Detectives investigating the 1994 disappearance of Sydney model turned sex worker Revelle Balmain will speak to a crime writer who based a novel on the notorious case.
John Dale has continued to follow developments in the investigation into 22-year-old Ms Balmain’s presumed murder since the 2015 publication of his book Detective Work.
Late last year Dale interviewed a Sydney woman who had recently been living with the prime suspect in Ms Balmain’s disappearance, Gavin Owen Samer.
Rosalyn Rosenberg told Dale about her experiences with Samer, who had been her carer and assaulted her in the tiny public housing unit they once shared.
Four months later 58-year-old Ms Rosenberg – known to friends as Rosa – died of injuries sustained in an explosion inside the eastern suburbs flat.
Samer was convicted in September last year of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and stalking or intimidating Ms Rosenberg.
The now 52-year-old was sentenced to a 12-month community correction order and fined $1,500 in Waverley Local Court.
He was also the subject of a two-year apprehended violence order taken out by police to protect Ms Rosenberg.
Dale was present in court for that hearing and seven days later interviewed Ms Rosenberg in her home about Samer and Ms Balmain’s disappearance.
Samer was later charged with molesting Ms Rosenberg and she was due to give evidence against him on July 24 at Waverley Local Court.
That hearing was abandoned when it was revealed Ms Rosenberg had died after an explosion and resultant fire in her Bondi unit on January 2.
A New South Wales Ambulance spokeswoman said at the time the explosion was possibly ‘purposeful’ and the fire was being treated as a mental health incident.
Ms Rosenberg was pulled from the burning Flood Street unit in a critical condition and taken to Royal North Shore Hospital where she later died.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Samer had any involvement in the explosion or fire.
Ms Rosenberg’s death will likely be the subject of a coronial inquest.
The investigation into Ms Balmain’s disappearance is being reviewed by a senior detective drawn from outside the Unsolved Homicide Unit.
Sources confirmed another officer would be contacting Dale to determine if he had information relevant to the case.
Dale is Professor of Writing at the University of Technology, Sydney, and the author of seven books including the best-selling Huckstepp, which delves into the 1986 murder of prostitute Sallie-Anne Huckstepp.
In the critically-acclaimed Detective Work he tells the story of an idealistic young policeman and his uninterested ‘dinosaur’ partner who investigate the disappearance of a beautiful blonde escort.
The 67-year-old has also written two other crime novels and a memoir in which he explores the fatal shooting of his grandfather in 1940s Tasmania.
Police have refused to say whether detectives spoke to Ms Rosenberg about what she might have told Dale before her death.
Ms Rosenberg suffered mental and physical problems which included substance abuse and had contact with the Jewish House charity, which is also in Flood Street.
Jewish House chief executive officer Rabbi Mendel Kastel told Daily Mail Australia he had met Ms Rosenberg on several occasions and was aware of her health struggles.
‘It’s a very sad story, the whole thing,’ he said.
Ms Rosenberg had made a statement against Samer alleging indecent assault but when her evidence could no longer be challenged the charges were withdrawn.
Samer, who has always denied any role in Ms Balmain’s disappearance, was not in court when the charges were dropped but had been told about Ms Rosenberg’s death.
He had been charged with committing aggravated sexual touching without consent and sexual touching without consent at the Bondi unit.
Those offences, which were previously known as indecent assault, carry a maximum penalty of seven and five years in prison respectively.
Samer, who now lives in Queensland, was in Gold Coast University Hospital earlier this year being treated for a mental illness but is now understood to be in better health.
Before the assault and stalking charges were heard last year Samer told Daily Mail Australia he was ‘100 per cent innocent’ and he subsequently pleaded not guilty.
He has launched appeals against the two convictions in the New South Wales District Court. He had also intended to vigorously defend the sexual touching charges.
It had been alleged Samer indecently assaulted Ms Rosenberg while she was incapacitated on medication by grabbing her hand and using it to fondle his genitals.
Charge sheets alleged the offences took place some time between the start of January and the end of April last year.
The ‘aggravated’ factor in one of the charges related to Samer being Ms Rosenberg’s carer. She allegedly suffered from cognitive and physical disabilities.
Samer has been unable to escape the notoriety attached to his appearance more than two decades ago at a coronial inquiry into Ms Balmain’s disappearance and presumed murder.
He says he is not a violent person and believes he has been unfairly targeted by police, who he accuses of harassing him.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Samer was responsible for Ms Balmain’s disappearance, only that he was named as the main suspect.
The keen surfer was 26 when he hired Ms Balmain to come to his home at Kingsford, in Sydney’s south-east, for several hours of sex 25 years ago.
Ms Balmain has not been seen since that appointment and Samer was later named at a coronial inquest as the main person of interest in her suspected murder.
The sometime chef subsequently spent at least 15 years living as a recluse in Tasmania but resurfaced in Sydney in 2018 to plead guilty to old theft charges.
