The Maria James Murder: The Cover-Up

The Maria James Murder – The Cover-Up.

The previous instalment in this series, The Catholic Mafia" can be viewed by clicking on this live link.

Maria James' Bookshop circa 1980


It is often the case in history that the crime that brings an institution down is not the original transgression but the subsequent cover-up. The initial crime is often perpetrated by one or more individual members of an organisation but the cover-up, usually rushed and ad hoc, exposes the whole hierarchy as complicit in criminal activity.

Over the last twenty or so years, we have been watching the ongoing exposure of the cover-ups engaged in by that slow-motion-train-wreck otherwise known as the Catholic Church. The Church's co-conspirator organisation in what has become known as The Catholic Mafia, Victoria Police, is now undergoing its own not-so-slow-motion-train-wreck.

The Maria James murder has remained unsolved for nearly 38 years now because of police cover-ups on at least three occasions starting in 1980, then again in 1998 and finally in 2017. It might be argued that all the evidence pointing to multiple cover-ups could be due to incompetence but the incompetence would be so spectacular and so consistent that the odds of it being so approach impossibility.

We will cover only some of the peculiar events and failures that point to a massive cover-up . There are so many things wrong with this investigation that it would take a book to list and explain them all.

We will also briefly look at what the point of all this cover up is: the clear and obvious guilt of two Melbourne Catholic priests of murder.

All the following information comes from the Trace podcasts except in a couple of instances where links are given. It is presumed that the reader has listened to the podcast series and has read the previous instalments of the Maria James Murder on this blog. (Start here)

The ABC's Rachael Brown has done an excellent job of digging up and bringing together a lot of valuable information. The opinions and conclusions from that now publicly available information in the following article are those of this writer.

1980 - Murder Investigation 101

  • The Urgent Confessant
  • John James arrived at Maria's shop minutes after she had been murdered and called the police. The homicide squad duly arrived and one of the first things that happened is that Sen-Sgt Rowland Legg took himself off to interview the assistant parish priest, Anthony Bongiorno, at the presbytery around the corner from the shop.

    This is the strangest thing. No explanation for this has ever been offered except that Legg thought that the priest might know something about the murder from a confession from Maria or another parishioner. But that does not explain why it was the first thing Rowland Legg thought to do. Did he know Maria was a Catholic? You might think to do that days or weeks after if you have no leads but to seek out a priest straight away, as the Trace program remarked on, is very odd indeed.

    It is especially odd when you understand that Legg only sought to interview one of the two priests resident in St Mary's Presbytery who ministered to the Thornbury Parish.

  • Open House
  • Next we have the information that the Homicide Squad set up their investigation centre in the middle of the crime scene. This is unheard of. It is just not done! If the then head of the Squad, Paul “the Golden Greek” Delianis, didn't order it, he was quite satisfied with that move because he didn't countermand that decision.

    There would have been blood from one end of the residence to the other from the murderers' shoes because the bedroom carpet was soaked in blood and from doorknobs and perhaps other things because of blood on the hands of the murderers. Anthony Bongiorno still had blood on his hands when the electrician, Allan Hircoe, saw him some minutes later at the presbytery around the corner from Maria's shop.

    Yet, there seems to have been no fingerprints recovered from the murder scene. And we have the curious situation whereby the coffee cups, which police are convinced were used by Maria and her murderer, have NO prints at all. Were they wiped clean by someone on the scene or did one of the murderers in their haste take the time to wipe them clean?

    Mark James, 13 years old at the time, was not permitted to retrieve a few of his favourite things from the residence. Yet anyone who wanted to talk to the police was ushered into the shop and through the residence to sit down at the table at the rear of the building! This is peculiar behaviour to say the least. If someone wanted to contaminate the murder scene, I can't imagine a better way to do it.


  • The Family Priest
  • Bongiorno was, at the time and on every occasion since, referred to as “the family priest” by the police (and subsequently by the media - see caption to the photo of Bongiorno below). Catholics do not have “family priests”. They never refer to priests as such. They have parish priests and assistant parish priests. And priests have parishioners not “families”. Calling Bongiorno “the family priest” is a convenient way of avoiding calling him “the assistant parish priest” or “curate”, which he was. If he is referred to as the 'assistant parish priest', that immediately implies there was another priest, the parish priest. And there was another priest - Bongiorno's boss, the invisible Fr Thomas O'Keeffe.

