Toyah Cordingley was a 24-year-old animal-loving pharmacy assistant. Between 12-1pm on Sunday October 21st, 2018 Cordingley was shopping at Rusty’s Markets – a popular fresh fruit and veg market in Cairns. She returned home briefly before heading out to walk her boyfriend’s dog, Jersey – who was described as a ‘larger than average’ dog. At around 2-2:30pm Cordingley arrived at Wangetti beach – a 4km stretch of beach halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas – she left her Mitsubishi Lancer, with the registration plate ‘TOY 146’ in the southern car park and went for a walk on the sand.
Shortly after her long-term boyfriend, Marco Heidenreich, began telling people that she was missing. Cordingley’s mum, dad and brother began searching for her along the beach. They searched through the night with torches and eventually found Jersey, the dog that Cordingley had been walking, unharmed but tied up so tight that it wasn’t able to sit down. The police and the SES soon joined the search and when returning to the site the dog was found Troy Cordingley, the father, discovered the body in the sand dunes – about 800 metres north of her car – marred with what police described as ‘visible and violent injuries’
The police told the community that they were seeking a male in connection to a ‘potentially sexually related murder’ but no further details about the state of the body have been released.
Appeal for Information
The next day forensic dogs and SES volunteers combed the beach for evidence. The police knocked on all the doors in the community to request voluntary DNA samples to aid in elimination, and witnesses were spoken to.
Police issued the following statement in a public appeal for information:
“We’d like to speak to anybody who saw any suspicious activity or anything out of the ordinary in the Lake Placid or Caravonica area on Sunday afternoon, the 21st of October 2018, between 4pm and 5.30pm.”
“The second area is that we’d like to speak to anybody who has any dashcam footage from any vehicle travelling north on the Captain Cook Highway between Wangetti Beach and Clifton Beach between 4.30pm and 5.30pm.”
“And the third area is that we’re also keen to speak to any females who have been approached by any males either acting inappropriately, aggressively or making them feel uncomfortable in the last 12 months to two years in any beach area or secluded area between the northern beaches of Cairns and Cardwell.”
They asked for anyone who may have interacted with Cordingley while visiting the markets that morning to come forward – releasing the CCTV footage of her there while wearing a crocheted singlet top, carrying a colourful striped bag.
Police also urged the drivers of the 68 unidentified vehicles seen in the area at the time of death to come forward in a process of elimination.
Police also appealed to the public for any information on people that had any injuries that couldn’t be accounted for, movements that couldn’t be accounted for between 12pm-7pm on October 21 or if they appeared to have damaged or unaccounted for clothing.
Police have been working to piece together the suspect’s movements on a trip to Cairns on the day of Toyah’s murder, and aim to test the suspect’s DNA against samples located at the crime scene.
A police search of Caravonica and Lake Placid, in North Cairns, was said to have yielded a number of items of interest but police would not comment any further on the case. Over 800 calls have been made to crimestoppers to give information and the hunt for the killer has become one of the highest-profile cases in Queensland history.
Person of Interest Leaked by Media
On December 8th 7 News reported that a person of interest in the case has fled the country after booking a flight to India on the night of the murder. They continued that they had known about the person of interest two weeks prior but chose not to report it out of respect for the family, who had also known about the POI.
They identified the suspect as a former nurse, Rajwinder Singh. Singh had first come to attention when forensics triangulated Cordingley’s mobile phone. Using that information, they were able to narrow down a five-minute window in which she was in that location and used dashcam and traffic surveillance footage to compile a list of vehicles of interest. Singh had been identified within that footage. Singh had also been identified driving erratically through Cairns the night of the homicide before returning home and booking the flight. They also stated that there was potential forensic evidence linking the POI to the murder scene.
Witnesses claim to have seen Singh with multiple scratches and bitemarks, however none of this has been confirmed directly and may only be treated as speculation at this point.
Singh had been working as an aged-care nurse at Innisfail hospital for seven years and had a wife and three young children, including a baby. It is believed that he had resigned from his job and had become depressed and isolated. According to the family he had been taking off for long stretches of time in the seven weeks prior and was behaving strangely. However, they do not believe that he is capable of what he is being accused and are firm believers that he is innocent. He had been reported missing by his family three days prior to the homicide, he returned home the night of the homicide and booked a flight back to his hometown of Amritsar in Punjab, India. He flew to Sydney that night and stayed with his sister before catching his flight the next day. He has not used credit cards or bank accounts since leaving Australia.
Police claim that the information issued by the reporter was ‘incorrect, leaked and unauthorised’ and believe that ‘speculation surrounding elements of the investigation are not helpful and have the potential to jeopardise it’. Authorities state that Singh is one of several people of interest but has not been charged with anything at this point of time and may still be innocent of the crime. People are being urged not to accuse or threaten Singh or his family and to refrain from abuse while the investigation is ongoing – which the police describe as being “far from over”.
Police are expectantly tight-lipped about the ongoing investigation since the media leak and it is unlikely we will be given any more information about the case until an arrest is made.
It is known that Queensland Police and the Australian Federal Police are liaising with Interpol and the Indian authorities to find the man Singh so he can be extradited to Australia. His family have flown over to India in an attempt to locate him and his blood relatives have supplied the police with DNA samples in an attempt to prove his innocence. At this point however no charges or arrests have been made.
It is also known that witnesses have come forward describing two men behaving strangely heading away from Wangetti Beach around the time of the homicide. The witness said he was driving when he spotted two erratic men on the side of the road waving for help. The two men looked ‘scruffy’ had a flat tyre and had lost their tyre jack and were ‘freaking out’. Once they’d changed their tyre they hastily drove off in their white ute towards Cairns.
Police are currently looking into who leaked the information to the media and are advising the public not to be fooled into thinking that the case is solved due to the recent information leak about a ‘key suspect’. The case is still ongoing with several other people of interest and there are still public appeals for information to help with the investigation. Anyone with information that could assist police further is urged to contact Crime Stoppers anonymously on 1800 333 000.