Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

IT’S a tiny, sleepy town with fewer residents than the amount of staff in most shops.

So, when one of them, Paddy Moriarty, 70, along with his dog, went missing from Larrimah, in Australia’s Northern Territory in 2017, his 11 elderly neighbours all became suspects in his murder.

CollectPaddy Moriarty went missing, and is suspected to have been murdered, in 2017[/caption]

Paddy’s dog Kellie also went missing, and is assumed to have been killed

It didn’t help he’d had rows with many of them for years – notably Fran Hodgetts, a wild buffalo pie-maker, who had accused Paddy of dragging dead kangaroos under her house, poisoning her plants and telling travellers that not even his dog would eat her pies.

She became the main suspect in a stranger-than-fiction murder case.

Now in a new Netflix documentary, Last Stop Larrimer, Fran reveals how she was driven out of the neighbourhood she’d lived in for years due to accusations from the other residents.

She says: “I had enough of everything. People driving past singing out, ‘Murderer, murderer. Where’s Paddy?’ 

“It was so bad because, knowing I’m such a good person, I am. 

“I was going through all this for nothing. That put a life sentence on me. 

“I got the cancer through it.”

All 11 neighbours questioned

GettyPaddy had rowed with many of his neighbours and was last seen at the Pink Panther bar[/caption]

Larrimah is in the middle of nowhere with just 11 residents

Fran claimed Paddy once flung a dead kangaroo into her bedroom

Paddy arrived in Australia as a teenager and spent most of his life rattling around the Outback working on cattle stations and as a rodeo rider.

He retired to Larrimah in 2008, and over the next decade managed to annoy most of his fellow townsfolk.

Paddy was last seen leaving the Pink Panther boozer in tiny Larrimah with his dog Kellie, on December 16, 2017.

Authorities carried out extensive air and land searches of the area in Northern Territory state in the following weeks.

Every neighbour, all aged over 70, was questioned by police.

But it was Fran who most of the neighbours pointed to after his disappearance.

The chef had to rip down posters likening her grub to Sweeney Todd, the fictional “demon barber of Fleet Street” whose victims were baked into meat pies.

The 80-year-old says people would even come into her cafe asking for “Paddy Pies” after sick rumours he had ended up in her pastry.

In the documentary, she opens up on her long-running feud with her neighbour, saying Paddy once “flung a dead kangaroo into her bedroom”.

The pair’s ongoing disagreement centred around a rivalry over who was rightfully able to sell meat pies to tourists.

Mrs Hodgetts’ Devonshire Tea House had famously sold the baked goods, but in the years before Paddy went missing, the Pink Panther pub – run by his pals – began to muscle in on the business.

Fran insists that while she didn’t get along with Paddy and “Larrimah is a better place without him”, she had nothing to do with his disappearance.

Pointing the blame

The pub barman, Richard Simpson, also came under the spotlight from the neighbours, including mechanic shop workers Karen and Mark Rayner.

Karen says: “I don’t know how a stranger would’ve gone up and killed the dog. That’s the part that confused us.

“Barry or Richard Simpson could’ve patted her, only a few people. How’d you get the dog?”

When asked about it in the documentary, Richard laughs: “Yeah, ‘Sorry Paddy I had to kill you for your f**king dog because I haven’t got enough of my own.’ F**k me.

“Maybe they’re misguided or don’t like me.

“I didn’t do it. Me and Paddy had a few arguments about this, that or the other but never had a cross word that evening.”

Some of the neighbours also speculated whether Richard was jealous of Paddy getting shifts at the pub and wanted them for himself.

He adds: “Karen and Mark said I killed Paddy because I wanted to run the Larrimah pub and that’s really insulting because anyone who knows me knows I f**king hate working!

“‘The Duke and Duchess,’ Paddy calls them, and they are not his friends no matter what they say.

“[The neighbours] all went and did their individual things, made up their own little stories. ‘Hell, we might even get famous out of this.’ 

“Most of them are just doing it for their own f***ing glory. 

“Apart from that, what do you say? I hope it was quick. I hope it didn’t f**king hurt.”

Fran’s suspicious gardener

Fran’s gardener, Owen Laurie, was allegedly recorded saying he killed PaddyNetflix

But it was Fran’s gardener, Owen Laurie – who most of the neighbours hadn’t even heard of – who came under the most suspicion.

Richard, Karen and Mark all say they witnessed a row between Paddy and former boxer Owen a couple of days before he went missing.

Richard recalls: “I saw Paddy down the road while I was sitting having my morning coffee, Kellie barking in front of him. 

“I couldn’t see what she was barking at.

“Later on that day, I was talking to Paddy and said, ‘What the f*** went on down there?’  and he said, ‘Oh mate that f***ing w***er next door, Owen.’”

Karen adds: “Owen, the gardener at Fran’s, had an argument, ‘Get rid of that f**king dog, or I’ll get rid of it for you.’ 

“Paddy put his hands on the fence, and said, ‘You touch that dog, I’m gonna kneecap you.’ 

“I know that was said.”

Fran allowed Owen to live with her in her house, and do the gardening and care-taking for a while after her 50-year marriage to a local named Billy broke down. She never paid him.

“He made me feel safe,” she said of him.

However, she later adds she had a feeling it was him, and sacked him after Paddy went missing.

She says: “I don’t like to blame somebody for something they didn’t do but I was worried, because Owen said to me, ‘Something’s going to happen.’

“Also, when they were searching across the road, he said to me, ‘I thought they came for me.’ 

“I didn’t say nothing to him, but thought, ‘Oh my god, why would he say that?’ 

“I think he might’ve known something about it and how he was with Paddy. 

“I just put two and two together, and that’s why I sacked him and told him to go. 

“I wasn’t safe with him there.”

Unsolved murder case

9 NewsThe murder case still remains unsolved[/caption]

But in 2022, police revealed shocking recordings of Owen in Fran’s house, playing the guitar and saying: “I killerated old Paddy…I struck him on the head and killerated him, basherated him. Doof.

“You killed Paddy up the bum…doomed him on the head, donged him on the head…smacked him on the nostrils with a claw hammer.”

The recordings, released by Northern Territory police, came from a secret device placed in Fran’s home after Paddy vanished – but Owen denied the recordings were of him.

Greg Cavanagh, the coroner, said Paddy was most probably killed by his neighbours.

He said: “In my opinion, Paddy was killed in the context of and likely due to the ongoing feud he had with his nearest neighbours.

“He likely died on the evening of 16 December 2017. He had ridden home from the hotel, put the mostly-eaten chicken in the microwave, put his wallet on the table, his hat in the usual place, the dog food in the dog bowl and got his own meal out of the freezer.

“He then went outside with the dog. There is no evidence as to where he went, however, in my view it’s likely that the new plants at Fran’s place were of some attraction to him.”

But Fran insists she had nothing to do with it.

When asked whether she gave Owen any money to kill her neighbour, she says: “No, course I f**king didn’t. Don’t be stupid. 

“I swear to god I never done it. I never done nothing.”

Following Owen’s denial, the case against him was dropped, and Paddy’s murder is still considered an open case by Northern Territory Police. 

His body has never been found and no arrest has been made.

Laurie refused to be interviewed for the documentary and his lawyer declined to comment.

The coroner added: “Murder investigations are challenging, particularly without a body. The case doesn’t get closed until it is solved. 

“We need to find Paddy.”

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