This week’s episode of Murder Calls Australia is the final in the series, looking into the assassination of one of Australia’s leading mental health reformists, Dr Margaret Tobin, in 2002.
It screens tonight in NSW and Qld, and tomorrow in Vic and SA (WA has Inside Story).
Next week Nine screens a movie, San Andreas.
The victim was Dr Margaret Tobin, Director of Government Mental Health Services in South Australia, who was blatantly shot four times in the back as she exited a lift in her central Adelaide office on October 14, 2002.
Dr Tobin worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the mentally ill. However she had many disgruntled clients, co-workers and ex-employees who didn’t respond well to her driving force for change.
Incredibly, out of 400 office workers in the building the day Margaret was murdered, not one person witnessed the fatal shooting.
All police had to go on was an identikit of a man with long hair and a beard who was in the lift just before Margaret was shot. But his real identity and his location eluded the detectives assigned to find the brazen killer.
A public appeal gave police their first breakthrough from a phone call. But weirdly, the call was in regard to an incident six months before Dr Tobin’s death – and 2000 kilometres away in Brisbane.
“I heard a strange clattering noise on the ground behind me, and I thought that sounded like a gun,” said Bob Champion, a sound engineer working at the Brisbane Convention Centre where Dr Tobin was a keynote speaker in April 2002.
Bob Champion’s call was hugely significant. It led to Jean Eric Gassy, who had worked as a psychiatrist in New South Wales until his former boss – Dr Margaret Tobin – raised a report about his mental health that caused his deregistration and ended his career. Eric Gassy had been diagnosed as delusional and paranoid. It seemed that Gassy harboured a grudge and had been stalking Dr Tobin for some years, but his opportunity to kill her in Brisbane had been interrupted.
“He had a list … Margaret’s name happened to be at the top,” Dr Tobin’s colleague and friend, Learne Durrington, recounts of the police investigation after searching Gassy’s house.
It was clear that Gassy had a motive, but while the circumstantial evidence mounted – including finding videos of Gassy at a shooting range and numerous guns plus ammunition at his home in Sydney – detectives could not place Gassy in Adelaide at the time of the murder. They desperately needed more.
As police travelled from Sydney to Adelaide looking for evidence that Gassy was on a murderous journey to kill his former boss, they hit gold. A motel owner in NSW believed a man fitting the description had stayed at her motel under a false name.
Though close to an arrest, detectives still needed the final piece of the puzzle – someone must have seen the long-haired, bearded man in Adelaide who may have used a false name at a motel on the day Margaret Tobin was murdered.
And someone did – a man’s call to Crimestoppers clinched the case and led to the arrest of Eric Gassy for the Tobin murder.
Gassy was found guilty and given a life sentence. He will be eligible for parole in 2032.
Both these telephone calls that solved the investigation are featured in the final episode of Murder Calls.
8:40pm tonight on Nine (NSW, Qld) and 8:30pm tomorrow in Vic and SA.