Murdered NI woman's family angry as 'killer secret' accused walks free
The family of a Northern Ireland woman who was brutally murdered said they had been "denied justice" after a man who kept her killer's secret for 35 years walked free from court.
Elizabeth 'Betty' Dixon, from Co Down, was found tied up and stabbed 27 times in her car in bushland north of Sydney, Australia, three days after she disappeared in April 1982.
Her family said they had been left with many unanswered questions surrounding her murder.
Rodney Lawrence, a former cricketer, confessed to his son about his involvement in the murder and admitted in court to tying up the Holywood woman after she was killed.
However, Betty's family said there were "too many inconsistencies in his story" after he remained silent for decades.
Lawrence was handed an 18-month sentence but walked free from Newcastle Supreme Court in Australia because of time served.
Betty's niece, Danielle Martin, who was in court for sentencing, said: "I'm angry and hurt by this. My family has been hurt by this. What is a life worth?
"My aunt came over to Australia from Northern Ireland to have a better life in this country and this happened to her."
Last month, as he was to go on trial, Lawrence pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the crime.
He claimed that another man, who died in 2011, was responsible for the 31-year-old's death and that the murderer threatened him with a knife and forced him to help hide her body.
Betty's twin brother, Billy, travelled from his home in Bangor to Australia for the hearing, though he had returned home before sentencing. Danielle (42) said her family had been denied justice and were left "devastated" at the sentence handed to Lawrence.
"My aunt Betty went to Australia to join her sister - my mother - Anne for a new, better life," she added. "I'm angry, gutted and hurt by this. My family has been hurt by this.
"Uncle Billy is totally gutted. We thought he might have got three years or that he would have spend some time in jail.
"What is a life worth? This has had a massive impact on our family.
"She will always be 31 to our family. My mother will always see her as a 31-year-old.
"She came out here to have a better life and to experience the world. She had travelled so much and this was her big adventure. My grandmother was left heartbroken over Betty's death.
"We have no justice and we are gutted."
In court yesterday, Justice Ian Harrison said he was satisfied that following Lawrence's guilty plea, "the long-awaited truth has now been revealed".
Danielle, who grow up close to the Lawrence family home, said he knew for decades what happened and "did nothing".
"He's kept it secret for 35 years and helped conceal the murder," she added.
"There are too many inconsistencies in his story.
"Uncle Billy did everything in his power to show how this has hurt him, but the sentence was nowhere near enough after what he admitted doing."