Real StoryTrue Crime

Rachel Barber – The world’s WORST babysitter

Caroline Reed Robertson - When Jealousy Leads to Obsession

It’s a dark and twisted story ignited by jealousy and obsession. 20-year-old Caroline Reed Robertson took the life of a beautiful and talented 15-year-old, Rachel Barber

In 1999, a father arrived at a train station to pick up his teenage daughter from school but when the train she was supposed to be on arrived at the station she didn’t get off. So, the father just sat in the parking lot assuming his daughter must be late and she’ll be on the next train.

But as more and more trains came into the station, none of them were carrying his daughter. Eventually, this father just left the parking lot and headed back home, believing his daughter must have found another way home.

Unfortunately, though, that was not the case. It would turn out his daughter had made a fateful decision that day that would soon turn her and her family’s lives into a nightmare.

In 1998, the Barber Family was living a Charmed Life. Michael and Elizabeth had been happily married for 20 years, and they had three beautiful daughters who ranged in age from 9 to 15, and they were all thriving.

Michael and Elizabeth
Michael and Elizabeth

The family lived in a very modest-looking home in Melbourne, Australia, but the second you stepped foot inside that home, you would see it was bursting with life. The sounds of kids laughing and playing, and of Michael and Elizabeth happily chatting away filled every room.

Now, the Barber’s lives were not perfect by any means. In fact, they struggled financially and lived basically paycheck to paycheck. However, they didn’t let their financial struggles define them.

Instead, Michael and Elizabeth put a lot of stock in another aspect of their lives that they were all undeniably rich in, and that was in creativity. Michael was a toy maker and a designer, and Elizabeth worked in children’s literature.

Each of the three Barber children was beginning to cultivate their own unique creative gifts. At nine years old, Heather, who was the youngest, had developed a lovely singing voice.

Heather Barber
Heather Barber

Ashleigh-Rose, who was the middle child at 11 years old, had learned to play the flute.

But the Barber’s oldest daughter, 15-year-old Rachel Barber, was really the star of the family. In fact, they called her that, Rachel Star.

Ashleigh-Rose Barber
Ashleigh-Rose Barber

Rachel Barber was an extremely talented dancer. She was so graceful and stylish that even when she was just walking around, it almost looked like she was dancing. Rachel was also very beautiful with big emerald green eyes and fair skin. She had this effortless charisma that just drew people to her.

Rachel Barber
Rachel Barber

From the outside, Rachel really did look like the kid who had everything going for her. But like the rest of us, Rachel had her own struggles. Like, she was not a natural student, no matter how hard she tried. Math and Science just seemed impossible to her.

Rachel Barber
Rachel Barber

Rachel Barber had a number of acute fears that really made certain aspects of her life very challenging. She was deathly afraid of the dark, she was afraid of talking to strangers, she was afraid of navigating the public transportation system on her own, and even just the thought of going into a store by herself filled her with immense dread.

Rachel Barber
Rachel Barber

As a result of having these fears, Rachel was actually very dependent on her parents. Her mother Elizabeth would jokingly say that Rachel was 15 going on 18 going on 12th.

Eventually, when Rachel’s anxieties and fears combined with her struggles with traditional school work, put her into a bit of a depression, her parents decided they needed to step in and take action. They wanted their Rachel Starr to be happy.

Rachel with her parents
Rachel with her parents

They wanted to encourage her and nurture her strengths. And the thing that they knew she loved the most and was the best at was dance. So, in September of 1998, Michael and Elizabeth allowed Rachel to drop out of her traditional school and transferred to a full-time Dance School in Richmond, which was an inner city suburb of Melbourne located about 20 minutes away from the Barber’s house.

Rachel's new dance school
Rachel’s new dance school

Once Rachel Barber was enrolled in this new dance school, she blossomed. She made loads of new friends, she started modeling which was something she was very proud of, and she met a boy Manni Carella who she absolutely adored. But as well as things seemed to be going for Rachel at her new school, she would soon make a fateful decision that would have absolutely catastrophic effects.

Rachel with her friends
Rachel with her friends

On Monday, March 1st of 1999, so five months after Rachel had transferred to this new dance school, Rachel and her father Michael, like every other morning, left the Barber household, climbed into Michael’s car, and began driving to Waddle Park, which was a train station closest to their house.

