Bordertown-Kaniva cold case carries $1 million reward

A $1 million reward still exists for a 28-year-old double murder cold case at Kaniva.

Teenagers Fiona Burns and John Lee were found murdered on October 18, 1990. They had last been seen at a truck stop in Bordertown, and their bodies were discovered in bushland near Kaniva.

Nearly 30 years later, police are still searching for the pair’s killer, or killers, and have a $1 million reward on the table for any information leading to the cold case being solved.

Interest in the case has been revived by an “Australian True Crime” podcast led by crime author Emily Webb and Meshel Laurie, where Fiona’s sister Barbie McCarthy spoke about her long search for answers on the cold case.

Through the Border Chronicle, Barbie has now renewed her plea for “anyone who knows anything" to come forward and help find some closure for Fiona’s family.

“There’s nothing, there’s absolutely nothing new,” Barbie told the Chronicle. “We’ve gone through everything we can, we have a new detective who has followed up new leads, but everyone we’ve turned to is either deceased or the information they had wasn’t useful.

“We just need something, to get some more information from someone who might be able to help."

Barbie said she realised the murders happened many years ago and recalling events could be difficult for some, but even the most minor fact could turn out to provide a vital new lead.

“Twenty-eight years down the track memories are not great, but that tiny little memory could be the piece that we need,” she said. “Absolutely.”

The podcast has led to renewed discussion about the case on social media. Last year, the double murder also featured on the Channel 7 TV series Million Dollar Cold Case.

Fiona, 15, from Melbourne, and John, 14, from Adelaide, were thought to be hitchhiking from Adelaide across the South Australian-Victorian border when they met a violent end. Widely described as “street kids”, they were last seen alive on October 10, 1990 at a truck stop at Bordertown, and were found stabbed to death on the roadside near Kaniva eight days later.

Reportedly, Fiona had woken up a truck driver between 10pm and midnight on October 10, asking for a cigarette and a lift to Melbourne, but was refused. Another witness reported seeing Fiona talking to a truck driver through an open passenger side door.

There have been many theories about who the killer or killers may have been over the years, but little progress has been made on finding a culprit. The most likely scenario is that a thrill killer was responsible, but police haven't ruled anything out.

When Victoria Police launched a fresh appeal for information on the case in 2011, the then-Homicide Squad Detective Inspector John Potter said: “There is someone out there who knows exactly what happened to Fiona and John and it is to those people and their closest confidants that we are appealing to.”

Because the murders occurred in a small rural community, police said they believed at least someone else, besides the killer, knows what happened. However because Fiona and John were found at a truck stop, with vehicle traffic coming and going constantly, the killer could have come from anywhere in Australia.

Anyone with any information is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

More information about the case is available on the Facebook page “Fiona’s Page”, at