In 2000, 15-year-old Rachel Barber tragically fell victim to a monstrous crime when she was drugged and strangled to death with a telephone cord. The individual responsible for this horrific act, Caroline Robertson, was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison.
However, it wasn’t until the trial that Rachel’s family and friends discovered Caroline’s true motivation—she intended to murder Rachel and take on her identity. This shocking revelation added to the deep grief experienced by Rachel’s loved ones. Sadly, their misery was further worsened by the eventual release of Caroline from prison in January 2015.
Caroline Robertson’s insane obsession with Rachel Barber
Born on September 12th, 1983, Rachel Barber was the eldest of three sisters, Heather and Ashleigh-Rose. She had loving parents, Elizabeth and Michael Barber, and a caring boyfriend, Manni Carella. In 1992 or early 1993, Rachel’s family moved to Mont Albert, where she came into contact with Caroline Reed Robertson. Caroline quickly became a trusted member of the family, as she often babysat the Barber children, including Rachel.
Rache was a talented and ambitious individual with a passion for modeling and dancing. She dreamed of becoming a leading lady in musicals and was highly respected among her peers, making her one of the most popular students in school. Rachel was also in a long-term relationship with her schoolmate, Manni Carella. She excelled as a student at Richmond’s Dance Factory, thriving in her performances. Despite her confidence on stage, Rachel was timid, especially around strangers.
Caroline Reed Robertson, overwhelmed by Rachel Barber’s success and popularity, grew jealous of her. Caroline had always felt dissatisfied with herself and often used derogatory terms to describe herself, such as “loser,” “unwanted,” “dirty,” “obese,” and “funny in the head.” She even created a self-portrait at 14, where she depicted herself negatively and continued adding similar negative comments to her subsequent portraits.
Caroline also wrote anguished letters to her estranged father, expressing her deep discontent with her life and feeling worthless. In one letter, she wrote, “I feel like a troubled, tortured, lost soul that’s been thrown into an alien environment full of angels.” Caroline’s feelings of inadequacy and jealousy ultimately drove her to commit the atrocious act of murdering Rachel Barber, intending to assume her identity.
The Disappearance of Rachel Barber
On the morning of March 1st, Rachel’s father drove her to the tram stop around 9:30 am, where she planned to catch the train. As she left her home, Rachel wore a gold necklace with a diamond-like stone and a blue topaz ring, and she had about $13 in her wallet.
Prior to her departure, Rachel confided in her 16-year-old boyfriend, Manni Carella, about a secretive job opportunity that promised good pay. However, the details of this clandestine job were only known to Rachel and her eventual killer, Caroline Reed Robertson.
Rachel was last seen with her friend, Allison Guberek, as they headed toward the tram intersection. Accompanying them was an older girl, none other than Caroline Reed Robertson. Rachel had plans to meet her father at the tram terminus in the evening, but when she missed her tram, her parents grew worried and reported the incident to the police the following day.
Unbeknownst to Rachel, Caroline had meticulously prepared a premeditated and elaborate scheme to entice the timid teenager to her apartment and bring about her demise. Despite this, Rachel remained true to her word and refrained from disclosing her destination to anyone, assuring her family that she would return to the tram terminus by 6:15 pm to meet her father.
Upon reaching Caroline’s apartment, they shared a meal of pizza. According to court records, there is a belief that Rachel’s pizza might have been drugged. Caroline then convinced Rachel to engage in meditation, presenting it as part of a psychological study and instructing her to focus on “happy and pleasant things.”
At this point, Caroline is thought to have strangled Rachel to death using a telephone cord. On March 11, 1999, Allison Guberek assisted the police in creating a computer-generated image of the girl she saw with Rachel, which accurately represented Caroline Reed Robertson.
Why did Caroline Reed kill Rachel Barber?
Caroline Reed Robertson, consumed by her dissatisfaction with herself, cultivated a deep hatred for Rachel Barber, which she expressed through obsessive writings that depicted Rachel in vivid detail. Caroline described Rachel as a spirited individual who pleasured in running barefoot in the countryside and possessed a remarkable talent for classical ballet. Additionally, she highlighted Rachel’s ventures into modeling, portraying her as “strikingly attractive” with a dancer’s physique, fair complexion, mesmerizing green eyes, and hair dyed in various colors.
