Nina Nicholson murder: investigations continue into murder of young nurse

Nina Nicholson

Nina Nicholson

Why somebody would murder a quiet, kind and loving young nurse with no enemies is a question that has been printed in newspapers many times in the almost three decades since the crime rocked a small town in regional Victoria.

Clunes nurse Nina Nicholson, 22, had locked the door to her Suburban Street home and was setting off for her 9.30pm shift at Ballarat's St John of God Hospital when she was killed on the back verandah of her home on September 10, 1991.

Her body was found at the home she shared with her husband Nick - who was interstate with work - by her father and younger brother, who had set out to search for her after receiving a call that she had not shown up for her shift.

Arriving at the scene shortly afterwards and as she cradled her daughter's head in her lap, Nina's mother Ann Jones remembers spotting a figure lurking in the darkness, surveying the scene.

The Courier attended the scene the following day as police combed for clues and has continued to follow the case in the years since.

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A post-mortem determined Nina had been killed due to blunt force trauma to the head, while police examinations of the scene indicated she had fought violently with her attacker.

Her handbag and car keys were located close to her body, while her blood-stained glasses were found across the road from her home.

Nina Nicholson

Nina Nicholson

In the days after her murder, dozens of notices were published in this newspaper to pay tribute to the young nurse with a 'heart of gold' as police officers and detectives knocked on every door in the small town.

There was a heavy police presence in the town in the weeks afterwards, with an information tent manned by Ballarat detectives and the homicide squad set up in an effort to encourage people to report anything suspicious they had seen or heard.

In the months afterwards, articles indicate Clunes residents felt "anxious and afraid" at the idea of a murderer walking among them, with the killer not apprehended.

Nina Nicholson

Nina Nicholson

Further reports indicate the murder had left a "legacy of fear", with people afraid to walk the streets alone at night and people beginning to lock their doors and windows, while a sign at a petrol station around the corner from Nina's home read: "no after hours petrol until the Clunes murderer is found".

In a small town where everyone knows everyone, police have long maintained that somebody in the town must know something of value to the investigation.

As such, countless rumours have circulated, with many stemming from the fact Nina had been afraid of being at her home by herself when her husband was away after spotting a figure lurking in her garden.

Another line run in the media was of an underwear snatcher in the town around the same time of the murder, with several people on Nina's street apparently reporting underwear vanishing from their washing lines. In saying this, it must be made clear that Nina was not sexually assaulted.

Psychics have also made reports over the years, as to what the murderer was wearing as well as their appearance.

The case is currently being investigated by the Cold Case Unit in Melbourne, with detectives continuing to look for new leads.

In 2005 The Courier reported detectives visited Ballarat and spoke with a Clunes man, in his 40s, in relation to their investigation.

Three years ago homicide squad detectives announced a $1 million reward to encourage people with information to come forward.

Despite an exhaustive investigation with countless leads followed up, the murder remains unsolved.

"A reward of up to $1 million dollars will be paid at the discretion of the Chief Commissioner of Police, for information leading to the apprehension and subsequent conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of Nina Nicholson," a Victoria Police spokesperson said.

"The Director of Public Prosecutions will consider, according to established guidelines, the granting of indemnification from prosecution to any person who provides information as to the identity of the principal offender or offenders in this matter."

Nina Nicholson was only 22 when her life was taken.

Nina Nicholson was only 22 when her life was taken.

Nina's second cousin Alice Mitchell has written a request to the coroner for a new inquest into the case.

A coroner's inquest was hosted in Ballarat in 1993, during which neither a motive or perpetrator were determined, only that she had been murdered.

The third episode of Ms Mitchell's podcast Clunes Cluedo, which aims to raise awareness of the case,is now available to stream on Spotify.

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

This story The murder that shocked a small town 28 years ago first appeared on The Courier.