  • The Missing Priest
  • Now when you hear that Det Snr-Sgt Rowland Legg and his superior, Inspector Brian Ritchie, were unsuccessful in teasing any information about possible confessions out of Bongiorno, the astute listener/reader will wonder why on earth didn't they go and ask O'Keeffe the same questions. Well, why didn't they?

    Their failure to interview O'Keeffe calls into question the rationale for Legg immediately going to interview Bongiorno. If it was such a good idea to talk to the assistant parish priest about what he might know from any confessions, then surely it was an equally good idea to question the parish priest, Bongiorno's boss Fr Thomas O'Keeffe, about the same thing. No? Did Rowland Legg have another reason to talk to Bongiorno?

    Seasoned homicide squad officers may be detectives but they are also experienced bureaucrats. When a bureaucrat strikes resistance from someone in an organisation, the reflexive thing to do is to go over their head to their boss. But this didn't happen. Why not? Bongiorno was even described as "offensive" yet Legg did not go over his head to interview O'Keeffe that day or any day after. He was never interviewed. It seems that nobody in the police wanted to know about Thomas O'Keeffe. And, as you will see, they still don't! Why is that?

  • The Social Butterfly
  • If O'Keeffe is invisible, then Bongiorno is the centre stage attraction – he is everywhere. He is photographed outside Maria's shop talking to police and his picture is in the newspapers the following morning. He is enlisted by the police (or volunteered) to go to Mark James' school, Parade College, to collect Mark, inform him of the death of his mother and bring him home to his father and the police.

    Why was Bongiorno sent to collect and inform Mark? Why not his father who was on the scene? That would have been far more appropriate, surely. If not Mark's father, then why not one or more of the policewomen who were at the scene. Indeed, all three policewomen went to collect Adam James a little later from his school. If Mark's father, John James, couldn't go for some reason, why didn't at least one of the policewomen accompany Bongiorno? Who made that decision and did anyone else suggest it? Did Bongiorno have another reason to go to Parade College that afternoon?

    The astute reader may deduce some answers to these questions posed above from a re-reading of “Two Murderers – Part 2”

    The above information, on its own, doesn't prove a cover-up happened but it will make a strong case for it when combined with Bongiorno's conspicuousness at the murder scene on that day and once the following shenanigans have been digested.

    1998 - Bongiorno's “Less Than Watertight Alibi”

  • Divide and Conquer
  • In 1995, Bongiorno was acquitted of charges of the sexual abuse of three boys largely because the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) decided to take each allegation separately to trial in spite of the obvious added expense that this would entail and the reduced likelihood of a conviction. Each jury was only aware of one complainant which increased the chances of Bongiorno being acquitted. So it was the word of one against one each time rather than the word of three against one.

    The previous year, when this decision for separate trials most likely would have been taken, the OPP was headed up by Bernard Bongiorno QC. During his tenure as Director of Public Prosecutions, Bernard Bongiorno had a very public spat with the then Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett, over Kennett's possible contempt of court - a jailable offence.

    This might explain Kennett's action in handing over a letter to Victoria Police that he received concerning the criminal behaviour of one Fr Anthony Bongiorno and why he might also follow up on it. Readers of previous instalments will know Kennett had shown great reluctance to have the legal system deal with serious crimes committed by Catholic priests in the past, preferring that the Church deal with their crimes themselves.

    Jeff Kennett obviously had a different attitude when it came to Fr Anthony Bongiorno, though. This may have prompted homicide squad detectives to expect that 'El Jefe' may follow up on this letter, its allegations and outcome, with the squad. So something would need to be done and something regarding their investigation would need to be put into the file.

  • The Letter
  • So what was the letter and what was its effect?

