Northern Ireland

Rodney Lawrence in court over 1982 murder of NI woman Elizabeth Dixon

Elizabeth Dixon, known as Betty, was murdered in Australia in 1982 Image copyright New South Wales Police
Image caption Elizabeth Dixon, known as Betty, was murdered in Australia in 1982

A man has appeared in court in Australia charged with the murder of a Northern Ireland woman who was stabbed and beaten to death 33 years ago.

Elizabeth Dixon, known as Betty, was found dead in a car at Ashtonfield, a suburb of Maitland, New South Wales, on 6 April 1982.

The 31-year-old had been stabbed 27 times and beaten with a blunt object.

The accused, Rodney Lawrence, from Stockton, New South Wales, was charged at Maitland Local Court on Thursday.

'New information'

The 64-year-old was arrested at his home in Stockton on Wednesday by detectives from the New South Wales police force.

In a statement, New South Wales police said they acted on "new information" that they had received in August about the 1982 killing.

Image copyright Maitland Mercury newspaper
Image caption Police examine a car at the murder scene in 1982

They took the suspect to Raymond Terrace police station where detectives charged him with the murder.

When he appeared in court on Thursday morning, his defence solicitor told the judge they were not in a position to make a bail application, according to the Maitland Mercury newspaper.

The judge remanded Mr Lawrence in custody, to appear before Newcastle Local Court by video link next Wednesday.

Ms Dixon was originally from Northern Ireland but had been living in Australia at the time of her death.

Maitland Deputy Mayor Bob Geoghegan knew Ms Dixon. "She was very friendly to everybody and extremely popular," he said.

"That's why I think everybody was so shocked when she was murdered like that. They found it very hard to believe."

Eve Nesmith, Editor of local paper Maitland Mercury

"This murder has been in the Maitland psyche now for decades, it is our most infamous cold case," she said.

"So much so that in 2013 the government actually relaunched the investigation and massively increased the reward money that was associated with it.

"Apparently police have been ticking away on it for some time.

"Yesterday we got the news that a man had been arrested. And it has just been ripping open a wound that never really healed.

"A killing of this nature in a small close-knit community such as Maitland scars deeply."

Image copyright Maitland Mercury Newspaper
Image caption Mourners at the funeral of Elizabeth Dixon