From Waddle Park, Rachel Barber would catch a train that would take her to the Richmond station, and then she would get off. She would meet up with a friend, they would have breakfast, and they would walk the rest of the way to their dance school.

Manni Carella and Rachel Barber
Manni Carella and Rachel Barber

When Michael pulled into the parking lot at Waddle Park and parked the car, and Rachel was getting her stuff to climb out of the vehicle to head up to the train, he stopped his daughter and said, “Hey, hey, remember I’ll be back here at 6:15 tonight to pick you up.”

And Rachel Barber looked at him, she smiled, and said, “Okay.” And then she hopped out of the car and she pranced her way over to the station. Michael watched his daughter just long enough to see her climb the steps and disappear. At which point he put his car back in drive, he left the lot, and he headed back home.

That evening, Michael returned to Waddle Park, but at 6:15 PM, when the train came rolling into the station, Rachel was not on board. Michael assumed his daughter must have been running late and so missed the train she would always take.

And so he just sat in the parking lot and waited for the next train to come into the station. And a few minutes later when it pulled into the station, Rachel was not on that train either.

And so Michael, he was starting to get worried because he’s looking outside, it’s getting dark, he knows his daughter hates being out in the dark, she’s afraid of being alone, and he’s wondering, you know, what’s going on with her.

But he keeps telling himself that she’s bound to show up any minute. And so Michael just sat in this parking lot and watched train after train after train come through the station, and Rachel wasn’t on any of them. Now, Michael didn’t have a cell phone, and neither did Rachel.

So he couldn’t just call her to see where she was. But finally, after a few more trains came through and none of them contained his daughter, he left the parking lot but went to his parents’ house which was much closer than his own home. And he rushed inside, and he grabbed their phone, and he called back to his home.

And when his wife Elizabeth, Rachel’s mom, picked up the phone, he immediately asked her, “Hey, is Rachel home? Did she get a ride home from one of her friends?”

And Elizabeth would tell Michael, “No, she’s not here, and she hasn’t called.” This was the moment when Michael and Elizabeth instinctively knew something had to be wrong. Rachel Barber was on time for everything, and if she was late, she would always call ahead or call afterwards and at least give some explanation.

But to just go silent and not show up, that was not in character. And again, because it was pitch black outside and they knew she was probably alone, that was a situation they knew Rachel would never want to be in because it would have terrified her.

And so Michael tells Elizabeth he’s going to come home as fast as he can. They hang up, and then, while Elizabeth is waiting for her husband to return, she picked the phone right back up and she dialed Manni’s number, that’s Rachel’s boyfriend.

She figured maybe Rachel Barber was with Manni, or at the very least, maybe she checked in with Manni because most nights Rachel and Manni spoke on the phone. But when Manni picked up the phone, he would tell Elizabeth that he hasn’t seen Rachel since earlier in the day, and she has not called him, which to him was odd.

When Elizabeth asked Manni, “You know, what was my daughter doing when you were with her last?” Manni would say, “Oh, we went out to a shopping mall near the school in Richmond, and we went to the shoe store. And Rachel actually walked up to a very particular set of shoes.

They were these big platform blue chunky shoes, and she said that she was going to buy them the next day, and she was really excited about it.” And Elizabeth, as she’s hearing this, she knew exactly the shoes that Manni was describing because just the day before, Rachel had taken her mom Elizabeth to the shoe store and pleaded with her to get those blue chunky platform shoes.

But when Elizabeth had looked at the price tag, they were a hundred dollars, and so they were too expensive.

And so as Elizabeth is hearing Manni say that her daughter is talking about how she’s going to buy these shoes the next day, Elizabeth is thinking, with what money? Rachel has no money.

How could she possibly afford those shoes? And so she asked Manni, “You know, did Rachel say how she planned on affording those blue shoes?” And Manni would say, “Actually, yeah, she told me that she had this secret job, but she wouldn’t give me any more details about it.

And she said that with the money from the secret job, she’d be able to buy these shoes.” Manni would tell Elizabeth that Rachel Barber really stressed that this secret job was nothing to worry about. It was nothing immoral.

