Claremont serial killer found guilty

 

Accused Claremont serial killer Bradley Robert Edwards has been found guilty of murdering two women in the 1990s in a case that has shocked the nation.

In the West Australian Supreme Court today, Justice Hall handed down his verdict where he found Edwards killed Ciara Glennon and Jane Rimmer.

He said he had concluded Sarah Spiers - whose body was never found - had been murdered, but the question over who her killer was, remained at the heart of the case.

Justice Hall described it as a "trial like no other".

These are the reasonings.

He said there were a number of similarities between the two women's deaths.

A) Both Ciara Glennon and Jane Rimmer were young women

B) Both attended nightclubs in Claremont and were last seen there

C) Both went missing early hour weekend morning

D) Both went missing in a nine month period

E) In both cases they were killed with a sharp force instrument to the neck

F) In both cases there were defensive wounds

G) Both bodies were deposited in semirural locations on outskirts of Perth

H) The position of bodies and how they were covered using the surrounding vegetation

I) Both had fibres consistent with both being in a Holden VS commodore car habitually used by Telstra technician.

"They establish beyond reasonable doubt that the same person killed Ms Glennon and Ms Rimmer," he said.

But Justice Hall said there was not enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Edwards killed Spiers.

December 23 has been earmarked for the day Edwards will learn how long he will remain behind bars.

Justice Hall also ordered that a psychiatric report be prepared ahead of the sentencing whether Edwards takes part in it or not.

It took more than 20 years for WA Police to charge Edwards - with the murders of Rimmer and Glennon. It took them nearly two more years to add the name Sarah Spiers to that indictment, and another year for those charges to finally reach a trial.

 

A court sketch of Bradley Robert Edwards. Picture: AAP
A court sketch of Bradley Robert Edwards. Picture: AAP

It then took exactly seven months for all the evidence against Mr Edwards to be revealed, and examined, questioned and concluded. It has been the longest murder hunt in Australia, and the largest murder trial Western Australia has ever seen.

Justice Hall weighed up everything he has heard over the 95 days presiding over WA's trial of the century.

A CITY IN FEAR

For so long, Perth had the Claremont killings on their minds. So many who were born and raised, and grew and played in the city and the suburbs had their outlooks changed by what happened in 1996 and 1997.

When 18 year-old Sarah - blonde, loved, normal - vanished into the January night, the first paragraph of the first story written about her strange disappearance contained the word which would define the years to come: fear.

Just months later Jane - happy, bubbly, social - also went missing, and the similarities to Sarah's case were so stark that 24 hours after her disappearance, the Macro taskforce was up and running. When her body was found 55 days later, fear turned to grief.

And then when Ciara - independent, intelligent, worldly - also disappeared, fear and grief had turned to terror.

"As a community, we become used to tragedy which is a part of modern life. But this is different. This is a premeditated, systematic assault on the women of Perth. It is a nightmare that has come to life," read the leader in The West Australian.

 

Ciara Glennon, 27, the third victim of the Claremont serial killer.
Ciara Glennon, 27, the third victim of the Claremont serial killer.

 

That nightmare deepened when Ciara's body was found days later. Perth was changed forever.

And as much as police searched, probed, interviewed and tested, chasing tip after tip, and taking statement after statement, the breakthrough - the arrest - never came.

Until it did.

On December 22, 2016 rumours began swirling about a hive of police activity at a house in Kewdale. The Tactical Response Group had turned up early, and a portly man with a three-day stubble had been taken away by detectives.

A drugs raid? Some historical charges? Nothing was official, but one word was being whispered. Macro - the taskforce set up after Jane's vanishing 20 years before.

Early the following morning, Perth held its breath as Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan took a deep one and started to read.

"Detectives from the Special Crime Squad have charged a 48-year-old Kewdale man with the murders of Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon, and attacks on two other women - a 17-year-old in Claremont in 1995 and an 18-year-old in Huntingdale in 1988.

"Investigations into the disappearance and suspected murder of Sarah Spiers in February 1996 are ongoing."

OPENING STATEMENTS - AND OLD WOUNDS

Courtrooms, by design, are neutral spaces - formal, deadpan, unevocative.

But there are some days when what is happening overbears where it is happening. Day one of The State of Western Australia vs Bradley Robert Edwards was one of those days.

Media thronged and strained to see those arriving. Security guards swiped and X-rayed in double time. Residents who had probably never seen the inside of a court before queued before breakfast to get a seat.

And those who were closest to Ms Spiers, Ms Rimmer and Ms Glennon during their lives were present to observe the man said to have caused their deaths. Justice Hall - black robes matching his dark-rimmed glasses - reminded all that this was a "formal occasion not a social one".

 

And then Ms Barbagallo embarked on opening the case so very, very long coming.

"In a 14-month period in the mid-1990s three young, bright, beautiful women vanished off the streets of Claremont under the cover of darkness. Two were found dead, dumped in bushland, covered in foliage and left to rot in the killer's hope that they would never be found," she said.

