Invasion of the Pod People: Trace


In 1980, Maria James was found murdered in the back of her Thornbury bookshop. In the years since, her death (and its mysterious circumstances) have haunted her two sons, and dogged Detective Ron Iddles. One of Australia’s most respected homicide detectives, the now-retired Iddles has never really let the unsolved killing go. It was his first case.

The Maria James cold case caught the attention of ABC journalist Rachael Brown, who launched an exhaustive two-year investigation which ultimately spawned the Walkley Award-winning true-crime podcast Trace. In the podcast, Brown revisits the initial suspects, discovers a new one, and uncovers information that could have shocking implications for the Catholic Church. In a new book, Trace: Who Killed Maria James?, Brown further unravels the story of Maria’s death and reveals the fascinating details of her relentless investigation.

This event comes as the Coroner is expected to decide whether to hold a fresh inquest into the death of Maria James. Brown speaks alongside Ron Iddles and Maria’s son Mark James – their first public appearance together – to discuss the case, its insistent questions and the uncommon task of investigating a murder in the public arena with host Myf Warhurst.



Portrait of Myf Warhurst

Myf Warhurst

Myf Warhurst be heard across the country on ABC Radio from 12.30pm-2pm weekdays. She presents Bang On with co-host Zan Rowe – a podcast where they chat about the biggest issues in art, music and pop culture, available for download via the ABC Radio app or iTunes.

In 2017, Myf hosted the Eurovision Song Contest for SBS in Kyiv, Ukraine alongside Joel Creasey. In 2018, the pair returned to host the contest in Lisbon, Portugal and the SBS’s coverage of the Royal Wedding.

Portrait of Rachael Brown

Rachael Brown

Rachael Brown is a broadcast journalist. In 2002, after graduating from RMIT, she began her career with the ABC, where she has held several postings, including Europe correspondent from 2010 to 2013. In 2008, she won her first Walkley Award, for Best Radio Current Affairs Report, for her investigation into the Victorian Medical Practitioners Board whose negligence contributed to the sexual assaults of a dozen women. Rachael was the creator, investigator, and host of the ABC's first true-crime podcast, Trace, which won the 2017 Walkley Award for Innovation. The podcast also won two 2017 Quill Awards: for Innovation, and for Best Podcast. Rachael lives in Melbourne, Victoria.

Portrait of Ron Iddles

Ron Iddles

Ron Iddles served 42 years with Victoria Police. This included 25 years as a homicide investigator, during which time he investigated over 300 homicides and was involved in over 200 trials at the Melbourne Supreme Court. He is considered a subject matter expert with regards to criminal investigations and interviewing suspects. A veteran of homicide investigations, he changed the way police conduct interviews with suspects.

Portrait of Mark James

Mark James

Mark James is the older son of Maria James. He was just 13 years old when his mum was murdered at the back of her second-hand bookshop in Thornbury, on 17th June 1980. Mark and his younger brother Adam have been campaigning for more than five years to have their mum's case re-looked at, including through a fresh coronial inquest. Their crusade has been given a boost through recent revelations; from Adam James, and those dug up by the ABC's Trace podcast. Mark runs his own quality control business in the resources industry and lives in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs.

Listen to Invasion of the Pod People: Trace