‘Give his family some peace’: $1m reward over lovers’ lane murder

A reward of $1 million has been announced for information which could help solve the 1980 murder of a teenager who was shot several times while in a parked car with his girlfriend.

Thomas Cooper, 18, was with his 16-year-old girlfriend in his HQ Holden sedan on August 18 at a car park at Ricketts Point, which was well-known at the time as a "lovers lane" in Beaumaris. The couple would visit the spot overlooking Port Phillip Bay several times a week.

Thomas Cooper.Credit:Victoria Police

A man wearing a hat approached the vehicle and smashed the driver’s side window about 7.15pm. Mr Cooper tried to drive away but he was shot several times.

His girlfriend was able to lean over and steer the car forward and away from the area, before people in the vicinity came to their aid. The young woman was not physically injured.

Police believe the offender may have worn a hat on the night as a disguise.

Mr Cooper's girlfriend, whose name has been suppressed, died in May this year without knowing who shot her then-boyfriend and why he was targeted.

At the time of the murder, police released a digital composite image of a man they wished to speak to in relation to the incident. This image has been forensically updated and aged to show what this man might look like in 2020.Credit:Victoria Police

Detectives on Monday announced a $50,000 reward would be increased to $1 million for any information leading to the conviction of the man responsible.

Homicide squad boss Detective Inspector Dean Thomas said the motivation for the murder remained unclear and they had exhausted all avenues of inquiry.

"There are a number of possibilities, including that the shooting was sexually motivated and the girl in the car may have been the target," he said.

"We know that many couples regularly went to this location so the offender may have been stalking the area in the lead up to the shooting."

A "large number of people" have been interviewed and spoken to over the years about the murder but no one has ever been arrested and police are keeping an open mind, he said.

"There is no one answer to this that we’re focusing on," he said.

"There is nothing in Thomas' history or his then-girlfriend's history that gives us an indication of motive. Both of these people were in their teens, they had the world at their feet. There is nothing in their history to provide us with any motive for this."

Police have released several composite images, one of which was released at the time of the murder of a man they wish to speak to in relation to the incident.

The image has been forensically updated and aged to show what this man might look like in 2020.

Detective Inspector Thomas said police want to hear from anyone who may be able to help identity the man shown in the images.

He said the person may not be from the Beaumaris area and may not have regularly worn a hat.

"Thomas’s family have had to go 40 years without the answer to who would want to kill their son and brother," he said.

"How do you hold up when you've lost a loved one in such tragic circumstances and never got an answer as to why? They are very brave and very strong."

"As we always say, a lot can change over the years and hopefully this reward and the passage of time will encourage someone to come forward and give his family some peace."

Anyone with information about the murder of Thomas Cooper is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppers.com.au

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