Sarah Spiers, 18, the first victim of the Claremont serial killer.
Sarah Spiers, 18, the first victim of the Claremont serial killer.

"Despite the killer's best efforts, miraculously the bodies of those two young women were found and the forensic connections to the accused were preserved, recovered and revealed.

"The very things that the killer preyed upon to effectively and efficiently abduct and murder three young women were the very things they, like many other young people, looked forward to doing; going out in Claremont to have an enjoyable night out with a few drinks in the company of friends, and then making their way home safely.

"There were so many questions for which the lack of answers underpinned and cemented the concern and fear that ran through the community. That fear was caused by an enigma of the dark.

"The State over the coming months will demystify that enigma and will prove beyond reasonable doubt, and provide the answer to at least two questions of longstanding … how many killers, and who the killer or killers were.

"The State will prove there was one killer, and that killer is Bradley Robert Edwards."

CONTEMPLATING CONTAMINATION

Sarah's voice, Jane's smile, Ciara's fight. They were the moments that cut through that opening day.

The phone call Sarah made to try and get a taxi home was heard for the first time; CCTV capturing Jane's grin as she descended the stairs at the Continental; and the wounds on Ciara's forearm, which mirrored those on Jane, which showed she had try to fight her killer off.

The DNA under her fingernails, Ms Barbagallo said, showed she had also scratched him.

"In fighting for her life … Ciara Glennon scratched or clawed at the accused with her left hand, which tore the nail of the left thumb almost completely off in the process, but deposited enough of the accused's biological material," Ms Barbagallo said.

Enough being one-fifth of one-billionth of one gram, which had endured for more than 10 years, before it was discovered.

 

Jane Rimmer, 23, the second victim of the Claremont serial killer.
Jane Rimmer, 23, the second victim of the Claremont serial killer.

 

Paul Yovich, the barrister standing between Mr Edwards' and life in prison, accepted it was likely it was his client's. But in no way did he accept how it got there.

"Consider the possibility of cross-contamination with other exhibits at PathWest that did have the accused's DNA on them," he said. "Consider just how remote the chance was here, and whether it can be safely ruled out even if it was remote."

The examples of other blunders at PathWest - intimate swabs from Jane and Ciara found to have the DNA of PathWest scientists on them - were bad. A branch that had been placed on Jane with the DNA of completely unrelated victim on it - was even worse.

The theory, Ms Barbagallo said, was fantasy. Mr Yovich said he intended to make it real life.

EX-WIVES AND SEX LIVES

So much had already been written and speculated about a man that actually very little was known about.

Early 50s, working in much the same job since his 20s. Twice-married, no kids of his own, but seemingly a computer buff who was quiet, civil, hardworking, kind and private.

A lightning bolt brought them together - when it struck her office building sparking out the phones. They were very quickly a couple, and Mr Edwards became a stepfather to the woman's daughter. Home movies from those early years show them happy.

But unprompted comments from her during her evidence hinted at suspicions which peaked in 2014.

"I feared for my life. I was sick and tired of all the lies. I was scared stiffless. I was terrified." But she was never asked what of.

 

Don and Carol Spiers, parents of Sarah Spiers walk from the West Australian District Court. Picture: Getty
Don and Carol Spiers, parents of Sarah Spiers walk from the West Australian District Court. Picture: Getty

 

VICTIMS AND LIVING WITNESSES

Memories of fear. Memories buried but forced to be recalled. Memories of the nights lives changed.

Three women now bonded by the man who attacked them. And many more with a tale of western suburb nights interrupted by a white Telstra car.

For days, dozens of strangers sat in WA's Supreme Court court to listen and watch those layers of privacy stripped away.

His first wife described meeting a young man in 1989 who had moved out of his parents' home and into her Noranda unit in double-quick time.

He would drop her off to work and pick her up at night, leaving her stranded just the once - the day after they had argued about possible marriage.

That day was May 7, 1990 - the day Mr Edwards, said to be deeply upset and disturbed by the pressure being put on him to get engaged - took his jagged emotions out on a complete stranger, a woman working in the same area of Hollywood Hospital as he was.

The relationship became strained, as Mr Edwards spent more time on his computer than on his marriage. And the arrival of a lodger in their home brought more strain. Mr Edwards' wife began sleeping with her lover in the room next to where Edwards' slept.

He then caught them kissing, they left and she got pregnant. Over all that time, three young women had gone missing and been murdered.

 

 

WA Police maps prepared in relation to the Claremont serial killings. Shows the locations where witnesses reported incidences of being approached at night by a Telstra vehicle.
WA Police maps prepared in relation to the Claremont serial killings. Shows the locations where witnesses reported incidences of being approached at night by a Telstra vehicle.

The last of those killings was on March 15, 1997. Mr Edwards met his second wife just over two weeks later.

One-by-one, for a week, these women were given their voice.

The first was a woman who was grabbed from behind as she worked at Hollywood hospital. The second was grabbed from behind as she slept in her own bed. The third was grabbed from behind as she walked home from a Claremont nightclub.

All of them told of terror. All of them had the same thought.

