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Part one: The murder of Eurydice Dixon

Sep 30, 2019 • 15m49s

One of the terrible facts about the day Jaymes Todd killed Eurydice Dixon is that for him it was almost all very ordinary.

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Part one: The murder of Eurydice Dixon

89 • Sep 30, 2019

Part one: The murder of Eurydice Dixon

[Theme music starts]

ELIZABETH:

From Schwartz Media, I’m Elizabeth Kulas, This is 7am.
One of the terrible facts about the day Jaymes Todd killed Eurydice Dixon is that for him it was almost an ordinary day. Sarah Krasnostein on a crime that made the country pause and ask how these things can happen.

This is part one of a two-part episode.

A warning, this episode contains a detailed description of sexual assault and pornography.

[Theme ends]

Archival tape -- Unidentified male reporter:

“We’ve heard terrible details of the events leading up to the brutal rape and murder of 22 year old Eurydice Dixon. Jaymes Todd in court today, he’s plead guilty to the rape and murder and we’ve heard from the prosecution today of the 54 minutes from the CBD of Melbourne to Melbourne’s inner north where this shocking crime was committed.”

ELIZABETH:

So Sarah you've been reporting this story since June last year. You were in the Melbourne Magistrates Court the first day that Jaymes Todd appeared. Do you remember your first thought as he came out?

SARAH:

Yep, it was that he was very, very young. That was the first thing I wrote on the story in my notebook. That was very early on I was about 24 hours after you were to see Dixon's body had been found in Princess Park. And we didn't really know much about who had done it or the circumstances of that death.

ELIZABETH:

Sarah Krasnostein is a writer and an expert in sentencing law. She wrote about this case in the latest issue of The Monthly.

SARAH:

So when he came out he looked like a big kid And he was kind of large and hulkling. He still had baby fat on his face. He was very quiet. And he was very inward. He sat there for most of the hearing with his eyes shut. So in terms of what your expectations are and the reality there was that mismatch there which makes it in some ways even more scary and destabilising. He was looking only when he had to at the Magistrate very briefly and kind of sideways and then he would go back to having his eyes shut. So I've got notes in my notebook. You know 15 minutes in - eyes still shut. Twenty five minutes in - eyes still shut. Thirty five minutes, eyes shut. And in some ways that strikes me as quite rude but it was to me a large sign of kind of fear.

ELIZABETH:

What took you to the court that morning?

SARAH:

So Princes Park for me has figured largely in my life. I mean I went to uni at Melbourne around the corner and in many ways that was my backyard. And so there was kind of the proximity of where she was found. But mostly it was her age, that such a young woman had been found murdered in a public space. And so I had the ability on that day to go in and see this offender who had turned himself in very soon after the crime was committed. So I went and saw… I wanted to see what it was. What was the story there.

ELIZABETH:

Take me back to the beginning of the day that Jaymes Todd committed the crime that would bring him to the courtroom.

SARAH:

So the most startling thing about it, and I think the scariest thing about it, is that it's a perfectly normal day for him. He was finishing a hospitality course that year and he had class and he went to the city with some mates and they bought some alcohol.

They hung out in the park. It was a Wednesday night but I guess for them it felt like a Saturday night in terms of what they were doing. They walk around. They're hanging out. They decide to go home. Eight thirty, nine o'clock they catch a train that's headed towards Broadmeadows which is where Todd lives in Melbourne's outer western suburbs.

He lives in a Housing Commission with his parents. Both his mother and father and two brothers. He has an older brother and a younger brother. One of the experts that the defense will call at a sentencing hearing is Dr David Thomas and he conducts Todd's psychiatric assessment. He's a consultant psychiatrist with the Victorian Institute for Forensic Mental Health. And he said that Todd's home was the most extreme example of squalor and neglect that he'd seen in 18 years of practice. So what he described was these three boys living with their parents and various pets in conditions where the kitchen had collapsed because the floor had rotted under it. Any cooking that happened was done on a hot plate next to the toilet which was blocked. And you couldn't tell because of the level of rubbish in each room, whether it was inhabited or not. So food waste kind of lay where it fell. Rubbish lay where it fell and it had been that way for a very long time. And that was, that was his home.