But as Elizabeth is listening to Manni tell her this, all her alarm bells are going off. She could not fathom any job that would require a 15-year-old girl to go out by herself at night doing something that was secret and give absolutely no information to her family.

Every possibility just seemed bad. After hanging up the phone with Manni, Elizabeth began frantically calling all of Rachel’s friends and acquaintances and different locations around town that she knew her daughter would frequent, but nobody had any information about where Rachel was.

A little while later, Michael finally pulled into the driveway. And when he went inside, he talked to his wife briefly, but he could tell they had no new information. Their daughter was still not home.

This was becoming a crisis. And so very quickly, Michael just left the house, got right back into his car, and he drove to the police station. But when he got to the police station, the police didn’t really offer the response that he was hoping for.

Police Station
Police Station

From the police’s perspective, it sounded like a teenage girl has been missing for a few hours, and so in their mind, they’re thinking one, that’s not an emergency yet, and two, she probably just kind of ran off, teenagers do that, they come back the next day, it’s normal.

And so despite Michael’s pleas to the police that no, this is different, my daughter would never do that, she would never run away, this is totally out of character, despite all those pleas, the police said, “Look, Michael, just go home, wait, your daughter will be home soon.

And if for some reason in the next few days she does not come back home, you come back and you tell us.” And so Michael, now feeling totally devastated and terrified for his daughter’s safety, finally did just leave the police station and he headed back home.

And then he and his wife and his two other daughters had a terrible, restless night’s sleep wondering what was going on with Rachel Barber.

And then finally when the sun came up the next morning, Michael and Elizabeth rushed out of their bedroom and headed into the kitchen hoping, praying that Rachel would just magically be in their house again. But when they went into the kitchen, Rachel wasn’t there. She had not come home.

Elizabeth & Michael Barber
Elizabeth & Michael Barber

However, pretty early on on the second day of Rachel’s disappearance, Michael and Elizabeth would learn something new. Manni would get in touch with Michael and Elizabeth, and he would tell them that he remembered something Rachel had said during their final conversation the day before.

She had told Manni that he had nothing to worry about with regards to this secret job because it wasn’t immoral. It was totally safe. And Manni said Rachel said there was an old female friend who was going to be there at this job site in some way participating that would keep her safe.

And so Michael and Elizabeth have no idea what to make of this old female friend. But in a way, it was kind of a relief because they know their daughter is basically terrified to be alone. And so at least knowing wherever she was, she was with this old friend, that made them feel good.

But the parents’ positivity about this new development quickly faded when they began calling around to all of Rachel’s friends, both new and old, female and otherwise, and none of them were missing. Everybody was where they were supposed to be, and nobody knew anything about what happened to Rachel.

Rachel with her friends
Rachel with her friends

The only intel the parents got from this round of calling all of her friends was that several of her friends said that the day before, the day Rachel Barber disappeared, they had walked with Rachel back to the train station after school.

And in fact, one of the friends told Michael and Elizabeth that they offered Rachel a ride home so that she wouldn’t have to ride the train back home. But Rachel had turned it down, saying her father was going to be meeting her on the other end at Waddle Park at 6:15 PM.

The Barbers didn’t know what to make of this. Did Rachel Barber believe at the time that she could go do this secret job and still be back in time to meet her father at 6:15 at Waddle Park? Or did she lie to the friend who was offering the ride and make up the story that she planned on seeing her father when in reality she planned on ditching her father and going and doing this secret job for the night?

Rachel Barber
Rachel Barber

But regardless of which of these things were true, the parents just still could not understand why by now, 24 hours later, their daughter still had not called to check in.

Michael and Elizabeth found themselves wondering if they really knew their Rachel Star as well as they thought they did. You know, maybe she had actually run away like the police suggested. The parents were totally distraught, totally anxious and terrified.

And so with nothing else to do over the next several days, they just continued to go out and look everywhere and talk to everyone to try to find where their daughter was. But everything they looked into turned into a dead end.

Elizabeth and Michael Barber
Elizabeth and Michael Barber

Then finally on Monday, March 8th, so exactly one week since Rachel Barber had disappeared, Michael and Elizabeth got a new lead.

