USING that old doozy called hindsight, crime reporters would have been champing at the bit following the horrific deaths of a young couple as they attempted to enjoy a balmy summer night in 1970.
There was obviously the victims - New Lambton forklift driver Raymond Hill and teenage nurse Irene "Alex" Rees.
Even in the time when the 1960s flower-power movement was making way to the sexual revolution of the 1970s, Raymond and Alex were the epitome of innocence.
They should not have had an enemy in the world, let alone a grub so callous and cold that he would creep up to their parked car and crack a bullet through a window and into both of their bodies.
Then you have got the theories - from the admissions that would prove false to the mad gunman roaming the streets whom people swore had a gun holster underneath his car and a rifle with the same calibre used in the shooting.
There is the crime scene, or lack of it, because of a series of bad-luck stories that would continue to keep the cops on the back foot more than 40 years later.
There are also the colourful characters who graced the investigation as it meandered through a long list of suspects.
Like the "gun" investigator at the time, Angus McDonald, or the up-and-coming detective who would come to be the most famous of all the plain-clothes lot.
His name was Roger Rogerson.
The story is set in a bustling Newcastle, which had only greeted a new decade a few days earlier. It was a Friday night (January 2) and the 24-year-old Raymond planned a romantic night with his new girlfriend of three months.
Alex, 19, was a well-respected young nurse at Royal Newcastle Hospital.
In fact, that is where she had met Raymond, who had been having some speech therapy for a stutter he just couldn't get rid of.
Alex signed herself out at 6.30pm and the pair were seen laughing and joking with each other as they headed off in Raymond's Valiant.
Their destination was Lambton's Skyline Drive-In to watch the movie It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
After the movie, they stopped in for a bite to eat in Newcastle East before joining a line of cars filled with young lovers along South Newcastle beach.
Some say there could have been up to 50 people parked in cars along Shortland Esplanade as the clock struck midnight.
Then, at about 1.40am, the killer arrived.
The most-believed theory is that the killer, and almost certainly a male, drove up beside Raymond's 1967 Valiant and sent at least two bullets from a .22 calibre rifle through his open window, crashing through the window of the Valiant and into the pair.
In a passionate embrace, the bullets struck the pair in the head.
They had no chance.
But despite the apparent busy nature of the popular lovers' lane, no one saw a thing.
A few residents were to tell police later that they heard up to three loud bangs.
But it wasn't until a university student parked near the car and glanced inside that the horrifying scene was reported to authorities.
It was now 5.20am and the cops were already on the back foot. They spent days searching the sand for evidence, and possibly the weapon. Divers searched off Newcastle beach. The local tip was given a good going over.
Hundreds of people were called in to be interviewed, and the old gossips were in overdrive.
There were tales of jilted lovers, of shotgun-wielding maniacs and psychotic killers who had been terrorising communities further west and had come to the coast for a murderous night.
There were the people who lived near the victims and had registered .22 calibre rifles. There was the trip to Wagga Wagga to speak to a suspect before ruling him out, and the discovery of a rifle in a pawnbroker's shop amid suggestions it was the murder weapon.
As the mountains of information started overwhelming the local cops back in 1970 - there had been 60 investigators working on the case who were sifting through more than 250,000 words recorded on the murder - the cavalry was called in.
But even names like McDonald and Rogerson couldn't get a result.
It was destined to remain a cold case. A mystery that only needs one ounce of truth - or possibly a deathbed confession - to solve.
NEVER has a disappearance sent immediate shockwaves across the Hunter than the abduction of Cardiff schoolgirl Gordana Kotevski.
The polite, family oriented 16-year-old had been out on a Thursday night shopping trip at Charlestown Square when she decided to walk alone to her aunt’s house in Powell Street on November 24, 1994. She has never been seen again.
The most chilling information about the abduction was from criminal profiler Detective Senior Constable Kristina Illingsworth, who was called to give evidence at the last inquest, in 2003, where State Coroner John Abernethy would later confirm the teenager had been murdered by person or persons unknown.
She stated that the driver of the kidnap car was fit, macho and trendy with his personality reflecting his immaculate Toyota Hi Lux; that he was probably inexperienced and immature because the attack appeared sloppy; that the crime was sexually motivated; that he probably knew Gordana and was stalking her for some time; that he was opportunistic but intelligent.
The profiler added her abductors had probably not come with intention to kill, but as she fought to live, they were forced to eliminate her as a witness.
Gordana’s shopping bag was torn and her wallet left behind, showing the teenager had fought hard.
Witnesses also heard two screams before she was taken away.
INVESTIGATORS say they have absolutely nothing to go on in the hunt for what happened to Zanita Green in 2005.