    In 1998, there was a television program that publicised the Maria James murder again and called for information from the public. Premier Jeff Kennett received a letter from a member of the public. We learn of this in a 2007 newspaper article written by crime writer, Keith Moor. The letter contained a photograph of Fr Anthony Bongiorno together with, we are told, information that he was a paedophile. But there must have been more to it because by 1998 it was common knowledge that Bongiorno was a paedophile despite his skating on the charges. Did Homicide interview the letter's author?

    The letter ended up with the Homicide Squad and not the Sexual Crimes Squad. Did Homicide interview the letter's author? The information in the letter must have implicated Bongiorno in the murder of Maria James. Why else would the homicide squad be dealing with it?

    Indeed, we have been informed that Bongiorno was summoned to the offices of the homicide squad where he was questioned as a suspect in the murder of Maria James. But he was dismissed as a suspect with a detective volunteering to the press that Bongiorno was not able to name the murderer from any confessional information because no-one had confessed to the murder in the confessional.

    Hold on! What's wrong with this picture? That is the answer one might expect from someone being questioned as a witness. Bongiorno was being questioned as a suspect, not a witness, so the answer provided by the detective is therefore highly misleading and has nothing to do with Bongiorno being a suspect. The effect was to cover for Bongiorno. The Catholic Mafia strikes again?

    We have further confirmation that Bongiorno was being questioned as a suspect in Maria James' murder because Mark James arrived at the homicide squad offices straight after Bongiorno was there and was told of Bongiorno's questioning.

  • Ask the Question
  • Mark was later to reflect that it was really strange that the homicide cops did not ask him if he or Adam had ever been molested by Bongiorno. It is the obvious question to ask given that a letter from Maria's friend sent to the Premier had claimed that Bongiorno was a paedophile and we know it must have also implicated him in Maria's murder.

    In episode 5 of the Trace series, Mark James said, "I just can't understand why back then Adam or myself, but particularly Adam, weren't asked if we were his victims because that would provide a potential motive". Exactly!

    Bongiorno molesting Adam and/or Mark James is the missing bit of information that must have been in the letter to explain the passing of this letter to homicide and their subsequent questioning of Bongiorno in connection with Maria's murder. Given that, it must have been a deliberate choice on the part of one or more detectives to not ask Mark the obvious and crucial question. This kept that question together with Mark's answer and the subject of Bongiorno's motivation for murder out of the file.

    Is this more spectacular incompetence or were the police covering for Bongiorno again? Given the circumstances and in the absence of any alternative explanation of this massive failure, a cover-up is the far more likely answer.

  • The Alibi
  • But there's more. Further proof that Bongiorno was being questioned as a suspect is that he provided an alibi for his whereabouts on the day of the murder. Apparently, according to Bongiorno, he spent that day with fellow priest, Sean O'Connell, at a meeting at Coburg well into the late afternoon. This alibi was accepted by the police without question, it seems, even though had the police dug into their own files they would have known that O'Connell had a record of lying to police in criminal matters. (see Two Murderers – Part 2)

    But there is something that is far worse about this alibi from two lying priests that almost defies comprehension. It never ends. You will remember further up in this article that Bongiorno was interviewed by the police in Thornbury in the early afternoon straight after the police arrived at the murder scene. He was also despatched to Mark James' school to collect him and returned to the murder scene with him. There were pictures taken of Bongiorno outside the murder scene that afternoon and published in the press the next morning.

    Bongiorno was at the scene of the crime that afternoon and we have the testimony of the police and the photos to prove it! It was simply impossible for Bongiorno to have been at Coburg all that afternoon. And the police absolutely knew that because they were dealing with him, on and off, all afternoon! How could this not be a cover-up?

  • Been Here Before
  • It was reported in the press at the time that the policeman who interviewed Bongiorno on that occasion in 1998 said that he was much more co-operative this time. It would seem that this policeman also interviewed him in 1980 or was present at that interview. Either way, his comment betrays the fact that he knew Bongiorno was interviewed on the afternoon of the murder in Thornbury! So there is absolutely no excuse for not knowing that Bongiorno was straight out lying to him regarding his alibi of being in Coburg. How is this not a very clumsy cover-up? Not surprisingly, this homicide detective can't remember that interview in 1998 now.

    Who could this cop be? His name was redacted from the Trace program dealing with this incident.

