Devora Howard 2019 death at Terrigal continues to baffle police
Socialite Devora Howard was perfectly content with life before she died.
Christmas lay around the corner, one of the vibrant 56-year-old’s favourite times of year, and there was a weekend planned with the new bachelor boyfriend in the Hunter Valley for Elton John’s last tour of Australia in January.
Buoyed by the belief she had found love again with her engineer neighbour Dylan Carter after splitting from her husband, she called a friend in the small hours of the morning she died to announce a silly row that enveloped them in silence for weeks had finally been resolved.
“Dylan and I are back on, I have deep feelings for him, I think I’m falling,” she told the Sydney friend in a phone call that ended at 3am on September 3 last year.
“For the first time in ages, things are going my way, I’m scared to believe it in case it goes wrong.”
At 5am that morning, the beautiful twice-married blonde took her doberman Harvey for his daily walk along Wamberal beach at the bottom of her exclusive street.
At 7.10am, her swollen semi-naked body was found floating yards away on a ramp at Terrigal Haven, Harvey barking frantically at the water’s edge where she had left him.
If there had been a scream from the victim, no one heard it.
Police have investigated and neither her former husband or Mr Carter are suspects.
There is no suggestion they were involved in her death.
An autopsy revealed she drowned and was found with bruises around her neck.
Investigators say they have no idea how they got there and await toxicology reports before they can learn more about how she came to be floating in water 250m north of the Terrigal boat ramp.
Her death has left her twin sister Karen Wardle Bacic desperate for answers.
“I’m still coming to terms with what has happened, I’m still grieving and finding the whole situation surreal, I’m sorry, no one knows what’s happened to my sister,” she told the Saturday Telegraph.
For the first time the case — which has not been closed — has been thrust back into the public consciousness.
“It was initially treated as suspicious but we have no evidence that it is, we’re keeping an open mind, there is something unknown, Mrs Howard’s death remains unexplained,” Gosford Police acting crime manager Evan Davies said.
“We are still talking to a number of men and women who are helping us with our inquiries.
A boarder at Tara Anglican School for Girls, Ms Howard enjoyed an affluent lifestyle working in administrative roles.
She revelled in a busy social life revolving around her $2.9 million beachside home, a luxury cruiser moored up north, a townhouse in Terrigal and sailing holidays with her husband and “pocket rocket” friend TV host Grant Denyer where she showed off her voluptuous figure in colourful bikinis.
A ten-year marriage to a Jewish businessman in America saw her change her name by deed poll from Deborah in accordance with Jewish tradition.
The couple never had children and when the relationship soured she returned to Australia to be reunited with her family and care for her elderly mother.
Her life took an upwards turn when she met project manager Peter Howard ten years ago on a dating site.
They married in a beachside ceremony in Port Douglas celebrating six years together in 2016.
Outwardly they enjoyed sailing, cycling and the outdoors life.
But privately Ms Howard had recently become frustrated that her husband had struggled in the last two years to find work, putting a strain on their marriage.
Their marriage collapsed with Peter moving out of the martial home into a townhouse.
“They were in the process of dividing up their assets,” said a friend who asked not to be named.
“There was no acrimony between them, Peter was hardly there and she looked after her 93-year-old mother in the house and at times felt really isolated and lonely until she met Dylan who lived two doors down.
“She was always manically cleaning the house in the early hours, she was an insomniac. She was friendly, she had time for everyone.
“Dylan had put a spring in her step, she was excited about the future.”
Investigators from Strike Force Pittendrigh are still calling for witnesses who saw Mrs Howard on the evening of Monday September 2 or the following morning when she was found dead.
She was last seen by a neighbour wearing white jeans and a grey jumper leaving Mr Carter’s house to return home at 10pm.
Mr Howard has moved back into the marital home while his mother-in-law Marjorie, who part owns the home, has moved out with her second daughter in Schofield.
Mr Howard is understood to have scattered her ashes at the spot near the ramp where she was found floating in the ocean by a fisherman.
Mrs Howard’s sister and mother did not attend the cremation and instead organised a private memorial service for her.
Mr Howard said he was “not interested” in speaking to the press.
Devora Howard at home with her dog Harvey
While detectives fear her death may never be solved some in her circle of friends believe she was murdered.
If Mr Carter, 46, holds the key in knowing Mrs Howard’s state of mind, having seen her hours before her death, he would not say.
“I’m not interested at all in talking about it” he said when contacted by The Daily Telegraph.
While her death remains unresolved, Mrs Howard remains the subject of local chatter.
“We all want to know what happened to Devora,” said neighbour Julie Hunter.
“She would never have taken her life, she was too happy for that, but why were there marks around their neck? Did someone strangle her?
“Dylan said it was unusual she parked her car outside the gates of her home and not inside like she usually did that night and she was not in her gym clothes to walk the dog.
“He’s not a man of many words, but said he thinks she may, somehow, have been washed out to sea, the swells 3ft that morning.
“What happened there? We all want to know, no one deserves to die like that,” she said.
Originally published as ‘We want to know what happened to Devora’