It was a Friday evening and about 100 people had gathered outside Brunswick Baptist Church in Melbourne, Australia. Some brought flowers, which joined the blooming mass of tributes outside the church. Others held candles as they wept.
t was September 28, 2012, six days since 29-year-old Jill Meagher had gone missing.
In the early hours of Saturday, September 22, the Drogheda native had been walking home from a bar to the apartment she shared with her husband Tom following a night out with work friends.
It was a five-minute walk down the Sydney Road – the same road that the church sits on.
Ms Meagher was raped and murdered by Adrian Bayley, a serial rapist who was out on parole, when she was just minutes from her home.
The young woman’s brutal, incomprehensible death shook the quiet Melbourne suburb of Brunswick and reverberated around the world.
The night before the vigil, Bayley had appeared at a packed Melbourne Magistrates Court charged with her rape and murder.
Hours before that hearing, police had been led about 50km outside of Melbourne to the shallow grave off a dirt road where Ms Meagher’s body had been left.
Most of those at the vigil never knew Jill Meagher, but by now they almost felt that they did. Her death had seared Australians’ hearts, and the case was being talked about with the emotion and scale usually reserved for natural disasters.
Outside the church, a blue card with pictures of butterflies and flowers cut out and stuck on it, read: “Slán abhaile, mo chara.” A pink sympathy card was addressed “From one Irish girl to another”.
Those tributes have been carefully kept by Pastor Mark Payne at Brunswick Baptist Church.
Tomorrow, Pastor Payne will hold a service for Ms Meagher to mark the 10th anniversary of her death.
“The outpouring of grief for her was huge,” he said. “The response here and in Ireland was overwhelming.”
Ms Meagher, born Jill McKeon but known as Gillian to her parents, should be almost 40 years old. She grew up in Drogheda, Co Louth.
In 1990, when she was seven years old, her parents George and Edith moved her and her then four-year-old brother Michael to Perth. According to their mother, both Jill and Michael “thrived” in Australia.
A number of years later, the family briefly moved back to Ireland. It was there in 2001 that, through a mutual friend, Jill would meet and fall in love with Tom Meagher.
Mr Meagher would later describe Jill as “the most wonderful person I have ever met”. The couple were married in 2008, and moved to Melbourne to start a family together.
At the time of her death, Ms Meagher had been working in radio at 774 ABC Melbourne.
Though she had been there for less than a year, she was already very popular among her colleagues.
One Friday night, she went out with colleagues to celebrate the birthday of a work friend. She would never come home.
At 4am on Saturday, September 22, Mr Meagher woke and realised his wife had not returned. He raised the alarm.
A beautiful photograph of Ms Meagher became a missing person’s poster. Work colleagues posted pleas for information on social media. The weekend passed.
On Monday, her bag appeared on Hope Street, off Sydney Road. “It just gets worse,” an emotional Mr Meagher told reporters near his home. Police were certain the bag had not been there before.
On Tuesday, a wedding-dress boutique handed its store CCTV footage from the night Ms Meagher went missing to local police.
A camera had caught two figures passing by the store window. One was Ms Meagher. A man in a blue hoodie, seen talking to her, was her killer. The footage was released and shared widely. By Thursday, 41-year-old Adrian Bayley had been arrested.
By now, both Australia and Ireland was trying and failing to grapple with the random way that a fatal, evil force had crossed Ms Meagher’s path that night.
In Melbourne, in particular, women were devastated. Ms Meagher’s death galvanised a high-profile conversation about violence against women.
In the years following his wife’s death, Mr Meagher’s grief would spur him to become an incredible advocate against such violence.
On Sunday, September 29, tens of thousands of people would march down the same street that Ms Meagher had lost her life to denounce sexual violence.
Ms Meagher’s case was one of the first major examples of what Australian police feared would become “trial by social media”.
A week after her death, it was estimated that her name was being posted on Twitter and Facebook once every 11 seconds.
What started as collective grief soon morphed into raging anger. Both Mr Meagher and Victoria Police had to plead with the public not to post anything about Bayley that would prejudice the case against him.
The public outcry was at its most righteous when it emerged that Bayley never should have been on that Brunswick street in the first place. He had been granted parole despite a violent history of raping multiple women.
Just a year after Ms Meagher was killed, sweeping reforms were made to the parole system, making it much stricter.
Beyond the newspaper photographs of a young woman full of life, that the whole world only got to know through death, was a shattered family.
At a plea hearing in June 2013, the victim-impact statements from Ms Meagher’s family and friends would lay their grief bare.
George McKeon, her father, described his anguish seeing young mothers with tiny babies in the park – mourning for the grandchildren he’d never get to watch his daughter raise.
“That is a life we will just never have,” he said.
Michael McKeon, her brother, was in such “dreadful pain” that he wasn’t able to complete a victim-impact statement.
“No words, just pain in private,” he said at the time.
Edith McKeon, Jill’s mother, said she had been given a life sentence of grief and that her heart was suffering “the deepest wound from which it will never recover”.
Tom, Jill’s beloved husband, said he thought of her every day. “I think of how in love we were and of how much I’ve lost and how much of my life and dreams were built around Jill. I am half a person because of this crime,” he said.