|Anita Cobby in happier days, sailing with her dog in her lap|
On Tuesday, 4 February 1986, farmer John Reen rang police to tell them that he had discovered the naked body of a young lady in the Boiler Paddock on his farm. He said it looked as though she had been murdered. Police rushed to the scene and found the body of nursing sister, Anita Lorraine Cobby, who had been reported missing by her family the day before.
Anita Cobby had been dragged through a barbed-wire fence and punched, beaten and kicked. There was extensive bruising on her head, breasts, face, shoulders, groin, thighs and legs. Her throat had been cut and she was almost decapitated
Medical officers believed that Anita Cobby was conscious when she had her throat cut. It would have taken two to three minutes for her to bleed to death. Anita Cobby had also been repeatedly raped. The only thing that police could accurately assume at the time of the discovery of the body was that more than one person, possibly by a gang, had committed the crime.
The murder of Anita Cobby united the public in outrage. Petitions with tens of thousands of signatures supporting the return of the death penalty were handed to the government of New South Wales. A Sydney TV station ran a phone-in poll that registered nearly 16,000 calls, almost 95 per cent of which were in favor of the reintroduction of the death penalty.
To a bewildered general public it was inconceivable that the perpetrators of such a crime could be walking the streets, passing themselves off as normal human beings.
But they were. Five of them: a gang of spineless cowards who preyed on women and other people's property between prison terms. Between them they had over 50 convictions for offenses including larceny, illegal drug use, car theft, breaking and entering, armed robbery, escaping lawful custody, receiving stolen goods, assault and rape. Their leader was named John Raymond Travers.