Mistaken Identity: Still no justice for Melbourne mother slain due to hitman’s error

The parents of murder victim Jane Thurgood-Dove pose with a portrait of their daughter. Source: ANM

It was a crime that shocked Melbourne in 1997, and remains just a senseless 15 years later. A mother of three, Jane Thurgood-Dove, gunned down as she returned to her home on a quiet suburban street. Her children, aged 3, 5 and 10, looked on in fear as their mother was shot repeatedly at close range before the gunman fled to a waiting getaway car.

The killing had all the hallmarks of a professional hit, but police were puzzled as to why an innocent mother would warrant such a contract killing. Naturally, the investigation firstly centred on Mrs Thurgood-Dove’s husband, Mark. No sign of any marital issues were detected, and with Mr Thurgood-Dove passing a lie detector test without issues he was eliminated as a person of interest.

With the husband no longer a suspect, police turned their attention to one of their own. Two of Mrs Thurgood-Dove’s friends revealed to investigators that she had told them, before her death, that a member of the police was obsessed with her. He had reportedly confessed his feelings of love for her, which she rejected. He pleaded with her to leave her husband for him, but she refused.

Could this police officer, crushed by the rejection, have used his criminal contacts to arrange for Mrs Thurgood-Dove’s murder? This line of inquiry would take longer to investigate, but ultimately the policeman was cleared of any involvement in the crime. Despite the suspicious circumstances of his involvement with the victim, there was no evidence that he’d wanted her dead; on the contrary, after he learned of her murder he was diagnosed with depression.

With both possibilities ruled out, investigators were at a loss to explain any other motive for the killing of Mrs Thurgood-Dove. That is, until they stumbled upon a family that lived just a few houses down the same street. A family where the wife bore a close resemblance to the appearance of Mrs Thurgood-Dove. And a family where the husband had a criminal past and a history of at least one failed attempt on his life by hitmen.

Three houses away from the Thurgood-Dove residence was the home of the Kyprianou family. Peter Kyprianou, described by one journalist as a “crook and opportunistic conman”, had a history of involvement in the criminal underbelly of Melbourne. Police believe that one of his former associates, a man named Philip Peters, took out a contract on Peter Kyprianou’s life in 1994 after a criminal scheme went wrong and Peters lost $200,000.

At the time, police were able to foil Peters’ plan to have Kyprianou killed after the they learnt of his intention through bugged phone conversations. Peters was arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder Kyprianou in April 1994. He received only a three-year sentence, largely due to a plea bargain where he accepted a charge of attempted abduction rather than murder. In 1997, Peters was released from prison, just a few months before the murder of Mrs Thurgood-Dove in November of that year.

The pieces of the puzzle were beginning to come together. It was logical, police realized, that Peters would not be so foolish to try and murder Kyprianou immediately after being set free from prison. After all, he’d only just been released for serving time for the earlier failed attempt. However, would he take the risk of attempting to have Kyprianou’s wife murdered?

Peter Kyprianou’s wife, Carmel, was noted to have a similar physical appearance to Mrs Thurgood-Dove – both had the same hairstyle, facial features and a similar hair color. After being visited by journalists, Carmel Kyprianou told them: “I keep the door locked. Maybe it was for us. Who knows? But you can’t let it stop your life. The kids still go to school.”

Could Peter’s time in prison have put him in contact with the hitmen who carried out the killing? Some investigators believe that’s exactly what happened. According to one source, Peters spent time in the same jail as a number of motorbike gang members, the same members who were later accused of carrying out the murder.

After a $1 million reward was offered for information leading to the capture of the killers in 2003, the tips started to come in thick and fast from the public. In fact, only 30 minutes elapsed before a name was offered: Steven Mordy.

Mordy was a former member of a notorious motorbike gang, but there was a problem. He was already dead, having died of a drug overdose in September 2001. Police had reached a dead end, but there were still other tips from the public naming two other men: the Mordy’s getaway driver, and the gang member who sourced the stolen getaway car.

Unfortunately, by the time investigators tracked these men down, it was too late. A former bikie named James Reynolds was believed to be the man who sourced the car, but he too was dead, having drowned in a boating accident in 2004. The suspected driver was never named by police, but sources believe he moved away in the years after the killing and also died.

The only suspect left alive, it seemed, was Peters. Police turned their attention to him, but it would be another dead end. After questioning him on two occasions, he firmly maintained his innocence.

Fifteen years have now passed since Jane Thurgood-Dove was brutally murdered outside her home. Fifteen years without justice for her family left behind, and for her children left without a mother. With most of the suspects now dead, and no firm evidence to tie anyone else to the crime, it seems there is little hope justice will ever be served in this tragic case of mistaken identity.