Warning: This article contains descriptions of rape and sexual assault.
Maybe it’s a story a little too close to home for me, or maybe it’s that my favourite journalist (whom I had the pleasure to meet outside an Adelaide courtroom during my first year of university) wrote a book about him. Either way, this story is a reminder that even in our own hometown, we are not safe. This is the story of Mark Errin Rust.
Payneham Road, Adelaide, South Australia. April 12, 1999.
30-year-old Croatian immigrant Maya Jakic walks alone along Payneham Road, roughly 5km north-east from the Adelaide CBD. As she is walking, a man is working on his taxi. He is an average looking obese bloke with dark hair and a moustache. He smiles at her and calls out greeting her, Maya smiles back. The man says “want a lift?”, Maya declines and continues walking down the road. The man speaks to her again “How about a root?”. Maya replies, declining again and quickening her pace towards a nearby bus stop. The man climbs inside his taxi and drives off, only to park at a disused police station Maya was bound to walk past. This time, he drops his pants, exposing himself to Maya.
The man had done this many times before. He was a serial sex pest with a particular liking for the disgusted looks on women’s faces when he showed them his shrivelled penis (a result of Kleinfelter’s syndrome, a condition in which a male is born with an extra X chromosome, causing infertility, sexual difficulty and small genitals). From the age of 13, Mark Errin Rust had been following girls, fantasising about having sex with them. This soon escalated. Rust was convicted of multiple sex crimes, including masturbating in public and indecent exposure, the first official charge coming in 1983. 11 to 13 sex offences followed, and a number of other offences including trespassing and arson.
But the courts didn’t focus on the sex crimes, they focused on the property and material damage he caused. In this, they handed out good behaviour bonds and didn’t record convictions. In this they failed to protect people, they protected property (mind you, not very well, considering Rust was imprisoned for causing $642,000AUD worth of damage to suburban buildings in Norwood and Kensington). One of Rust’s pastimes included exposing himself to schoolgirls at a bus-stop in North Adelaide. Rust got a kick out horrifying women. He hated them. 1991 saw this hatred extend further when his second marriage end, after being accused of sexually assaulting his wife’s daughter. Although no charges were laid, he did have to attend the Sexual Offenders Treatment Program. He didn’t even make it half-way through the first day. He claimed the program was “stupid”.
But this time, his target didn’t look disgusted or horrified, his needs had not been met. Maya took one look at him and laughed. Rust’s hatred for women reached a boiling point. As Maya turned to walk away from him, he attacked her from behind, his pants still around his ankles. “How about some fun?” he says into her ear, as he tackles her to the ground, hidden in bushes and bundles of sticks. His original intention was to rape her but decided last minute he wanted something a little more shocking. He grabs Maya’s mouth to silence her and begins to choke her. He would later claim he “did it for the thrill”.
Leaving her body in the bushes of the old Payneham Police Station, Rust heads 50 metres down the road in his taxi, stopping at a payphone. He calls triple 0, informing the police that there’s someone trying to break in down at the old police station. The police search the area and fail to find the anything, not even the body of Maya Jakic. So Rust calls them again from a payphone near the Old Royal Adelaide Hospital, this time telling the police that he saw a body at the station. Again, the police failed to find the poorly hidden body. What makes this even more unbelievable, is that whilst the old station was no longer used for general police work, it was being utilised by senior officers working on policy changes… daily.
Norwood Police Station, Adelaide, South Australia. April 17, 1999. 10:25pm.
Passers-by see a taxi with its hazard lights on near Norwood Police Station. Only a few minutes later, officers from the station find a note under the windscreen wiper of a patrol car. The note read:
“Their’s a dead girls body in the shrubs of the grounds near the main road of the Pahyhame Police station. This is no joke!! Take a good look.”
The note looked as if a young child with terrible spelling had written it. Rust was frustrated with the police, he wanted to see the horrified faces of the officers finding the body, seeing as Maya had denied him her disgust. After many senior officers and investigators had failed to find Maya, two fresh out of the academy constables finally discovered her remains.
Adelaide, South Australia. May 13, 1999.
Police make the decision to release a recording of the first phone call made to the police and the note found on the police car at Norwood. This was done with hopes the person who made the call would come forward, or someone from the public would identify them. They didn’t know if the person they were searching for was the killer, but they understood that he knew something they didn’t. On May 29, the police released the recording of the second call. Still, no good leads came in. June 11 saw a special 1800 number set up for the public to call. The number played both the phone call recordings on a loop. One man recognised the voice. A childhood friend of Rust’s by the name of Craig. He told both his parents that he believed the voice to be Mark Errin Rust, but later convinced himself he was mistaken. The police were searching high and low for information on the caller, who they believed to be a taxi driver.
However, the man they were looking for was already in custody. Arrested for a trespassing offence in which he gave a false name and address, along with a charge for indecency (shocker), Rust was in prison on a 20-month-minimum sentence. The case of Maya Jakic’s murder was running cold, still, no-one suspected the obese odorous man with a liking for shocking pretty women with his shrivelled genitals.
Goodwood Road, Cumberland Park. Adelaide, South Australia. August 2, 2001.
Released from prison on parole only ten days earlier, Rust wastes no time in getting back to his favourite pastime: exposing himself to pretty women. An 18-year-old woman stops to use an ATM on Goodwood Road, only to be dragged from her car by Rust. He blocks her passage back into her vehicle and masturbates aggressively in front of her. The woman pushes him to the ground, jumps over him and gets back into her car. Rust was already back on his feet attempting to approach her again. She was absolutely terrified, so she reversed down Goodwood Road at top speed (which if you know Goodwood Road, is an extremely dangerous action). The woman then drove to her boyfriend’s house, who called the police immediately.
