With stab wounds all over her body, Tania Burgess lay dying. But the teenager managed to summon the strength to say a few words - the name of her killer.

The 15-year-old had just been stabbed 48 times after being ambushed as she took a shortcut home on the New South Wales central coast.

Most of the cuts were small and shallow. Nasty, but they were survivable. The wound that killed her wasn't shallow or small. It was deep and pierced her heart. As rescuers huddled around her blood-soaked body she was able to stay alive long enough to utter those important words.

She used her final moments to tell them his name, his class and school before she stopped breathing.


Police quickly arrested a 16-year-old boy, known as "DL", who went on to be convicted of her murder by a Supreme Court jury in 2008.

He first attempted to appeal his sentence and then most recently appealed the conviction. His appeal hinged on the way evidence was given by a detective, who was an expert in bloodstain patterns, about blood spatter on the killer's clothes.

The detective carried out his own experiment, striking a dummy covered in blood, to see the way the blood spattered.

Tania Burgess who was murdered at the Forresters Beach Resort, NSW. Source/News Corp Australia
Tania Burgess who was murdered at the Forresters Beach Resort, NSW. Source/News Corp Australia

In a judgment delivered last week by three judges of the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, DL's latest appeal was rejected because it had been proven "beyond reasonable doubt" he was the killer.

The appeal judges didn't believe the trial was influenced by the experiment - the results of which were not shared with the jury - to such an extent "where the trial miscarried in such a way that it is not possible to assess the strength of the Crown case".

The killer, now 27, can only be known as DL because he was a minor when he murdered Tania.

For Tania's family, it is the latest twist in a nightmare that began almost 12 years ago.


It was July 19, 2005, when Tania was attacked near Forresters Beach, an hour and a half from Sydney, as she headed home from school. She had cut through a resort carpark after getting off the bus when DL struck.

A witness, who was looking out of her room in the resort, later gave evidence she saw Tania "lying on her back with her head near the stairs, and [DL] was sitting on top of her stomach. So he had a leg on each side and he was stabbing her with his right hand".

Defensive wounds on her legs and arms showed she fought back during the frenzied attack. Her family later said there was no way she would have given up without a fight.
The holiday-maker yelled for him to stop and he got up and ran off.

He was arrested within hours, and a search of his room revealed bloodstained clothing.
He and Tania used to catch the same bus home from school, but they were not close.

One possible motive suggested in court was that Tania had rejected his advances.

The trial heard that after his arrest, while being held at a detention centre, he confessed to stabbing a girl who had rejected him.

A former inmate gave evidence about his conversation with the teen, saying: "He was jealous, he got rejected. He was waiting behind the bushes and she got off the bus and he stabbed her."

DL's murder trial heard from three psychiatrists who found he was either suffering from an anxiety attack, a psychosis, or the early stages of schizophrenia at the time of the murder.

The sentencing judge couldn't say if the killing was premeditated, but believed something in DL "snapped".

DL has admitted he was at the scene of the stabbing - but to this day - he denies he was the killer.


Chris and Mandy Burgess, Tania's parents, are still haunted by her violent death.

Chris Burgess said the fact Tania was able to identify DL, even as she lay dying, was brave.

"Tania didn't know him well, she knew him from the bus. She knew who he was," he told news.com.au from his Sydney home.

It was enough. But still, throughout the trial, and two appeals, DL tried to convince the court it wasn't him.

"When you get someone with their dying breath says it was this person, you tend not to disbelieve them," Burgess said.

Mandy Burgess said DL's parents didn't believe their son was a murderer. "And he's not going to admit it."

Adding to their grief has been the legal games DL played, which kept them on edge for almost 12 years.

"This has been going on a long time. It comes down to the fact he never accepted he did the crime. So the fact he can appeal after all this time is so wrong," she said.

The latest appeal brought bad memories flooding back for the family just as they were starting to piece their lives back together.

"It puts it all back - time doesn't make sense anyway with what has happened so when it all comes back in our faces it's pretty hard to accept," Mandy Burgess said.

After being torn apart by the murder, the couple and their two remaining children had done their best to get on with life.

"It never goes away, but to have it pushed back in our faces again is pretty hard."

That afternoon when Tania was killed, a "hole" in their family opened up and life changed forever.

"You learn to live with it. You still have the usual problems in life; [murder] doesn't guarantee there will be no more major things happen to you."

The appeal was heard in November and since then there have been some anxious moments as they waited to hear the result.

Mr Burgess was confident it was going to be thrown out.

"As far as I am concerned the young man is a sociopath. So I think he has got what he deserves."

Mrs Burgess said she still felt "very angry" when she thought of him. DL will be able to apply for parole in the next few years and his sentence expires in 2022.

Release from jail would enable him to start again and have a second chance at life.
"He has a lot of his life to go. Our daughter didn't get much of a chance."

Tomorrow would have been her 27th birthday. As with each birthday, the parents wonder what path Tania would have taken in life.

"You wonder what she would be up to, would she have married or had children, or followed us back to Sydney. You wonder about that all the time."

She wasn't convinced DL would use the time well.

"Whether he ends up back [in jail] is hard to say."

Mrs Burgess has campaigned in the past against youth offenders getting permanent name suppression.

"He's never allowed to be named, which is wrong. It's wrong that he can do a crime like he did and not be identified."

Mr Burgess said one way around the law could be to automatically suppress the name until the offender's 20th birthday and then allow them to be identified.

"It should then be released and they should be made to be responsible for the things they have done."