    Though the alibi is false to the point of being stupid, whoever this detective was could reason that this entry in the file would not come to light later on. But why put such a transparent lie in there?

  • The Long Shadow of El Jefe
  • If this is part of the Catholic Mafia at work, then it becomes obvious that Bongiorno has to be eliminated quickly as a suspect of Maria's murder. Also, it was probably reasoned, the only person who is likely to follow it up is Jeff Kennett given the involvement of the Bongiorno family name and his personal interest (can we say 'vendetta'?) at the time against Bernard Bongiorno. Jeff could be told Anthony Bongiorno had a watertight alibi and that would be the end of it . . . hopefully.

    That last paragraph is speculation, for sure, but what else to make of it? Whatever the case, someone was telling a huge lie that was high risk for the police and greatly benefited Bongiorno and the Church hierarchy. And people who should have known better have swallowed that lie whole.

  • "It's In The File"
  • Bongiorno's ludicrous alibi has been described as “less than watertight” by both retired detective Snr-Sgt Ron Iddles and the ABC Trace team. Quite an understatement. The directly contradicting information is in plain view and is a central part of the Trace program itself and a major part in the police investigation that Ron Iddles has been investigating for 37 years. Indeed, as Ron is fond of saying, “the answer is in the file” and that particular answer has been in the file for 18 years, staring up at anyone who cared to take a look.

    Needless to say, this covering for Bongiorno by the police who interviewed him in '98 and accepted the false alibi is a further indication, should we need it, of Bongiorno's guilt.

    Meanwhile, there's an unidentified ex homicide policeman out there who has a lot to answer for and little wonder he is having trouble remembering.

    2017 - Human Error: You can't help bad luck. Or can you?

  • Tight Lips
  • For over a year, Victoria Police were unco-operative with the ABC Trace program providing no comment to repeated questions and requests for information put to them by the ABC's Rachael Brown. They were deathly quiet, that is, until episode 4 was about to go to air.

    Episode 3 had introduced Fr Thomas O'Keeffe into the story and into the public's awareness for the first time. He was the parish priest at Thornbury and Anthony Bongiorno's boss. Yet his name had not surfaced in any of the newspaper reports or television documentaries that has been produced over the many years. But now he was a potential suspect as he had been identified as a paedophile, an abuser of Adam James and as a member of a satanic cult that had ritually murdered victims with knives amongst other implements.

    During the week between the airing of episodes 3 and 4, Rachael Brown was busy making inquiries into the whereabouts of O'Keeffe's body and what would be involved in getting a DNA sample from it. As it turns out, it would be very simple to get a DNA sample from his body because it is interred in a mausoleum rather than buried.

  • Loose Lips
  • But suddenly, with the introduction of O'Keeffe's name into the murder investigation, Victoria Police are all over the story. Indeed, they not only hijacked the headlines, they hijacked the whole story as you will read below with their hastily cobbled together and ever-changing story of the 'Great DNA Bungle'. We even had the Police Minister, Lisa Neville, on the phone to Ron Iddles to find out how the James brothers were taking the news of the bungle.

    Source Police Minister Lisa Neville with Ron Iddles

    It seems that the DNA sample that police had in their custody and that was used to clear Bongiorno somehow of the murder, was now the subject of a big mistake. It was the wrong sample and from another murder, police said. It was “human error”, they said. In fact, as it turned out, there was a whole string of “human errors” and all to do with this one DNA sample: this one DNA sample that could answer so many questions. Conveniently, there would now be no DNA sample with which to compare O'Keeffe's DNA sample should one be obtained. What rotten luck! Or was it?

    Luck, good or bad, is random. A whole series of events which all display 'bad luck' characteristics tend not to be bad luck at all when they are consistently bad. We are outside the realm of chance then and the cascading run of bad luck involved in the “Great DNA Bungle” seems to be beyond that realm of chance.

  • The Shifting Story
  • First, the public is told that the pillow slip from the murder scene that the DNA sample was taken from was the wrong pillow slip. We are not told what happened to the 'right' pillow slip but the one tested for DNA was from another cold case murder whose exhibits were stored next to those of the Maria James case. Police were very sorry and very embarrassed, they said, but all the rest of the exhibits were present and accounted for.

