Residents of a small beachside community in far north Queensland are undergoing DNA testing as police search for a young woman’s killer.
The body of 24-year-old Toyah Cordingley was found at Wangetti Beach, north of Cairns, early on Monday, after she disappeared while walking her dog the previous day.
The ABC was told residents living in homes near the beach were being swabbed for their DNA.
“The police came around door-knocking. They asked a few questions and they popped a thing in my mouth and said it was for DNA,” said one resident, who didn’t want to be named.
“I’m perfectly fine with that because I’ve got nothing to hide and if it helps them track down who did this to her, then I’m all for it.”
A police spokesman confirmed the testing was “standard procedure”.
The Wangetti resident also said there were many other people who lived “unofficially” in the area in illegal camps.
“My wife is a bit worried now. It makes you look at your neighbours a bit differently,” the resident said.
There have been about 160 calls to Crime Stoppers since news of Ms Cordingley’s death broke.
Many other people have chosen to drive to the crime scene to speak directly to police officers.
One man said he had driven 40 minutes from Cairns to the scene after reading about the search for her killer.
“I was walking along the beach at roughly the same time she was, but I don’t remember seeing her, ” said the man, who didn’t wish to be named.
“I told police there were lots of families here at the time.”
Police divers have been searching the ocean and forensics officers from Brisbane have been scouring the crime scene, looking for any personal items belonging to Ms Cordingley, including a purse and a phone, the ABC understands.
The acting area controller for the State Emergency Service (SES), Eleanor Rosan, has been helping to co-ordinate the search, and said 20 volunteers are on the scene.
“They are searching the land, looking for any items of interest with Queensland Police, ” Ms Rosan said.
“Being far north Queensland at this time of the year, conditions are very hot and humid and the area that we are searching in is very exposed, so for the volunteer members, it is quite hard in those conditions.”
Premier offers condolences to family
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Ms Cordingley’s death was “shocking”.
“My heart goes out to her family that must be going through a very sad time at the moment, as I know all Queenslanders will be sending our best love to her family,” she said.
“It’s heartbreaking – as a woman I want women to be able to go out there and live their lives, and to go about and do their business.
“This should not happen to a young woman walking her dog on a Sunday – that is the reality.”
Several floral tributes have been laid near the murder scene for Ms Cordingley.
Kind words are also pouring in on social media, remembering the young woman for her work rehoming unwanted animals.
Police are continuing to appeal to the public for information and want to speak to anyone who may have spoken to Ms Cordingley at Rusty’s Markets on Sheridan Street in Cairns on Sunday around noon.
They also want to hear from anyone who may have parked in the northern or southern car parks at Wangetti Beach and are seeking dashcam footage of people travelling on the Captain Cook Highway.
The Cairns community will come together on Friday for the annual Reclaim the Night walk to raise awareness about sexual violence against women.