the investigators but never arrested.

Mr Iddles reopened the case in 2001 after Bonnie's dad Denis Clarke pleaded for it to be solved before he died.

For years Bonnie's mother Marion Wishart was the prime suspect in the murder.

"I still can't work out how they (original detectives) came to the conclusion that she was involved, other than the fact the dog didn't bark on the night and there was no forced entry," Mr Iddles told news.com.au.

"Malcolm didn't even get spoken to until 1983 when he got charged with (a separate) aggravated rape. They asked him about Bonnie. He denied it and it was left at that.

"When looking into it again, we found a card he had sent to Bonnie. That's the bit that never got checked."

Malcolm Clarke boarded with Bonnie’s family for several months.
Malcolm Clarke boarded with Bonnie’s family for several months.

An undercover operative then befriended Malcolm Clarke, who confessed to being Bonnie's murderer.

He was sentenced to a minimum 25-year jail term in 2005. He was 50 at the time.

Sadly, Bonnie's mother, who suffered decades of torment on suspicion of murder, died last year.

"She had pneumonia," Mr Iddles said. "She just died.

"Originally investigators were sure it was her. She became very bitter and twisted because they accused her of killing her daughter, and so she gave up hope.

"I was very relieved we were able to clear her name because she had to live with that for a very long time."

Marion Wishart’s name was finally cleared in 2005.
Marion Wishart’s name was finally cleared in 2005.

In a chilling moment in his court confession, Malcolm Clarke mimicked the moment Bonnie died as she stopped struggling and her body fell limp.

Mr Iddles said this kind of case - involving the brutal murder of a child - was something many officers struggled to take on.

"When you go to a crime scene with young children, there's times you walk out of the house and sit in the car and end up in tears," he said.

"I would insist on going to post-mortems of young children because I got older, and my kids got older.

"Officers with young families, it's very hard to be subjected to that when you really can't become emotionally involved.

"You've got a case to solve."

 

Ron Iddles: The Good Cop is on Foxtel's Crime + Investigation channel on Thursdays at 7.30pm.

 

Retired detective Ron Iddles took on the case in 2001. Picture: Foxtel
Retired detective Ron Iddles took on the case in 2001. Picture: Foxtel
The killer knew the door to Bonnie’s home (pictured) would be unlocked.
The killer knew the door to Bonnie’s home (pictured) would be unlocked.


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