High-flyer’s sad end

November 15, 2017

Despite a very public life, Darren Thornburgh preferred a quiet, low-profile existence in Barmah.

Police were at Mr Thornburgh's Barmah home from 4pm on Monday.

Mr Thornburgh's Barmah home, where police found his body.

Inspector Joy Arbuthnot speaks to media in Barmah yesterday.

It was a lonely, sad and tragic end to the flamboyant life of Melbourne high-flyer Darren Thornburgh.

The nightclub owner was found dead on the front porch of his Barmah home on Monday, it is believed he had shot himself.

And as we sat outside the local pub, which Mr Thornburgh owned, and looked across to his house, a confronting scene faced the people of Barmah.

It was public, it was distressing. And perhaps most of all, it was in the view of anyone who happened to look 100m across the park.

For all who sat there for their nightly beer looking across at a man dead on his front porch, it would be something now carved into their memories.

Police remained tight-lipped on Monday night as a crime scene was established from 4pm.

Locals watched in mounting disbelief as most of Evans St was blocked off with police tape reflecting in the lights of police and media cars.

Homicide detectives arrived at 11pm.

For those watching alongside the media, many didn’t seem to have digested the news one of their own was dead.

Many speculated about what had happened and many were unsure about the hordes of journalists who had descended on the usually sleepy town.

By daylight, all the metropolitan media had the crime scene staked out, their cars lining the streets.

Despite having a very public life, Mr Thornburgh preferred a very quiet, low-profile existence in his Barmah home.

And his friends held back tears as they came to terms with his death.

Kerry Lewis had to leave her post at the general store to tell the Riverine Herald of her shock yesterday.

‘‘He was my friend and it is hard to come to terms with,’’ she said.

‘‘He was our landlord when we owned the milk bar and we never had a problem with him.

‘‘Darren was a Barmah-ite and he loved coming back here and get back to his roots.’’

Ms Lewis said although he kept to himself, he was a friendly man.

‘‘He was a great guy and a great dad,’’ she said.

‘‘I feel for those two girls and his dad.’’

Neighbours told the Riverine Herald yesterday they rarely saw Mr Thornburgh.

‘‘He was normally only in town a few days at a time but he had been here for over a week,’’ Brian Geoffrey said.

‘‘He always had a lot of cash on him like thousands in $100 notes and came to the pub a bit.

‘‘He owned that many things in Barmah. He owned the hotel, he owned nearly all the blocks around here, he owned that bus over there, he owned cars, motorbikes, boats.

‘‘But as you know, he had a bit of trouble in Melbourne with his night club.

‘‘And also his ex-wife’s house, which was peppered by shotgun blasts early one morning.”

Mr Thornburgh’s next-door neighbour, Bree Alexander, who has young children, still felt safe in her home.

‘‘I know I am safe here and I’m not worried at all,’’ she said.

‘‘I saw him the Friday before last but don’t normally see him very much.

‘‘He was a great neighbour. For a while I didn’t even know anyone lived there because he was not around that often.’’

Geoff Turner said Barmah was normally a sleepy town.

‘‘It’s a nice small town and there isn’t a lot going on normally,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a bit shocking and I don’t think it has really sunk in for a lot of people.’’

Police Inspector Joy Arbuthnot told media yesterday detectives from the Cobram Criminal Investigation Unit and the homicide squad had attended the Evans St address for a routine inquiry and found the dead man.

‘‘A crime scene has been established and a post-mortem has been conducted,’’ she said.

‘‘We are not looking for any other person in relation to this death, but there are further inquiries being conducted into the circumstances of the death.

‘‘I will say to the community here at Barmah that we are aware this has an impact on you.

‘‘We ask you to call the police on 000 if you have any concerns, CrimeStoppers on 1800333000 if you have any further information and beyondblue if you have any personal issues you need to address.’’

Insp Arbuthnot said a weapon was located within the crime scene.

‘‘We are satisfied at this point that we are not looking for anyone else in relation to this matter but there will be an ongoing investigation with the coroner,’’ she said.

‘‘It is always distressing when you go to these things; it is difficult for everybody, particularly for police who are first on the scene.

‘‘It also has an impact on the community.

‘‘We know the male has had a very public background, many bits of that have played out within the media.

‘‘All those inquiries will be looked at and all other investigations,’’ she said.

If this story has raised any issues for you, contact beyondblue on 1300224636.

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