Mystery surrounds why a mistress was found dead with an ‘A’ carved in her chest 36 years after the cold case killing.
Beth Barnard, was found in her Phillip Island home with the letter ‘A’ slashed across her chest in a murder dubbed ‘The Scarlett Letter’.
It was well-known in the small Victorian town that 23-year-old Beth was sleeping with 36-year-old Fergus Cameron who was married with two sons.
An inquest in 1988 found it was likely his wife Vivienne Cameron killed Beth in a ‘personal attack’ before jumping off a bridge.
But investigators felt key evidence did not fit the coroner’s findings.
On Tuesday Victorian Police confirmed Homicide Cold Case detectives are still actively working on Beth’s case.
23-year-old Beth Barnard (pictured) was found in her Phillip Island home with the letter ‘A’ slashed across her chest
It was well-known in the small Victorian town that Beth was sleeping with 36-year-old Fergus Cameron (pictured) who was married with two sons
Former detective Rory O’Connor worked on the investigation and described it as a ‘vicious and frenzied’ attack
Former detective Rory O’Connor worked on the investigation and described it as a ‘vicious and frenzied’ attack.
‘You’re talking about four slashes one way, 10 slashes the other and five across. That’s not just someone gently carving an A,’ he told True Crime Scene.
On September 22 in 1986, Beth was asleep in her Phillip Island home after spending the afternoon with her much older lover.
His wife discovered he wasn’t at work and waited in their living room to confront him when he arrived home.
The coronial inquest heard she lunged at him with a wine glass and cut his face and back so badly she had to take him to hospital.
His sister Marnie and her husband Ian came to look after the children.
Later that night, the couple decided to get a divorce so Vivienne drove her cheating husband to his sister’s to stay the night.
But this is where the case gets murky.
A coronial inquest in 1988 found it was likely Vivienne Cameron (pictured) killed Beth before jumping off the San Remo bridge
Police found the Cameron’s car parked near the San Remo Bridge with a knife and blood inside the vehicle
Vivienne called her friend Robin Dixon at 3am and lied, telling them she needed help to mind the children while she took her husband to hospital.
A jarring piece of evidence, is that when Robin arrived, both adults were gone but Vivienne’s purse was still inside the house.
Police know the jilted wife drove her husband’s Toyota Landcruiser to Beth’s house because it was seen by a neighbour in the early hours of the morning parked outside.
The next morning, the Dixon’s rang Fergus and woke him up, asking why Vivienne had not returned for the children.
After the frightening altercation with his wife the night before, Fergus asked his brother, Don, and brother-in-law Ian, to check on Beth.
During the 1990s, DNA testing found Vivienne’s blood was on the suspected murder weapon but none of her DNA was on Beth’s body, or around it. Testing also discovered there was none of Beth’s blood on the towel found in the bathroom – only Vivienne’s
They arrived to find a shocking crime scene.
Beth had been covered by a blanket but her throat was slashed and her fingers were covered in defensive wounds.
The letter ‘A’ was carved into her chest.
Police believed the ‘A’ was a symbol from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, which involves a women wearing the letter A as punishment for adultery.
That afternoon, officers found the Cameron’s car parked near the San Remo Bridge with a knife, blood and Vivienne’s purse inside the vehicle.
Vivienne was never seen again.
On July 21, 1988, Coroner Maher found that ‘although her body has not been found, I am satisfied that she [Vivienne] is dead and that she leapt from the bridge into the water.’
He also found Vivienne ‘contributed’ to Beth’s death.
But there are key pieces of evidence that do not match the coroner’s findings.
A friend of Vivienne’s, Glenda Frost, was adamant she received a call from her at 10am on September 23 – six hours after she was thought to have jumped to her death.
During the 1990s, DNA testing found Vivienne’s blood was on the suspected murder weapon but none of her DNA was on Beth’s body, or around it. Pictured: Beth’s house
A forensic scientist who examined the evidence in 1986 told the author of ‘The Phillip Island Murder’ he was doubtful the knife found with Vivienne’s blood was actually the murder weapon
Glenda told Police they spoke about sewing patterns and details that only Vivienne would know. She said she did not mix up the time or dates as another friend was visiting that morning and confirmed the details.
Vivienne’s purse, which was seen inside her home by Robin Dixon, was also found in the Landcruiser.
This means it would have had to be placed inside the car after the Dixon’s left the Cameron’s house and before the Landcruiser was found at 4pm.
During the 1990s, DNA testing found Vivienne’s blood was on the suspected murder weapon but none of her DNA was on Beth’s body, or around it. Which was odd.
Testing also discovered there was none of Beth’s blood on the towel found in the bathroom – only Vivienne’s.
That raised the question, if the jilted wife had murdered her husband’s lover in a fit of rage, wouldn’t Beth’s blood also be on the towel?
The police investigation also found some of Vivienne’s blood at her home, but the hospital said she wasn’t injured after she threw her wine glass at her husband earlier in the night.
If the jilted wife had murdered her husband’s lover in a fit of rage, how come her blood was not found on the bloody towel found inside the house
A cigarette butt with Vivienne’s DNA was found at the crime scene but was not found on or around Beth’s body
Author, Vikki Petraitis, wrote a book called ‘The Phillip Island Murder’ in 1993 and spent two years investigating the case.
She contacted a forensic scientist who examined the evidence in 1986 and told her he was doubtful the knife found with Vivienne’s blood was actually the murder weapon.
He noted there were strange ‘double cuts’ on Beth’s clothing that he believed were not made by the knife.
Victorian Police have urged anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers or submit a confidential crime report.
Vivienne’s purse, which was seen inside her home by Robin Dixon, at 4am was found in the Landcruiser the following day at 4pm, but Vivienne had not been home