3 October 2023

UPDATED: Man charged in 1999 cold case murder named in court

| Albert McKnight
Irma Palasics and John Mikita

Grandson John Mikita has been involved in the investigation into Irma Palasics’ murder over the decades. Photo: Supplied, Albert McKnight.

UPDATED 4 pm: The case against the man arrested over the murder of Irma Palasics has appeared in court.

The case against 68-year-old Steve Fabriczy was briefly heard in the Dandenong Magistrates Court on Wednesday afternoon, where it was adjourned until Thursday.

3:25 pm: Over two decades after 73-year-old grandmother Irma Palasics was murdered in a violent home invasion, a man has finally been arrested over her death.

On 6 November 1999, two men forced their way into the McKellar home she shared with her partner, Gregor Palasics, where they bound and assaulted the elderly couple before ransacking the house and stealing cash and jewellery.

Ms Palasics did not survive her injuries and died at the scene.

After years of a police investigation, pleas from her family and a $500,000 reward for information, on Wednesday (20 September) morning a 68-year-old man was arrested at his home in Rowville, Melbourne and was expected to face court to be extradited to the ACT where he will face a murder charge.

“After nearly 24 years of pain, questioning and uncertainty, we have never given up hope of finding out who was responsible for this heinous act,” Ms Palasics’ grandson, John Mikita, told media later that day.

He said, thanks to the efforts of police, “one of the alleged offenders involved in my grandmother’s murder is finally facing justice”.

When asked what he would say to the second man alleged to be involved in the murder, Mr Mikita said, “[after] 24 years leaving us with the sadness and not knowing what happened, it’s time to come forward”.

“It’s time to share what happened on that night,” he said.

man being arrested

The 68-year-old was arrested in Rowville, Melbourne on Wednesday morning. Photo: ACT Policing.

Detective Superintendent Scott Moller said the 68-year-old had been arrested peacefully, was from Melbourne and had very limited links to the ACT.

“While we have made this arrest today, we haven’t finished. We are continuing our investigation and we are working towards the second offender,” he said.

“At this time I would urge that person to come forward, before ACT police come knocking on his door.”

He would not speak about the intricacies involved in the arrest but said it had been a “mammoth” effort involving tens of police over the decades.

He said investigators had faced a great number of difficulties, like the development of DNA technology, which had been “significant”. He also said forensics had only been one part of the investigation.

READ ALSO Man charged with two counts of attempted murder at ANU remanded in custody

Detective Superintendent Moller said ACT Policing and Australian Federal Police had worked on the case over the decades and had even had assistance on advancements in technology from the FBI.

“There’s been a tremendous response from the public in relation to this matter over the years,” he said.

“[But] the arrest today has not been generated by information from the public.”

When Mr Mitika was asked if he ever doubted this day would come, he said “24 years is a long time”.

“We did as a family begin to start to think that we would actually never get closure,” he said.

“I think within the first five to 10 years you hope that something happens. Fifteen to 20, you just start to think that nothing will ever happen.”

Superintendent Moller with Irma Palasics' family

Detective Superintendent Scott Moller speaks with Irma Palasics’ family, Liz and John Mikita, as well as John’s wife, Bernadette. Photo: Albert McKnight.

But he thought his family was “testament to the fact that you never give up hope”.

“What ACT Policing have done for our family, bringing at least the first [alleged] offender to justice now, is proof that if people know something about the other cold cases it’s never too late to come forward and give information to ACT police so the other families can get a result and not have to worry about what happened with their loved ones,” he said.

READ ALSO ‘I am truly sorry’: Former truck driver imprisoned for fatal crash

Mr Mitika thanked those involved in the investigation or who supported his family.

“We would also like to thank the Canberra community, who have been with us for the last 24 years,” he said.

“You fuelled the hope that together we could deliver justice for my grandmother and grandfather.”

The 68-year-old is expected to be extradited to the ACT in the coming days.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.