24-year-old Caroline, a successful model and a beautiful girl, had a dream life but it was brutally cut short
Caroline Byrne loved playboy Gordon Wood and was frightened of shady financier Rene Rivkin, but many believed it was Gordon Wood she should have feared.
But in the summer of 1994, 24-year-old Caroline seemed to be having the time of her life as a member of Sydney's smart set, a successful model and a beautiful girl who turned men's heads whenever she walked along an Australian beach or into a crowded room.
She had met 35-year-old English-born Wood the year before and had been captivated by his looks and charm and his tales of big game-hunting and pearl diving in the Pacific.
He was, he said, a traveller and adventurer but now he wanted to settle down in Australia and make some big money. Caroline was impressed. She liked the thought of a boyfriend with big money.
She was less impressed when she found that her new partner had become involved with Rene Rivkin, a flamboyant Australian financier, who had recently finished a jail-term for $4 million worth of insider trading, but was now once more involved in big-league financial wheeling and dealing. He claimed that within months of leaving jail he was once more a millionaire.
He took on Wood as his assistant and negotiator and soon Caroline was warning her lover that Rivkin was a rogue who should not be trusted.
She urged him to "get out while you can" — a warning that was not heeded, and soon afterwards Wood and Rivkin were investigated by an Australian government inquiry into irregular share trading.
Wood was to tell a friend that he feared "Caroline knows too much about what has been going on and is likely to spill the beans about what Rene has been doing."
But she didn't, because early on the afternoon of June 8, 1995, Caroline's body was found at the bottom of a 100ft cliff at The Gap, a popular tourist spot on the southern headland of Sydney Harbour. First reports were that she had committed suicide.
Her family refused to believe it. They said Caroline was a happy healthy successful young woman with everything to live for. There was no reason on earth why she should take her life.
Further investigation by police came to a similar conclusion. Her body had been found "wedged like a spear" among rocks at the bottom of the cliffs and had no injuries to her legs and torso — unlike 20 other suicide victims recovered from the area in recent years.
At an inquest Wood claimed he was nowhere near the Gap at the time of Caroline's death but was lunching in downtown Sydney with two business associates, who confirmed his story.
He said he was then asked by Rivkin to take a political lobbyist to a business appointment. He said that he then went back to the flat he shared with Caroline and while waiting for her to return fell asleep in front of the TV.
When she was still missing he became alarmed and telephoned friends and colleagues but without success. At this point he was contacted by police and told that his girlfriend had committed suicide.
A Sydney inquest returned an open verdict but Caroline's father, Tony Byrne, was far from satisfied and campaigned tirelessly for a further investigation — which was eventually held.
The results created a sensation: Expert opinion was that Caroline could not have jumped to her death. She could only have landed in the way she did if she had been hurled 30ft clear of the cliffs by a strong assailant ... and Gordon Wood was a bodybuilding enthusiast.
But Wood could not be questioned by the investigators — he had disappeared from Australia and his whereabouts were unknown. From then on, the case was regularly examined in the Australian media as one of the nation's most celebrated unsolved crimes. Certainly it had all the ingredients of a classic whodunit — the death of a beautiful m