Driven by her intense hatred, Caroline came up with a detailed plan to entice Rachel to her apartment. Knowing Rachel’s interest in modeling, Caroline tempted her by offering $500 to participate in a confidential psychological survey. However, Caroline emphasized that Rachel had to keep her involvement a secret from everyone else.
Rachel trusted her and took the opportunity, but Caroline had planned every detail of the murder, as revealed in one of her diary entries, which read: ‘On the way to dance school, say that she can’t tell anyone that she’s meeting me as I’m not allowed to give the study results to anyone — ethics — highly confidential. Not even your boyfriend/parents … Drug Rachel (toxic over mouth), put the body into army bags, and disfigure and dump somewhere way out. No car …’
‘Check farm (including bag) … Tuesday, arrange bank loan … Moving van … Night to disguise hair … Thoroughly clean house, and steam clean carpet.’Caroline’s diary entry
Caroline Reed Robertson had chosen “Jem Southall” as the identity she planned to assume once she acquired a bank loan and escaped the state. This new identity would allow her to start a new life and leave her past behind.
Caroline kept Rachel’s body in her house
Caroline had kept Rachel’s body hidden in her apartment for two days, concealed within her wardrobe. The presence of the body compelled her to close the door on one occasion when her father visited after learning of her illness, preventing him from entering the room.
Afterward, she carefully wrapped Rachel’s body in two rugs and hailed a taxi to her father’s Kilmore farm. Deceiving the driver, Caroline claimed she was transporting a statue. She proceeded to bury the body in a shallow hole, strangely close to her pet cat’s grave.
Following the burial, Caroline embarked on living the life she had envisioned for herself. She applied for a significant loan and inquired about V-line trains. However, her peculiar behavior attracted attention, leading her mother to express concerns to Caroline’s father. The police also became interested in her activities.
In October 2000, Caroline pleaded guilty and depicted herself as an unhappy and isolated “nobody” who yearned to become someone else, someone better. She confessed to an obsession with Rachel, perceiving her as the epitome of purity and everything she aspired to be.
On Saturday, March 13th, a police search of the Kilmore property led to the discovery of Rachel’s body. An autopsy revealed ligature strangulation as the probable cause of death, with a cable found around Rachel’s neck.
During the search of Caroline’s apartment following her arrest, authorities uncovered an application for a birth certificate in the name of “Rachel Elizabeth Barber.”
Caroline Reed served 15 years in prison
In October 2000, Caroline pleaded guilty, describing herself as an unhappy and friendless “nobody” who desired to be someone else, someone better. She admitted to being obsessed with Rachel, seeing her as the epitome of purity and everything she aspired to be. On Saturday, March 13th, the police discovered Rachel’s body during a search of the Kilmore property.
Caroline buried the body in a shallow hole, strangely close to her pet cat’s grave. After the burial, she pursued the life she had envisioned, applying for a loan and inquiring about train schedules. However, her behavior attracted attention, and her mother expressed concerns to Caroline’s father. The police also became interested in her activities.
During her time behind bars, Caroline transformed her appearance and emerged as a different person from the plump, self-loathing teenager she once was. Rachel’s parents, who hadn’t seen Caroline since she was sentenced, were surprised by her transformation. However, they still harbor concerns about Caroline’s mental state and hope that rehabilitation can protect the community.
Caroline Reed Robertson was released from prison in January 2015 after serving 15 years of her 20-year sentence for the murder of Rachel Barber. She became eligible for parole on August 10, 2013, but her release was delayed following a public outcry.
When Rachel’s mother first saw Caroline after her release, she noticed a resemblance to her daughter, particularly in the eyes. Despite this, the pain of losing Rachel will always remain, as justice can never fully be achieved when a daughter’s life has been taken away
Rachel Barber – In Her Skin
The 2009 film “In Her Skin” directed by Simone North and starring Guy Pearce and Sam Neill is based on the story of Rachel Barber and Caroline Reed Robertson. It portrays the events leading up to Rachel’s murder and the subsequent trial of Caroline. The film received positive reviews for its depiction of the events and the performances of the actors. It was adapted from the book “The Lost Girl” written by Rachel’s mother, Elizabeth Barber.
Now, that you’ve read about Rachel Barber, you might also like reading about Steven Pladl, who divorced his wife to marry his daughter.