Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia)

FREEWAY KNIFE MURDER CHARGE

By MARCUS CASEY, ANGELA KAMPER and FRANCES O'SHEA
06sep02
Daily Telegraph (Sydney)

POLICE last night charged a 39-year-old woman with the murder of her estranged husband, who was repeatedly stabbed on a Sydney freeway.

Marlene Reis was taken by police from Royal North Shore hospital yesterday morning and interviewed for several hours at Chatswood police station before being formally charged last night.

The woman, who lives in Pitt St in Sydney's CBD, was refused bail and will remain in custody until she appears before Hornsby Local Court this morning.

She is accused of murdering her husband Michael Reis, from whom she separated two years ago.

Just nine months ago Mr Reis realised a dream by opening an indigenous art gallery and restaurant in ritzy Double Bay.

But within three months Bay Fusion in Cross St was closed due to financial difficulties.

On Wednesday the former Queensland restaurateur died in front of terrified motorists on the Gore Hill Freeway at Artarmon.

The gregarious 51-year-old father of a 12-year-old daughter was attacked during the peak hour traffic at 8.45am.

Mr Reis died after abandoning his Saab near the Pacific Hwy exit of the freeway.

Peak-hour traffic came to a standstill as dozens of witnesses saw Mr Reis attempt to escape a woman wearing a black leather coat who was also seen leaving the Saab.

Yesterday friends were struggling to deal with the death of the Queensland-born Chinese Australian who championed Aboriginal art and Australian produce.

They said Mr Reis had been through personal problems including the separation from his wife.

"Bloody hell, what a terrible thing to happen," said friend Ken Dickson, an Aboriginal cultural consultant and artist who provided artworks for Bay Fusion.

"Michael was a lovely, friendly bloke. He was going through some hard times – he and his wife, who is a lady from a Scandinavian country, had separated.

"Not long after that his business was forced to close.

"There were some financial problems but I know he was trying to open another restaurant – and now this has happened. I can't believe it."

Mr Reis opened Bay Fusion in Cross St, Double Bay, last December with chef and partner Peter Jurd.

The chef shared Mr Reis' Lane Cove home but moved out after the business collapsed.

"We would see him taking his daughter to school," said a neighbour who did not wish to be identified.

"He kept to himself a lot and never spoke to any of the neighbours.

"We're all concerned about what is going to happen to the daughter."

Mr Reis hung Aboriginal artefacts and artworks on the walls of his restaurant he opened in December.

He had hoped to sell the pieces on behalf of the artists.

"This is a fusion restaurant with native dishes along with European and other cafe standards," he said at the time.

"It's also good to be promoting Aboriginal culture – it's something new for Double Bay."

The rent at the Double Bay restaurant in Cross St was about $80,000 a year. Despite being given one month's rent break on the property, Mr Reis and his business partner Mr Jurd owed too much rent to continue in the property.

"I think they really went into it in a half-hearted way," one business associate said.

An agent who leased the property said the landlord had no option but to close their doors.

"They didn't pay their rent so we locked them out," he said.

Employees at nearby shops, who recalled Mr Reis as a charming, friendly man, said the premises had since been locked up.

One clothing shopkeeper, who did not wish to be named, said she was shocked by news of the stabbing.

She said Mr Reis used to drop into their store to chat all the time.

She said he was divorced at the time and it appeared he had gone through financial struggles.

"He was a very friendly, nice man. He was really a gentleman, he had a way about him – I feel really sad for him," she said.

"One moment they were open for business then suddenly the doors of the business were locked and he never came back.

"One day they were here, the next day they were locked out."

Yesterday Mr Reis' mobile telephone was switched on with a message from him saying: "How come no one ever rings when the phone is switched on?" before asking callers to leave a message.

© Mirror Australian Telegraph Publications