Nephew charged with cold case granny murder
The nephew of Elizabeth North grandmother Beverley Hanley has been charged with her murder.
Major Crime detectives this morning arrested Steven Leslie Hainsworth in Melbourne - the culmination of 16 months of intensive investigations.
He has been charged with murdering Ms Hanley, 64, in her Homington Rd home on October 6, 2010.
Hainsworth, 44, is expected to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court this morning where detectives are expected to apply for his extradition to Adelaide - possibly as early as this afternoon.
The breakthrough in the cold case murder follows fresh investigations by a 10-strong taskforce - dubbed Resolute - that has been probing three unsolved murders.
Hainsworth has been a suspect in Ms Hanley's murder since it occurred. His DNA was allegedly found at the scene - on a phone plug pulled from the wall.
Hainsworth was a frequent visitor to her home, which was just two streets from where he lived at the time. Detectives have stated they believe she knew her killer because of the circumstances in which she died.
Major Crime officer-in-charge Detective Superintendent Des Bray said the breakthrough followed "painstaking and protracted'' work by Taskforce Resolute detectives since January last year.
"During that time a number of witnesses were revisited and spoken to and some of them who are important witnesses have felt more comfortable talking to us now than perhaps they were at the time,'' he said.
"They have provided us with fresh information. The investigation has had its challenges and one of those has been the reluctance of witnesses in the past to co-operate.
"Many of the witnesses are in the low-level criminal community, they are involved in low-level crime and drug use and they have been fearful in the past to being exposed as a co-operating witness with police because they live in that environment.''
Ms Hanley's daughter, Robyn Schaefer, said she was "elated and relieved'' when advised Hainsworth had been charged with her mother's alleged murder.
"I still keep pinching myself,'' she said.
"I have never been so happy before in my life.''
Ms Schaefer said she had never given up hope that someone would be held accountable for her mother's death.
"The longer it went on the more determined I was to keep it out there in people's minds so no one would forget her,'' she said.
"I was always confident that one day justice would be done.''
Ms Schaefer praised the efforts of the Major Crime detectives investigating the case to bring it to this stage, but said she was aware it would "now be a long process'' to resolve it finally in court.
"People will be pleased this has happened and I feel my mum will now be able to be at peace because her children now know,'' she said.
Supt Bray said while Taskforce Resolute detectives had gathered considerable fresh evidence over the past year, investigations were continuing despite this morning's development.
"Even though there has been an arrest we are still interested in hearing from other witnesses or associates who may have withheld information in the past,'' he said.
"They can feel comfortable to approach us, confidentially if they wish.''
While forensic science had assisted the investigation, it did not provide the breakthrough that resulted in Hainsworth's arrest.
"This has been a good example where traditional old-fashioned detective work, boots on the ground, that has made a difference,'' Supt Bray said.
"This has ensured the reluctant witnesses developed the confidence to co-operate with police and do the right thing."
Hainsworth was interviewed by detectives in country Victoria last week. He was not charged following that interview and it is highly likely - as on other occasions - he believed he had convinced the detectives of his innocence.
Since Ms Hanley was murdered in 2010 there have been 105 calls to Crime Stoppers from the public. Of those, 15 came following the launch of Taskforce Resolute.
"There has been some information that has assisted the review and the reinvestigation,'' Supt Bray said.
In June last year, Hainsworth outed himself as a suspect in the murder of Ms Hanley - the day Major Crime detectives revealed Taskforce Resolute had been formed to probe three unsolved murders.
At the time, Hainsworth acknowledged he was a suspect in Ms Hanley's murder, but denied any involvement and declared himself "an innocent man''.
Besides the murder of Ms Hanley, Taskforce Resolute has been reinvestigating the murders of Elizabeth South grandmother Phyllis Harrison, 71, and Mt Gambier man Stephen Newton, 55.
Ms Harrison was found dead in her home on Harvey Rd at Elizabeth South on Tuesday, March 3, 1998. She had suffered multiple stab wounds. Neighbours heard her arguing with a male she knew before her body was discovered. Her house was ransacked but it is unclear what was stolen.
The body of Mr Newton, an invalid pensioner, was found in his Mt Gambier home on Friday, November 4, 2011. He was severely assaulted.
Several items, including a TV, DVDs, a computer game console and games were taken and later recovered from a pawnbroker in Mt Gambier. Police believe it is likely he was killed some time between September 23 and 29.
This morning's development is the eighth breakthrough in a cold case murder over the past three years as a direct result of Major Crime's Operation Persist initiative.
As part of the operation, dozens of SA's historic cold case murders have been reviewed and many subject to fresh investigations - including the re-examination of key forensic exhibits using advanced DNA technology.
The breakthroughs have included the 1994 NCA bombing, the 1973 disappearance of Colleen Adams, the 2000 death of Robert Sabeckis at Maslin Beach and the 1998 murder of Dale McCauley at Willunga.
Supt Bray said the continued success of Operation Persist was helping to "build confidence'' in reluctant witnesses to such historic murders.
"It shows them we can help them,'' he said.
"Each one of these cases we clear is another person who is not in the community to harm someone else.''
While there are more than 100 cold cases in SA, detectives are realistic about their ability to solve many of them.
"It is fair to say that everyone wants their case to be a priority. We will continue to conduct our assessments and reviews and prioritise those cases moving forward,'' Supt Bray said.
"These investigations were difficult in the first place and that is why they were not solved. They are even more difficult to investigate 10, 20 years later. People should not have false expectations that everything will be solved, but we will always do our best.''