Son pays tribute to mother slain in 1980

·3-min read

The eldest son of a Melbourne woman brutally murdered four decades ago has paid a heartfelt tribute to his mother at an inquest into her death.

Maria James, 38, was murdered at her Thornbury home in June 1980.

She was stabbed 68 times, including 38 times in her back and 11 in her neck, with three wounds on her head.

The murder was never solved, but a new inquest began this week to examine its circumstances, identify the killer and assess the police investigation.

Ms James' eldest son, Mark, on Wednesday told the Victorian Coroners Court his mother was a "devout Catholic".

"My mother was a very good woman - she was very protective of my brother and me," Mr James said.

"She was an ethical person and had a good set of moral standards. She was a very down-to-earth person."

Mr James, 55, also said his mother and father, John James, had a "model" separation when he was about 10 years old.

"They still got along very well - no arguments, no animosity," Mark James said.

"You expect people to hold grudges, but this was absolutely not the case."

Earlier, a former police officer admitted he was on "training wheels" when he examined the crime scene.

Terrence Collins arrived at Ms James' Thornbury home, which was attached to a bookshop she worked at, with a senior officer.

It was Mr Collins' first ever homicide scene.

"No disrespect, but is it fair to say this was you carrying out the job with training wheels on?" counsel assisting the James family, Christopher Winneke QC, asked Mr Collins.

The former crime scene examiner said "yes".

Mr Collins revealed that a knife block attached to a missing blade - believed to be the murder weapon - was found at the home but never collected.

He also said a jumper Ms James was wearing when she was murdered had gone missing.

Mr Collins on Tuesday said when he arrived at the scene he found Ms James lying on her back with her hands tied together with twine, across her stomach.

He found her bedroom walls, door, carpet and wardrobe were covered in blood, and there were two blood-stained pillow cases.

Mr Collins admitted the pillow cases were not taken away as evidence until the day after her body was found and were lost shortly after being recorded as exhibits, with no written evidence of what happened to the items.

Six main suspects have been identified during the inquest, but only one is still alive - a real estate agent who was having an affair with Ms James at the time of her death.

Other suspects include two priests, Father Anthony Bongiorno and Father Thomas O'Keeffe, who have both since died, and have been accused of molesting Ms James' son Adam on the weekend before the murder.

Local man Mario Falcucci who argued with Ms James before she died, Peter Keogh who stabbed his partner to death, and Lyle Perkins who was convicted of assaulting two hitchhikers in August 1980, were also named.

The inquest before Deputy State Coroner Caitlin English continues on Thursday.

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