Killer's threat 'male bravado': Iddles

Killer's threat 'male bravado': Iddles

Despite apparent claims he killed her, Peter Keogh was right to be exonerated over the murder of Melbourne bookstore owner Maria James, a renowned former homicide detective believes.

Ms James, a 38-year-old mother-of-two, was stabbed 68 times in June 1980 at her Thornbury home and bookstore.

Keogh, who died in 2001, has been identified as one of six main suspects in the crime in a new inquest being heard in the Victorian Coroners Court.

Keogh was jailed for the stabbing murder of his ex-girlfriend Vicki Cleary, 25, outside the kindergarten where she worked in 1987 having apparently earlier threatened that “I'll do to you what I did to the bookshop woman”.

Ron Iddles began his homicide career working on Ms James' murder investigation and examined it again when Victoria Police's cold case unit opened in 2001.

He told the inquest on Tuesday that he believed Keogh was rightly excluded as a suspect despite the threat, which was reported by Ms Cleary's boyfriend at the time of her killing, Christopher Wheeler.

It wasn't uncommon for such threats or claims to be made, but Mr Iddles put it down to “male bravado”.

Investigating the murder of Elisabeth Membrey in Melbourne in 1994 he said he would've had claims from 10 men that they'd “do the same” to another person, and the same again in the case of Jane Thurgood-Dove who was murdered in 1997.

“Very rarely is the offender out there basically bragging to people that he's the actual offender,” he said.

“Sometimes I think it's male bravado.”

It was suggested that Keogh's apparent threat on the life of Ms Cleary was a pretty powerful piece of evidence, and he agreed it was in relation to Ms Cleary's death but “absolutely not” in relation to Ms James.

Another of the six suspects – and the only one still alive – is former real estate agent Peco Macevski, who was having an affair with Ms James at the time of her death.

He was scheduled to give evidence at the inquest until being taken to hospital with low blood pressure.

His lawyers have now requested Mr Macevski be excused on health grounds.

Coroner Caitlin English will rule on the application later on Tuesday.

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