Baillee Schneider, 25, was found dead by her parents on the kitchen floor of the family home in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne on June 24 last year.
A gold cord was wound tightly around her neck but no hanging point could be found. Despite that glaring inconsistency and her 178cm height, local police treated Ms Schneider’s death as suicide.
Her parents Cameron and Sabine Schneider and Baillee’s sister Lilli never believed she had taken her own life and began a campaign to raise funds for an inquest into her death.
At the time of her death, Ms Schneider had been dating 52-year-old Melbourne promoter Ant Hampel who is the son of a former Supreme Court justice and stepson of a serving County Court judge.
In 2010, Mr Hampel’s ex-girlfriend Phoebe Handsjuk also died in strange circumstances after plunging down a rubbish chute from the 12th floor of her St Kilda flat.
Her death was ruled as accidental after a 2014 inquest during which Mr Hampel denied any involvement in the 24-year-old’s death.
News.com.au is not suggesting Mr Hampel was involved in the deaths of either women.
Ms Handsjuk’s death, which was controversially ruled a suicide after an investigation found she initially survived the fall but died from blood loss after her foot was severed, has been the subject of multiple podcasts and a book by crime author Robin Bowles.
In a bombshell development last night, The Age revealed Victorian Deputy State Coroner Caitlin English has referred the case to homicide detectives.
Cameron Schneider confirmed the appointment of veteran homicide squad Detective Sergeant Paul Rowe as lead investigator in a statement to news.com.au.
“All I wish to say is that we are pleased that the coroner has asked Detective Rowe to investigate the circumstances around Baillee’s death and that we are confident in Detective Rowe’s professionalism in getting to the truth,” Mr Schneider told news.com.au.
While no inquest has been held or announced, Coroner English and a team of police have been quietly investigating the case over the past several months.
A spokesman for the Coroners Court of Victoria refused to confirm or deny the involvement of the homicide squad, telling news.com.au only that “the case is the subject of an active investigation”.
Victoria Police were also tight-lipped about the case.
“A report by local police was prepared for the Coroner and the matter is currently before the court,” they said in a statement. “Any direction for further police action is at the discretion of the Coroner.”
This morning Ms Schneider’s sister Lilli expressed relief her sister’s case was now being treated as a murder in an emotional Facebook post attached to an article by The Age investigative reporter Richard Baker, who has been following the case for months.
“This is my very raw and real reality,” she said. “I can’t thank my friends and my work enough for being so incredibly patient and understanding towards me during this.
“I will never give up on trying to find answers. I will never give up on her.”
Chillingly, Ms Schneider’s final Facebook post, on June 15 last year, called out police for “victim-blaming” after authorities warned women not to walk alone in the wake of Melbourne comic Eurydice Dixon’s murder.
In a heartbreaking post to Facebook on October 3, Mr Schneider detailed unsettling circumstances surrounding the death of his daughter, who worked as a dental assistant and model with the agency Country Girl Management (CGM).
“Our daughter Baillee passed away 15 months ago,” Mr Schneider wrote.
“15 months in and we are still waiting on a ruling from the coroner, we have been given no answers as to how she ended up dead on the kitchen floor with a cord tied tightly around her neck with no hanging point to find.
“Her phone that was taken, we have been given nothing from police or coroner, this now leaves us with no further option than to ask for an inquest into her death, in the likely case of her death being ruled a suicide.
“Baillee deserves justice, nothing will ever bring her back but we as her family and friends need answers.”
According to The Age, a decision on whether to hold an inquest into Ms Schneider’s death will be based on the outcome of Det Sgt Rowe’s investigation.
News.com.au has contacted Mr Hampel for comment.