The Melbourne Club Connection (True Crime)

Anna Maria Pontarollo

Nickname: Unknown
Alternative Name: Anna Marie

La Apoda: Desconocida
Nombres alternativos: Anna Marie

Nenita Evans

Nickname: Annie
Alternative Name: Unknown

La Apoda: Annie
Nombres alternativos: Desconocida

Milagros Dark

Nickname: Mila
Alternative Name: Unknown

La Apoda: Mila
Nombres alternativos: Desconocida


Disappearance (Desaparición)

Missing from: 389 New Street, Brighton, Victoria, Australia
Date Missing: 1954
Current Situation: Missing

Missing from: Melbourne Club, 36 Collins, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Date Missing: January 8, 1987 (Thursday)
Current Situation: Missing

Location Where She Was Found: Churchill National Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Date Missing: February 14, 1990 (Wednesday)
Date Found: February 17, 1990 (Saturday)
Current Situation: Deceased

Falta de: 389 New Street, Brighton, Victoria, Australia
Falta en la Fecha: 1954
Situación actual: Persona desaparecida

Falta de: Melbourne Club, 36 Collins, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Falta en la Fecha: 8 de enero de 1987 (jueves)
Situación actual: Persona desaparecida

Lugar donde fue descubierta: Churchill National Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Falta en la Fecha: 14 de febrero de 1990 (miércoles)
Fecha en que se encontró el cuerpo: 17 de febrero de 1990 (sábado)
Situación actual: Fallecida

Circumstances (Circunstancias)

Between 1954 and 1990, three women of similar circumstances disappeared and/or were murdered in the Melbourne area.  Although decades spanned one case from another, police have reason to believe the three incidences may have been the work of the same individual. 

Anna Maria Pontarollo

At some point in the 1950s, Anna Maria Pontarollo* arrived in Australia as a young immigrant apparently from Italy**. She found a new home in Melbourne where she met and began a relationship with another Italian immigrant, Vincenzo Leonardi.  

Leonardi was already married, but his wife and child had remained in Italy when he went ahead to establish a new home and find a stable job before bringing them to him.  He had been able to secure a position at the Melbourne Club, a high-society, private social club to which the veritable who’s who of the Victoria were exclusive members.  With membership ranging from Chief Justices, Provincial Governors, and Prime Ministers, the position was a reputable one and Leonardi would remain there for the next three decades.   

Leonardi and Anna hit it off and began living together permanently.  They eventually had two daughters, but their extra-marital bliss was disrupted when Leonardi’s wife arrived from Italy with their child in tow.  For a short time, it appears the three actually lived in the same home but by 1954 Leonardi’s wife became pregnant with their second child. 

It was at this point that Anna seemingly dropped off the face of the earth.  She was never formally listed as missing, but she was never seen or heard from again.  Her name remained on the daughter’s birth certificates until the Leonardis legally adopted the girls.  With that, the last trace of her disappeared.

At the time she vanished, Anna was 28 years old.  This would put her time of birth around 1926. There is no known photo of her and characteristics or features are difficult to find described.  

*Other spellings of her middle name include ‘Marie’
**Some article question if she was Filipina but the name is historically Italian and other sources say she came from Italy) (see SPAN). 


Nenita Evans

With Anna never formally reported to the police, Leonardi was not questioned at the time of her disappearance.  He continued working in the Melbourne Club and soon revealed a weakness for the maids working alongside him.

Nenita was a more recent immigrant from the Philippines, having moved to Melbourne in January 1985 when she married her husband, Greg Evans.  The two had met in Manila some time before and the marriage was a natural step for them. 

In the late 1980s, Nenita Evans began working at the Melbourne Club as a maid and she soon would be caught in the mystery that surrounded Leonardi. The two initially did not get along, but eventually they became closer.  Leonardi is rumored to have helped Nenita with a promotion from maid to housekeeper which upset some of the others who had been there before her.  He frequently drove Nenita home to the suburb of Altona, some distance away from his own home which later raised questions.  According to her husband, Nenita told him that the women at her office were jealous that Leonardi liked her but that he appreciated her hard work. 

Vincenzo Leonardi

Nenita enjoyed her work and was particularly interested in her responsibility for managing the floral decorations around the club. She began taking classes in flower arrangements and began to consider taking that interest professional. 

At some point, Nenita’s husband received an anonymous call, warning him that Nenita and Leonardi were involved in an affair.  Both denied the accusations, but it is not clear how convinced Greg was.  With the rumors hanging over her head, apparently uncomfortable relationships with some of her colleagues, and a desire to shift more permanently into flower decoration as a career, Nenita finally quit her job at the Club in November 1986. 

The last sighting of Nenita was by her old colleagues and Leonardi on January 8, 1987.  She had stopped by the Club one last time to chat with her friends.  She was showing off a book she had made with various flower arrangements and left at approximately 2:00pm (14:00) to head to her interview with a florist in Fitzroy. 

Nenita was never seen or heard from again. There is nothing to suggest her leaving was voluntary; she did not pack anything with her and her passport was left behind.  Nor were her bank accounts ever used again.

The investigation into Nenita’s disappearance was pulled in more than one direction.  On the one hand, rumors were now spreading about her relationship with Leonardi.  The man was known to be violent towards his family and had previously beaten one of his daughters quite badly.  His children were supposedly frightened of him and the signs suggested he might have spread that violence on to others.