    Well almost. The wrong pillow slip is now a pillow. Another “error”: human error, it seems, because we are all human. Or so we are reminded by the police. That's mighty understanding of them.

    Despite Mark James being assured that all the other exhibits are present and accounted for, a few days later we are informed that a quilt from Maria James' bed has gone missing. Police gave this information to Mark James who informed Channel 9 News who, in turn, informed the public. Another human error. More bad luck.

    Next we have the police, in the person of Steve Fontana, Assistant Police Commissioner, holding a press conference to announce that the quilt had been replaced in its bag by a pillow from another crime investigation and we are told again that this is still “human error”. Steve looked particularly uncomfortable at that press conference.

    Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana announcing the 'DNA Bungle'
    Photo: Joe Armao
    13 July 2017 The Age

    How Steve Fontana arrived at the conclusion it was human error and not foul play, we are not told. We are not told how a quilt could be removed from its bag and be replaced with a pillow from another crime's exhibits and still be human error. Where's the quilt now? Presumably not in the police's possession or we wouldn't be hearing about this. Someone's nicked it. Another error, Steve? More bad luck?

    A far more likely explanation would be that someone wanted the quilt removed from police custody and so they replaced it in the bag with a nearby pillow to make it look like the quilt was still in the bag and so hide the timing of its removal. There was blood on this quilt. The murderer's blood? O'Keeffe's blood? Why else would someone remove it?

    Next we had the Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton standing in for the vacationing Chief Commissioner, Graham Ashton, asserting likewise that it was all “human error”. But, again, not elaborating on how that might be even possible. Is this assertion being repeated because its implausibility is obvious? Repetition is a standard advertising/conditioning technique.

    Graham Ashton returns from holidays a week or so later and he also asserts the same thing - it's human error! He is asked on ABC radio by John Fain how he knows it is 'human error'. “Because we don't have any evidence that it is not (human error)” is the answer from Victoria's top policeman. And, no, it has nothing to do with the Catholic Church (the primary beneficiary), he assures us.

    Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton flanked by Ron Iddles and Police Minister Lisa Neville

  • "Alas, Poor Logic ..."
  • What's wrong with those answers? A whole lot if you know the elementary basics of logic. How can you arrive at a conclusion when you don't have any information to support that conclusion? You can't. Unless, of course, you are a police commissioner, it would seem: or the Premier of Victoria. Premier Daniel Andrews, a self described practising Catholic and who consults with the Catholic hierarchy over political/social issues, subsequently made the exact same implausible claim that it was "human error". No evidence, no explanation and certainly no logic offered by the Premier. It's all just bad luck.

    Police tell us that they knew from April, three months before, of the 'DNA Bungle' but have seemingly done nothing with that time regarding the 'bungle' including finding out what happened, who did it and, most importantly, getting their story straight!

    Clearly, they didn't know about the 'DNA Bungle' three months beforehand.

  • Three Strikes ...
  • There are three ways we can tell that this story from the police is not true. The first way is the simple fact that the story keeps changing. This tells us that the story is a 'work in progress' and has been hastily put together. It's not true, in other words. It is a cover-up.

    The final version (so far) from Victoria Police maintains that a quilt was removed from a bag marked "Maria James' blood-stained quilt" and replaced by a pillow from another exhibit box through "human error". The quilt has subsequently gone missing. It is simply not possible for this deliberate act to be a mistake or 'human error'. Too many deliberate decisions were made in this switch of exhibits for it to be a mistake or the product of carelessness. That's the second way we can tell the story is not true.

    A third way we can know that it is not true is that VicPol say that the substitution of a foreign pillow for the quilt happened prior to the exhibits being tested for DNA in 2001. This claim has no credibility once we look into it from the perspective of 'Chain of Evidence'.

  • The Chain That Explains
  • There is a legal requirement called Chain of Evidence or Chain of Custody. It is a bureaucratic process whereby the custody of an exhibit from a crime is recorded as being in someone's possession at all times. It is critical that this record is maintained as the evidence becomes useless in a court case without that continuous record otherwise it may have been tampered with.

