Cold case: blue car could hold the key to murder of Rachelle Childs

Police have revived their hunt for a killer, seventeen years since a woman’s burning body was discovered near Gerroa.

Rachelle Childs was 23 years old when she perished in a shallow ditch off Crooked River Road in the early hours of Friday June 8, 2001. 

“We know that when she was found, she was discarded by the side of the road, well alight. Burning,” said Homicide Squad Commander Scott Cook, issuing a fresh appeal for information in Wollongong on Friday

“Her horrible death remains unsolved, and we’d like to make a fresh appeal today, on the anniversary of her death, for witnesses to come forward.” 

Miss Childs, a car saleswoman, left her Camden workplace the afternoon of June 7, 2001, got changed at her Bargo home, then went to the Bargo Hotel. She told friends she was meeting someone there, but didn’t say who, and the person have never come forward. 

Police have been unable to account for her whereabouts from about 6.30pm June 7, until when she was found early on June 8. 

Police believe reported sightings of Rachelle Childs' 1978 Holden Commodore, 17 years on, could help unlock the mystery of her murder. Picture: supplied

Police believe reported sightings of Rachelle Childs' 1978 Holden Commodore, 17 years on, could help unlock the mystery of her murder. Picture: supplied

Renewed police attention has now been focused on her car, a dark blue 1978 Holden Commodore, registration GV-2000, in the hope it might yet job someone’s memory. 

The car was located at the hotel on June 9 but police don’t believe it remained there the entire time. Miss Childs was a “car fanatic” who kept the interior set-up a certain way. The state the car was found in suggests someone else had recently been behind the wheel, Supt Cook said. 

“We believe that that Commodore may have travelled between Bargo and Gerroa, where she was found, on the evening that she went missing,” he said. 

Rachelle Childs told friends she was meeting someone at Bargo Hotel, where her car was later recovered. That person has never come forward.

Rachelle Childs told friends she was meeting someone at Bargo Hotel, where her car was later recovered. That person has never come forward.

“I would call for any witnesses who may have seen that vehicle at any time between 6.30pm on the 7th and about 2pm on the 8th of June, 2001, to come forward, to let us know where they saw that vehicle. 

“We’re particularly interested in whether the vehicle was at petrol stations. Rachelle was burned, and there was accelerant – we believe to be petrol – all over the place. 

We call on people who may have a memory of that evening to come forward, even if they saw a blue Commodore in a garage somewhere” 

Homicide Squad Commander Scott Cook, issuing a fresh appeal for information in Wollongong on Friday.

Homicide Squad Commander Scott Cook, issuing a fresh appeal for information in Wollongong on Friday.

Police identified several persons of interest in the wake of Miss Childs death. Those people remain in police sights, Supt Cook said.  

“There are a number of theories around this crime. We’re not progressed well enough on any of them to prosecute anyone. There’s a number of theories around her workplace, around the Bargo Hotel, about relationships, about other things, but what we really need to explore further at this time is where that car went.” 

A $200,000 reward remains on offer for information that leads to a conviction. 

Read the media release by NSW Police

Unsolved: Jackie-Lee Walsh, Rachelle Childs and Ross Warren.

Unsolved: Jackie-Lee Walsh, Rachelle Childs and Ross Warren.

Homicide Squad detectives are reappealing for information into the unsolved murder of Rachelle Childs.

In the early hours of Friday 8 June 2001, the body of 23-year-old Rachelle Childs was located on fire in a shallow ditch off Crooked River Road, near the town of Gerroa, on the state’s south coast.

Investigations revealed Rachelle, who was a car salesperson, left her Camden workplace in the afternoon on Thursday 7 June 2001 and got changed at her Bargo home, before heading to the Bargo Hotel.

Rachelle’s car, a dark blue 1978 Holden Commodore with registration GV-2000, was located at the Bargo hotel on Sunday 9 June 2001.

Despite an exhaustive investigation at the time and an extended Coronial Inquest, the circumstances surrounding Rachelle’s death are unknown and no one has ever been charged in connection to her murder.

The investigation is now under the responsibility of the Homicide Squad’s Unsolved Homicide Unit.

Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, said the previous investigation – Strike Force Telap – is due to be formally reviewed under the new unsolved framework.

“The murder of Rachelle Childs shocked the community and the fact that it remains unsolved after 17 years is frustrating for her family and police,” Det Supt Cook said.

“We are putting fresh eyes on all our cases and we hope this new process will enable us to provide more outcomes for more families, including Rachelle’s.”

During the original investigation, detectives determined Rachelle parked her car in the back carpark of the Bargo Hotel about 6.30pm on Friday, but what happened next remains unknown.

“By all accounts, Rachelle was a vivacious young woman and it’s unlikely she would have gone unnoticed in the pub, but to this day, no one can account for her movements that night,” Det Supt Cook said.

“Rachelle told friends she was meeting someone at the hotel, but didn’t say who, and again, that person has not come forward, nor been identified.

“Police undertook a mass voluntary DNA screening in 2003, a first for a murder investigation in NSW, but it did not provide any further clues as to who killed Rachelle.”

Det Supt Cook added a $200,000 reward was still on offer for information that leads to the conviction of those responsible for Rachelle’s death.

“The movement of Rachelle’s car is of particular interest to investigators, and while it was 17 years ago, her car was distinctive and we believe this could refresh a memory,” Det Supt Cook said.

“We have witness reports that the Commodore was seen parked at the hotel at varying times between the Friday evening and Sunday when it was seized, but we don’t believe it was there the entire time.

“Rachelle was a car fanatic and everything was set-up in a certain way, but when police located the car, it was set-up differently, so we believe someone else was behind the wheel at some point.

“We believe her car travelled to the Gerroa area and was driven back to Bargo – so we are very interested in speaking to anyone who was on the road around that time and may have seen her car.

“Further, we know that her body was burnt with petrol, so we are also keen to speak to anyone who may have seen her vehicle at a service station between Bargo and Gerroa that evening.

“Someone out there knows something, so, if you know anything that may help us provide answers to Rachelle’s family, now is the time to free your conscience and speak to us,” Det Supt Cook said.

Police are urging anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Telap investigators to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page. Any information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence. We remind people they should not report crime information via our Facebook and Twitter pages.