It was a crime that shocked not just the Bega Valley, but the entire nation.
Twenty years ago, Bega High School students and best friends Lauren Barry and Nichole Collins had their young lives tragically cut short after being held captive for 12 horrendous hours.
Fourteen-year-old Lauren and 16-year-old Nichole were killed on October 6, 1997, in what has been described as one of Australia’s most vicious crimes.
The two Bega High School students were abducted by Leslie Camilleri and Lindsay Beckett while walking from their campsite at White Rock near Tathra to a nearby party, their bodies found five weeks later at Fiddler’s Green Creek after Beckett confessed to investigators.
Camilleri is currently serving two life sentences with no chance of parole, while Beckett is serving a life sentence, and could be paroled in 2033.
Lauren’s older brother Nathan, now 37 with a family of his own, remembers the overwhelming response the families received from the community in the days and weeks after their disappearance.
“It was and still is the most horrific tragedy to hit this area. It's still being felt by those who were here, and has sadly been passed down to others,” Nathan said this week.
Nathan Barry was just 17 when his sister Lauren and her best friend Nichole Collins disappeared.
Over the 20 years since the murders Nathan has dealt with his grief by blocking thoughts and memories of his sister, and the tragedy has affected many of his relationships.
“My earliest memory of Lauren would be playing together on our property in the town of Orange as very young children. There was a pine forest, and along with the neighbourhood kids there we used to play hide and seek. I would always grab my sister to help her out, by finding a really good place. We were a great team,” Nathan reflects.
“We were so alike in features that everyone knew we were brother and sister. We shared a special bond, like twins.
“I was little bossy with her at times or jealous, but that's just natural I guess. Mostly I was very protective and always looked out for Lauren.”
Now with his own family, Nathan spends as much time as possible with his sons Reace and Aroha, and wife of two years, taking the family’s four-wheel drive out into nature, a place that has helped the healing process.
“Looking back I'm glad I waited until I was 35 to have kids, because I needed to bring love back into my life first,” Nathan said.
“Having a family and the responsibilities that come with it gives a feeling of purpose and belonging. I want my sons to grow up knowing about Lauren, and how wonderful she was. I want them to grow up to be good men, and walk softly on this earth with love in their hearts.”
Nathan has returned to Bega, after many years of travel and self discovery, but it’s not without its challenges.
“I was very lost. I find coming home healing and confronting at the same time. Bega is such a small town, so beautiful in its nature and way of things. I love the stillness of the bush, and serenity down here,” he said.
“Small towns can be challenging, because everybody knows one another's business, especially something like the tragedy that my family has experienced, which impacted on the whole town, and affected everybody.
“In some ways I feel this is in the eyes of everybody I see on a daily basis, but at this stage of life I'd rather stay and confront my demons than run from them.”
How the crime unfolded
- The girls set up a camp site at White Rock near Tathra on October 3, for the Labour Day weekend.
- Lauren has a birthday dinner with her family ahead of her 15th birthday later in the week.
- At 9pm on October 5 Lauren and Nichole leave a group of friends at the camp site to walk to Nichole’s ex-boyfriend’s home in Jellat Jellat.
- Leslie Camilleri and Lindsay Beckett offer the girls a ride around 10pm in a Ford Telstar, placing a pink portable television set next to the road. The television set would later lead police to the pair.
- Camilleri forces Beckett to murder the girls at Fiddler's Green Creek in north-western Victoria on the morning of October 6.
- Nathan Barry alerts family the girls are missing and police are called.
- Police, Bega Volunteer Rescue Squad, Narooma VRA and SES from Bermagui, Eden and Bega search for the girls, with a particular focus on Evans Hill between Kalaru and Tathra.
- Local volunteer search squad find Lauren’s clothing at Old Wallagoot Road.
- Lauren and Nichole’s parents hold a press conference on October 9.
- Australian Federal Police arrest Beckett on October 27 on car theft charges and remand him in custody.
- Police interview Camilleri on October 28, both men deny any knowledge of the girls' abduction and murder.
- Beckett makes a full confession to police on November 12 and agrees to take police to the crime scene.
- Police later charge Camilleri and Beckett with multiple counts of abduction, rape and murder.
- Bega hosts a memorial service in Littleton Gardens on November 19, 1997.
- Beckett sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 35 years on August 20, 1998.
- Camilleri given two life sentences, without parole, on April 27, 1999.
- Camilleri sentenced to 28 years in jail on December 5, 2013, for the 1992 murder of 13-year-old Melbourne schoolgirl Prudence "Prue" Bird.