'Mystery people' found in footage of Jill Meagher

MEGAN LEVY
Last updated 14:25 26/09/2012

Jill Meagher CCTV footage released

Jill Meagher
PENY STEPHENS
SEARCHING FOR JILL: A missing person poster on the corner where she was last seen.

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Australian police are searching for four mystery people who were captured on CCTV footage walking near ABC employee Jill Meagher just minutes before she vanished after a night out in Brunswick, Melbourne, last week.

Detectives this afternoon have released footage of the last known movements of Ms Meagher, 29, who is shown walking along Sydney Road outside the Duchess Boutique about 1.40am on the night she disappeared.

Four other people were captured on the same camera walking along Sydney Road at the same time, and detectives have urged those people to contact Crime Stoppers as soon as possible in the hope that they can shed some light on Ms Meagher's whereabouts.

It comes after police revealed this morning that they had discovered the presence of a mystery man in the footage, which was being examined frame-by-frame to determine whether the man was following Ms Meagher in the minutes before she disappeared.

The footage was captured by a camera in Duchess Boutique on Sydney Road.

Today's development came after detectives spent several hours at the house shared by Jill Meagher and her husband, Tom, after forensic officers searched the home earlier in the day.

Forensic police arrived at the Brunswick premises shortly after midday and stayed for three hours. Mr Meagher paced on the home's balcony during the search, in which police removed several evidence bags of property.

But a second group, this time including detectives and forensic officers, revisited the home after 6pm. They left a few hours later with more property in sealed bags.

Detective Inspector John Potter, from the homicide squad, said no conclusions should be reached from the police search of her home.

''[Jill's] husband has been nothing more than co-operative so we can't read anything into that. This is something that we would normally do,'' he said.

Mystery continues to surround the disappearance of Ms Meagher, with police revealing they were investigating whether her handbag had been planted in a Brunswick lane by someone connected to her disappearance. The 29-year-old's handbag was found discarded in the lane off Hope Street on Monday morning by a passer-by.

But Detective Inspector Potter said police had already searched that lane in the hours after Ms Meagher, an Irish national, was reported missing.

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''There are two options, either police in the original search missed the bag or the bag has since been placed at that laneway after the police searched it originally,'' he told ABC 774, where Ms Meagher worked as a member of the Local Radio Victoria team.

The handbag contained Ms Meagher's credit card but not her mobile phone, which remains missing.

Ms Meagher is believed to have left Bar Etiquette at 1.30am on Saturday, intending to make the short walk to her home in Lux Way, after declining a colleague's offer to accompany her home. Her home is less than one kilometre from the bar.

She made a brief phone call to her brother Michael at the family's Perth home about 1.45am to inquire about the health of her father, who recently suffered a stroke.

She was reported missing by her husband about midday on Saturday. He said he called her phone repeatedly between 2am and 6am, and left home to search for her at 4am. The police investigation has turned to finding Ms Meagher's missing phone, and to potential links between her disappearance and attempted abductions in the Brunswick area.

A number of women have reported being attacked or followed by a vehicle in the same area of Brunswick where Ms Meagher vanished.

About 60 people also have contacted Crime Stoppers with potential information.

Inspector Potter said police would examine reports of assaults and attempted abductions made on a Facebook page, ''Help us find Jill Meagher''.

''We would encourage people, if they have information that they think is pertinent, to ring Crime Stoppers,'' he said.

Premier Ted Baillieu yesterday sent his support to Ms Meagher's family and friends, and urged anyone with information to contact police.

''It is disturbing in many ways and my heart goes out to the husband and family,'' Mr Baillieu said. ''We trust and hope she is found successfully.''

- with Megan Levy, Craig Butt

- The Age

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