A girl named Allison, who had gone to a dance class with Rachel before Rachel had transferred schools, had overheard her younger sister talking about the Rachel Barber disappearance and how nobody had seen or heard from Rachel since 5:45 PM the previous Monday.

Allison, who had not heard about Rachel’s disappearance until this very moment, knew immediately she had to go forward and talk to the police because she actually saw Rachel on the night she disappeared.

A full hour after her last known sighting at 6:40 PM on the night Rachel disappeared, Allison was on the train car headed to Paran, which is a suburb located southeast of where Rachel lived.

And when this train that Allison was on pulled into the Richmond station and the doors opened up, Allison watched as Rachel Barber, along with this other girl who Allison didn’t recognize, walked on board and then took seats right next to each other on the other end of the train away from Allison.

Now from Allison’s perspective, immediately it was clear they were friends. They were laughing and joking together and just kind of in their own world. And so Allison didn’t want to be rude, so she stopped staring at them, and they continued riding the train until they got to the Paran station.

At which point Allison got up to leave the train, but as she did, she saw Rachel and this mystery girl, they also had stood up and they were making their way out of the door. And as they were leaving, Rachel actually would look up and see Allison, and they would both smile and wave at each other.

But that was it. And then Allison would walk, such as Rachel Barber and her friends would leave ahead of her, and they would walk down the platform. And from Allison’s perspective, it seemed obvious that Rachel and this girl were friends, and whatever they were going to go do, they were choosing to go do, and they were going to do together.

When Michael and Elizabeth heard about the sighting of their daughter on the train and this mystery girl, on the one hand, it was kind of reassuring because it meant that Rachel was with this friend, potentially the old female friend that Rachel mentioned to Manni.

And so whatever she was doing, at least she was not alone. But on the other hand, it begged the question of what role did this mystery person play? And wherever Rachel was now, had Rachel and this mystery girl gone to do this secret job together and then something happened to them? Or had this mystery girl been Rachel’s accomplice and they had run off together like the police thought?

Whatever the case was, the Barbers and the police at this point, who were looking much more seriously into the Barber Case, by now they knew the next step was identifying this mystery girl. A couple of days later, on Thursday, March 11th, the police called in an artist to create a sketch of this mystery girl that Allison had seen on the train.

Police Sketch
Police Sketch

Allison would describe this mystery girl as being older than Rachel, being heavier than Rachel, and very plain. That day, the police also ordered a trace on all of the phone calls going into the Barber residence on the day before she went missing.

Because they figured that if Rachel Barber and this mystery girl were in cahoots on some sort of secret thing together, they likely communicated the day before.

And when the phone call trace came back, there was one phone number in particular that stood out to police. There was a private phone number that called the Barber household twice on the day before Rachel disappeared. Once at 5:24 PM, and that call lasted about 15 minutes.

And then shortly after that call ended, the private number called back, and then there was another conversation that lasted about 30 minutes.

It would take police another 24 hours, but eventually, they would figure out who this private caller was. It was a 20-year-old woman named Caroline Reed Robertson, who very closely resembled the police sketch of the mystery girl that Allison had seen on the train. And it just so happened that Caroline Reed Robertson lived very close to the Paran train station where Allison saw the mystery girl and Rachel get off.

Real photo & sketch of Caroline Reed Robertson
Real photo & sketch of Caroline Reed Robertson

Additionally, Caroline was Rachel’s old babysitter and was very close with the Barber family. And so it seemed very likely that Caroline was both the mystery girl on the train and the old female friend that Rachel had mentioned to Manni when she told him about this secret job.

This new information was a huge relief from Michael and Elizabeth’s perspective and the police’s perspective. It now seemed very likely that Rachel and Caroline had just snuck off together and were now probably hiding out at Caroline’s apartment near the Paran train station. And so, believing they could put an end to this missing teenager drama that night, the police hopped in their cars and they drove over to Caroline’s apartment.

Caroline's Appartment Building Present Day
Caroline’s Appartment Building Present Day

But when they got there at 5:25 PM, they very quickly realized that things were not as they seemed. Police walked up to Caroline’s front door and they knocked and began yelling out for Caroline and Rachel to come outside. But nobody yelled back, and nobody opened the door.

