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  • Writer's pictureJ. R. Erickson

The True Story that Inspired Flowers in Her Bones

Flowers in Her Bones follows the story of Gloria Cline who suffers from severe agoraphobia after a violent attack at a music festival that left her best friend dead. Gloria has walled herself into a safe, predictable world until one night she looks in the mirror and sees the ghost of the man who tried to murder her.

You can find Flowers in Her Bones in eBook, on Kindle Unlimited, and in paperback. (The audiobook will be coming in August of 2022).

As with all the novels in the Troubled Spirits series, Flowers in Her Bones is inspired by a true story. Though the spark of inspiration began with a true crime case, the book itself travels a path of its own, looking little like the original story that inspired it.

A couple of years ago, I watched a documentary about two young women who were murdered. The brother of one girl spoke throughout the documentary and his grief moved me to tears. In many ways, it was his grappling with his sister’s murder that inspired Flowers in Her Bones. I imagined how life would have played out if a similar crime occurred, but one girl survived that night.

I want to mention that the true story told below is both heartbreaking and horrific. I haven’t gone into great detail on the blog regarding the crime; however, it includes scenarios of rape and murder.


If you would prefer to listen to a more in-depth podcast episode of the story, you can find that here on my true crime podcast Bitter Endings. Listen to the Episode Here.

Flowers in Her Bones was inspired by the murders of Lauren Barry and Nichole Collins. Here is their story…

On October 3rd, 1997, fourteen-year-old Lauren Barry and sixteen-year-old Nichole Collins, along with several of their friends, set up camp in bushland in Kalaru in the Bournda National Park for the Labor Day weekend near Bega, Australia. This was a place the group of friends frequented. They could take their horses and set up tents overlooking the ocean.

Though it was a camp-out for teens, Nichole’s and Lauren’s parents both regularly checked on the group at the camp to make sure everything was fine.

That Sunday, October 5th, the group of teens stayed up late chatting around the bonfire. Nichole was upset because she’d recently broken up with her boyfriend. He was staying in a house several miles from the camp, so Nichole and Lauren decided to walk to the town where the ex-boyfriend was at. It was common for the teens to walk long distances on foot. It was a remote place, but considered safe by all who lived there.

At nearly ten p.m. that Sunday night, Nichole and Lauren set off into the darkness to walk the stretch of isolated road into town.

The next morning, Lauren’s brother, Nathan woke early and realized Lauren and Nichole had not returned. He went home and asked his parents if the girls had arrived there the night before. They had not.

A large search was launched with many in the Bega community turning out to search and show their support for the families. People searched on foot, by horseback and in cars. A command center was set up at Kalaru to organize the efforts, which included the Volunteer Rescue Association, police and State Emergency Services. A search was also done by a small plane who flew above the area searching for any sign of the two girls.

The community turned out in a huge way for Nichole’s and Lauren’s families. They helped search, they brought food, and they offered comfort. But days stretched into weeks and the families of the two girls lived in a terrible limbo.

More than a month after Nichole and Lauren vanished, a break came when police learned of two men who had a history of deviant behavior and criminal activity, including sexual assaults. Their names were Leslie Camilleri and Lindsay Beckett.

Both men had extensive criminal histories and were under investigation for prior rapes.

Once in custody, Lindsay Beckett confessed that he and Camilleri had abducted Lauren and Nichole. He detailed a horrifying story of injecting drugs on the evening of Sunday the 5th with Camilleri. The two men went to the beach. While driving, they passed Nichole and Lauren walking on that dark remote road. They asked the girls if they wanted a ride and, according to Beckett, the girls agreed, though their families did not believe they would have willingly gotten in the car.

The hours that followed were filled with horror for the two teens. They were repeatedly raped and assaulted in various remote locations. The men also continued injecting drugs to stay high over the next twelve hours. At some point in the horrible ordeal, the two men talked of murdering Nichole and Lauren.

Camilleri and Becket drove the girls to Fiddler’s Green Creek in Victoria. Just after 7am, the men, armed with knives, forced the girls from the car. They walked through dense bushland down an embankment to a creek.

According to Becket, under threat by Camilleri, he brutally murdered both Nichole and Lauren. The men left the girls’ bodies in the forest.

On November 12th, 1997, Becket led police to the location of Nichole Collins and Lauren Barry’s heavily decomposed remains.

The two men were charged in the brutal slayings. Becket pleaded guilty and received two life terms. Camilleri declared his innocence, but DNA found on Lauren’s clothing, along with a plethora of other evidence tying him to the crime, proved he was involved. He too was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to two life terms without the possibility of parole.

The horrific crimes scarred the community of Bega, Australia, and forever altered the lives of Nichole Collin’s and Lauren Barry’s family and friends.

Sources

Crime Investigation Australia Documentary: The Bega Schoolgirls Murder

Illawarra Mercury: Bega Schoolgirl Murders: Brother Speaks Out Twenty Years On

Newspaper Archives:

The Sydney Morning Herald (08.21.98). Life Sentence for Bega Girls’ Killer

The Sydney Morning Herald (11.16.97).  Scandal of the Bega Murders Suspect

The Sydney Morning Herald (11.14.1997). Aborted Trial Set Bega Murderer Free

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