A Murder without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle

Martin McKenzie-Murray

A Murder without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle
Scribe Publications
1 February 2016

A Murder without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle

Martin McKenzie-Murray

In 2004, the body of a young Perth woman was found on the  grounds of a primary school. Her name was Rebecca Ryle. The killing  would mystify investigators, lawyers, and psychologists - and profoundly  rearrange the life of the victim’s family. It would also involve the author’s family, because his brother knew  the man charged with the murder. For years, the two had circled each  other suspiciously, in a world of violence, drugs, and rotten  aspirations.

A Murder Without Motive is a police procedural, a meditation  on suffering, and an exploration of how the different parts of the  justice system make sense of the senseless. It is also a unique memoir: a mapping of the suburbs that the author grew up in, and a revelation of  the dangerous underbelly of adolescent ennui.


I’ve long been a fan of Martin McKenzie-Murray’s journalism, and I think his work for The Saturday Paper is outstanding. He is skilled at approaching difficult topics with sensitivity, compassion and empathy. I am still haunted by the series he wrote in 2014 on the horrific, senseless murder of a baby in Bendigo.

McKenzie-Murray’s debut book A Murder Without Motive: The Killing of Rebecca Ryle builds on his journalistic work, and examines the tragic murder of 19-year-old Rebecca Ryle in Perth in 2004. This particular death has long resonated with McKenzie-Murray because it happened in his local area, and his brother knew the man charged with Ryle’s murder. McKenzie-Murray is a natural storyteller, and this is evident in the way he lays out the facts of the case – he puts you right there beside Ryle on the night she was killed, following her and her murderer James Duggan through the moments that eventually bring them together at Mindarie Primary School, the site of the crime.

Following in the footsteps of Helen Garner’s This House of Grief, McKenzie-Murray deep dives into the case, and he spends significant time with Ryle’s family. Some of the most heartbreaking, and fascinating, parts of the book are McKenzie-Murray’s interviews with Ryle’s parents, as they reflect on their grief and detail how they survived the ten years following their daughter’s death.

A Murder Without Motive is thoughtful, careful and intimate in its approach. It digs into issues of masculinity, violence and Australian culture, and McKenzie-Murray examines the murderer’s possible motives from all angles. I found it hard to read at times because my heart ached for Ryle and her family, but this is an important work by a talented writer, and a book I urge you to read.

Nina Kenwood

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