Almost 1000 people have participated in a “Reclaim the Night” candlelight vigil in far north Queensland, six days after the horrific death of Toyah Cordingley last weekend.
The scheduled event, to raise awareness about violence and sexual offences against women, was brought into sharper focus after Toyah’s suspect sexual assault and murder on October 21.
The 24-year-old Cairns pharmacy worker was last seen about 1.30pm at Rusty’s Market on Sunday before her body was discovered a day later in dunes at Wangetti Beach.
Ms Cordingley’s body was reportedly found by her father, Troy, who had joined in the search, according to 9news.com.au on Saturday.
Her large dog that she had taken to the beach for a walk was found tied up and unharmed.
The death of the popular animal lover sent shockwaves through the local community as friends and strangers posted messages of grief and outrage on her Facebook page and marched on Friday night.
Homicide Squad detectives continue to investigate circumstances surrounding her death, extending their search to Port Douglas, making appeals for people to come forward who knew her, anyone who took photographs on the beach between 12pm and 7pm on Sunday, or any drivers in the area who may have dashcam footage.
Her death is being treated as suspicious and potentially a sexually-related murder.
Reclaim the Night walk organiser Georgia Babatsikos, who manages the Cairns Sexual Assault Service, told the ABC on Friday night the crowd wanted to show their support.
“Women should feel safe to go out in public at night, and day for that matter, without the risk of being harmed.
“We are getting feedback that this community event is even more critical now than ever before.
“Reclaim the Night is an opportunity for the Cairns community to come together and reclaim public spaces as safe and accessible for everyone, at any time, regardless of age or gender,” Ms Babatsikos told the ABC.
So far more than 400 people have contacted police and over the weekend, Queensland Police will man a Crime Stoppers display in the hope someone may come forward with vital information. To date they are pursuing more than 50 leads.
Detective Inspector Sonia Smith told reporters on Saturday afternoon several billboards will be displayed on main roads in a bid to prompt people’s memories of last week.
“We’ve had tremendous support from Transport and Main Roads who have given us access to six permanent billboards to advertise information in relation to Toyah’s disappearance,” she said.
Three portable billboards will also be on display in the local area.
“This has been a violent crime that has a huge impact on our community. An example of the impact on the community is the large number, over 1000 people that attended last night for Reclaim the Night in Cairns,” Detective Inspector Smith said.
Police investigating the death of Toyah Cordingley will be manning Crime Stoppers display in both Wangetti Beach and Rusty's Markets over the weekend in the hope of obtaining further information from the public. More: https://t.co/qPxSUj4BO3 pic.twitter.com/NDQuoO7tTU
— Queensland Police (@QldPolice) October 26, 2018
Kirby Mitchell told the ABC it was a “very emotional time for everyone”.
Ms Mitchell, who went to school with Ms Cordingley, said it was important to come together at the rally to send a message.
“It’s traumatic for a lot of people. It’s not fair that so many people have to be suffering at the moment,” she told the ABC.
Earlier in the week, messages Shaeley Paris Young-Wilson posted: “Rest in peace beautiful soul. This story is so upsetting. I don’t know who you are but so many people are sending love for your family and friends. Goodbye Toyah”.
And Judy Wilson wrote: “I didn’t know Toyah but just by the way I see she loved animals, she was clearly a beautiful person. May she rest peacefully and be forever surrounded by angels”.
Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.