Police examine a car at the murder scene in April 1982 and inset, Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon. Main pic: Allan Jolly.
UPDATE:Rodney Lawrence has appeared in Maitland Local Courtcharged with the murder ofElizabeth “Betty” Dixon.
Solicitor Peter Cleaves told the court no bail application would be made today.
Lawrence is set to appear by audio visual link at Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday, November 4.
Magistrate John Chicken refused bail.
SHE was a Northern Irish lass who fell in love with and stayed, living a simple existence as a squash-loving secretary with a happy-go-lucky disposition and a close circle of friends.
But when Elizabeth Dixon’s stabbed body was found slumped across the front seat of her own car in bush near Ashtonfield in 1982, the girl they called Betty would become a talking point for decades.
Det Sgt Frank Tracey in 1982 with a knife similar to one missing from Ms Dixon’s flat and her car key wallet, which is similar to a wallet which was missing.
Despite several leads and huge public interest, detectives could never get close to any suspect and the case became one of the Hunter’s most enduring murder mysteries.
Then on Wednesday, more than 33years after the murder and acting on a fresh piece of evidence, Central Hunter detectives knocked on the door of a house in William Street only a few doors from Stockton Public School, and took a 64-year-old man into custody.
Within hours, he was charged with Ms Dixon’s murder and the cold case that many had predicted would remain unsolved was a step closer to revealing some answers.
The Newcastle Herald understands the breakthrough was not forensically-driven, or a light-bulb moment where new technology was able to point a finger, but fresh information from the public.
It prompted Central Hunter detectives to blow the dust off the files of the mystery and start looking back into what happened in 1982.
It was the Saturday before Easter when Betty Dixon, 31, left the Greenhills Hit-N-Dip Sports Centre where she was a regular squash player and vanished.
She was known to have made a quick visit to some nearby shops and possibly went back to her Metford flat.
The following Monday, a jogger made the discovery, telling investigators that he had seen the car during a run the previous day but decided to have a closer look when he passed it again about 5.45pm the following afternoon. Ms Dixon was slumped across the front seat. An autopsy found she had suffered 27 stab wounds in the attack.
A murder investigation was launched into the 31-year-old’s death and would continue sporadically through to Wednesday’s arrest.
Two years ago, a reward for information was increased from $50,000 to $150,000 although it is understood the public tip-off was given to detectives recently.
Betty Dixon flew from Northern Ireland in 1979 for a year in and fell in love with the place. Before long, she decided it was her new home.
A squash fanatic, she had done some casual work at the Greenhills Hit-n-Dip Sports Centre, worked as a secretary at Cobden Jones Mining in Kurri Kurri and lived alone in a flat in Tennyson Street, Metford.
Hit-N-Dip Sports Centre owner and Maitland City Council deputy mayor Bob Geoghegan remembered on Wednesday of a well-liked Ms Dixon who had once worked part-time at the courts.
‘‘She was always a very happy-go-lucky girl, very popular and loved her squash,’’ Cr Geoghegan said.
‘‘[The arrest] is very good news.’’
When the unsolved homicide squad revealed the increase in the reward to $150,000 in 2013, detectives were quick to point out there was no sinister side to Ms Dixon.
‘‘This was a respectable young woman who held down a full-time job, was active in social settings and in squash tournaments, who enjoyed a good circle of friends and had family here – there was nothing which pointed to her becoming a victim of such a crime,’’ Detective Sergeant Steve Davis told the Newcastle Herald.
The suspect, who was a well-known Maitland sportsman in 1982, was arrested at his home at Stockton and taken to Maitland police station for questioning.
He was charged with murder and refused bail to appear in Raymond Terrace Local Court on Thursday.