[IN-DEPTH] Perfect and Beautiful, I Must Become Her: The Murder of Rachel Barber
The slaughtering of Rachel Barber in 1999 was one that followed an unfortunate targeting of a young girl. Police called it one of the most bizarre homicide cases they’d ever worked on. It was a story of jealousy and the lust for a teenage girl by another teenage girl who wanted the life of someone who wasn’t “ugly” or “strange” – It’s a murder that was turned into the film “In Her Skin” (which in some parts of the world was released as “I Am You”) which featured the likes of Guy Pearce and Sam Neill.
The bestselling book “Perfect Victim” was written by Rachel’s mother Elizabeth.
Rachel Barber’s murderer Caroline Reed Robertson was apparently filled with jealousy and a lack of motivation and self-esteem. Robertson wrote pages of stressed letters to her father, David Reid. “I get teased badly at school. I get really really embarrassed. I told mum, but she hasn’t helped. I really really really need HELP.”
Another letter read: “I feel like a troubled, tortured lost soul that’s been thrown into an alien environment full of angels”
None of these letters were seen as proof to the Victorian Supreme Court to indicate that Robertson, aged 22, was capable of murdering a family friend who was significantly younger.
Robertson was sentenced to 20 years’ jail for strangling 15-year-old Rachel Barber with a telephone cord on March 11th, 1999.
She is eligible for parole this year (2013).
The Reed family lived across the road from the Barber family with their three daughters Rachel, Ashleigh-Rose and Heather. Caroline Robertson was five years older than Rachel and had baby-sat many of the Barber girls. What Robertson saw seemed, to her, like the perfect home with the perfect loving family surrounding it.
The Barber family battled financially, but they had moved from the country so that Rachel could pursue her dream to become a dancer. They allowed her to leave school at 15 because of her dedication to the talent. Her family describes her as elegant and charismatic, showy and innocent.
Robertson wrote of Rachel:
“Strikingly attractive, dancer’s body, very clear pale skin, hypnotic green eyes, wild free spirit, passionate, charming, moody, mysterious.”
Robertson had wanted to be Rachel’s “bestest friend” at age 17 – whilst Rachel was only 12. The tell-tale signs of an early obsession were evident but obviously irrelevant.
According to Rachel’s mum Elizabeth Barber: “Robertson was in an unhappy family which she (Robertson) wanted to destroy”
At 20, Robertson was an administrative assistant with a telecommunications company with no drug or money problems or any form of criminal history. She was as clean as could be. Viewing her diary and paperwork; the startling revelation of her deep desire to be someone else was all too clear. According to the courts interpretations and Robertson’s drawings: She had earnestly conspired to kill Rachel and assume a new identity – using Elizabeth Barber’s maiden name, Southall, and an unrelated first name.
Robertson had written down her strategy to lure Rachel with an offer of money to take part in a fake psychology study, then drug her, disfigure her and dispose of her body. For two days Robertson kept Rachel’s body in a cupboard in her apartment before hiring a van and dumping the body in a shallow grave on her father’s property near Kilmore, Victoria.