Eurydice Dixon’s killer
Warning: this article contains descriptions of sexual violence.
Departing from the city centre, the Broadmeadows train passes through the enclaves of Newmarket, Moonee Ponds and Essendon, stopping at classic red-brick train stations with wrought-iron details and awnings offering welcome shelter from the elements.
Here, knitted in close, are intimate shops and cafes with footpaths and nature strips, streets you can cross without an ordinance of traffic lights. As the rail line sprawls outwards, the landscape changes.
Then, there is Broadmeadows – which, at first glimpse, has had money poured into it. The three-kilometre radius of its centre is made up of hulking buildings and car moats. A mall, VicRoads, a hospital, a Medicare office, a tall glassed-in library, Centrelink, a Magistrates’ Court, an aquatic centre, the local council building, a school.
This is where Jaymes Todd was born and raised. And on the night he assaulted, raped and murdered Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon in June 2018, Todd did, on two occasions, almost go home to Broadmeadows. If one were to envision him on a GPS, the dot would repeatedly draw close to the suburb before repelling back to the city.
Sentenced on Monday for killing Dixon, Todd will spend at least 35 years in jail before he can apply for parole.
Judge Stephen Kaye described Todd’s crime as “categorically evil” and sought to relay a clear and unequivocal message that such crimes will be met with the severest of sentences “in which mercy plays no role”.
“The sheer terror which Eurydice must have experienced during those dreadful moments is unimaginable,” Justice Kaye said of Todd’s attack.
In the early days after Dixon’s body was discovered in North Carlton’s Princes Park, the Herald Sun published a map of her four-kilometre walk home, which police had pieced together from CCTV footage, the figure of Todd trailing behind her in each clip. At times he slowed down to roll a cigarette so she could gain a lead; another time he’d hidden behind a pillar.
“Straying into killer’s orbit” went the headline, but the reality is that Todd, then 19, stalked Dixon, 22, for almost an hour from Flinders Street Station before acting out his fantasy of non-consensual sex and strangulation on her.
In all the noise surrounding Dixon’s murder – the blanket media coverage, the gender war hot takes, then senator Fraser Anning’s bizarre campaign to legalise pepper spray and tasers – Todd remained a mere spectre. He was a monster, an outlier.
He’s so little, was my first thought when he was led into court on Monday in a grey denim shirt and jeans. The newspaper photographs had made him look big and jowly.
Behind glass, he sat expressionless for much of the hearing. But it was clear the effort this took was enormous. His small eyes would dart like trapped flies and he could sense the court’s scrutiny. I noted at times, if I watched him closely, a red hue would rise on his cheeks.
The 20-year-old’s composure broke twice. He wept when Dixon’s sister read her victim impact statement; then, when Judge Kaye spoke directly to him describing Todd’s rape and murder of Dixon, his face crumpled.
Of his home life, though, Todd was motionless.
In court, forensic psychologist Dr James Ogloff stated “it is incredibly difficult for people who have such fantasies to engage in them” and that Todd had struck him as “quite surprised by his ability to do that”.
In this, Ogloff believed, the starting point from which to reduce the risk Todd now posed has been set very high.
It was estimated his reoffending risk is 80 per cent.
A social worker shows me around Broadmeadows, listing all the places the kids he regularly sees are banned from – the library, the mall, the aquatic centre and so on. As for all those little bits in between the buildings – the glue that might make a person feel a sense of belonging, the parts of life that might inspire a passer-by to think beyond the haves and have-nots, that might distract from the queues and the putting in of forms and the paying of bills – they are hard, if not impossible to grasp.
Further along, flanking a gradient in the bitumen, is a housing estate.
It is isolated when I visit. The only signs of life are upturned supermarket trolleys and streetlights with innards hanging loose. In the ’80s, this estate was known as “the Bronx”, but now it has, along with the rest of the suburb, come into its own. “Broady” is said with a grimace by outsiders and a beaten-up, macho pride by insiders.
Broadmeadows, based on household income and occupation statistics, is the most disadvantaged suburb in Melbourne. It has four times the national average of unemployment.
