Remembering Anita Cobby: 30 years since brutal murder of Sydney nurse

Caity Stone

It's been 30 years since one of the most brutal crimes ever was committed in Australia.

The nation was left reeling when on February 2, 1986, nurse Anita Cobby was abducted, raped and viciously murdered by five men.

Group ringleader John Travers, brothers Mick, Les and Gary Murphy and Michael Murdoch snatched the 26-year-old from Newton Road, Blacktown as she walked home from a nearby train station.

26-year-old nurse Anita Cobby was in the prime of her life when she was murdered. Source: Supplied.

The 26-year-old would typically call her father when she arrived at the station but the pay phone was disconnected and there were no on taxis available on that fateful day.

Tragically Cobby was less than two kilometres from her family’s home when she was abducted by the five men.

Cobby was repeatedly bashed, sexually assaulted and repeatedly tortured before having her throat slit.

Her brutalised body was found in a field near Prospect in Sydney's west two days later by a local farmer.

The discovery of her body launched one of the biggest manhunts Australia had ever seen at the time.

The police search following the brutal murder of Anita was unprecedented at the time. Source: Supplied.
The abduction, rape and murder of 26-year-old nurse Anita Cobby in the Western Sydney suburb of Blacktown in February 1986 shocked hardened detectives, the wider community and ultimately the entire nation. Source: Supplied.

Three weeks later all five suspects were identified and arrested.

Community outrage at the time of Anita’s death was so intense that calls were made for the return of the death penalty for the five men.

Due to the heinous nature of the crime the presiding judge ordered that the men never be released.

The police search for Anita was widespread. Source: Supplied.

Three decades since the crime, information is surfacing about the five murderers’ lives inside prison.

Online reports state Travers, now aged 49, once feigned illness and armed himself with a hacksaw in a failed escape attempt.

It’s also reported he was given protection from fellow inmates inside Goulburn's Supermax prison following a series of fights and fears for his life.

The main gate to Goulburn Correctional Centre where Milat and Travers are in prison. Source: Supplied.
It's reported that Ivan Milat and Travers are banned from any contact. Source: Supplied.

Reports also state that the five men often require special protection from other violent prisoners because of threats made towards them and for long stints of time the men were given no duties inside the prison instead spending most of their days watching television or playing snooker.

Travers is also reportedly banned from having any contact with fellow inmate Ivan Milat who is also a prisoner inside Golburn however it’s believed he is still regularly visited by family members.

Anita Cobby-The Crime That Shocked The Nation, was released by author Alan Whiticker last last year. Source: Supplied.

"They will never really be rehabilitated," crime author Alan Whiticker told The Daily Mail.

Whiticker famously authored: Anita Cobby-The Crime That Shocked The Nation.

According to reports Whiticker is adamant the five killers will never be released and will die in jail.


Blacktown in Sydney's west is where Anita Cobby was born and raised, and where the 26-year-old nurse was brutally raped and murdered in 1986.

But Blacktown is now set to become a place of refuge for children affected by homicide.

Garry and Grace Lynch dedicated their lives to supporting victims' families and ensuring their daughter's memory lived on, even after their deaths.

The Homicide Victims Support Group (HVSG), co-founded by them, will continue their work and honour their dream on Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of Ms Cobby's murder.

Fundraising will officially begin for a world-first residential trauma facility specifically aimed at supporting the children touched by homicide.

"Gary and Grace Lynch made me and many others promise Anita would not be forgotten after they died," HVSG executive director Martha Jabour told AAP.

"This is one way of honouring Garry and Grace's wishes."

It will also honour the work of the Lynches, being named Grace's Place.

The 26-year-old former beauty pageant winner was walking home from Blacktown train station in Western Sydney when she was abducted by five men. Source: Supplied.


1986, Feb 2

- Anita finishes work as a nurse at Sydney Hospital at 3pm and meets friends for dinner in Redfern.

- About 10pm she gets off train at Blacktown Station and begins walk home.

- Five men grab her off street and pull her into stolen car. Young brother and sister witness the abduction. Anita's driven to secluded paddock where she's raped and murdered.

- Her parents worry when she doesn't return home, police begin searching.

Feb 4

- Farmer notices his cows making unusual noises, huddling around something. He investigates and discovers Anita's body.

- Garry Lynch has the horrifying task of identifying his daughter's body.

Feb 6

- The NSW state government posts a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Anita's killers.

Feb 9

- Constable Debbie Wallace re-enacts Anita's movements on the night of her murder.

- Following a tip-off from the public police begin searching for John Travers, Michael Murdoch - and brothers Les, Michael and Gary Murphy.

Feb 21

- Murdoch and Leslie Murphy are arrested and charged with stolen vehicle offences and bailed. Travers makes conflicting statements about the murder and is held in custody.

Feb 21-24

- A friend of Travers, known as Mrs X, agrees to help the police and obtains a recorded confession from him.

- Travers, Murdoch and the three Murphy brothers taken into custody.

1987, March 16

- Trial begins, Travers changes plea to guilty before proceedings begin.

June 10

- All five found guilty of murder

June 16

- All get sentenced to life imprisonment plus additional time, with files marked "never to be released".