    So the forensics lab would have had to mark accepting the quilt and the bag it was in (labelled "Maria James' blood-stained quilt") and mark it out when they returned it to the warehouse. It is not possible for the forensics lab in 2001 to open the quilt bag, notice that there was a pillow and not a quilt in there and then not make a note of that nor inform anyone especially Ron Iddles, the then head of Homicide, of the break in the Chain of Custody of Evidence.

    They couldn't simply ignore it either. They would have had to actively falsify the chain of evidence and there would have been no reason to do that. The fact that the forensics lab did not sound the alarm tells us that when they opened the quilt bag there was a quilt inside it and not a pillow. So, again, the police story is not true. That is three ways the police story is not true.

    If it did happen the way the police say it did, Ron Iddles would have been informed by the forensics lab in 2001 that the quilt was missing and that there was a pillow in its place. If Ron had known that, he wouldn't have been testing all those suspects for DNA afterwards. But he did test those people. So he was unaware of the switch at the time which means he wasn't informed of it by forensics which means that the switch didn't take place until after the DNA testing was done by forensics and the exhibits returned to wherever the police were warehousing them.

    It follows then that the DNA that came from the pillow slip tested in 2001 is correct and belongs to the murderer. That pillow slip that did come from Maria's bedroom should still be in the Maria James evidence box. If it is not, then we have a further cover-up on our hands.

  • Singing From The Same Song Sheet
  • Clearly, the officials who have claimed in public that the substitution of a foreign pillow for the quilt was human error together with the 'fact' that the substitution happened prior to the testing in 2001 are all repeating a story that is clearly not true. These officials, the Assistant Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner, the Chief Commissioner and the Victorian Premier are knowingly or unknowingly telling falsehoods. If it is unknowingly, they should all be sharp enough, in any case, to know that what they are saying doesn't make any sense. If they can't see that, then they clearly don't have the brains to do their jobs. The other options are even less flattering.

    Every way you look at it, the story coming from Victoria Police is not only wrong and but very obviously wrong. The only explanation that makes any sense is that there is yet another cover-up in progress and it is being conducted by someone from behind the scenes: someone who has the power to push all these officials out into the spotlight to tell the same nonsense story; to sing the same discordant song. Either that or we have here an example of spontaneous group stupidity that flies in the face of a primary rule of senior bureaucrats: 'You always push your underlings out to announce the bad news - to take the risks' a.k.a. CYA

    The Trace program has opened a can of worms. Just how big a can it actually is, we are slowly beginning to see.

    Now let us look again briefly at who and what is being hidden or distracted from to get a sense of the scale and the appalling nature of this cover-up.

    Thomas O'Keeffe: The Amazing Invisible and 'Radioactive' Priest

    Thomas O'Keeffe had not figured at all in the Maria James case in 37 years until the third episode of the Trace podcast series. But at the mention of his name, the police do all sorts of strange things. They really do not want to know about him. It is like he is radioactive.

    As noted earlier in this article, O'Keeffe was curiously invisible at the time of the murder. Police were keen to interview Bongiorno, the assistant parish priest, as to any information he could give them that he might have obtained from the Confessional. Yet they weren't keen at all to interview the parish priest, Thomas O'Keeffe, even though the same reason should apply to him, too.

  • It's NOT In The File
  • Mark James has remarked how helpful and understanding the police had been over the many years until Mark informed them that Thomas O'Keeffe had also abused his brother Adam. Then he was shocked to be suddenly confronted by rudeness and dismissal from the police: a complete 180 degree change of attitude. Police did not take a statement in spite of being told of another perpetrator with a motive to kill and dismissed the claim. So, there is no entry regarding O'Keeffe put in the file. As with Bongiorno in 1998 (regarding whether or not he molested Mark and/or Adam James), there would be nothing in the police file for a later investigator to link either paedophile to Maria and provide a clear motive for murder.

    Police had stonewalled the Trace investigation from the start refusing to answer questions or be interviewed. But at the mention of O'Keeffe being involved and his DNA being sought, Victoria Police suddenly burst into action and take control of the story.

