Vivacious and bubbly, an outgoing theater performer who loved to be the center of attention.
- Julie Cutler disappeared after a work function on June 20, 1988
- His car was found in the water at Cottesloe Beach a few days later
- An investigation into his disappearance is underway in Perth
Moody and private, prone to occasional bouts of depression.
Julie Cutler, who disappeared without a trace 34 years ago, was a multifaceted young woman, according to those who knew her well.
An inquest into his presumed death, which opened in Perth yesterday, has revealed plenty of new information about his mysterious disappearance in 1988 – but few answers so far.
Just 22 when she was last seen, Julie had returned from a hectic trip to Europe around six months earlier and had struggled to reintegrate into the sleepy city of Perth.
Her European odyssey had included many of the rites of passage so typical of young backpackers of the time: working as an au pair, getting charcoal sketched by a Parisian street artist, traveling to Greece and living her share of holiday romances.
Signs of distress
But it wasn’t all sunny beaches and happy memories – her time in Greece was marked by an incident in a hotel room where her traveling companion found her bleeding and distressed, after she had attempted to slit his wrists.
Ms Cutler had to be hospitalized and the incident raised concerns among her friends.
Best friend Jennifer Marr told the court that ‘it seemed like a very dramatic thing to do’ and ‘not something I had seen of her before’.
However, like other friends and family members who gave evidence yesterday, Ms Marr did not consider Ms Cutler to be mentally ill or depressed and attributed the hotel room incident to a breakup with a boyfriend. friend.
“Julie was known for drama…but because we knew who she was, we didn’t take it too seriously,” she said.
“She could take things to heart and blow things out of proportion…but it was part and parcel of who she was.”
Indeed, Ms Cutler was a former theater arts student at the WA Institute of Technology, now Curtin University, where she graduated with a degree in English literature in the mid-1980s.
After that, she worked a variety of casual jobs, including at the Hole in the Wall Theater in Subiaco, Fremantle Markets, and the Parmelia Hilton Hotel, where she worked in room service.
She had saved a lot to afford her trip to Europe, and left in March 1987, returning shortly before Christmas the same year.
But as her sister Nicole observed, it’s not easy to get back to your old life when you return from a series of international adventures – and testimony given at the inquest suggests that Ms Cutler had some hard time. struggling to find his bearings on his return.
She “had struggled to settle back into life in Perth after her travels,” assistant coroner lawyer Jon Tiller told the court.
Moving into the Victoria Park house she had lived in before leaving, Ms Cutler now found herself living with her younger sister Nicole, but the relationship quickly soured.
Although unable to determine the substance of the dispute, Nicole Cutler recalled a huge argument between the sisters, which resulted in Julie “storming” and leaving their shared home.
Nicole was to see her sister just once before disappearing, when she tried to make up between the two by going to visit Julie at the stall where she worked at Fremantle Markets.
Julie told Nicole she would call her. She never did.
“And then she disappeared,” she told the inquest.
Colleague Carmela Fleming, who worked with Ms Cutler the day before she disappeared, said the 22-year-old was left distraught while the couple were on duty in the Parmelia Hilton penthouse suite.
She said Julie kept returning to the balcony of the 10th floor suite and said to her, “I just want to jump…I just want to kill myself”.
“I said don’t be stupid, you’re too young,” she said.
Ms Fletcher, who is now 83, said Ms Cutler cried as the couple cleaned up after the penthouse reception and told her she had recently broken up with her boyfriend.
The following night, Ms Cutler was back on duty and finished her job around 10 p.m.
Changing into a long-sleeved, high-necked black evening dress with gold buttons on the shoulder, Ms Cutler headed to Juliana’s nightclub in the basement of the five-star hotel, where a staff awards ceremony was in full swing.
Colleagues watched Ms Cutler drink several glasses of champagne in quick succession and talk to two men at the bar, one of whom she danced with.
The men, Polish hotel employees, invited Ms Cutler back to their apartment, along with her colleague Consuelo Harper.
But when Mrs. Harper said “no way”, Mrs. Cutler also said she wouldn’t go.
Ms Harper, whose police statements were read out in court by Mr Tiller, recalled leaving the office with Ms Cutler at around 12.30pm and walking into the staff car park.
Ms Cutler, whom Ms Harper remembers being drunk, said she was going to meet someone later that night but declined to say who.
“She said ‘it’s a secret, I can’t tell’,” Mrs Harper told police in 1988.
It is believed that Ms Cutler returned to duty briefly at the time and was one of the last four or five people to leave, around 1am.
The last sighting
Another work colleague, Deputy Chief Geoffrey Pearce, saw her drive his distinctive two-tone gray Fiat sedan out of the staff parking lot and recalled her stopping to speak to him as he stood under a tree, where he was sheltering from the rain. .
Asking if he was okay, Mr Pearce assured her he was waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up, and she left, turning east on Mounts Bay Road.
It was the last time anyone saw her alive.
Two days later, his beloved Fiat was found by a swimmer in the ocean about 50 meters off the famous Cottesloe beach.
Badly damaged and floating upside down, the car was recovered by police, who found its driver’s license and RAC papers inside, along with two champagne flutes of the type used at the Parmelia Hilton Hotel wrapped in a towel.
There were cigarette butts in the ashtray and a few hairs on one of the seat covers – but that was about it.
No Julie, no purse, and no clue as to what had happened to the brilliant young woman.
The years that followed revealed a handful of other clues, but not definitive proof. Among them:
- A distinctive Parmelia Hiton staff blouse almost certainly belonging to Ms Cutler and left in a plastic bag at a kebab shop in town.
- A diary, pen, wallet and purse found in the sand dunes a mile from where Ms Cutler’s car was found – and destroyed by police who initially believed them to be unrelated to the ‘affair.
- A series of phone calls to members of the Cutler family from a mysterious man with a heavy European accent claiming to know what happened.
- Another mystery caller, this one a woman, who said she heard screams coming from Cottesloe Beach the night Ms Cutler disappeared.
But nothing that didn’t eventually join the dots and lead to Mrs. Cutler.
Police believe she is almost certainly dead.
This week’s inquest aims to find out if that is indeed the case, and if so, whether she committed a criminal act or committed suicide.
Today, detectives from the Major Crime Squad will testify about the case and the 48 suspects identified in a 2018 cold case review, 44 of whom could not be ruled out.
They have many questions to answer.