ELIZABETH:

One of the things I'm wondering is what Todd would do on a normal night when he didn't go home… because it wasn't unusual for him not to spend the night at home.

SARAH:

No. So for a number of years he had been sleeping rough. He would sleep in parks or down at the beach or at his girlfriend's house. He had a girlfriend for the four years before the murder. So he would deliberately choose to not go home, he would avoid his home. Where he couldn't avoid his home, he had his own room and he would be on his iPad in his room. And Dr. Thomas said it was not unusual in the milieu of that house for somebody to be at home and not know if anyone else was at home. So it's a very isolated emotional environment.

ELIZABETH:

On the night of Eurydice Dixon’s murder, Todd almost does go home but then he choses not to and he gets off a few stops outside the city. What does he do next?

SARAH:

So he buys some tobacco and he hops on a train back to Flinders Street Station...

ELIZABETH:

Turns around.

SARAH:

Yeah. And it's interesting because you never know what's in anybody's head, was he intending to go home? Did he change his mind? Was this his plan the whole time to get back to the city alone?

Who knows. But you know about a half an hour later he finds he finds himself back basically where he started the evening with the exception that he's now in the city alone.

He eats at McDonald's and comes back to the intersection of Flinders and Swanston. He's hanging outside of Young and Jackson's kind of on the opposite side of Flinders Street Station.

[MUSIC STARTS]

And that's where he sees Eurydice Dixon for the first time She was crossing the street with the station behind her having just said goodnight her boyfriend Tony Magnusson, when his tram arrived to take him kind of south side. And when she's halfway across the intersection that's when you see Todd turn and start to follow behind her.

ELIZABETH:

We’ll be right back.

[MUSIC ENDS]

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ELIZABETH:

Sarah, can you tell me a little bit about Eurydice Dixon?

SARAH:

Eurydice Dixon was a 22 year old comedian, she was a writer and an artist. And she had played a gig that night.

Inevitably the story is about Eurydice Dixon but in many ways, it's not her story. So outside the court when the sentence was completed her father Jeremy Dixon said something that I found very important and very moving, which was that Eurydice should be remembered as her friends will remember her. For her wit, her courage and or kindness, not for her death.

So inevitably when we talk about James Todd it will raise the name Eurydice Dixon. But her story is much larger than this and it is not the story of her death. And it is certainly not the story of her murder.

ELIZABETH:

Sarah at this point on that night it's about 11:00 p.m... Eurydice’s in Melbourne's CBD. She's just said goodbye to her partner and she's now being followed by Jaymes Todd.

SARAH:

It's quite chilling. He keeps a constant distance of about 15 to 20 seconds behind her. When she stops, he stops. He'll roll a cigarette so he has some kind of excuse for being there.

ELIZABETH:

And he's reconstructed from CCTV.

SARAH:

Yes. So he follows her for just under an hour through the city and there is CCTV footage of most of that. And it ends just outside of Melbourne Uni. So you can see him following at a constant distance behind her. Beginning around Flinders Street, crossing the map of Melbourne and ending in Parkville.

ELIZABETH:

So eventually just before midnight after that CCTV footage at Melbourne Uni is kind of the last recorded visual. Of them both. They reach Princes Park which is kind of on the boundary of the city and what becomes the inner suburbs. What happens then?

SARAH:

Eurydice Dixon loved Princes Park. It was very special to her and she in certain ways kept it very holy. That it was a safe spot. We heard that she loved to take her shoes off and walk over the grass with bare feet. So it's midnight. She's just at the edge of Princess Park. The park has three soccer pitches wide where she entered it. She texted her boyfriend Tony Magnusson saying I'm nearly home, how about you? He was asleep then and didn't get the message, it was on Facebook Messenger. And she's nearly home, she's very close to her house. So she walks over the first and then the second. Todd is trailing her in the dark. He's waiting until she is very embedded into the park and isolated in that way. And then when she steps onto the third soccer pitch is when he attacks her. So he knocks her to the ground. And that's when he sits on her chest. He chokes her. He rapes her, it crushes her windpipe and then he takes her phone and he leaves.

