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Sons’ joy after Vic murder case reopened

The sons of a Melbourne woman murdered in her bookshop almost 40 years ago have spoken of their joy after an investigation into her death was reopened.

Maria James was stabbed 68 times in Thornbury in June 1980 but the murder was never solved, with a coroner finding two years later she was slain by an unknown person.

Acting State Coroner Iain West on Friday said he would re-open the coronial investigation into the death of the 38-year-old and set aside the earlier finding, after a change in law gave him the power to do so.

Mark James, one of the two sons Ms James left behind, said he cried “tears of joy” after learning of the development on Thursday night.

“I think mum is probably looking down from heaven and she’s probably very happy,” he told reporters.

Last year, Victoria Police admitted they had bungled an aspect of the investigation.

Detectives thought they had a DNA profile of the killer from a bloody pillow case, using it to rule out suspects including Catholic priest Anthony Bongiorno.

But the pillow case was actually from another crime scene.

Ms James’ family has long believed Bongiorno, who has since died, was a suspect after learning he had abused her son Adam as a child.

Adam bravely detailed his abuse in ABC podcast Trace, which looked into the case and helped uncover new evidence.

“I want to thank Adam, because without him having the courage to speak up and come forward about what those two priests did to him, we wouldn’t be here,” Mark James said.

The sons hope the new investigation will consider the involvement of the two Catholic priests, as well as police involvement, and the DNA evidence.

They had earlier made a court application to have the case re-opened, but the coroner was separately given the power to do this through a change in legislation in October.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Naty Guerrero-Diaz, acting for the sons, said the move to resolve “ambiguity” in the law was “incredibly unusual”.

“I think one of the main reasons why the legislation came through so quickly was because of the public support,” she said.

She described the sons’ fight for justice as “inspirational”.

“We can all take an example from them. They are incredible men.”

Adam James hopes coming forward about the abuse he suffered could help other victims.

“I would like to say that other people like myself, they should not be scared to speak up and speak about whatever happened to them,” he told reporters.

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