He was an apparently normal party guest invited to celebrate a Saturday evening in an ordinary suburban house where he raped an 11-year-old girl and then ended her life.

The nightmare on Inchbold Street in the north-eastern Victorian town of Wangaratta in Australia which occurred on the morning of October 25 has shattered a family.

The mother of the fourth grader, Zoe Buttigieg, who was sexually assaulted and murdered in her own bedroom, has not ceased to ask why her adored daughter had to die.

Zoe and her dog Jax. Photo / Facebook
Zoe and her dog Jax. Photo / Facebook

In a constant show of photographs of her beloved Zoe posted on her Facebook page, Janelle Saunders has continually mourned her daughter's senseless murder.


On June 17, Ms Saunders posted a picture of her daughter smiling into the camera above three crying emoticons, with the words: "So unfair. You should be here with me".

Last week, beneath a photograph of Zoe glowing in the light of a blazing birthday cake, Ms Saunders wrote "Can't believe It's all most your birthday and your not here [sic]".

On Thursday, a picture of a grinning Zoe aged about four was added to the page and on Friday, the family received the news that the man who destroyed their lives has pleaded guilty to murder.

Zoe Buttigieg was said to be a happy and popular little girl. Photo / Facebook
Zoe Buttigieg was said to be a happy and popular little girl. Photo / Facebook

It was a warm Saturday evening in Wangaratta when Ms Saunders and her partner invited friends around for drinks.

Bowe Maddigan, 29, was new in town and not long out of a Victorian prison where he had served time for drug charges.

Maddigan had met Ms Saunders, who worked at Wangaratta's Big W, a week earlier through a mutual friend.

On the Saturday night, Ms Saunders and her partner were having friends around for drinks - not an uncommon occurrence - although supporters of the family were later to deny one neighbour's description of the Inchbold home as "a party house".

In evidence later given at Wangaratta Local Court, Ms Saunders and her guests enjoyed a marathon drinking and cannabis session that lasted well into the morning of Zoe's rape and murder.

Ms Saunders said she had engaged in conversation with Maddigan, who she described as "very deep" and "artistic".

She said he had been drinking and smoking cannabis, jumping from topic to topic as they talked in the hours before the murder.

When Ms Saunders went to bed at 7am on Sunday, October 25, she had been drinking bourbon and coke for almost 12 hours.

At 11am, she awoke and went into her daughter's bedroom and found Zoe's dead body. Bowe Maddigan had left the house.

Neighbours heard a scream, and then police and an ambulance arrived.

Medical examiners would find that Zoe had been sexually penetrated before she was killed.

Meanwhile, police had been called to the Hume Highway near Glenrowan, 16km south of Wangaratta, where a dishevelled and barefoot man had been seen wandering along the highway.

Zoe Buttigieg, 11, with beloved dog Jax at home in Wangaratta, where she was murdered by prison parolee Bowe Maddigan. Photo / Facebook
Zoe Buttigieg, 11, with beloved dog Jax at home in Wangaratta, where she was murdered by prison parolee Bowe Maddigan. Photo / Facebook

Maddigan was shoeless and wearing cargo pants and a singlet and behaving erratically when police and paramedics picked him up about a kilometre south of Glenrowan's BP service station.

He was admitted to Wangaratta's Kerferd psychiatric clinic and, later, when police made the link between Maddigan and the murder of Zoe Buttiegieg at the Inchbold Street house, he was placed under police guard.

Maddigan made his first appearance in Wangaratta court four days later, arriving in the back of a police paddy wagon from which he screamed "F**k you. Die in hell, you dog" to waiting media.

For Zoe's family, her absence has been a living hell, which Maddigan's guilty plea may do little to end.

Ms Saunders has posted photographs of Zoe with her father, who tragically died suddenly in an accident six years ago.

On January 27 this year, she posted a photograph of her daughter sitting between two friends with four emoticon hearts and the words, "a very special photo, my last day with my beautiful girl".