ELIZABETH:

And where does he go after that?

SARAH:

This is part of what I'm referring to when I call it just a normal day for him. He doesn't go home but that's not unusual. So he walks north for about an hour and he comes to Royal Park Station where he goes to sleep on the platform for about an hour and then he wakes up. He uses her phone as a mirror to inspect the defensive injuries that she left on his face and his neck, shoulders. He browses through her phone and then he kind of walks back the way he came, including going back to Princes Park. By which point he's moved on by the police who have established a crime scene there. Her body was found at 2:50 by a man walking home from work and so Todd takes the tram back into the city. He buys a coffee and a pie at 7-Eleven, eats and drinks and then he catches a train and a bus back to his house.

ELIZABETH:

So he's home by early the next morning.

SARAH:

Yeah about six or six thirty.

ELIZABETH:

And what does he do when he gets home to Broadmeadows?

SARAH:

So the first thing he does is he searches on his iPad for Princes Park and he reads a couple of articles about the discovery of a woman's body in the park and then he starts doing searches for rape and murder porn and he spends the next couple of hours viewing those videos. He looks for search terms ‘Strangled and brutally raped’. He looks at those videos that come up in that search. He does a search for brunette specific videos. He does another search for ‘curvy emo girls’ and he's in his room doing this for the next few hours.

He had an obsession with the sort of porn, it had been growing over the last few years and so was very normal for him to be in his room alone spending increasing amount of time looking at increasingly violent pornography.

ELIZABETH:

So what happens for the rest of that day?

SARAH:

Around six thirty that evening a friend calls to say that his face is all over the news.
And that friend says that he should call the police or else the friend will, and so this is when Todd googles Broadmeadows Police Station number. He calls the station. He says it's his face on the news but he doesn't know about any death. He wasn't involved in any death. So he gets a lift to the station from his girlfriend and her mother and in the car the mother suggests that he should tell his own mother what's going on. His own mother meets him at the station and then he goes into questioning.

ELIZABETH:

And what happens with the police?

SARAH:

Todd tells them three different versions of the story. And he maintains his denial over six hundred and sixty questions and then the detective explains what's going to happen next and that is the forensic process. So how it will include a comparison of his DNA samples to samples found at the crime scene and it's at that point that Todd says don't worry about the DNA I did it. I'll tell you everything.

ELIZABETH:

Tomorrow, this story concludes with the legal argument that preceded Jaymes Todd’s sentencing.

[MUSIC ENDS]

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[Theme music]

ELIZABETH:

Elsewhere in the news:

In the US, Senator Lindsey Graham, who helped lead the impeachment of Bill Clinton, is expected to take a key role in defending Donald Trump against impeachment. Trump is accused of pressuring the president of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Democratic rival Joe Biden. Graham is expected to attack the whistleblower who made the accusations as biased and dismiss the report of the president's actions as hearsay.

And in sport, Richmond has won the AFL grand final, beating Greater Western Sydney 114 to 25. It is the club's 12th flag.

This is 7am. I'm Elizabeth Kulas. See you Tuesday.

One of the terrible facts about the day Jaymes Todd killed Eurydice Dixon is that for him it was almost all very ordinary. Sarah Krasnostein on a crime that made the country pause and ask how these things can happen. A warning, this episode contains a detailed description of sexual assault and pornography.

Guest: Writer and sentencing law expert Sarah Krasnostein.

Background reading:

A man who hates women in The Monthly
The Saturday Paper
The Monthly

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7am is hosted by Elizabeth Kulas. The show is produced by Emile Klein, Ruby Schwartz and Atticus Bastow with Michelle Macklem. Our editor is Erik Jensen. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio.

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89: Part one: The murder of Eurydice Dixon