Four charged over dismembered childcare worker

By Calvin Palmer

A 55-year-old Melbourne man has been charged with the murder of a childcare worker whose left leg washed up on a beach five days after she disappeared.

John Leslie Coombes, of Preston, allegedly chopped up the body of 27-year-old Raechel Betts in a bathroom before throwing the dismembered body off a Phillip Island pier.

A specially convened court heard that Coombes admitted killing Betts to police after his arrest yesterday.

Detective Senior Constable Tom Hogan said  that Coombes allegedly strangled Betts following an argument while the pair were in bed at the Phillip Island home of friend Nicole Godfrey.

Coombes told police Betts “kicked a little” before her death, but he “shut her up”. He then retrieved a box of knives and some cord from his car before carrying her to the bathroom where he placed her in the tub and tied her feet to the taps.

The court was told he used five knives to dismember Betts before placing her arms, legs, head and torso in plastic bags allegedly supplied by Godfrey.

Coombes used a vehicle owned by Godfrey to transport the body parts to a Newhaven pier where he threw the plastic bags into the sea.

“He cut open the bags, threw the contents into the water, sliced the abdomen to release the gases in the stomach to avoid the parts floating to the surface,” the court heard.

Godfrey, 26, was charged with being an accessory to murder.

The court heard she helped dispose of Betts’ body before cleaning the bathroom.

She told Bail Justice Kathy Faucett: “I didn’t say anything because I was too scared.”

Betts was last seen on August 11 after telling friends she was meeting a person or group at shops in Waterdale Road, Heidelberg Heights.

Her car was later found in Glover Sreett, several hundred meters from the shops.

Five days later, her tattooed left leg was found on Newhaven beach on Phillip Island by somebody walking a dog. Other body parts were later recovered from the beach and DNA analysis matched them to Betts.

Coombes and Godfrey, remanded to appear at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court tomorrow, were among four people charged in connection with the murder.

Maureen Renwick, 54, of Viewbank, was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and trafficking a drug of dependence.

Ryan Buscema, 25, of Mill Park, was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The pair, known to Coombes, are due to reappear in court tomorrow.

[Based on reports by and The Age.]

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