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Ballarat murder: Hannah McGuire’s grisly death casts shadow over valley of gold as family grapple with loss

Remy Varga, Georgina Noack
The Nightly
Hannah McGuire’s grisly death casts shadow over valley of gold as family grapple with loss
Hannah McGuire’s grisly death casts shadow over valley of gold as family grapple with loss Credit: James Ross

The heartbroken family of a young woman allegedly murdered by her ex-boyfriend have visited the site where her body was found in a burnt-out car in a north-west Victoria State forest.

Lachlan Young, 21, appeared in court on Tuesday charged with murdering his former girlfriend Hannah McGuire at his home in the Ballarat suburb of Sebastapol, about 120km north-west of Melbourne and 15km from where the 23-year-old’s body was found.

Ms McGuire has been remembered as “having a heart of gold” and worked at her family’s pub The National in Clunes, a former gold rush town about 30km north of Ballarat with a population of just over 1700.

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Charcoaled black trees line the unsealed road leading to the location where emergency services found the remains of Ms McGuire on Friday after her family reported her missing to authorities earlier that morning.

The car containing her was allegedly dumped and set alight about 5m off Victoria Road near State Forest Road in Scarsdale. 
The car containing her was allegedly dumped and set alight about 5m off Victoria Road near State Forest Road in Scarsdale.  Credit: James Ross/AAPIMAGE

The car containing her was allegedly dumped and set alight about 5m off Victoria Road near State Forest Road in Scarsdale.

On Tuesday, all that remained of the alleged crime was burnt wires, plastic and shattered glass strewn across scorched black earth. A faint scent of oil lingered amid decaying eucalyptus leaves.

Just before 1.30pm the parents of Ms McGuire, Glen and Debbie, and her younger brother arrived at the site where days earlier authorities had found their beloved daughter and sister’s body.

The grieving family stared at the wreckage before picking up pieces of the debris.

The car containing her was allegedly dumped and set alight about 5m off Victoria Road near State Forest Road in Scarsdale. 
The car containing her was allegedly dumped and set alight about 5m off Victoria Road near State Forest Road in Scarsdale.  Credit: Created with Datawrapper/Created with Datawrapper

Earlier, the McGuire’s family lawyer, Brooke Tamanika, said outside Ballarat Magistrates Court that they had been shattered by the death of Hannah.

“As you can imagine, this is a very devastating time for the family, for Hannah’s loved ones and for our community as a whole,” Ms Tamanika said.

“The family have been assisting police, however, I cannot comment on the status of the matter.

“I would ask that everyone is mindful of the family during this period of time ... and give them time to mourn the loss of Hannah.”

Glen and Deborah McGuire and their son stood behind Ms Tamanika as she spoke. Mr McGuire turned away as tears streamed down his face.

Victoria Police carried out three warrants at homes in Sebastopol on Sunday afternoon and arrested Mr Young and a 22-year-old.

The second man was released without charge.

On Tuesday, Mr Young, who has a blond mullet hairstyle and a sleeve tattoo on his right arm, did not speak during his brief court hearing.

Lachie Young, 21, has been charged with murder after the body of his ex-girlfriend Hannah McGuire was found in a burnt-out car in bushland in Scarsdale.
Lachie Young, 21, has been charged with murder after the body of his ex-girlfriend Hannah McGuire was found in a burnt-out car in bushland in Scarsdale. Credit: Supplied/Facebook

His lawyer, Crystal Caruana, told the court it was her client’s first time in custody and his mental health was declining.

Police prosecutor Steve Repac said there was CCTV, e-crime material and DNA evidence that needed to be analysed by investigators.

“There is some complexity to it, obviously, given the nature of the investigation,” he said.

A young blonde woman sobbed during the hearing while Mr Young slumped in the dock, his head in his arms.

Family, friends, and the community of Clunes have been left bereft by Ms McGuire’s death.

Her family has closed their National Hotel in the regional Victorian town, where it is understood the 23-year-old worked and was well-liked by patrons.

The Clunes Cricket Club, which is sponsored by the McGuires’ pub, set up a GoFundMe page to support the family after the “devastating” death.

“Hannah was known by many as a bright young woman and had a heart of gold,” the club said in a statement.

“As a club and a community, we want to put our arms around the McGuire family and everyone close to Hannah.”

The identity of the woman whose bdy was found in a burnt-out car off a road in regional Victoria has been identified as 23-year-old Hannah McGuire.
The identity of the woman whose bdy was found in a burnt-out car off a road in regional Victoria has been identified as 23-year-old Hannah McGuire. Credit: Supplied/GoFundMe

A banner for the domestic violence advocacy group White Ribbon is fixed to the fence of the cricket club oval.

Ms McGuire’s death is the latest tragedy to hit the Ballarat region as the city grapples with the alleged murder of mother-of-three Samantha Murphy, who disappeared after going for a jog in February.

Victoria Police charged Patrick Stephenson, the son of former AFL player Orren Stephenson, with Ms Murphy’s murder.

On Tuesday, Patty Kinnersly, the chief executive of Our Watch, an advocacy group for the prevention of violence against women, said Ms McGuire’s death was a “national tragedy”.

She said 17 women had been killed by current or former partners in Australia already this year.

“As a community, we have to move past being upset about it and taking action to prevent further murders of women,” Ms Kinnersly told ABC.

“This is Australia, this is a first-world country.

“We cannot continue down this path of violence against women when we know it is preventable, and it is based on respect and equality for women.”

Mr Young will next appear before the court on September 19 for a committal mention.

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