Sister tortured by unsolved killing

 

TRACEY Lee Riley doesn't want to die without justice for her big sister.

It has been 47 years since a knock at the door tore the Riley family apart.

Tracey was just eight years old when her 16-year-old sister Michelle Ann Riley and her best friend, Gabriele Jahnke, 19, were murdered but the memories of that time have never left her.

She remembers police officers knocking at the door to say Michelle's body had been found, she remembers the television interviews in her family lounge room and she remembers how her mother never recovered.

Tracey's mother and three other siblings have passed, without knowing who killed the Brisbane teenagers.

Michelle Ann Riley whose remains were discovered on Tamborine Highway near Logan Village in 1973.
Michelle Ann Riley whose remains were discovered on Tamborine Highway near Logan Village in 1973.

But Tracey, now 55, is determined to see justice.

"Because I'm the only one left, I don't want to go to mum one day and not tell her that I did it," she said.

"We buried Michelle on her 17th birthday, she would have been 64 on Thursday.

"I wonder if our grandkids would have played together, things like that just make it so hard."

Michelle and Gabriele were last seen getting out of a taxi near Petrie Bight in the Brisbane CBD at about 10am on October 6 in 1973.

Seven days later, two children stumbled upon Gabriele's body in an embankment off the Pacific Highway at Ormeau.

Then 10 days later, on October 23, Michelle's body was found behind broken bushes off Mount Tamborine Highway, south of Logan Village - about 20km from where Gabriele's body was found.

Courier-Mail front page story from October 24, 1973, on the body of Michelle being found.
Courier-Mail front page story from October 24, 1973, on the body of Michelle being found.


Police at the time said they believed the girls had been hitchhiking together to the Gold Coast before they were murdered by "a frenzied maniac".

They were both killed by a fatal blow to the head and found not wearing underwear.

"We always thought it would come out, but it is getting so long, like 47 years. Is there anyone alive that knows?" Tracey said.

Michelle was a beautiful blonde who became a motherly figure for her four young siblings when the family moved from Sydney to Queensland so their mother, Val, could break free from her alcoholic husband.

Gabriele Ingrid Jahnke who was killed in 1973.
Gabriele Ingrid Jahnke who was killed in 1973.

"She was happy and she was outgoing, that's probably why what happened, happened," Tracey said.

In Brisbane Michelle began hitchhiking for the first time in her life.

"There was no buses and things like there are now … everyone hitchhiked, you'd go out on the main road and you'd always see them hitchhiking," Tracey said.

The fact nobody was ever punished for Michelle's murder caused immeasurable suffering for her family.

Pictures of Michelle and Gabriele were plastered across newspapers and on television screen for weeks in 1973 but no arrests were ever made.

Reports in The Courier-Mail at the time quoted investigators saying it was obvious the killer had a good knowledge of the roadways in northern Gold Coast and hinterland area.

"I was just dumbfounded and I still am," Tracey said.

Michelle and Gabriele on the stairs of the Riley's Annerley home the week before they went missing.
Michelle and Gabriele on the stairs of the Riley's Annerley home the week before they went missing.

"My mother was never the same and my family was never the same."

Tracey said her mother had a nervous breakdown after what happened, never returning back to work, and eventually refused to speak about Michelle's murder.

Her older brothers turned to alcohol and her older sister suffered with drug addiction.

Tracey believes Michelle and Gabriele's murderer killed other hitchhikers who were found murdered in the 60s and 70s, but feels that police and the public have forgotten about what happened back then.

"As far as I know, it's just a cold case and it just sits there, that's how I feel because no one has contacted us," she said.

Tracey Riley reviews coverage of the killings.
Tracey Riley reviews coverage of the killings.

A Queensland Police spokesman said the homicide investigation into the murder of Michelle Ann Riley and Gabriel Ingrid Jahnke remained open.

"There is someone out there who can provide crucial information about what happened to Michelle and Gabriel in October 1973," he said.

"It is never too late to come forward. Relationships and loyalties change, people who were once scared may no longer be and we would encourage these persons to come forward."

A $250,000 reward remains in place for information which leads to the apprehension and conviction of the person or persons responsible for these murders.

CAN YOU HELP? CALL CRIMESTOPPERS ON 1800 333 000

Danielle.oneal1@news.com.au

Originally published as Sister tortured by unsolved killing