$1M reward announced regarding 1980 death of Maria James – Thornbury

Ahead of the 44th anniversary of her death, Homicide Squad detectives are today announcing a $1M reward for information to help solve the 1980 murder of Maria James in her Thornbury bookshop.

Despite a significant investigation over the past four decades, no one has been charged with Maria’s death and police remain as determined as ever to solve this case.

Maria was killed inside her residence on High Street, Thornbury on Tuesday 17 June, 1980.

She lived at the property, which also functioned as a second hand bookshop, with her two sons.

By all accounts, Maria was a well-liked and respected member of her local community who kept a close-knit circle of friends and was totally devoted to her two boys.

On the morning of 17 June, 1980 Maria was seen by a number of witnesses in and around her High Street property.

At about 11.55am she called her ex-husband John, leaving a message for him to call her back. She did not say why she wished to speak to him, however she mentioned someone was in the shop.

A short time later John returned her call and after she answered, Maria asked him to “hold on” and was then overheard in conversation with someone else.

Although the conversation was not clear to John, it was apparent to him that something was wrong. When Maria failed to return to the call, he left work and went to the bookshop to check on her welfare.

On arrival shortly after midday, John found the front and back doors of the store locked, however the ‘open’ sign was still on display.

When he forced his way into the premises, he found Maria in her bedroom fatally injured with a large number of stab wounds.

She had sustained significant injuries to her head and face, and her hands had been bound.

Soon after locating Maria, John also discovered that the front door of the shop was now unlocked. This suggested that someone may have been inside the address at the time of John’s arrival.

Two separate eye witnesses described a man running away from the crime scene soon after Maria had been located.

This man has never been identified and police continue to appeal for information in relation to the man, and are again releasing images in the hope someone can provide information about his identity.

Police have also released images of Maria and her bookshop as part of this appeal.

The case has been to inquest twice, in 1982 and 2021, and on both occasions returned an open finding.

Despite the passage of over 40 years, Maria is still much missed by her family, in particular her children who remain hopeful of getting answers about what happened to their mother.

Victoria Police is today announcing a $1M reward for information in relation to the person or people responsible for Maria’s death in the hope it will provide new leads and result in the offender being held to account.

A reward of $50,000 was previously offered in 1980 in relation to this case.

A reward of up to $1M will be paid at the discretion of the Chief Commissioner of Police, for information leading to the apprehension and subsequent conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of Maria James.

The Director of Public Prosecutions will consider, according to established guidelines, the granting of indemnification from prosecution to any person who provides information as to the identity of the principal offender or offenders in this matter.

Investigators are hopeful this new reward will encourage someone to come forward with information and despite the passage of time, believe there are still people out there who can help solve this.

Police urge anyone with information about Maria’s death to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

Quotes attributable to Detective Inspector Dean Thomas, Homicide Squad:

“While it has been more than four decades since Maria was murdered, detectives have not given up hope that this case can be solved.

“Despite a significant criminal investigation, as well as two coronial investigations, we have not been able to identify who Maria’s killer or killers were, or their motivation for murdering Maria.

“However this does not mean that we have given up hope that those answers can still be determined or that those responsible can be held to account.

“I know many people out there feel enormously invested in getting an outcome for Maria’s family, and I want to assure them that police are continuing to do everything we can to solve this.

“However, more than anything, we believe it is people who can help solve this case.

“People who are still out there who know something about Maria’s murder, who was involved, why it happened. It might even be people who live din the Thornbury area or knew Maria around the time of her death that have small details police could be missing.

“It’s important that people put aside any preconceptions they have about this case and do not make any assumptions. This matter has not been solved, and it is well documented that we still have a number of persons of interest.

“If you have information then we want to hear from you, no matter how insignificant or irrelevant you think it is.

“After 44 years, Maria’s sons deserve answers and police remain as committed as ever to being able to give those to them.”

/Public Release. View in full here.