Unit fire ends lives of sisters who 'lived to die'

MEGAN LEVY
Last updated 14:44 28/08/2012
Fairfax Australia

60 Minutes reporter Peter Overton recalls his interview with anorexic twin girls, Rachel and Clare Wallmeyer, both who are believed to have died in a Geelong house fire.

Wallmeyer
Fairfax Australia
SAD STORY: Twins Rachel and Clare Wallmeyer are believed to have died in a unit fire last night.

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Two women - believed to be twin sisters who had waged a long battle against anorexia and substance abuse - have died after a fire tore through a home unit in regional Victoria, Australia, last night.

Firefighters were called to the unit block in Camira Court, Grovedale, south of Geelong, about 9.40pm after neighbours reported smelling smoke.

Country Fire Authority (CFA) firefighters extinguished the blaze and found the body of a woman in the lounge room.

Another woman was pulled from the house with life-threatening injuries and flown to The Alfred hospital but died just after 6am.

The dead women are reportedly identical twin sisters Rachel and Clare Wallmeyer, who have publicly battled anorexia for the past decade.

Police could not confirm those reports but did confirm both women were 42.

Acting Inspector Gary Coombes said the small fire was contained to the lounge room.

''In fact if you looked from the outside you'd probably not even recognise that there had been a fire at that address,'' he told radio station 3AW.

''I think it's safe to suggest at this point in time, although investigations are ongoing, that there are no suspicious circumstances.

''Obviously the report will be prepared for the coroner and ultimately it's a tragic end to a set of circumstances and it must be very difficult for the family, particularly.''

In 2004, the women were just 32 kilograms when they featured on the Channel Nine program 60 Minutes and spoke about their battle with the eating disorder. They also revealed they had made a pact to starve themselves until they weighed just 25 kilograms, at which point they believed they would die.

''We live to die,'' Rachel told the programme.

The sisters grew up in Melbourne and excelled at school and sport, before developing anorexia at the age of 14.

''When we got anorexia, it was the first time that we got recognised. People actually verbally said to us, 'oh, gee, you've lost weight,' and we thought, 'hey, this is an achievement here','' Clare told 60 Minutes.

Asked how their mother and father, Moya and Bob, would feel if they died, Rachel said: ''I think they'd probably go through the mourning processes. They'd be devastated at first. But the world keeps turning.''

They also revealed during the programme that they had attempted suicide numerous times, and had turned to amphetamines and other hard drugs during their battle.

They also came to the attention of police on numerous occasions.

In 2010, Rachel was charged with the attempted murder of her sister.

During the court case, police said Rachel was allegedly caught in the act of trying to throttle her sister when police arrived at their Grovedale flat.

The twins, who had reconciled by the time the case went to court, were extremely drunk when the incident occurred, the court heard.

Rachel told 60 Minutes that anorexia was an ''insidious disease''.

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''I think the biggest lesson that we could teach people is anorexia is an insidious disease, a mental disease that has physical implications that kill and those that suffer it, unless they have something to fight for, die,'' she said.

Radio station 3AW reported today that family friends rushed to the scene this morning and confirmed the twins lived at the unit.

Neighbours told 3AW that it was common for police to stop by the unit. One family friend said the twins had been doing well recently, however alcohol had had a negative impact on their progress.

A CFA spokesman said 25 firefighters extinguished the blaze within five minutes of arriving at the unit, however there was a lot of smoke and the unit appeared to have been burning for some time.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said initial investigations suggested the fire was not suspicious, however detectives from the arson and explosives squad remained at the scene overnight and are yet to determine the cause of the fire.

- The Age

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