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Sisters of murdered Sydney nurse Mary Louise Wallace tell court of grief and fear

Robert John Adams before he was found guilty of murder last year. Photo: James Alcock Mary Louise Wallace’s sister Anne Fraser in November last year. Photo: James Alcock

The sisters of murdered nurse Mary Louise Wallace say they are still haunted by thoughts of how she died, and not knowing the whereabouts of her body for more than three decades has worsened their suffering.

Robert John Adams, 64, was last year found guilty of strangling Ms Wallace, then 33, to death while attempting to have sex with her after meeting her at a wine bar in Crows Nest, on Sydney’s lower north shore, in 1983.

Although Adams was a suspect at the time and had already spent time in jail for rape, he was charged with murder only in 2013 after two hairs collected from his car boot were matched with hair found on Ms Wallace’s hairbrush.

Despite extensive searches of bushland and a lengthy police investigation, Ms Wallace’s body has never been found.

At a sentencing hearing for Adams in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Ms Wallace’s two older sisters – Anne Fraser and Elizabeth McGirr​ –  described how their lives had been forever altered.

“It is 33 years since Mary Lou died and the way she died still haunts us,” Ms Fraser said.

The fact that her body has not been found adds to our grief. We want to be able to give her remains a final resting place, a duty we owe to our parents who went to their graves having grieved for 20 years, suspecting but never really knowing what happened to her.”

Both sisters spoke of Ms Wallace as a loving and gentle woman and described how they now worried for the safety of their own children when they went out at night.

Adams’ trial heard that he pretended to be a police officer and offered Ms Wallace a ride home from the bar where they had been drinking. The Crown’s case was that he tried to strangle Ms Wallace in a bid to have sex with her without her consent.

Three other women gave evidence at the trial that they had been raped and strangled by Adams in the lead-up to Ms Wallace’s murder.

“When our children reached their twenties and began to socialise at night, I would lie awake at night until I heard ‘Mum I am home’,” Ms McGirr said.

“My greatest fear was tragedy had struck our family once, would it befall us again?”.

Crown prosecutor Mark Hobart, SC, submitted that sentencing Adams to life imprisonment would “not be inappropriate” and it would be “difficult to find a worse category of murder of a young woman”.

Mr Hobart also submitted that, for Adams to continue to refuse to say where Ms Wallace’s remains were, showed he was “extremely callous”.

“In those 30 odd years, this offender was living a normal life. He was married, had children, he lived in the suburbs and brought up his family,” Mr Hobart said.

“Now we compare that to the family of the deceased. Her parents went to their graves not knowing what happened to their daughter and it has been grief heaped upon grief for some 33 years for her sisters.”

Defence barrister Peter Lange asked Justice Richard Button to consider the delay in the case coming before the courts as a mitigating factor when it came to determining Adams’ sentence.

“It is submitted that the court should take into account that natural anxiety experienced by the offender,” Mr Lange submitted.

Adams had been jailed for rape in 1976.

But Mr Lange told the court that his client’s criminal history had been minimal over the past 30 years and non-existent over the past 10. Adams had demonstrated a “completed process of rehabilitation”, the court heard.

Justice Button will sentence Adam in two weeks.

He rejected a request by Adams that he not appear in person but via audio-visual link for his sentencing.

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