COPYPIC of murder victim Michelle Cohn
COPYPIC of murder victim Michelle Cohn

The day murdered tourist was found behind toilet

THE festive cheer of Boxing Day 1990 was shattered when the body of Michelle Joanne Cohn was discovered.

The South African student, who was holidaying from Johannesburg was found wedged behind the ground floor toilet of the Oak Lodge holiday apartments at Budds Beach.

Police arrived at the scene just after 7pm to be greeted by a scene out of a horror movie.

Michelle's was naked, with her bikini top ripped up and a knife found nearby.

Michelle Cohn
Michelle Cohn

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Her final moments had been violent - the university student had been brutally beaten, with her face, throat, nose and upper chest severely bruised.

Michelle had been stomped so severely that the imprint of a shoe was left on her chest.

The cause of death was suffocation through strangulation.

Michelle's wallet was found outside the building near its garbage collection area, with just $3 stolen, the killer leaving behind some Zimbabwe currency.

It was a shocking end to a Gold Coast holiday which had begun just seven days earlier.

The Cohn family, which included Michelle's parents, sister, two brothers and grandmother, had come to Australia for Christmas.

 

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The Oak Lodge Apartments, Surfers Paradise
The Oak Lodge Apartments, Surfers Paradise

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They were escaping from violence in South Africa during the final years of the Apartheid Government and had applied for visas to take up residency in Australia.

Acting Supt Ken Martin led the murder investigation and told media it was believed that Michelle had interrupted a man attempting to break into cars in the complex while returning from a swim.

"It would appear that a fierce struggle has taken place inside the toilet,'' he said.

 

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A police officer searching for evidence.
A police officer searching for evidence.

He said two males had been disturbed earlier in the afternoon trying to break into a BMW parked two blocks from Oak Lodge.

Michelle was last seen alive at 10.20am on Boxing Day by her parents and family when they left to visit relatives.

Her body was found about 7pm by the apartment manager making a routine check of the toilet and carparking area.

A police officer at the scene holding the knife which was found.
A police officer at the scene holding the knife which was found.

The knife and a piece of packing tape found at the scene which was used to break into cars formed the key elements of the investigation.

Four days after the killing police discovered Michelle's blood-spattered clothes, sunglasses and handbag in the basement of the Oak Lodge and rushed the items to Brisbane for fingerprinting.

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Shane Sebastian Davis being taken into custody. Picture: Paul Riley.
Shane Sebastian Davis being taken into custody. Picture: Paul Riley.

Police arrested then-19-year-old Burleigh man Shane Sebastian Davis on January 10, 1991.

He was committed to stand trial in the Supreme Court for the murder, which began in November that year.

Davis pleaded not guilty to the crime but the Crown's base was that he was the only person responsible.

The Crown alleged Michelle had discovered Davis breaking into a Jaguar in the garage at the apartments before he dragged her to the poolside toilet and "pitilessly" murdered her.

 

In his opening statement, Crown prosecutor Kevan Townsley, said Davis had "deliberately stomped on her neck and chest causing very, very deep, bruising and her to stop breathing''.

Mr Townsley said finger, palm and shoe sole prints found in the toilet and refuse room matched Davis' and that the shoe sole prints were similar to a pair of basketball boots worn by the man on the day of the murder.

A jury took just 3.5 hours to find Davis guilty of the murder and Justice Williams gave him a mandatory life sentence.

In 2009 the case made headlines again when then-Attorney-General Cameron Dick announced that the evidence used to convict Davis would be retested with new DNA technology.

Davis remains behind bars today.

Originally published as The day murdered tourist was found behind toilet

Shane Sebastian Davis was convicted in 1991.
Shane Sebastian Davis was convicted in 1991.


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