On a winter’s day in 1990, police knocked on the door of 26-year-old Ballarat man Brett Braddock.
- Brett Braddock has been jailed for his part in a rape that took place in Ballarat in 1990
- A re-opening of the case in 2018 named Braddock as a suspect; DNA later proving crucial in his conviction
- He claims to have no memory of the incident and the identity of his accomplice remains a mystery
They wanted to know if he or his de facto partner or their male boarder had heard anything the night before — a rape had been committed in the house next door.
The neighbouring property belonged to a single mother whose husband had died just a few years earlier.
While she and her children slept, two masked men had entered the master bedroom. They held the woman down and took turns raping her.
During the ordeal, the attackers said they would kill her children if she cried out or told the police.
Braddock told investigators he had not heard anything. He said he did not know the woman and had never even set foot on her property.
Almost 30 years later, he was sentenced to 12 years and two months in jail for the crime.
His co-offender has not been caught and Braddock claims he cannot remember the night in question.
Yet it was the determination of police and a DNA breakthrough that finally brought some modicum of justice to the case.
‘Every woman’s worst nightmare’
The victim woke her teenage daughter after the attack and told her what happened.
Too scared to contact the police, the woman called her mother while her daughter went to a nearby house and spoke to a family friend.
The friend contacted police who rushed to the house in search of evidence while the victim was taken to hospital.
Judge Patricia Riddell said the victim was “teary and shaking” and “very frightened”, saying she had been through “every woman’s worst nightmare”.
A doctor checked on the woman’s well-being and collected DNA samples.
Back at the house, Detective Senior Constable Paul Jolly collected evidence, including sheets and the victim’s nightie that contained semen stains.
The State Forensic Lab, however, could not find a match to an existing sample in the database.
A fitted sheet containing a DNA sample was kept on record in the hope it would prove useful in finding the rapists in the future.
In 2012, when the case was re-opened by the biological examination branch of the Victoria Police Forensic Services Department, there was still no match.
Braddock, it seemed, had lived a clean life outside of the cruel rape on that morning in 1990, and police had never had cause to collect his DNA.
He was, however, still on their list of suspects, despite his denials.
In 2018 and 2019, a review of the case by the Sexual Crime Squad’s cold case unit identified Braddock as a suspect, largely due to his proximity to the victim’s address and the fact the victim had not heard a vehicle after her attackers left the house.
On June 25, 2019, almost 29 years after the attack, police once again knocked on Braddock’s door and requested a DNA sample, which he provided.
The sample showed Braddock “was 100 billion times more likely than the rest of the population” to have raped the victim.
But he claimed to have no recollection of the incident, saying he was addicted to marijuana and alcohol at the time.
He would ultimately plead guilty, but a final piece of the puzzle — the identity of his accomplice — remains a mystery.
Predatory and premeditated
The woman’s victim impact statement detailed the anxiety, distress and ripples of fear that reverberated from the attack.
The family was forced out of the home and into crisis accommodation, while the victim said she could never sleep in a double bed again.
Braddock’s family was stunned by his arrest, though his wife remains supportive.
A character reference from a family member stated Braddock’s actions in 1990 did not fit with “the man they know and have known for many years”.
In sentencing reasons released by the County Court on Wednesday, Judge Riddell described the assault as predatory and premeditated.
“It offends our sense of safety and the sanctity of our homes.”
Braddock will be eligible for parole in 2029.