Police in Australia have asked members of the public to refrain from discussing or posting comments about the Jill Meagher case on social media so as not to taint a fair trial.
Meagher (29), from Drogheda, Co Louth, went missing on 22 September after she left a bar in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. She had been out with co-workers.
Yesterday, police charged 41-year-old Adrian Ernest Bayley with rape and murder. He has appeared in a Melbourne court, nine hours after police discovered Meagher’s body in a shallow grave beside a dirt track some 50km from where she had gone missing.
A Facebook page, Help us find Jill Meagher, set up on Saturday to help locate the radio station manager, has attracted more than 100,000 followers and a flood of comments, most of which have now been removed.
On its own Facebook page, Victoria Police has asked its followers to refrain from posting anything on social media about a case before the courts.
The police force also addressed the issue in a separate statement.
“Victoria Police has been overwhelmed by the enormity of the public support for this investigation expressed through social media,” deputy commissioner Graham Ashton said today.
“While the widespread willingness to assist has been most welcome, I must now ask that members of the social media community refrain from posting inappropriate comments that might jeopardise a successful prosecution.
“Legislation dictates that nothing should be published that might prejudice the trial of an accused after they have been arrested or charged. That point has now been reached and as Jill’s husband rightly pointed out this morning, restraint must be exercised so that the judicial process can run its course.
“Victoria Police remains incredibly grateful to all those who have sought to assist our investigations. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Jill’s family and friends at this most difficult time.”