Safe as Houses: 147 Easey St, Collingwood
This unassuming Melbourne house was home to one of Australia’s most disturbing murder cases, which remains unsolved nearly 40 years on.
For nearly 40 years, the very name of Collingwood’s Easey Street has carried dark connotations.
On January 13 1977, housemates Ilona Stevens and Janet Powell went to investigate 147 Easey Street, where their neighbours Susan Bartlett and single mum Suzanne Armstrong lived. They had heard Suzanne’s 16-month-old son Gregory crying, and had found a dog belonging to one of the women wandering the streets. What they found inside was one of the most grisly scenes in Australia’s criminal history.
Bartlett and Armstrong’s mutilated bodies lay inside the house. Bartlett had been stabbed 55 times, Armstrong had been stabbed 25. They had laid undiscovered for more than two days, while Gregory Armstrong sat unharmed in his cot.
Nine days later, a knife thought to have been used in the killings was discovered at Victoria Park Station. In spite of that evidence, no arrests came. Nearly 40 years on, the case remains open and unsolved.
The house at 147 Easey Street sat empty after the killings until 1983. It went on the market again in 2011, and even the ensuing 34 years had done little to blunt the two-bedroom property’s grim reputation. The Age reported at the time that similar homes in the area sold for $600,000 or more, but 147 Easey Street was brought to market with a reduced price of $460,000 to $500,000.
Three decades also did little to blunt the sensitivity around the property and its history. Real estate agency Nelson Alexander was accused of poor taste in its initial wording of the house’s marketing campaign. Advertisements referred to the property’s place in Melbourne “folklore”, the Age reported. The wording drew the ire of victim support group Support After Murder, who called the ad “absolutely disgusting”. Nelson Alexander hastily changed the ad to refer to the house “having played its part in Melbourne history”.
The house at 147 Easey Street eventually sold for $571,000. Today the median price for a two-bedroom home in Collingwood is $900,000. These days, Collingwood’s Easey Street is known as an enclave of art studios and galleries, as well as the home of PBS 106.7FM, Melbourne’s progressive radio station. But the street’s name will always remain synonymous with one of the country’s most notorious unsolved murder cases, a case as tragic as it is confounding.
Each week, Safe as Houses looks at some of Australia's most notorious murders, and the effect those killings had on real estate values.