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Invasion of the Pod People

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at The Wheeler Centre


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 will speak 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.

Hill of Content will be our bookseller at this event.


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.

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.

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.

Invasion of the Pod People

In the last few years, podcasts have matured into the storytelling format du jour – with a little help from a certain sensationally popular true crime serial (ahem). Yet the surge of interest and excitement around audio features and podcasts has been gaining momentum for even longer, propelled by a diversity of formats.

Take the narrative artisanship of This American Life or the sonic vivacity of Radiolab; the topical deep dives of Slate’s Culture Gabfest or Phillip Adams’s Late Night Live; the animated storytelling of The Moth or Sum of All Parts; or the intimate conversations found in Death, Sex and Money or WTF with Marc Maron. The influence of these and countless other shows can be felt in today’s most interesting podcasts (insert shameless plug for the Wheeler Centre’s own successful forays into richly-produced feature-making, including Andrew Denton’s Better Off Dead, and The Messenger, here). 

Beloved for their sense of proximity, their active listenership, portability and in some cases, ambitiously-crafted audio, podcasts have a unique ability to keep listeners in the company of their own choosing – and to render mundane tasks bearable. And since design show 99% Invisible’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns – podcasts have also shown promise in otherwise dim times for media businesses. What’s next for podcasting – and how could it be done better?

In celebration of all things audible, we’re bringing you some of podcasting’s best and brightest to share their thoughts and insights on the art (and business) of listening. 


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