Book Review: Who Killed Leigh Leigh?

I’ve decided to do my first book review here on a true crime book, Who Killed Leigh Leigh? by Kerry Carrington. Since completing my Bachelor of Legal & Justice Studies, I have had an interest in crimes against children and families of murder victims. I have done a lot of research on a range of cases that fall into these categories, and would be interested in writing about true crime in the future, as well as using my research as a basis of writing crime fiction.

Leigh Leigh’s murder and sexual assault was a high profile and horrific crime that happened in Newcastle, New South Wales in 1989. Leigh was just 14 years old, and following the events of a beach party at Stockton, she was found dead on the beach the following day. Kerry Carrington is a criminologist who conducted major research into the murder and investigation, going on to write this book about the tragic event and her experience in researching the case.

Carrington establishes early in her book that the accounts surrounding the events of the murder are still hazy and disjointed. There were multiple suspects, and Carrington offers detailed recreations of what happened that night from police statements made by suspects and witnesses. Although the names are changed in the book to protect the identities of those involved, Carrington’s careful construction of the night leading up to the murder leave the reader shocked and horrified that such a violent and vicious attack could have been inflicted on Leigh by her peers, especially in Australia. By the end of the book we are left wondering how the case was so bungled and why the true story has never come out.

Carrington’s research is intricately pieced together in the book. Readers who know little about the murder of Leigh Leigh are furnished with a detailed timeline of what happened the night of the party and the aftermath investigations. Carrington outlines the statements made by the young people who attended the party and we begin to understand how accounts of the night differ from witness to witness, revealing that a number of people may have been involved. It is evident that to this day, those who know what happened to Leigh have remained silent. Despite Carrington’s persistent and dogged investigations to seek justice for Leigh, ultimately her path went cold.

Matthew Webster pleaded guilty to Leigh’s murder and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Webster was 18 years old at the time of the murder, and acting as a bouncer at the party. Carrington recounts in the book how she attempted to set up an interview with Webster whilst he was in prison as part of the reasearch for the book. She wanted his story directly from him. Despite the arrangements being made for Carrington to attend the prison to interview him, Webster cancelled the interview, and Carrington was never able to further that line of investigation.

Carrington’s passion to seek justice for Leigh and answer the many still-unanswered questions surrounding her death is resounding in this book. She addresses her frustrations with the justice system at the time of the murder and has to draw conclusion in her book that we may never truly know what happened to Leigh. What we do know is that the crime was violent and senseless, and the investigations by the police seemingly inconclusive. Carrington executes her findings in the book masterfully and her research into the case is admirable. Her experience in criminological investigations shines through.

The book isn’t just a recount of events in chronological order. You see Carrington’s heart and soul has gone into seeking answers for Leigh. At the close of the book, the reader shares Carrington’s sense of loss that she wasn’t able to fully achieve her goal finding justice for Leigh. She had to resolve herself to that fact that it was time ‘close the book’ on her research, and as such with many true crime books, there is no resolution and no clear conclusion.

This book was published in 1998, less than ten years after Leigh was murdered. There has also been a screenplay (A Property of the Clan, 1992) and movie based on the case (Blackrock, 1997). Matthew Webster was released from prison in March, 2010 at the conclusion of his twenty year sentence.

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