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A Melbourne Mother’s Unsolved Murder Case Is To Be Reopened

Maria James death was the subject of popular ABC podcast 'Trace'
ABC’s widely popular podcast ‘Trace’ delved deep into the horrific 1980 murder of Melbourne mum, Maria James, who was brutally stabbed 68 times out the back of her second-hand bookshop in Melbourne’s north. 

Now, 38 years later, the Victorian coroner has made the decision to reopen the Maria James cold case, largely due to new evidence uncovered by the ABC investigative podcast.

On the morning of Maria James’ murder, the mother of two was set to confront the local priest – Father Anthony Bongiorno – who had been sexually abusing her son. James was never able to confront the priest as she was killed that morning. 

Adam James, Maria’s son who was 11-years-old at the time of his mother’s death, later revealed to the ABC podcast that he was sexually assaulted by another local priest, Father Thomas O’Keeffe. Both priests lived and worked close to the second-hand bookshop where James was killed.  

Acting state coroner Iain West has made a statement this morning saying that he would set aside the finding from the 1982 coronial inquest that found Maria James was murdered “by persons unknown.” 

Mark James, Maria’s eldest son, told ABC that the reopening if his mother’s case is the news he and his brother have been waiting for, “It’s been a long road. There were times I thought I might never get there, there’ve been obstacles all along the way. So to get this news, it’s such a joyful moment.”

A witness has said they saw Father Anthony Bongiorno around the time of the murder covered in blood. 

Police have since eliminated the priest as a suspect, but have not said why. 

Father Thomas O’Keeffe, the second priest who molested Adam James, had a history of abusive behavior. 

According to ABC News the former detective on the case, Ron Iddles, has since come out and said a second coronial inquest was a fantastic result and it may provide answers, “There’s no such thing as closure but there can be answers,” the detective said,  “and this may provide answers and ease the pain they’ve been carrying around for 38 years.”

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