How most killers give themselves away
RON Iddles has a reputation so fierce even the meanest, most-seasoned crooks dread the day they cross his path.
But unlike the murderous crims he pursued, Iddles never relied on violence.
His weapon was good old fashioned detective work and it resulted in a conviction in 99 per cent of the 320 murder cases he handled.
"There's always someone out there who knows who's responsible," Iddles, 63, told True Crime Australia.
"In the 320 (homicide) cases I worked on over 25 years, in the majority, you'll eventually find someone who the killer has told. It's very rare that the person's not going to tell someone."
It's this insatiably human compulsion to confess that Iddles relied on during his career as Australia's greatest homicide detective.
Now, as star of Foxtel's new series The Good Cop, Iddles gives viewers a masterclass in homicide investigation, beginning with the final case he handled before his retirement in 2014.
In 1983, the body of 16-year-old Michelle Buckingham was found dumped on a lonely road near Shepparton, Victoria.
It was the oldest cold case in the state and Iddles had little confidence reopening it.
However, after being relentlessly called by Tammy Mills, a reporter from the Shepparton News covering the story, he agreed.
Through the investigation, Iddles made contact with a man named Norman Gribble, who told him his brother-in-law Stephen James Bradley, confessed to the murder after Buckingham disappeared.
Iddles recalls his meeting with Gribble.
"He said I carried the secret for 30 years and it wasn't until I looked at the front page of the paper (which featured a story on Buckingham) … and I thought, I can't keep this secret any longer," Gribble told Iddles.
That tip-off led to the conviction of Bradley, currently serving 27 years for Buckingham's murder.
Then there was the 1982 case of murdered six-year-old Bonnie Clarke, who was raped, asphyxiated and stabbed in her bed in Northcote, Melbourne.
For years, her mother Marion Wishart was treated as the prime suspect but without sufficient evidence the case was deemed cold.
It wasn't until Iddles revived the investigation in the early 2000s that Clarke's killer, Malcolm Joseph Thomas Clarke - a boarder who once lived with the family but of no relation - was finally pinned for the crime.
As Iddles often advises rookie detectives, "the answer's in the file", and in this case it was. The name "Mal Clarke" was recorded in the files from the original investigation in the statements of two separate women who remembered Clarke showing a creepy and inordinate interest in Bonnie.
After an elaborate undercover sting, Iddles and his team managed to get Clarke to make a secretly taped confession.
"There are cases where you've got absolutely nothing but when it's unsolved and you review it, you might have a suspect who was given an alibi, so it's about going back and seeing some of those people," said Iddles, musing that the passing of time often means a person's willingness to provide an alibi can change, and a new channel of investigation opens up.
But no matter the case or the circumstances, Iddles has one adage that always leads him to success: "Assume nothing, believe nothing, check everything."
And with persistence, patience and empathy, it pays off … 99 per cent of the time.
Ron Iddles: The Good Cop premieres 7.30pm, Thursdays, from January 31.