Dedicated and compassionate, RSPCA Inspector Stuart Fairlie spent his life protecting animals from neglect and abuse. Tragically, on 1 May 1989, Stuart was murdered in the line of duty.
Stuart was investigating a reported case of cruelty to horses on a farm at Mortlake, in the state’s south-west, when he was beaten to death. Six days later, his body was found in a shallow grave under a pine plantation in Mortlake. He was 53 years old.
Stuart’s death sent shockwaves through the RSPCA and wider animal welfare community. Verbal and physical abuse were not unknown to RSPCA Inspectors, but murder was simply incomprehensible. Our tight-knit community was left to grieve a much-loved friend and highly-respected colleague.
Police identified a suspect in Stuart’s murder, who was later taken to trial. The first trial took place at the Warrnambool Supreme Court in 1990. The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, so a retrial took place in Melbourne in 1991. At the retrial, the accused was found not guilty. To this day, the case has not been resolved.
On the 25th anniversary of this tragedy, it is with solemn reflection that we pay tribute to Stuart – a remarkable man who gave so much to the RSPCA and animal welfare cause. Stuart will forever be remembered for what he was – an outstanding person and an excellent Inspector.