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Who Killed Jane?

Book Review
The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Jane Furlong
By Kelly Dennett (Awa Press, 2018, $42)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

jane-furlong_webThis is an important book. Why? Because any publication that soberly and sensibly attempts to cast light on an unsolved murder is important, for the very real reasons that not only do the bereaved require and deserve a sense of closure, but that the murderer or murderers may be closer to being confirmed, arrested, tried. Who wants murderers in society, whether they be currently incarcerated or not?

Kelly Dennett’s first, well-written book, does not solve the case. It does not answer several significant questions about this case either and Dennett does accept this aspect – “In this book I don’t claim to have solved the crime.” But, via her slogging research and her sheer dogged determination to – yes – seek some form of justice for the late Jane Furlong and her loved ones, Dennett does widen our awareness, does press us to pressure for some sort of resolution of a murder that occurred 25 years ago.

The back cover quotation from the Author’s Note inside, is especially apt, “the story has, in various degrees come to consume me. For the past few years it has plagued me.” Dennett’s obsession steadily becomes our own, as we flip faster through the pages and complete in one prolonged session, hell-bent in uncovering what did happen to Jane, when someone picked her up from Karangahape Road in 1993, why she was murdered, why she was transported to and buried in a sandy grave at Port Waikato, of all locations. And, of course, who did the deed?

Indeed, the personal anecdotes that Dennett includes, make for a rather different criminal investigation book, in that the author includes herself in some of the later investigatory action and is perfectly honest about her controlled emotions throughout. She even writes about her own disrupted domestic situations during her search and her mid-2016 workplace meltdown. I have been reading crime books for over 50 years now, and this particular book strikes me as different, because so much of the author’s own candid personality permeates the pages. For example, her own tripping into Jane’s realm of encountering men who were, “total shitheads” and “bastards” — after her own similar experiences with suchlike.

More, we also get to learn much about Jane’s mother Judith Furlong; her son, Aidan; her then boyfriend Dani Norsworthy; her friend and fellow worker Amanda Wolfe, nee Geraghty – the people most afflicted by the initial disappearance and the subsequent reappearance of Jane’s body in 2012. The book humanises the participants, including the author. In so doing, it rams home even more for readers — well, this reader anyway — how tragic this murder was and remains for all involved. Including for many of the police and ex-detectives who spent long hours seeking the killer(s), and those on the periphery of the entire experience, such as the friendly taxi driver, Chris Good and the then Satellite Spies lead singer, Deane Sutherland.

We read about the short history of Jane Furlong, her disrupted upbringing in South Auckland, her itinerant schooling, her issues with boyfriends, her work as a prostitute on the shady, somewhat murky streets, and always dangerous alleyways of central Auckland. We scan excerpts from her manifold diaries. All this and the coloured and black-and-white photographs as spread throughout, literally bring her back to life.

We learn about identified rapists, violent sex offenders, potential killers. Most are discounted from involvement with Jane’s demise via firm alibis; although they could possibly have employed others to kill Jane. Not all, however, had an alibi.

So what did happen on the solitary-for-Jane evening back in May, 1993? Dani and Amanda were – rather unusually for them both – not around. Deane Sutherland recalls Jane speaking to the occupant of a black American-style car outside Rendells, in his presence. The car was facing the wrong way on the road. Deane says something like, “Is everything all right in here?’, but Jayne replies, “It’s all right, he’s a friend of mine, I can handle him”, and then they leave. Who was the ‘friend’?

Then, we read elsewhere – online, not in this book – this statement from Amanda, “I thought I was the last person to see Jayne alive, but apparently she was seen running up into a parlour and asking one of the girls to hide her because someone was chasing her” (Dark Side of the Rori, by Julie Hill, 2016).

Which confuses the scene even more.

As to the other key questions, there are again, no clear-cut answers. Dennett tried to solicit solutions to some of these — without much luck.

–  Who helped Dani Norsworthy tow his car away from K. Road that evening?

– Why didn’t former detective sergeant Dale Candy ever fully respond to Kelly Dennett’s several requests for information on the case?

– Why didn’t the New Zealand Police Force provide some sort of protection for the young streetwalkers/victims – including Jane Furlong — who were soon to give evidence against their common, violent sex attacker, later convicted of his crimes?

The BIG one, is obviously – who did the nefarious deed of killing a 17 year old girl?

Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Newman, who is the current head of this ongoing investigation, stated to Dennett, “The key to the mystery is at Port Waikato.” Dennett’s own reconstruction of the burier stresses, “He knew the area well, knew it was unlikely anybody would be along at any minute.”

As noted, Dennett never professes to name the killer(s). But, toward the end, she pays especial attention to the rape trial of one man, who remains inside i.e. jail. I won’t name him, because I reckon interested readers should purchase the book and pursue their own paths. Yet, a quote in relation to this man, whose photographs also appear here, really hit home with me. His half-sister recalled talking to her cousin, after Jane Furlong’s remains were unearthed. The cousin pointed out, “___’s mother had a bach at Port Waikato for years.”

In the end, all it will take is a little bit more tangible evidence tying an individual to the murder; a conversation, a confession, a connection will solve this murder. Then the whānau might obtain some form of release/relief; as well as friends, colleagues, the agencies involved throughout. Certainly also Kelly Dennett.

Most of all, of course, the wairua of Jane Furlong. He kēhua tonu.

Tena koe mo tēnei pukapuka tika.

Vaughan Rapatahana

May, 2018.