Listen: Gary Raymond speaks to Katrina Roe.
If you believe in the power of prayer, say a quiet word of thanks that in 1986, Chief Inspector Gary Raymond was at work on the case of Anita Cobby’s murder.
When he wasn’t sifting through evidence, tracking down leads and making arrests—Gary was taking moments to pray, asking God to help bring clarity and justice.
As a Christian who worked in the police force for decades, the retired inspector says he did a lot of his investigations ‘on his knees’. “I’d tuck myself away somewhere and just bow in prayer and say, ‘Lord, this is your investigation, I’m handing this over to you, show me where to go, what to do’.”
It’s more than 30 years since the infamous rape and killing of Cobby, a young nurse at the time, at Prospect in Sydney’s West. Gary chatted to Hope 103.2’s Katrina Roe about his memories of that time—and there are many.
The Memories Never Leave
“Memories stay,” he said, of the shocking time. “Firstly there’s the shock that something like this happened. Even as a seasoned detective, you go into disbelief and denial and anger, that people could do this to somebody else.
“Then after that, speaking to the family left behind is devastating, to see their sorrow, their emptiness. It’s like being hit by an emotional freight train. There’s the sensory stimuli of the crime scene, the sights, sounds, smells and touches of that, which very much impact. And finally, there’s dealing with the offenders.
“When you eyeball those who have done such horrific things, it’s really emotionally quite testing. But we’ve got to remain professional and fairly stoic, so that we can gather the evidence together… so we can make a good solid brief around that.”
Community Outrage Over Anita Cobby’s Murder
The community’s reaction to the killing of Anita Cobby was a mixture of “outrage and fear” at the time, says Gary.
“As it came out that she’d been abducted, brutally raped, tortured and murdered, there was fear—because [the offenders] hadn’t been arrested, and [we] didn’t know who it was, where they were, and in our minds, and in the community’s minds, was [the question]: will they offend again?”
Tracking Down the Five Offenders
Pulling together evidence and tracking down the five men involved in the murder was like piecing together a puzzle, Gary says.
There was evidence from witnesses, forensic evidence, and testimonies gathered by hitting the streets and talking to street kids, drug users, prostitutes and pub security staff. Once there was enough evidence, Gary says, they “arrested them one by one”.
“We’ve got to remain professional and fairly stoic, so that we can gather the evidence together.”
“We were confident,” he recalls. “We had a major break where the main offender, John Travers, one of his relatives or friends brought him some cigarettes down into the cells. We’d arrested him over a stolen car…he actually confessed to her, [during] the visitation. She was shattered… she came and saw us, and our team got a warrant for a listening device. She went back down in the cells later on, and he confessed on tape under a Supreme Court warrant.
“When we interviewed the other offenders, they confessed what Travers had done.”
Lessons Learnt from the World of Policing
Having worked on heart-wrenching cases like the Cobby murder, Gary Raymond says that he’s learnt, about humanity’s very good and very bad sides.
“Dealing with murder, and serious crimes like child sexual assault, really makes you see how low humanity has got from that time in the Garden of Eden, where the fall happened and sin came into the world and shattered it,” he said.
But it’s not all bad news: “I’ve learnt that there’s a lot of good in people; as police officers we see a lot of bad people but they’re only a minority.”
Among the many good people he’s met, who have risen up to make a difference, were Anita Cobby’s parents Garry and Grace (Peg) Lynch. Both now deceased, the couple were gracious, courageous people who went on to help the families of other murder victims, and were involved in forming the Homicide Victims Support Group.
The group is also launching a new trauma centre called Grace’s Place, named after Grace Lynch, which will be a refuge for children who survive a family murder.
Dealing With the Trauma of a Murder Case
When Gary Raymond is asked how he handled the traumatic situations that he saw in his policing career, he says prayer was the key.
“I always imagined that Jesus was a detective partner with me and we’d be working on cases together.”
“As a Christian cop I always do what I call a ‘flick-pass’,” he says, referencing a football move. “Whenever I was traumatised by the world, I’d say, ‘Jesus, I didn’t die on the cross for this—you did. I’m handing this over to you and I want you to comfort me as you’ve promised, and give me that peace’.
“I always imagined that Jesus was a detective partner with me and we’d be working on cases together. His love for me and his forgiveness for the mistakes I make, is unbelievable—but believable!”
And it seems The Lord used Gary in many powerful ways. Working in Police Rescue, he was very passionate about his role as a suicide crisis negotiator, talking people back from the brink of suicide.
Partnering with Jesus also meant that Gary prayed for those he came into contact with. He often prayed for witnesses and victims of crime, as well as many offenders: “The Lord led a number of offenders to himself through me, after their arrest,” he said.
Read more about Gary’s experiences as a Christian working in the police force in the books Top Cop, Top Cop 2 and Top Cop 3 available from Koorong bookstores. Profits from the books go towards suicide prevention.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis situation and needs immediate help, call Lifeline’s 24-hour support line on 13 11 14.