Last Stop Larrimah: Little-known NT true crime becomes ‘stranger than fiction’ Netflix hit

Paddy Moriarty's remains have never been found.

Paddy Moriarty's remains have never been found. Photo: Warner Bros. Discovery

When Irish-born pensioner Paddy Moriarty and his dog Kellie disappeared one night before Christmas in the Northern Territory outback town of Larrimah – population of 11– there were immediately 10 suspects.

It was December 16, 2017.

Moriarty was a roustabout, mischievous, divisive. He was 70 years old.

Some say he was a good-for-nothing troublemaker. Others said he was popular.

Feuding neighbours, creepy, heavy-drinking ex-partners, the then Pink Panther hotel owner, a broody live-in gardener and even the scone and pie maker were all under the spotlight.

When police and emergency services were eventually alerted to the fact Moriarty had vanished, they headed to this shanty town in the middle of nowhere – 500 kilometres south of Darwin – to search for a body or evidence of foul play.

They interviewed everyone.

They searched the rubbish tip, scoured the scrubland for kilometres, looked down a sink hole and septic tanks, brought in forensic teams.

There was a four-part ABC series, a 2022 coronial inquest, an award-winning podcast and dozens of news and current affairs stories.

All hell bent on trying to work out what happened to Moriarty that fateful night he left the pub after 10 cans of beer, jumped on his quadbike with Kellie, returned to his shack, heated some chicken and dim sims and after that?

Maybe a whack to the head with a claw hammer? Maybe he wandered off in the bush alone and simply vanished?

Who knows …

Watch the 'Last Stop Larrimah' trailer

Source: HBO

When HBO Documentaries got wind there might be another Wolf Creek-esque crime committed in a remote highway town Down Under, it started its own investigation.

With a Netflix launch in October and a world premiere at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas, Last Stop Larrimah has drawn global attention to one of the NT’s most compelling stories.

Unsurprisingly, debut documentary filmmaker and director Thomas Tancred, told US talk show The View earlier this month it was the townsfolk who drew him in.

“I found this story scrolling through Twitter [now X] and then I found a video of a news team which had gone down there and interviewed some of the people,” he said.

“I thought these people were just fantastic characters.”

From his US base, Tancred said he rang the pub and got onto publican Barry Sharpe, once one of Moriarty’s best mates.

“He’s like, ‘No, I’m not going to talk to you’,” Tancred said.

“We just kept talking for a while, and then he said, ‘If you fly here, I will talk to you’.

“I was like, if I can get to Barry – because the pub in the town is kind of like the heart, that’s all they have – if I can get to him, maybe I can get to the rest of them.

“That’s how it all started.”

Volunteer barmaid Ann Kanters and partner Barry Sharpe behind the bar of the Larrimah hotel in the early 2000s. Photo: AAP

Dysfunctional town

Tancred described the near ghost town of Larrimah as “like a high school with a bunch of 70-year-olds”.

“The town is very divided … they’re either with Barry in the pub, or they’re on the other team.

“There’s parts that aren’t able to get into the film, but you learn a lot about these people and people will tell you things on the side.”

Let’s meet Devonshire tea shop owner Fran Hodgetts, who lived across the road from Moriarty and is one of the main voices in the documentary.

They had been in a decade-long dispute over various matters, and by all accounts, Hodgetts filed nine separate complaints against him with police.

Among many accusations, she claimed Moriarty stole her $200 red umbrella, deliberately scared away customers, dragged stinking carcasses of kangaroos onto her property, and poisoned her plants.

Then there’s the live-in gardener, Owen Laurie, who Hodgetts hired to help her out around the place, and Barry Burke – “Cookie”, Barry Sharpe, Karl and Robbie and local woman Karen Raynor.

From archival footage dug up by Tancred, we also hear from Moriarty, who, with a beer in hand, talks about the feuds in town.

“There are so many motives tucked within each one of these people that you get to a point where everyone is a suspect,” writes movie review website Roger

“That open possibility guides Tancred to uncover each person’s secret.

“Every scene, effective but long in the tooth [two-hour episodes over five chapters], is built on the entertainment value of these oddball figures, sorta like Tiger King but less gross and exploitative.”

The town of Larrimah was awash with feuds, meaning every resident is a suspect. Photo: X

What happened to Paddy?

The ABC, which has covered the case extensively over five years, reported that at the coronial inquest into his disappearance, which ended in early 2022, former Northern Territory coroner Greg Cavanagh found Moriarty had likely been killed on the night he went missing.

“In my opinion Paddy was killed in the context of and likely due to the ongoing feud he had with his nearest neighbours,” he wrote in his findings.

“He likely died on the evening of 16 December, 2017.”

However, Cavanagh said the cause of Moriarty’s death “was not able to be determined”.

On April 6 last year, the ABC reported that counsel assisting Kelvin Currie told the court police placed a listening device inside gardener Laurie’s bungalow about two weeks after Moriarty disappeared.

Laurie had moved into the property after becoming the live-in gardener for pie shop owner Hodgetts in early September 2017.

In one of the recordings played to the courtroom, detectives alleged that a male voice heard talking and singing said: “I killerated old Paddy … f—n killerated him. I struck on the f—n head and killerated him.

” … basherated him, doof, yes he did, basherated him”.

Laurie told the inquest the recordings were not of him, and exercised his right to remain silent, the ABC said.

Hodgetts also testified. She denied claims she had offered to pay up to $10,000 for Moriarty to be killed by a hitman, and told the inquest she had nothing to do with his disappearance.

“I can tell you now, I never ever, ever, ever paid anybody to bump Paddy off,” she said.

No charges have ever been laid.

Last Stop Larrimah is streaming on Netflix now  

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