The peaceful Perth community was shattered in the late ’50s and early ’60s when Eric Edgar Cooke committed a string of murders. Known as the “Night Caller”, Cooke was an opportunistic killer who used different methods to commit his crimes, including shooting, stabbing and strangling, as well as hit-and-run attacks.
But it wasn’t just the people he murdered who became his victims. Nineteen-year-old John Button was wrongfully convicted of one of Cooke’s crimes in 1963. Sentenced to 10 years in jail, John struggled to move on with his life after his release – until he met investigative journalist Estelle Blackburn, who vowed to help him clear his name...
After John was wrongfully convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Rosemary Anderson in 1963, he never imagined that he’d spend the rest of his life trying to prove he was an innocent man. So when journalist Estelle called offering him help to share his story, he was overwhelmed with hope.
“I wouldn’t have had a life without Estelle,” says John, 76, from his home in Orange.
“There’s no one else who could have done what she did for me... it means the world.”
Together, they spent hours chatting about John’s experiences to write a book that would eventually reopen his case and grant him a new appeal.
“Finally someone with a bit of influence, an investigative journalist, was able to help me,” he says. “It was an amazing partnership.”
John’s nightmare began in 1963, on his 19th birthday, when his girlfriend Rosemary, 17, was killed in a brutal hit-and-run. After an argument over fish and chips, Rosemary had decided to walk home, refusing his apologies and offers for a ride.
“I kept saying, ‘I’m so sorry, please forgive me.’ She said ‘no’ each time. I watched her walk under the subway tunnel and she disappeared from view,” he says.
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