When they tried the handle, they found it was locked. So they got in touch with the property’s real estate agent, who came out and gave them a set of spare keys. And when the police tried those keys, they found they still could not open the door because the door had been locked from the inside with a special latch.

And so the police began walking around the perimeter of the building, looking for another way inside. And as they’re walking, one of the officers looks up and sees a second-floor window of the apartment is open. And it’s open enough that clearly a person could slip inside.

And so the police contacted the fire department, who showed up very quickly, and they put a ladder up against the side of the apartment that went up to that open window. And then a police officer began climbing up.

And when he got up to the window and could look inside, he saw he was looking into a bedroom. And at first, it looked totally ordinary until he noticed there was a body lying face down at the foot of the bed on the ground. It was Caroline.

The officer on the ladder immediately turned around and yelled for backup. And then he and other officers poured into the apartment. And before long, Caroline, who did actually still have a pulse but she was totally unconscious and not responding, she was being rushed to the hospital.

Caroline Reed Robertson
Caroline Reed Robertson

And while that was happening, the remainder of the officers who were on-site, they all went into the apartment to try to find Rachel.

And so as they’re searching this apartment, which was totally messy, there was things everywhere, there were boxes everywhere, it almost looked like Caroline had been packing her apartment to move potentially when something happened to her causing her to fall unconscious inside of her bedroom.

And so the police searched this apartment top to bottom, and they did not find Rachel Barber. In fact, there was no trace of Rachel anywhere, except they did find a bag of clothes that looked like they were Rachel’s size, not Caroline’s size, but it wasn’t clear if those were actually Rachel’s clothes.

And so the police just kind of walked around the apartment gathering up anything that seemed suspicious like they found rubber gloves and hair dye, they found some bank receipts and some notebooks with some strange writing in them. And they just hoped that some of the stuff might lead to Rachel.

Back at the hospital, Caroline had regained consciousness. Even though she was very disoriented and seemed kind of out of it, the medical staff allowed the police to come in right away and start asking questions because they knew time was of the essence with Rachel. They had to find her.

And so the officers came into Caroline’s room and they sat down, and the first question they asked her was, ‘Do you know where Rachel Barber is?’ And Caroline just stood there, kind of stunned for a second, and then just said, ‘Yes.’

Over the next few months, as Caroline’s memory came back into focus, she would piece together one of the most unbelievable stories that police in Melbourne had ever heard. The following is a reconstruction of that story based both on Caroline’s testimony and on what police were able to actually fact-check.

Back on Sunday, February 28, 1999, the day before Rachel Barber vanished, Caroline called Rachel and offered her a job. Caroline told Rachel that she was working on this psychology study and she needed participants. However, the study was highly confidential.

So if Rachel did want to be a part of it, she wouldn’t be able to tell anyone what she was doing. However, the study was quite lucrative for Rachel, and it really didn’t require much of Rachel.

All Rachel Barber had to do was meet Caroline the following day after school was over, over at the Richmond train station, and then the two of them would ride the train to Praran.

They would get off, make their way to Caroline’s apartment, and there they would conduct this psychological study. And when it was over, Caroline would pay Rachel a hundred dollars and the cost of transportation.

And so Rachel Barber, she was thrilled at the idea because she wanted those beautiful blue shoes. And so she said yes.

So the next day, Monday, March 1st, Rachel wrapped up school. She made her way to the Richmond train station. She connected with Caroline. They hopped on board the train.

They made their way to Praran, with Allison spotting them on the train as they went. And then when they got off the train at Praran, Caroline and Rachel would make their way to a nearby pizza shop and get a pizza and some beer.

And then they would walk the rest of the way to Caroline’s apartment. Once they were inside the apartment, Caroline led them upstairs to her bedroom. And then they both sat down on the floor at the foot of the bed and began eating their pizza and having some beer and just laughing and exchanging some stories.

And then after their dinner was over, Caroline told Rachel it was time to start the study. And it began with a guided meditation. Sitting next to Rachel, Caroline told her to stay calm, think happy thoughts, close your eyes, and just begin to breathe in nice and slow, breathe out nice and slow, and just feel yourself breathing in and out.