After that court appearance Samer told Daily Mail Australia he believed he was still the main suspect in Ms Balmain’s murder but insisted he had not harmed her.
‘I’m one of the softest, nicest blokes on the planet,’ he said when asked about the events of November 5, 1994. ‘I’m mellow. I’m totally anti-violence.’
While Samer told Daily Mail Australia he did not kill Ms Balmain, he knew he would continue to be linked to the crime.
‘I’m not worried about getting arrested over the Revelle thing,’ he said. ‘I’ve done nothing wrong. I hired a hooker, that’s the only thing I did. Big deal.’
Asked directly if he knew he was still considered the main suspect in Ms Balmain’s murder, Samer said: ‘I’m well aware of the situation.’
‘You don’t have to explain it. I’ve been through it all, don’t worry.
‘As far as the police are concerned, I’m guilty. As I said, I have no fear about being arrested or charged over murdering Revelle Balmain.
‘One, I didn’t do it. Two, I’ve been that heavily checked over. If I was guilty, I’d already be out of jail.’
Samer said police had last confronted him about Ms Balmain’s disappearance in Tasmania more than a decade ago when two officers came to his place of work.
‘As far as this goes, they reckon I’m guilty of murder,’ he said. ‘I’m very well aware of it. I appreciate these guys have a job to do but the level of harassment was amazing.
‘But as I said, they’ve been through my house, they’ve done all the forensics. I’ve been to the Coroner’s Court.’
Samer was named as the main person of interest in Ms Balmain’s disappearance during a 1998 coronial inquest which revealed major oversights in the initial investigation by police.
He was to be the blonde, blue-eyed escort’s final client before she intended getting out of prostitution and was the last person known to have seen her alive.
Samer has always denied any involvement in Ms Balmain’s disappearance and the coroner did not recommend charges be laid against him.
Ms Balmain’s body has never been found. In 2008 the NSW Government announced a reward for information that led to the conviction of Ms Balmain’s killer or killers would be increased to $250,000.
Samer had paid for sex with Ms Balmain on the Saturday she went missing, while his de facto partner Michelle Oswald-Sealy was away from their Kingsford home for the weekend.
After their appointment, Samer claimed he drove Ms Balmain from his house on McNair Avenue to the nearby Red Tomato Inn about 7pm, but no witnesses came forward to say they saw him or her that night.
Two days after Ms Balmain’s disappearance her cork-heeled platform shoe, cane make-up bag, diary and the keys to her Bellevue Hill unit were found scattered through nearby streets.
Samer told police in his first interview that on the Saturday Ms Balmain disappeared he had drunk ‘five twist tops down at the Red Tomato Inn earlier in the day’.
He had also consumed two bottles of Strongbow White cider and then a quantity of champagne while he was with Ms Balmain.
However, the coronial inquest heard that cash register rolls from the bottle shop of the Red Tomato Inn – now the site of Churchills Sports Bar – failed to support Samer’s claimed purchases.
Ms Oswald-Sealy told the coronial inquest her boyfriend had a drinking problem.
‘Initially Gavin drank every night and didn’t try to control it,’ she said.
‘His gambling and drinking was bad at this stage… he would binge and sneak drinks and cover it up well… it was the worst drinking problem I had ever seen.’
A summary of the police investigation provided to the coroner in 1998 listed the reasons why detectives continued to consider Samer the main suspect in Ms Balmain’s disappearance.
The report said: ‘Samer had inexplicable injuries to his neck and injuries to his finger and body, the explanation by Samer of the cause of these injuries was improbable.’
Police also noted how Samer was unable to produce the cheque book with which he allegedly paid Ms Balmain $100 for extra time and services in his home.
They noted that property belonging to the dancer was found scattered in the streets near his house and the fact no one could be located who had seen Samer drop Ms Balmain at the Red Tomato Inn as he claimed.
During the inquest, the possibility that two of Ms Balmain’s former employers, Select Companions and VIP Escorts, or their associates could have been involved in her disappearance was investigated.
Also considered was a submission from a group of three men about drug-fuelled parties they claimed to have had with Ms Balmain. The submission was later ruled ‘unreliable’.
Deputy State Coroner John Abernethy eliminated a theory that Ms Balmain had staged her own disappearance, saying there was ‘absolutely no evidence’ to support it.
In his May 1999 findings Mr Abernethy ruled Revelle Balmain died on or about November 5, 1994 in New South Wales at the hands of a person or persons unknown.
‘Not only is she dead, but I am firmly of the opinion that her disappearance involves her homicide,’ he said.
‘While Mr Samer certainly had the opportunity to kill Ms Balmain, and rightly in my view is the main person of interest to police, there is no plausible motive proved.’
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Samer was guilty of sexually assaulting Ms Rosenberg, only that he was charged with the alleged offences, which with her death have now been withdrawn.
Samer will appeal against his assault and intimidation convictions in the District Court next month.
Investigations into Ms Balmain’s disappearance are continuing under Strike Force Aramac.