    Even now with all the evidence against him, as outlined in Two Murderers Part 1 and Part 2, O'Keeffe is still not in Victoria Police's 'top 5 suspects'! The police just do not want to go near O'Keeffe. Why is that?

    Let us run through his qualifications as a suspect again to show how bizarre his deletion as a prime suspect is :-

    Motivation - O'Keeffe also abused Adam James along with Bongiorno and would want Maria silenced.
    Opportunity - he lived around the corner from Maria's shop and would have known Bongiorno was meeting with Maria that morning about Adam's abuse.
    Ability - he has been identified as being a member of a satanic cult that ritually killed victims with knives.
    Modus Operandi - he had attacked another victim in his home years prior to Maria's murder in exactly the same way that Maria was killed i.e. with a kitchen knife from the victims own home.
    Alibi - O'Keeffe's 'invisibility' means he has no alibi.
    Accomplice - We know from previous instalments that there were two murderers and Bongiorno was one of them. Bongiorno's only possible accomplice is O'Keeffe, given the short time frame involved (half a day) between Maria's early morning call to Bongiorno and her death.

  • The Connection
  • Still, Ron Iddles thinks O'Keeffe is not a suspect but rather only "a person or interest". When questioned in episode 4 of Trace about exhuming O'Keeffe for a DNA sample, the former head of Homicide is reticent,
    "You would have to have some evidence other than the fact that O'Keeffe is a paedophile or is a sexual deviate and all the rest of it. So there has to be a stronger connection between O'Keeffe and Maria. Some evidence that he frequented the shop or, you know, was a regular or he spoke to Maria just before the murder. There's got to be something else to connect the two."

    Well, O'Keeffe was Maria's parish priest and there would have been regular contact because of that. But there is something far more compelling that connects O'Keeffe to Maria and it is something that provides O'Keeffe with a very clear motive for silencing her. It is the very reason that O'Keeffe is now part of the story. O'Keeffe had sexually abused Maria's son! And she is blowing the whistle on Bongiorno abusing her son. O'Keeffe knows he's next. That is quite a telling connection. How much more do you need?

  • It's The Flowers
  • Ron continues, "The question would be 'who sent the flowers'? Can you eliminate that person? No, I can't because I don't know who it is."

    There is a little bit of 'bait and switch' going on here. Even Ron Iddles doesn't want to know about Thomas O'Keeffe.

    Ron goes on to say that all the other suspects would need to be eliminated first apparently before O'Keeffe can be considered for exhumation for a DNA sample or even being a suspect! There is so much wrong with that. Firstly, why is a higher standard for becoming a suspect being applied to O'Keeffe and not the other "Top 5 suspects"? The others, apart from Bongiorno, do not have motivation, but O'Keeffe has.

    Secondly, the flower sender cannot be regarded as a reason not to open O'Keefe's mausoleum because he is not even a bone fide suspect. There is simply no additional information on the 'flower sender'. The only thing that is known about him is that he sent some flowers to Maria. There's no motivation, opportunity, ability or any connection established with him to Maria. Nothing!

    With all the damning evidence, including clear motivation, opportunity, ability and history pointing to O'Keeffe, he is only a 'person of interest'. Yet some guy no one knows anything about is a 'suspect' because he bought some flowers! That's the only thing we know about him and he is the reason we can't get a DNA sample from O'Keeffe's bones? This is getting more than a little bizarre.

  • Loners and Red Herrings
  • All the other suspects that police are looking into (apart from Bongiorno) are loners and are Red Herrings. Motivation, opportunity or ability has not been established for any of them. There is no suggestion that any of them had a partner for this crime as would be necessary because there were two murderers. To remind the reader - one murderer left by the front door and ran away from the church presbytery while the other covered in blood left by the back door and ran towards the presbytery.

    One can only conclude that these non-suspects are being included in the investigation and in the public discourse as distractions.

    With all the damning evidence pointing to him, the invisible O'Keeffe is now (still) being treated like he is radioactive by the police because, as has been shown, they do not want to go anywhere near him. This is the same Victoria Police that has an admitted and acknowledged history of covering up serious crimes committed by Catholic priests.