Goodwood Road, Cumberland Park. Adelaide, South Australia. August 3, 2001. 10:30pm.
40-minutes away from her Modbury apartment, 18-year-old Japanese Eynesbury College student Megumi Suzuki sits at a bus stop listening to a portable CD-player. Mark Errin Rust had been lurking around Cumberland Park, only a day after his attack on the 18-year-old woman who would hold life-long scars. He was happy with the result Cumberland Park had given him, so he decided to try again. However, Rust was no longer satisfied with the disgusted expressions he governed from pretty women, he wanted sex. He desperately craved it. And unlike every other sex-crazy bloke within 30km of the Adelaide CBD, a night out on Hindley Street wouldn’t cut it. He was going to take it by force.
Once Rust spotted Megumi, he saw the opportunity. He grabs Megumi from behind, dragging her away from the main road. Much smaller and lighter than himself, Megumi was easy to shut up. Her screams failed to ring out and Rust managed to pull down her pants. However, his impotence strikes again and he is unable to get an erection. Infuriated by this, he attempts to strangle Megumi. After failing to do so, Rust finds a rock nearby and smashes it over her head. He bludgeons the small girl then wraps Megumi’s body in plastic sheets he finds nearby before dumping her in a large rubbish bin behind some local shops.
Megumi Suzuki’s disappearance was quickly noted, with her parents flying over from Japan only a few days after she was reported missing by her school and friends. Her disappearance led international students to become fearful of their safety in Adelaide. The case was plastered over Japanese news and many parents refused to let their children travel to Adelaide (or even Australia) for study.
Police and Megumi’s parents pleaded for her to return home, but she was already dead. The man responsible still lurking the streets of Adelaide, searching for his next victim.
Kensington Road, Rose Park. Adelaide, South Australia. August 16, 2001. 8:50pm.
13 days had passed since Megumi Suzuki had disappeared and a woman was finishing up late at work. The lights of her office building suddenly go out and she thinks to herself “stuff it, I’m going home”. She noticed that the surrounding buildings lights were still on, and her computer was still powered up. Increasingly worried, the woman packs up her things and heads to the door. She feels a presence to her left, a dark figure which she identified as a male lurking in her office space. Mark Errin Rust. She puts her hand up to where he face would be and says “What do you want?”. Rust pushes her to the ground and climbs on top of her. He was wearing a balaclava and armed with a box cutter. The woman later stated that she had no idea why her tone was so calm and submissive to her attacker, as she was terrified, but she had no idea what this man was capable of, so she wasn’t taking any chances. It was this submission that would save her life.
She told him she wasn’t going to look at him, even after he threatened to kill her. Rust became overcome with lust that he even handed her the knife to hold whilst he assaulted her. A mere few seconds after pushing his flaccid penis inside of the woman, he was done. The woman later stated that she didn’t even notice. He asks her for the knife back and she hesitantly hands it to him. Leaving the woman alone in the dark, Rust leaves the building.
The woman hurried out of the building and sought help from passers-by. As she fled she memorised every numberplate of cars that she passed, especially those in the car park near her work. After giving details to the police, they found their man.
On that same night, police knock on the door of Rust’s parole address in Gilles Plains. He is arrested for rape and placed in the remand. He brags to other inmates about his crimes, including stating he has Megumi Suzuki’s CD player with him, which he chose to bring in as a personal item as allowed by the prison.
Adelaide, South Australia. October 2001.
On October 21, Major Crime detectives visit Rust in prison. He is charged with the murder of Maya Jakic. He faces up in the Adelaide Magistrates the next day.
October 30 saw Rust charged with the murder of Megumi Suzuki, and the public is shocked to find this cold case solved. Whilst her parents board a flight from Japan, Rust is happy to share details about the murder with police. He tells them how he dumped her body in the industrial rubbish bin and a macabre realisation falls over investigators. They knew where they could find Megumi’s body, but it wasn’t going to be easy. Wingfield, a suburb west of Adelaide, was home to a large rubbish dump belonging to Integrated Waste Management Services. 500 tonnes of rubbish is managed at the site every single day.
Wingfield, Adelaide, South Australia. Late 2001.
The massive task of finding Megumi’s body at the Wingfield dump began on November 26. Those tasked with the search included many police cadets from the academy, which was located not far away at Taperoo. The notorious yearly Adelaide heat-waves made the search even harder, with the mercury pushing over 35-degrees Celcius for days on end. But the 200 members of the search team were relentless in their searching. They were determined to find Megumi so she could finally be laid to rest. Finally, on December 7, 2001, Megumi Suzuki’s remains were found.
Adelaide, South Australia. April 2004.
Mark Errin Rust is charged with the murders of both Maya Jakic and Megumi Suzuki, as well as the attacks on the 18-year-old woman in Cumberland Park and the woman in Kensington. Justice Margaret Nyland sentenced Mark Errin Rust to life without the possibility of parole. To this day he is still fighting his non-parole period.
Megumi Suzuki was cremated and her family took her ashes back to Japan. However, in Centennial Park on Goodwood Road, there lies a memorial plaque to her. Only metres away from where her body was dumped on that fateful day in August 2001.
Maya Jakic is buried near her mothers home in Croatia. Her mother visits the grave every day, sitting by her daughter for hours on end, no matter the weather, she is there.
City of Evil, by Sean Fewster (Book)