The 32-year-old had not been seen or used her phone for more than three months before a family member reported her missing.
Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott last year found that Ms Green had died in 2005, but could not take it much further.
Countless theories and rumours floated through Newcastle’s seedy drug scene in the years after the disappearance.
And the fact that the majority of the players’ reputations were sullied and any of their tales tainted, made it almost impossible for police to get to the truth.
But what is known is that Ms Green was released from jail about five days before she went missing and had expressed fears for her safety.
She was last seen by two friends about 11pm on July 30, 2005, and another friend was to tell last year’s inquest that she had received a phone call from Ms Green about 3am the next morning.
It is suspected Ms Green, who had worked the Maitland Road ‘‘strip’’ as a prostitute, met with foul play in the early hours of July 31 and her body disposed of.
THE killer of Elizabeth Dixon took the time to tie her hands using a shoelace with a perfect bow.
The care taken in the tying was in horrific contrast to the brutal attack on the 31-year-old, who had been stabbed 27 times, including five times in the heart, and beaten around the head at least three times possibly with a large piece of wood.
Police believe the security-conscious Ms Dixon would have not just known her killer, but had allowed them to drive her 1977 Mazda into bush near Ashtonfield on Easter Saturday in 1982.
Her body was found sprawled across the car's front seats three days later.
They also believe the attack began while the car was still in motion, the attacker swinging a thin-bladed kitchen knife into Ms Dixon's side before the vehicle spun out of control and crashed into a tree.
But the biggest clue may well have been the neat bow. What did it mean? Theories included that the killer was a woman. Senior investigators maintained throughout the years that men would have tied a knot, not a fancy bow, if they were given the chance.
Maybe it was staged, tied in an effort to throw investigators off the scent. Or was it a clue from the killer to the police, a hint of how to find them, which has haunted officers for more than 30 years.
What police do know is that Ms Dixon had travelled from strife-torn Northern Ireland to the Hunter three years before and fell in love with the area.
She enjoyed playing squash and had, at one staged, worked at the Hit N Dip Squash Centre before taking on a secretarial role at a mine at Kurri Kurri.
She lived in Metford and had played squash at East Maitland on Easter Saturday afternoon, visited a Green Hills bottle shop, gone home and changed before, police believe, she left to meet her killers.
Despite several strong suspects, including a man who was travelling through Newcastle with a circus at the time of the murder, no one has ever been charged.
THE remains of Morisset woman Susan Isenhood lay in the Kiwarrak State Forest for nine months before a family came across them.
The remains were initially thought to have been those of a teenage boy. It was 11 years before a second autopsy discovered the mistake.
By then the trails had not just gone cold, they had frozen over.
It was to be another seven years before they were identified as belonging to Ms Isenhood, and only after a relative took it upon himself to ask questions.
The Isenhood case has thrown up enough twists and turns for a feature film.
She had discharged herself from the Mandala psychiatric facility 12 days before she was dropped off by her brother, Rob Isenhood, near the Stag and Hunter Hotel at Mayfield on October 2, 1986.
Detectives have little idea how Ms Isenhood got to where her body was found, although serial killer Ivan Milat has been cast as a possible suspect because he was working on roads nearby.
Milat was convicted of killing seven backpackers and dumping their bodies in Belanglo State Forest, a place not dissimilar to the Kiwarrak State Forest.
Her remains were found by a family looking for garden mulch off a dirt track called Joes Cutting, at Possum Brush.
Jewellery and other evidence found at the scene pointed to a female, but that theory was discarded when a forensic pathologist determined the bones belonged to a youth, aged between 16 and 19 and probably of Asian descent.
There were even reports of a "forest woman" living off the land who had been seen crashing through bush one day and who stank and was "in a shocking mess".
There is yet to be an inquest since the bones were formally identified.
A few kilometres up the road from Possum Brush is Taree, a place still haunted by the mysterious death of a female hitchhiker whose remains were found in the Manning River.
The bludgeoned remains of Margaret Cox, 37, were found two days after she disappeared while walking home between Cundletown and Taree on December 19, 1996.
An inquest held last year heard Ms Cox had suffered several head wounds from a blunt instrument and appeared to have been sexually assaulted.
She was last seen near the former Big Oyster on the Pacific Highway, which had not bypassed the town in 1996 and, therefore, would have had thousands of cars passing each day.
A crime scene has never been located, although an area known as Mud Bishops Reserve, near Old Bar, was a possibility after a pair of underpants and other clothing was found.
The hearing was told it was unclear where in the river Ms Cox had been dumped before she was found by fisher.
-Stories by Dan Proudman