True Crime Conversations

True Crime Conversations explores the world's most notorious crimes by speaking to the people who know the most about them. Hosted by Jessie Stephens.


episode 18: A Suitcase Floating In A Lake: The Tragic Story Of Rachel Pfitzner And Dean Shillingsworth

It was a warm spring day when two young boys were playing at Mandurama reserve in the Sydney suburb of Ambarvale. It was a place where families and friends could have a picnic, or cycle on bike paths.

As the boys rode their bikes, something caught their eye. It looked like a suitcase, floating near the edge of a nearby duck pond. What they discovered was the body of two-year-old Dean Shillingsworth.

Dr Xanthe Mallett is a forensic anthropologist and criminologist at the University of Newcastle, Australia, who is internationally renowned for her work. She has written about and researched the case of Dean’s mother, Rachel Pfitzner, who pled guilty to the manslaughter of her son. She profiled the story for her book and TV series, Mothers Who Murder. 

Xanthe speaks to Jessie about the case, how the public bodies responsible for ensuring Dean’s safety were scrutinised during the trial, and how something so utterly tragic could ever have happened.

For photos, maps and further detail on the case you can join our closed Facebook group dedicated to the podcast. Just search for True Crime Conversations on Facebook.

GUEST: Dr Xanthe Mallett

HOST: Jessie Stephens

PRODUCER: Elise Cooper


  • Mothers Who Murder the book by Xanthe Mallett
  • Mothers Who Murder, Channel 10, hosted by Xanthe Mallett


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 2019-10-16  25m