Police feared more killings

At first it was just a missing person's case. A person who had a little too much to drink had not made it home - an event that happens every night across Australia

By Saturday afternoon Homicide Crew Four, the suspicious missing persons unit under Detective Sergeant Dave Butler, began to monitor the situation. Soon it became obvious this was not a matter of a night spent on someone's couch.

Jill Meagher's phone had gone dead and she had not attempted to access her bank accounts, which discounted thoughts she had engineered her own disappearance.

So by late Sunday, more than 36 hours after she was last seen drinking with her ABC work colleagues in Brunswick, an inner-city Melbourne suburb, Crew Four moved in.

But, at least initially, this was not a normal murder probe, as police were not sure there had been a murder at all.

While the investigation had to remain measured, there was an unspoken urgency. What if Jill had been abducted and was still alive?

When homicide detectives arrived in Brunswick on Monday morning detectives did not even have a crime scene.

What they did have was a starting point. They knew she had left Bar Etiquette to walk to her home in Lux Way. They knew she had refused an offer from a colleague to accompany her for safety.

Eventually her handbag was recovered in Hope Street but police were convinced it was not there when they checked the area on Saturday afternoon. This meant it had been planted some time later.

This would have initially indicated the offender might have lived nearby. (The reality was a local found the handbag in the lane on Saturday morning then returned on Sunday evening to put it back as a result of the media publicity.)

The first step for police was to confirm she had not made her destination, which meant interviewing her husband, Tom.

He was told firmly, but politely, that the homicide squad begins with those closest to the victim and then work its way out in ever increasing circles.

The reality is that in the majority of murders the victim knows the offender, and in most cases involving females they are killed by their partners.

Meagher had fallen asleep in front of the television late on Friday night and missed a text from his wife saying, ''Meet me at the pub.''

Police were able to corroborate much of his story, which effectively removed him from the suspect list by Tuesday. He was as he appeared. An undeniably decent man subjected to grief beyond imagination

Detectives began to trawl through her personal life to determine whether she had a boyfriend, was under work pressure, or suffered depression or a medical condition that could explain her disappearance.

When these were discounted the strongest theory became the most ominous. That she had been abducted off the street. That someone seeing a pretty, isolated and vulnerable woman simply bundled her off into the night.

And in the void came the theories. The husband had not reacted as he should. Why had she made the last call to her family in Perth and not to Tom? Why had he said she had not gone out with her handbag when she had?

This reflected not so much on Meagher as our need to come up with acceptable alternatives to the awful possibility she was the victim of an opportunistic abduction.

On Wednesday morning the homicide detectives had to make some tough decisions. They had sourced some CCTV footage from a Sydney Road boutique, which showed Jill outside the shop at 1.43am - her last known sighting just 450 metres from home. It also showed a man in a blue hoodie talking to her.

From the moment the detectives saw these images he became their number one suspect.

There was some debate over whether to make to the footage public. Police knew that he would surely be identified once it was released, but if Jill was still alive the consequences would be disastrous.

The truth was police had concluded she was dead. There was further debate over whether releasing the vision could lead the blue hoodie man to destroy evidence, fabricate an alibi, flee or self harm.

Perhaps in a regular homicide investigation police would have waited another 48 hours before releasing the film. But this was anything but normal and they decided to call for a public appeal to find this man. They feared they were hunting a predator who could strike again.

The response from the public was overwhelming, with 550 calls made to Crime Stoppers. Disturbingly many of the calls reported similar abduction attempts in the area that were not initially been reported to police. This is now the subject of a separate police investigation.

The suspect was ultimately identified internally by the homicide squad and by late Wednesday they had a name: Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41, of Coburg.

The surveillance squad, known as ''The Dogs'', was called in to watch him for two reasons - to check if he acted suspiciously and to ensure he could not strike again.

By Thursday morning he was confirmed as the man in the blue hoodie.

Surveillance police observed him behave as if an average guy from the suburbs, heading to work and following his normal routine. But his past showed another side. He was, as they say, ''known to police''. He had a history that fitted the likely profile and the CCTV vision showed him talking to the victim just before she disappeared.

As he was followed on Thursday morning by The Dogs, Crew Four started to rehearse the interview they would conduct with him later that day. They spoke to police who had previously dealt with him and carefully prepared a strategy designed for his personality.

The interview room was arranged to be non-threatening. Gone was the desk, the notebooks and the straight questions of a formal record of interview.

This was to be a friendly conversation rather than the third degree.

On Thursday afternoon Bayley was apprehended and taken to the St Kilda Road homicide office.

At first he was friendly but insistent. He was not in Sydney Road early Saturday morning, had not spoken to the victim and was not the man on the CCTV footage.

After some hours police played their ace. They showed him evidence that he was the man.

Police will allege that he eventually told them the story, admitting he grabbed Jill Meagher and took her to a side street where he sexually assaulted her.

They will produce the videoed confession in which he says he drove to Gisborne, a town 55 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, and used his own shovel to dig a shallow grave to hide his victim.

After initially denying any involvement he finally took police to the site where the body was recovered.

Yesterday he appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court charged with rape and murder.

It took six days to catch him. It took six minutes to remand him.

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