Crime is almost non-existent in the small farming town of Boorowa, about 100km north of Canberra. So when Barry Lowe, a local shearer, was found bludgeoned to death on his kitchen floor in November, it sent shockwaves through the community.

Two months on, police have yet to identify a suspect or motive for Lowe's murder, despite having interviewed almost every one of the town's 2400 inhabitants. Locals, meanwhile, remain anxious that the killer may be living in their midst - may even be one of them.

"It certainly has hit the town quite hard," said Wendy Tuckerman, Boorowa's mayor. "Obviously people are very concerned and feeling a bit unsafe. It's something that we're certainly not used to in this area, so it's very difficult to deal with. Probably the biggest anxiety is the unknown."

Lowe, 66, was found on November 7 by his son-in-law, who had gone round to check on him after he, uncharacteristically, failed to turn up for work on the family farm, 40km outside the Southern Tablelands town, two days running. According to police, he had injuries to his head and upper body.


Since then, officers have doorknocked almost every one of Boorowa's 1300 or so homes, in an effort to find more about his movements in the weeks and months before his murder. "But there doesn't seem to be a lot coming out regarding leads," said Tuckerman.

Lowe, described by locals as hard-working and well liked, made regular fishing trips to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Police are keen to speak to anyone who knew him or noticed anything unusual, including visitors who may have been passing through - Boorowa lies on a main north-south route.

The town, described as a place where people normally leave their cars unlocked, has not had a murder since 1950, when a 48-year-old man on a farm was found battered to death with a shovel and an axe.

The only other crimes recorded in recent months were the shooting of a cow and the theft of two nail guns from the back of a ute.

Tuckerman fears that even if Lowe's murderer is caught, the impact on Boorowa will be long-lasting. "We've been very lucky to live in a community that's relatively safe, and I don't know if we can ever go back to the way we were," she said.