Simultaneously, there were also suggestions that Nenita’s husband was abusing her, rumors Leonardi helped spread. 

Eventually, the coroner ruled that she had likely died as a result of foul play but that the perpetrator could not be identified.  Leonardi attended the coroner’s hearing, but did not testify during the proceedings.

Nenita was 32 when she disappeared, putting her time of birth around 1955.

Milagros Dark

In 1990, Leonardi had formed a good relationship with another immigrant, Filipina Milagros Dark (Mila), who was also working as a maid at the club and whom Leonardi supervised.  The two often spoke and Leonardi had frequently taken Mila home in Noble Park despite it being completely out of his way. 

Mila was also married to a gentleman approximately 12-15 years her senior by the name of Neville Lawrence Dark.  On February 14, 1990, Neville reported Mila missing a search was launched.  Her remains would be located three days later on February 17 in Churchill National Park in Endeavour Hills, approximately 10km away from her home.  The cause of death was assault and a beating; her head had been wrapped in a plastic bag. 

Her husband was an initial target of the investigation but in August 1991 he was acquitted due to lack of evidence.  He pointed towards Leonardi as a potential alternative suspect, but the coroner did not find a legitimate basis for the accusation.

* At the time of her death, Mila was in her 30s. Some sources say 36, others 39.   


Later articles point to the unusually high number of Filipina women who disappeared and/or were murdered around this time.  At least sixteen Filipina women were murdered in Australia between 1980 – 1999 where one of the suspects was their non-Filipino husband or significant other. 


Unknown to many, Nenita had left behind a living piece of her heritage.  At the tender age of 19, she found it necessary to leave behind an infant at an orphanage in the Philippines.  The child would remain there for approximately a year and half before being adopted by a family from France.  The boy, named Matthieu Heimel, would immigrate with his new family and his connection to Nenita went unremarked for some time.

Eventually, Matthieu relocated himself to Perth, Australia where he married and had two sons of his own.  He began to research his familial heritage and was able to locate his biological father who pointed him towards his mother’s family.  Ultimately, Matthieu’s investigation into his parentage would eventually lead him to Melbourne and the unusual connections between the three women.

With the help of his efforts, renewed interest in the cases was sparked in the latter 1990s and police announced in 1998 that they would try testing again DNA they had collected from the body of Milagros.  They hoped it would point them towards her killer and new technology might offer new insights.

Matthieu Heimel (son of Nenita Evans)

Description (Descripción)

  • Date of Birth: ~ 1926
  • Age at Disappearance: 28
  • Ethnicity: Caucasian
  • Nationality: Italy
  • Gender at Birth: Female
  • Hair:
  • Eye Color:
  • Height:
  • Weight:
  • Languages Spoken:
  • Date of Birth: ~ 1955
  • Age at Disappearance: 32
  • Ethnicity: Asian
  • Nationality: Philippines
  • Gender at Birth: Female
  • Hair: Black
  • Eye Color: Brown
  • Height:
  • Weight:
  • Languages Spoken:
  • Date of Birth: ~ 1954
  • Age at Disappearance: 36
  • Ethnicity: Asian
  • Nationality: Philippines
  • Gender at Birth: Female
  • Hair: Black
  • Eye Color: Dark Eyes
  • Height:
  • Weight:
  • Languages Spoken:
  • Fecha de Nacimiento: ~ 1926
  • Años: 28
  • Etnia: Caucásica
  • Nacionalidad: Italia
  • Sexo al nacer: Mujer
  • Cabello:
  • Color de los ojos:
  • Altura:
  • Peso:
  • Idiomas:
  • Fecha de Nacimiento: ~ 1955
  • Años: 32
  • Etnia: Asiática
  • Nacionalidad: Filipinas
  • Sexo al nacer: Mujer
  • Cabello: Pelo negro
  • Color de los ojos: Marrón
  • Altura:
  • Peso:
  • Idiomas:
  • Fecha de Nacimiento: ~ 1954
  • Años: 36
  • Etnia: Asiática
  • Nacionalidad: Filipinas
  • Sexo al nacer: Mujer
  • Cabello: pelo negro
  • Color de los ojos: Color oscuro
  • Altura:
  • Peso:
  • Idiomas:


Distinguishing Marks or Factors (Características Distintivas)

  • Unknown
  • Desconocido

Medical Concerns (Atención Médica)

  • Unknown
  • Desconocido


Suspect (Sospechoso)

  • Unknown
  • Desconocido

Clothing & Possessions (Ropa)

  • Unknown
  • Desconocido

Vehicle (Vehículo)

  • Unknown
  • Desconocido

If You or Anyone You Know Has Information About The Disappearances, Please Contact:

Or use the QR Code (right) to find contact information for the National Police.


Resources

  • Australian Missing Persons Register, “Anna Maria Pontarollo”, Link.
  • Solidarity Philippines Australia Network (SPAN) (1998), KASAMA Vol, 12, No. 4, “DNA offers new lead on 40–year murder mystery”, Link
  • Lambert, O. (2020) “Man discovers devastating secret while searching for birth mother’, Yahoo News Australia, 25 September, Link.
  • Marginson, M. (2015) “A Submission to the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence”, Victorian Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Coalition, 29 May, Link.
  • News Breeze (2020) “After nearly 40 years of finding his biological mother, he discovered a terrible truth”, 4 October, Link.
  • Doe Network, “477DFVIC – Nenita Evans”, Link.

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