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Missing women met with foul play, coroner finds


December 10, 2018 by admin

Two women with links to a house south-west of Sydney, who disappeared within days of each other in 1991, most likely met with foul play and are dead, a coroner has found.

The cases of Karen Gilbody, 30, and Valerie Howell, 41, have this morning been referred to the Unsolved Homicide Team after police investigating the case said there was insufficient evidence to charge the person of interest, Michael James Cook.

Mr Cook has denied he had any involvement in the women’s deaths.

Ms Gilbody was living in a de facto relationship with Mr Cook at 8 Avoca Street, Yagoona, when she went missing about July 1, 1991.

At the Coroner’s Court in Glebe today, Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon said there was evidence Ms Gilbody planned to leave Mr Cook and this could have been the motive to harm her.

Ms Gilbody was reported missing on July 3, her 30th birthday, when her brother and parents were unable to get in contact with her.

She spoke to a girlfriend on June 30 and Mr Cook told police he last saw her on July 2, when she left their house to go on a holiday. He also said he spoke to her by phone on July 4.

Ms Gilbody’s niece Renee told the court her aunt doted on her and her two brothers, and regularly rang and visited them. However, they had not had any contact with her since she was reported missing.

“My grandparents have had to live with this for 21 years,” she said.

Ms Howell visited the Avoca Street house with a female friend on July 3 to inspect some leather goods Mr Cook had for sale.

Later that day, she told that friend Mr Cook had rung her and asked her to return to the house as the goods were ready to be collected.

She has not been seen since. Her car was found doused in petrol but not set alight at Seven Hills 10 days later.

Mr Cook told police he had rung Ms Howell but in fact told her the goods had been sold and not to come to the house.

Mr MacMahon found Ms Gilbody died at or near Yagoona on or about July 1, 1991.

Ms Howell, who was described as a “woman of independent means” died at or near Yagoona on or about July 3, 1991.

Mr Cook remains a person of sufficient interest but police do not have enough evidence to charge him, Mr MacMahon said.

In February last year, NSW Police announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the disappearance and suspected murders.

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