Safe as Houses: 94 Marine Parade, Maroubra
A wealthy pillar of the community falls victim to a crime still unsolved nearly 70 years later.
- WARNING: The following article contains descriptions of violent crimes some may find disturbing
It was rare in the 1950s for a savvy, independent businesswoman to be given the credit she was due, which is perhaps why the newspapers seemed to uniformly refer to Mary Fahy as a “wealthy spinster”.
In reality, Mary had immigrated to Australia from Ireland and had made a success of herself. She started a flourishing mixed business shop at 94 Marine Parade in Maroubra. Mary owned the building, along with its attached flats. At 62 years old, she had managed not only to amass considerable wealth, but also to gain the respect and admiration of her community.
94 Marina Parade in 2016. Source: Google
Unfortunately, Mary’s success and high standing in the community may also have been her undoing. It was well known around Maroubra that Mary stashed a considerable amount of money around her house. For would-be thieves, the thought of a single woman alone in her home with all that money must have seemed enticing.
Mary wasn’t entirely alone, though. She shared her home with her longtime friend, Sarah Ann Ruth Turner. The two had been friends for 30 years and Turner was described by tabloids at the time as being “well preserved for her 78 years”.
Turner would tell a coronial inquest that the night of April 14, 1949 was much like any other. Mary closed her shop at around 6:10PM and the two retired to Mary’s lounge for wine and gin. Turner went to bed just after 9PM, but when she woke the next morning the lights were still on in the lounge.
“I noticed the doors were open. This was unusual because it was Miss Fahy’s custom to close the doors herself before retiring,” Turner told the inquest.
“I entered the hallway and noticed the light still on and when I came to Miss Fahy’s bedroom I saw her lying on her back by the wall. There was blood on her and on the standing mirror near the door.”
Mary had been stabbed six times and a detective who attended the scene told the inquiry it was “a very nasty case”. Robbery seemed a likely motive, as Turner said Mary was known to keep money stashed in different spots around the house. But when the police searched the home, they found more than £867. Either the robbers had failed to be very thorough, or some other motive was at play.
Newspaper clipping from the time. Source: Trove
The case would prove to be one that stymied the police. Friends of Mary’s told the inquest that they had no reason to suspect anyone, as Mary was well-liked and pleasant to everyone she came in contact with. Police operated on the theory that the killer was known to Mary, but this led to dead end after dead end. Tabloids from the day excoriated the police for their inability to find a firm suspect.
The one potential culprit was an interstate criminal named John Leslie Shinnell. Shinnell was captured in Brisbane, but escaped police custody. When he was found, he viciously attacked officers with a knife. Finally under lock and key, Shinnell hanged himself in his jail cell.
Even this theory proved tenuous at best and with the suspect dead, newspaper reports say police didn’t take seriously the idea that Shinnell had killed Mary Fahy. The crime remains unsolved.
The building that Mary purchased, where she set up shop and cemented both her fortune and her good name in the community, still stands in Maroubra. While CoreLogic has no information on its current value, it last sold in 1993 for $435,000. The secret of how Mary Fahy met her end seems destined to be forever held within its walls.
Each week, Safe as Houses looks at some of Australia's most notorious murders and the effect those killings had on real estate values.