The victim of a suspected violent murder lay undiscovered in her Melbourne bathtub for eight months while others continued living in the property.
As the body of one-time aspiring model and mother-of-four Sarah Gatt lay rotting in the bath, a conscious effort was made to cover up her death, police say.
Forensic evidence suggests Ms Gatt died in the four days up to April 24 last year and that a violent assault took place before attempts were made to cover up the body was there.
Someone was living “on and off” at the Kensington unit at the time the body was found on January 3 this year, Detective Inspector Tim Day told reporters on Tuesday.
Police believe Ms Gatt’s grisly death was covered up, and that offenders made conscious efforts to “imply” she was still alive.
They want to speak to anyone who saw people coming or going from the Lambeth Street unit after April 20.
Detectives are keen to talk to anyone who heard suggestions Ms Gatt was still alive after that date, adding the information is “extremely important to the investigation”, Insp Day said.
Anyone who knew of Ms Gatt’s movements last April is also urged to contact Crime Stoppers.
None of Ms Gatt’s children lived with her at the time, but Insp Day said she was not believed to be living alone.
Victor Gatt told reporters he lost contact with his daughter about 18 months ago.
“She didn’t want to see me anymore,” he said on Tuesday.
Efforts to steer her away from drugs were unsuccessful, Mr Gatt added.
“Whatever I said, she just didn’t want to do it.”
“I put her in different places to try and get her cleaned up but it didn’t happen.”
Mr Gatt described his daughter as a “tomboy” and a “great person” who attended modelling school as a teenager but then spiralled into drug use at age 16 or 17.
“I used to take her to modelling school … I used to take her there twice a week,” he said.
“She was pretty close to getting some modelling with Kmart, but something happened and it didn’t happen.
“She always wanted to do something in her life. She was good at school too.”
Cheryl Gatt said her stepdaughter often talked about becoming a counsellor or similar, to help others.
“She had a lot of big dreams like that which to be honest, I knew would never really happen, but she had good intentions,” she said.
“No one deserves to die like that. It doesn’t matter what happens or what her life was.”
Sarah was not reported missing to police at any time.
Three men and two women were questioned in January about the death but weren’t charged and remain persons of interest.