Family desperate for answers: Who murdered Marea Yann?

After 20 years, police taking over the case believe it can be solved.
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Marea Yann had settled into her evening routine on September 29, 2003. Relaxing on the couch ready to enjoy her favourite TV shows, the grandmother had much to look forward to.

Her 70th birthday was just a few weeks away and celebrations were being planned with her three children, grandkids, and hordes of friends.

Tragically, the festivities never eventuated as Marea was bludgeoned to death with 22 blows. Found the next morning, detectives called her brutal murder one of the worst crime scenes they had ever seen. 

Two decades on, Marea’s family tell New Idea that that night still haunts them. 

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“My sister Rhonda called me crying,” Marea’s son Jeff, 65, shares. 

“She said I was to go to the police station and Mum had been killed. I didn’t know if it was a car accident or what.”

Driving to Marea’s home in Healesville, Victoria, Jeff saw all the police tape and quickly realised something more sinister had happened. 

When the officer in charge told him his mum had been murdered, Jeff couldn’t believe it. 

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Jeff’s daughter Esther was just a young girl at the time and was equally shocked to loose her nona in such circumstances. 

“It was a very dark and scary period,” Esther, now 29, recalls. 

“I was nine and I had to learn what murder is. I didn’t really understand everything but saw all this pain and fear. We went to Nona’s house and all the carpet had been ripped up around her chair and some of the furniture was gone.”

Marea was brutally killed shortly before her 70th birthday. (Credit: Supplied)

The crime scene established that there was no sign of forced entry. Nothing was stolen and there was no indication of Marea putting up a fight. This led police to believe the murderer was known to her. 

In 2006, Marea’s former son-in-law, Joseph ‘James’ Unumadu was charged with her murder, but was acquitted by a jury in 2008. 

“When we went to court we all believed we’d get justice for Mum, but deep down I had a feeling of dread,” Jeff says. 

The trial ended with no further suspects, and nobody [was] found guilty. Esther says it meant “dealing with a grief” that was never at an end.”

A doting grandmother, Marea is deeply missed by her family, who are fighting for answers. (Credit: Supplied)

For Jeff, it fuelled a decades-long campaign for the truth which has recently culminated in an Australian True Crime podcast and Sky News documentary. 

The 20th anniversary of Marea’s death comes as Victorian police have increased the reward for information into her murder to $1 million. 

“It was so symbolic of our larger struggle. All the family have been so inspired by this push to get justice,” Jeff says. 

“Several senior police have told me they believe the case is solvable and I keep reminding myself how many people are supporting us and committing to this. We have achieved a lot and Mum would be so proud,” Jeff continues. 

“Now I have to sit back and rely on the system that it will make someone accountable.”

Jeff [pictured with Marea and daughter and Bella] is hopeful his mum’s killer will be brought to justice. (Credit: Supplied)

Jeff is about to take Esther and his youngest daughter Bella to visit Marea’s Italian homeland. When they return, Esther will resume the fight for justice. 

Inspired to become a criminologist as a result of her childhood experiences, Esther says it’s now her turn. 

“Having a murderer on the streets for 20 years, it’s unacceptable especially the violence that Nona faced in her final moments,” she says. 

“It’s time to give [Dad and Aunt Ronda[ a break. I’m the next generation and I won’t let this rest.”

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