Tragedy struck Bargo 25 years ago when nine-year-old Ebony Simpson was abducted and killed on her way home from school.
The crime rocked the small town in Sydney’s south-west to its core.
On August 19, 1992, Ebony got off her school bus and began to walk home.
Her mother, Christine Simpson, who usually met Ebony at the bus stop was busy.
Ms Simspon asked Ebony’s older brother to meet Ebony after he got off his bus. But his bus was late.
On the walk home, with her house in sight, Ebony approached a car that appeared to be broken down.
The car’s owner, Andrew Peter Garforth, grabbed her and threw her in the boot.
He drove to a remote dam. Once there, Garforth bound Ebony with wire, raped her and then threw her into the dam with her pink backpack full of rocks.
Former Wollondilly councillor and Bargo resident Ray Law clearly remembers how the heinous crime affected the small community.
“The whole town was devastated and we were in a state of disbelief at the time,” Mr Law said.
“When we heard word that Ebony was missing, no one in our little village could have imagined what evil had been perpetrated.
“We were living in a state of innocence. We thought ‘that does not happen in Bargo’.”
Mr Law said hundreds of locals throughout Macarthur joined the search party.
“At some point everyone was out looking for her,” he said. “We looked in the bush around our house. The Rural Fire Service and Special Art Service came out to search.”
Garforth joined in the search to find Ebony. On August 21, police turn their attention to Garforth who stunned them with his casual manner and graphic description of events as he confessed to the crimes.
Mr Law said the crime changed the way parents in the community treated their children.
“Our two boys, aged eight and ten, went to school at Yanderra Public School and they had been at my wife and I to let them ride their bikes to school rather than us driving them,” he said.
“Any chance of that evaporated when we realised such evil existed.
“We all became very protective of our children. We wouldn’t let our kids out of our sight.”
Mr Law said the “heinousness of the crime sent shock waves through the community”.
“When we were first told how she was found, it was all everyone was talking about,” he said.
“We just hoped that whoever did it was ‘not one of us’, we hoped he wasn’t local.”
Read more: 'I was Ebony's father': Pete Simpson's story
Garforth had moved to the area a few months before from Western Australia with his defacto wife and two children.
Mr Law recalls people standing outside Picton Court House, where Garforth was being held, with signs calling for his execution.
“People felt so much emotion, shock, anger and horror,” he said. “People reacted in the only way they knew how to voice their own pain.
“During Garforth’s trial everybody had their own opinion on capital punishment. There is no doubt people were calling for him to be executed.”
Garforth is serving a life sentence without parole at Goulburn jail.
Garforth unsuccessfully appealed his sentence to the High Court in 1994.
His prisoner status was downgraded from A2 to B in July, a decision immediately reversed by Corrective Services Minister David Elliott.
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