Police at the scene where Elizabeth Dixon was murdered in 1982. Photo: Allan Jolly Elizabeth Dixon was found slumped across the front seat of her own car in the bush.
Detective Sergeant Frank Tracey investigated the murder of Elizabeth Dixon in 1982. Photo: Chris Cole
Elizabeth Dixon 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 the body of the woman known as Betty was found slumped across the front seat of her car in bush near Ashtonfield in Newcastle’s north-west in 1982. An autopsy found she had suffered 27 stab wounds.
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 33 years after her death, and acting on a fresh piece of evidence, Central Hunter detectives knocked on the door of a house in William Street, a few doors from Stockton Public School in Newcastle, and took a 64-year-old man into custody.
Within hours, he was charged with Ms Dixon’s murder.
The Newcastle Herald understands the breakthrough resulted from 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 Ms 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 flat in Metford.
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 next afternoon.
Ms Dixon was slumped across the front seat.
A murder investigation was launched into her death and would continue sporadically until 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.
Ms 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 sports centre, worked as a secretary at Cobden Jones Mining in Kurri Kurri and lived alone in a flat in Tennyson Street, Metford.
Sports centre owner and Maitland City Council deputy mayor Bob Geoghegan on Wednesday recalled that Ms Dixon was well-liked.
“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 court on Thursday.