23 June 2022

Cold cases printed on prison playing cards in bid for fresh leads

| Claire Fenwicke
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Playing cards

It is hoped the Operation Veritas playing cards will generate new cold case leads. Photo: CSNSW Media Unit.

Images and information about the victims of cold case murders will soon be handed out on the backs of playing cards in NSW prisons.

Kingsvale’s Amber Haigh and Sydney’s Rachelle Childs – whose body was found near Gerroa on the south coast – are among the 52 unsolved homicides and suspicious disappearance cases featured on the cards.

Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the initiative had been planned over many years with victims’ families.

“The police investigations into these cases are well and truly active, but they are reliant on information that has been held tightly for too long,” he said.

“[This] is about honouring the memories of victims, supporting their families in their search for justice, and encouraging inmates with crucial information to come forward.”

Playing cards

Each Operation Veritas card displays a photo and information about an unsolved homicide or suspicious disappearance. Photo: CSNSW Media Unit.

The cards have been produced and distributed by inmates working at Corrective Services Industries.

One inmate who worked on the project said he felt many prisoners would want the cases solved.

“I would hate to think I didn’t know where [a family member] was. It would kill me,” he said.

“For all of the people who are in here, there are a lot of people who would like to see these types of things fixed.”

The inmate said he was proud to have worked on a project that would hopefully make a difference.

“I’ve been through these cards. I’ve looked at them all and there are some terrible cases in there,” he said.

“I do not know how the parents deal with that, I really don’t, and if it’s something helpful, then we should be doing it.”

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NSW Police Force Homicide Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said it’s hoped the cards would generate new leads by circulating crucial information among inmates who may have knowledge of the unsolved crimes.

“This format has already had success in the United States and other jurisdictions here in Australia, and we have worked collaboratively under Operation Veritas for almost two years to ensure we get it right,” he said.

“We know inmates often share details of their crimes or those committed by associates with others. This is about capitalising on that and generating new information to progress these cases.”

The operation was named after Veritas, the Roman goddess of truth.

“These cards are about the continued quest for answers and justice for the families involved,” Det Supt Doherty said.

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Homicide Victims’ Support Group Executive Director Martha Jabour said more than five years of advocacy by members had led to the introduction of the cards.

“The families of those represented were personally involved in the production process because, for them, these cards represent the potential for both truth and justice,” Ms Jabour said.

Last month a couple was charged with murder over the 2002 disappearance of Amber Haigh.

They have been refused bail to reappear on 5 July.

Woman with blond hair

Rachelle Childs’ partially burned body was found near Gerroa in 2001. Photo: NSW Crime Stoppers.

A $200,000 reward has been offered to solve the murder of Rachelle Childs.

The 23-year-old’s partially burned body was found in a shallow ditch off Crooked River Road near Gerroa on 8 June 2001.

Despite a coronial inquest into her death and extensive police inquiries, her death still hasn’t been solved.

Police still don’t know her movements the night before her murder, but the car saleswoman was meant to meet someone at Bargo Hotel.

Her vehicle was found in the secure car park of the Bargo Hotel after her body was found.

Anyone with information that may assist Unsolved Homicide Unit investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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