And so Rachel Barber did as she was told and began breathing in and out and being very calm. And Caroline at this point, she stood up and began kind of pacing around the room, watching Rachel periodically and reminding her to think happy thoughts and stay calm and keep just listening to herself breathe in and breathe out.

And then, at some point, Caroline just stopped and stood right in front of Rachel and just stared at her really intently. And at some point, Caroline was confident that the drugs she had laced in the pizza that she had given Rachel were starting to take effect.

It looked like Rachel was starting to doze off, and so at that point, Caroline walked around behind Rachel, who still had her eyes closed, she’s still doing the study. And Caroline pulled out a telephone cord. She wrapped it around Rachel’s neck and she pulled it as tight as she could.

Immediately, Rachel came out of her trance and she reached up and began trying to pull the cord off of her neck, but Caroline was easily 50 pounds heavier than Rachel and easily was able to maintain control over Rachel.

And so Rachel Barber is squirming and fighting and scratching and doing everything she can to try to get this cord off, but she can’t. And eventually, the fight just leaves her body and she goes still.

Caroline would maintain tension on that cord to ensure Rachel was dead. But then eventually she would release the tension on the cord. At which point, she would drag Rachel’s body into a nearby closet and she would shut the door.

Two days later, Caroline would open that closet up and she would drag Rachel’s body back out of the closet, with the cord still wrapped around her neck. And she would roll Rachel’s body up in a carpet and then stuff her inside of a large army duffel bag that Caroline had purchased for this exact reason, for disposing Rachel’s body.

And then she called a taxi, who came to her apartment, and she lugged Rachel’s body, still inside of this bag, and dumped it in the taxi. And then she and Rachel’s body and the taxi driver drove about an hour north to rural Kilmore, where Caroline’s father had a vacation home. And there, she would bury Rachel’s body in a shallow grave next to one of her childhood pets.

Rachel Barber's Grave
Rachel Barber’s Grave

When Caroline had been rushed to the hospital because she was found unconscious in her bedroom by police, the assumption was she and probably Rachel Barber had been attacked and that was why Caroline was unconscious. But what really happened is Caroline was in her apartment and she saw the police show up and it made her so stressed that it triggered a seizure and that was why she passed out in her bedroom.

When she came to in the hospital and people began asking her what happened, she would say that Rachel’s death was an accident. However, months later, after investigators had gone through all of the evidence they had collected from Caroline’s apartment, they discovered Rachel’s death was anything but accidental.

According to the notebooks they found all over Caroline’s apartment, which were basically Caroline’s journals, Caroline hated herself. She totally loathed her physical image and who she was. And she was obsessed with the girl she used to babysit, Rachel Barber.

Caroline Reed Robertson's notebook
Caroline Reed Robertson’s notebook

Rachel Barber was this beautiful, perfect person that Caroline wished she could be. And so one day, Caroline decided she would just stop being Caroline and would literally become Rachel. And to do that, she would kill Rachel and assume her identity.

The secret job, the psychology study that Caroline offered Rachel, was a very intentional trap. She knew Rachel wanted money for things like those blue shoes, and she knew Rachel would trust Caroline. Caroline was her babysitter.

And so Rachel would have no problem going into Caroline’s apartment alone at night to get the money. Caroline planned to murder Rachel and stage it so it looked like Rachel had run away. And then afterwards, Caroline planned to lose 45 pounds and then get a nose job so she would look more like Rachel.

And then, to complete her transformation, Caroline would legally change her name to Rachel Barber.

In November of 2000, Caroline Reed Robertson pleaded guilty to murdering Rachel Barber and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In January of 2015, Caroline was released after only serving 15 of those 20 years.

Artistic depiction of Caroline in Court
Artistic depiction of Caroline in Court

In the years after Rachel’s death, Rachel’s mother, Elizabeth, would write a book about the experience called ‘The Perfect Victim,’ which would later be adapted into a major movie that starred some of Australia’s biggest actors and actresses.

On Wednesday, March 24, 1999, Rachel Barber’s body was once again lowered into the ground, except this time she was surrounded by friends, family, and people who loved her.

Over 850 people attended Rachel’s funeral; they brought letters, poems, and toys, all of which were buried with Rachel. The blue shoes that Rachel so wanted, planned to buy with the hundred dollars Caroline had promised her, were also placed with her…

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