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Never the silent witness

Never the silent witness

Like many Australians, I have been glued to the new ABC Podcast ‘Trace’ for the last week.  My teenage son and I stumbled upon it whilst driving up the coast and quickly binged the first 2 episodes.  Like thousands of others, we painstakingly waited for the final episode to drop last night and we dove right back into the story of the murder of Maria James over 30 years ago.


Like ‘Serial’ before it, ‘Trace’ is a good yarn.  For many fans of murder mysteries, the tale itself and the subsequent detective work is fascinating.  The producers of the show masterfully unravel bits of information and clues that keep the listener enthralled.  Sadly, this suspense and tale telling sometimes overshadows that this isn’t an Agatha Christie story.  This is real.  This actually happened.  Maria James was brutally murdered and her two young sons, Mark and Adam, were devastated by the sudden and horrific death of their mother.  Lives torn apart. The boys were 13 and 11 when their mother died.  Adam, the younger son, has Cerebral Palsy.  Maybe it is because I am the mum to two boys (one with a disability), but it was Mark and Adam’s story that affected me, much more than the murder itself.
Whilst we loved the podcast, and like everyone else, wait patiently to see if Victoria Police will act on the new information uncovered, there are a few takeaways that we simply must call out.


During her investigation into the case, host Rachel Browne managed to do something law enforcement had failed to do 30 years ago.  She interviewed both of Maria’s sons.  She gave voice to Adam, not just Mark.  Police in the 1980s didn’t consider interviewing Adam.  It was assumed his disability (his speech being effected) meant he wouldn’t have useful or reliable information.  How wrong they were!  I won’t spoil the Pod for you, but Adam’s evidence leads to the re-opening of the cold case.  Adam had a lot to say, a lot he needed to say and Rachel Browne let him say it.  She treated the disability issue beautifully and the final episode, listening to Adam’s voice, was so genuine and honest.  I for one was reduced to tears hearing this smart, brave man finally being heard.


Trace is an important reminder to all law enforcement.  Victims and witnesses with disabilities have just as much right to be heard & give statements as anyone else.  Their disability doesn’t define them.  We all must work harder to ensure the voices of those with a disability are heard as loudly as others.  It might take longer, we might need to try harder, but they must be considered, heard and genuinely listened to.

All power to you Adam, you are brave & your message was clear.

These brothers demonstrate the often steel bond between people with disability and their siblings.  They remind me of my boys.


To the Trace team…thank you.  I can assure you Maria James would have been grateful that Adam was finally being heard.  She would be so proud.


Nicole Rogerson

CEO – Autism Awareness Australia