    Anthony Bongiorno - The highly visible priest no one wants to look at

    We've looked at the evidence against O'Keeffe, so for completeness, now let us recap on the evidence against Bongiorno.

    Motivation - Bongiorno was a paedophile and he abused Adam James and he wanted to silence Maria James
    Opportunity - We know Maria rang him that morning and arranged a meeting with him. He was seen waiting outside Maria's shop that morning.
    He was seen minutes after the murder with blood on his hands, arm and face a hundred metres or so from the murder scene
    Ability - It is very possible that he, too, was in a satanic cult. His immediate boss and house-mate, O'Keeffe, was in a satanic cult as were other priests that Victoria Police are well aware of. So why not Bongiorno? He was a paedophile and exhibited psychopathic traits, after all.
    Alibi - He provided an impossible alternative alibi to the police. We know, and the police know, he was in the vicinity of the murder when it took place.
    Accomplice - The circumstances that we know of require that there were two murderers. Bongiorno and O'Keeffe are the only two suspects that even knew each other.

    There is more than enough evidence in the public realm for any jury in Australia to convict both of these priests of murder. People have been convicted on far less. Yet the police still will not make the case against either of them.

  • The Inconvenient DNA
  • The DNA nonsense started with Anthony Bongiorno. Police (and the legal system) have turned themselves into pretzels over the years to avoid exhuming him from his curiously unmarked grave. After stalling Mark James for years over this issue, they finally admitted to Alan Hircoe after he told them in 2014 that he saw Bongiorno immediately after the murder with blood on his hands: that they now had enough to have him exhumed. But, inexplicably (but maybe not), that didn't happen. Unsurprisingly, Mark James was kept in ignorance regarding Alan Hircoe's testimony.

    The DNA nonsense turns into a public spectacle, though, when it becomes known that Rachael Brown is looking for a DNA sample for O'Keeffe. The police could not reasonably resist calls to disinter O'Keeffe's bones to get a sample from (without looking very guilty) so the next best thing is for the standard with which it would be tested against (the pillowslip) to go missing. And what luck (good or bad depending on where you stand), there's a mix up. As I explained in Two Murderers Part 2, the killer's blood that is on the exhibits in police custody is almost certainly that of Thomas O'Keeffe.

    Police said in July 2017 that all the exhibits would be tested again for DNA and the results would be known by October. It is now the end of March 2018 and we have heard nothing regarding those tests. But who could trust what Victoria Police say now, anyway?

    But for all that, the DNA kerfuffle is another red herring. Plenty of murderers were convicted before the advent of DNA evidence. Whilst people are focussing on DNA samples, no one is looking at all the other evidence that points to O'Keeffe and Bongiorno as being the killers. And as stated above, there's more than enough evidence already known to rule that Maria James was murdered by two Catholic priests, Thomas O'Keeffe and Anthony Bongiorno.

  • Taking The Expensive Way Out
  • But DNA samples certainly have their uses. Given that the public is facing the huge expense with another Coronial Inquiry into Maria's death and lots of other costly legal manoeuvrings, why not simply disinter both Bongiorno and O'Keeffe and take DNA samples? And given that the original DNA sample/samples that Victoria Police still have is/are most likely that of one of the killers, why not compare the priests' DNA with it/them? It would be simple, quick, relatively cost effective (forensic scientists are a whole lot cheaper than a bunch lawyers at a government funded, open-ended inquiry) and answer a lot of questions. That this has not been done already raises its own set of questions. How extensive is this cover-up?


    The only plausible explanation for all of the above failures, falsehoods and fabrications over 37 years that has left the murder of Maria James officially unsolved is that the 'Catholic Mafia' within Victoria Police is still operating, still being protected, still responding to the needs of the Catholic Church hierarchy by still covering up for criminal priests, even dead ones. This 'Catholic Mafia' is also covering for its own 37 years of criminal complicity in the murder of the innocent, determined and entirely brave Maria James.

    And almost everybody in authority knows it.

    The next and final episode in this series, Answering Unasked Questions, can be read here

    Maria James - may you Rest In Peace


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