Kylie Maybury, 6, was murdered on a family errand: 32 years later police swoop

Kylie Maybury was killed in Preston in 1984. Kylie had gone to this shop in Plenty Road, Preston, to buy sugar. Photo: Fairfax Photographic
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Kylie’s mother, Julie, and her grandfather, John Moss, at a press conference in November 1984. Photo: John Lamb

Gregory Keith Davies, 73, outside court. Photo: Eddie Jim

Suspect charged over 1984 killing of six-year-old Kylie MayburyMan accused of Kylie Maybury’s murder lived quiet life in tiny town

The beauty of cold forensic science is it can be used to catch killers and it can be used to clear those wrongly accused.

On Thursday police charged Gregory Keith Davies, 73, over the murder of six-year-old Kylie Maybury, who was abducted and raped while on an errand to a Preston milk bar on Melbourne Cup Day, 1984.

The crime was so horrible and rare that police always worked on the basis that there was only a handful of suspects capable of such a thing.

As would be expected, the victim’s clothing showed obvious signs of the nature of the attack, but it was pre-DNA days and any forensic examinations took the police no closer to the killer.

Two relatives of Kylie – her grandfather, John Moss, and uncle, Mark Maybury – committed suicide in separate incidents after the murder.

Mr Moss died in October 1985, less than 12 months after Kylie’s body was discovered and after rumours linked him to her death. Homicide investigations cleared him of any involvement.

Mark Maybury hanged himself in his cell at Pentridge Prison in February 1987. The charges against him were unrelated.

Once those close to the victim had been cleared it was obvious that it was a random and opportunistic attack. Such offenders are rare and usually strike again.

Seven years after the murder there was a remarkably similar crime against another six-year-old, Sheree Beasley, who was abducted on June 29, 1991, near her Rosebud home. Her body was found in a drain on September 26 in Red Hill.

Both Kylie and Sheree were abducted while returning from errands at local shops. In both cases the suspected cause of death was asphyxiation. One victim was dumped in a gutter and one in a drain.

Former church elder Robert Arthur Selby Lowe was convicted of the Beasley murder and sentenced to life in prison.

A re-examination of the Maybury case made Lowe the main suspect when police found he was active in the Preston area and offending around the time Kylie was killed.

Lowe’s psychotherapist Margaret Hobbs said Lowe was fascinated with little girls wearing pink. Sheree Beasley was dressed in pink and Kylie Maybury carried a pink “strawberry shortcake” bag.

Kylie Maybury was abducted on a public holiday and Sheree was taken on a Saturday when Lowe was not working..

Weeks before Kylie Maybury’s abduction in late 1984, Lowe was interviewed in relation to offensive behaviour involving three young girls in Tyler Street, Preston, less than a kilometre from where Kylie’s body was found.

It was a compelling circumstantial case and, with similar fact evidence, some police believed they had their man. The final step was to check the victim’s clothing to see if the offender could be established using new DNA testing.

In 1995 experts found there was enough DNA material on the clothing to identify the killer. Lowe resisted through the courts any attempt to force him to provide a sample. This strengthened police views he was the killer.

But when they finally got the sample he was cleared. Science showed he was the wrong man. Without that ironclad proof perhaps Lowe would have been charged and convicted.

On Thursday the head of the homicide squad, Detective Inspector Mick Hughes, refused to say if police had a positive match to the man who was finally charged with the killing.

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