A former student at Hume Central Secondary College, the local high school, tells me about a time when Broady’s most cherished success story, Aussie Rules football and media personality Eddie McGuire, was invited to an assembly to inspire students. McGuire took to the stage and began to wax lyrical about the suburb of his youth when a lone voice called out, “Broady’s a shithole!”
Story has it McGuire sought out the youth in the assembly, pulled him to his feet in a mock fighting stance and said, “What did you say? What did you say about Broadmeadows?” Said it like Broady was his mother, as if the single voice of dissent was an on-field sledge.
The kid backed down, said his apology and all was well.
Briefly, in Kaye’s sentencing summary on Monday, the judge stated it was clear that Todd had not had the “privilege of a normal or stable environment”.
Another, plainer, way of putting it is that Todd grew up in a “shithole”.
During the hearing, little was said of his home life, presumably to protect his younger sibling. But what was revealed was disturbing.
Todd lived in government housing with his parents and his two brothers in what forensic psychiatrist David Thomas testified as “the worst case of squalor, disrepair and neglect I’ve seen in my 18 years of work”.
A video showing a police walk-through of Todd’s home submitted to the court revealed “rotting refuse, vermin and complete squalor”. The floor in the kitchen was rotted through, discarded food was dropped wherever, and stayed there unless the animals got to it, while the only functioning hotplate was on the sink in the bathroom, next to the blocked toilet.
From an early age, Todd had experienced difficulty in school; he was disruptive, struggled with his studies and discovered schoolyard success in playing the clown. He was diagnosed with mild autism. In 2012, when he was in year 8, Todd was expelled from his high school during a state Liberal government that had introduced a myopic reform enabling state school principals to easily expel problem students. The legislation instantly led to a sharp increase in juvenile crime.
As Justice Kaye stated, though, Todd had not engaged in any criminal acts prior to the devastating rape and murder of Dixon. He did, however, go online. A lot. A former champion of Mathletics, an online maths program for primary school students, Todd could be considered a digital native.
From age 11, he began watching porn online. In Todd’s early teens he began to seek out violent porn. Later, his girlfriend agreed to let him choke her during sex, signalling to Todd when she wanted him to stop. He began to develop a sexual sadism disorder, according to psychologists.
In the 18 months prior to attacking Dixon, he showed an increased appetite for rape and strangulation porn as well as snuff films, in which a life is extinguished at the end.
After killing Dixon, Todd stole her mobile phone, using it as a mirror to inspect the scratches she had left on his face. He slept at Royal Park train station, bought a pie and coffee from a convenience shop, before finally returning home. There in his bedroom, Todd accessed his iPad. It is an incongruous vision – the shiny and sleek device in among the squalor.
First, after searching online for mentions of “girl” and “Princes Park”, he typed in the words “strangulation rape porn”, accessing video categories such as “brutal rape”, “choking to death”, “forced rape”.
In sentencing Todd, Justice Kaye stated that:
“… any sentence less than a term of life imprisonment would detract from the effect of the sentence as a deterrent to others who might be tempted to succumb to their own impoverished impulses …”
Twice, Justice Kaye referred to Todd’s crime as “categorically evil” and “pure and unmitigated evil”. It was a description hard to square with the Todd who sat in the dock, young and shamed. He was alone, without any family or friends present.
From the gallery, Eurydice Dixon’s father watched on, surrounded by friends and loved ones. On the steps of the Supreme Court, after Justice Kaye handed down Todd’s sentence, Jeremy Dixon addressed the waiting media.
“I am very glad there’s a killer off the streets,” he said. “What I’d wish for Jaymes Todd, and what I believe Eurydice would wish, is that he gets better … I extend my sympathy, my own sincere sympathy, for those who love him. It’s a terrible tragedy all around.
“Eurydice herself should be remembered, as her friends will remember her, for her wit and her courage and for her kindness, not for her death.”
National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 7, 2019 as "A dark and sick fantasy". Subscribe here.