"I thought I was going to die."

The youngest of the three - just 17 when she was abducted as she walked through Rowe Park - had to leave as her statements were being read to the court.

"I was grabbed from behind. I didn't see where the person came from who grabbed me. I struggled by trying to wriggle, pushing my body away from him. I didn't scream, I just froze basically," she said.

"I felt him penetrate me. He lay on top of me and was moving in and out of me. It was very painful."

As was the recall for the friends and family of Sarah, and Jane and Ciara, who told of the last moments together.

WA Police maps prepared in relation to the Claremont serial killings that show where witnesses in the Wellard area heard screams on the night Jane Rimmer was murdered.
WA Police maps prepared in relation to the Claremont serial killings that show where witnesses in the Wellard area heard screams on the night Jane Rimmer was murdered.

Jane's mum Jenny, who remembered her "Stradbroke extra mild cigarettes in her handbag, Ventolin, and a can of beer in her hand when she left".

Abigail Davies telling how her friend Ciara hesitated before joining work colleagues out in Claremont.

And Sarah's sister Amanda, who dropped her off at the pub on her last night alive.

"Sarah got out of the car, walked around to my window, put her arms through the window, gave me a hug and a kiss, and said goodbye."

Those women who remembered a Telstra car gave five different versions of the same story.

And one of them said the driver had even told her he worked in telecommunications - and that he liked to pick up "damsels in distress like yourself".

"The prosecution case is that the lone male driver on each of these occasions is the one and same person and that person is responsible for the abduction and murders of Sarah Spiers, Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon," Ms Barbagallo said,

CRIME SCENES BEHIND SCREENS

It was the grim reality of those murders which came next - so grim that WA's Supreme Court collectively concluded that photographs and video footage of the burial sites of both women - and the autopsies to come - should be revealed to only those who absolutely needed to see them.

"It's distressing for anyone and no doubt deeply distressing to the families," Justice Hall said. "In my view, it's not necessary for anyone other than counsel and me to see this material."

That prompted an unscheduled trip to Officeworks in East Perth - and the purchase of four Epson projector screens - to enabled the state's trial of the century to restart. And when it did, those in attendance spoke of sights they have never forgotten.

 

Lee Rimmer, sister of Jane Rimmer, the second victim of the Claremont serial killings. Picture: Colin Murty The Australian
Lee Rimmer, sister of Jane Rimmer, the second victim of the Claremont serial killings. Picture: Colin Murty The Australian

 

"I'd never forget it. I can still visualise it now, so it affected me in a way that I saw it and was shocked by it and haven't forgotten about it in 20 years," Detective Edward Besson said about the site of Ciara's body.

"I can recall that (seeing Jane's body) as clearly as yesterday," former Detective Jonathan Adams told the court.

And another former Detective, Robert Kays, revealed he organised a non-forensic search around that Wellard crime scene, to also look for the remains of Ms Spiers.

"With the utmost respect to the Spiers family, I don't think we would've been locating a body," he said. "As I understood it, and the information that I had, we were probably looking for a pelvic bone, maybe a skull or maybe some teeth."

YELLOW TOPS

With the screens still up, the trial began to come down to the tiny pieces of nail clippings, placed in yellow-top containers at Ms Glennon's autopsy. Such was the scrutiny of the case, that 15 people as well as pathologist Karin Margolius, were in attendance - including two FBI-trained criminal profilers, Claude Minisini, and Capt David Caldwell.

Dr Clive Cooke, another pathologist, described the horrific injuries suffered by both Jane and Ciara - massive sharp cuts to the neck, and similar defensive wounds on the forearms. Mortuary technician Bob Macdermid also described crucial cuts he had made, to Ms Glennon's manicured nails. "The scissors were too big … the nail was cracked," he said. "But then I went back and had another go of it after that."

 

The scene of the arrest of a suspect in the Claremont serial killings in Perth. Picture: Seven News
The scene of the arrest of a suspect in the Claremont serial killings in Perth. Picture: Seven News

 

 

Labelled AJM 40 to 50, the nails from each finger were clipped and placed into yellow-topped containers, under the gaze of PathWest scientist Laurie Webb, and then handed to forensic police officer Sgt Adam McCulloch.

Their journey from there - into storage, at Pathwest, then to New Zealand, and finally then the UK would dominate the next six weeks - with DNA pioneer Jonathan Whitaker the prosecutions' coup de grace, describing the lab contamination theory as "unreasonable", "implausible" and "highly unlikely".

THE WORLD IS CHANGING - WE ARE NOT

Those adjectives could also have been used to describe the likelihood of a global health crisis taking hold during a globally scrutinised murder trial. And so while the world dealt in lockdowns, Justice Hall refused to close down.

"I appreciate the world outside is changing very rapidly," he said. "Well, we're not (shutting down). The criminal justice system is an essential service. This trial is an important trial and whatever the challenges are, we will meet them."

 

West Australian police commissioner Chris Dawson. Picture: Colin Murty The Australian
West Australian police commissioner Chris Dawson. Picture: Colin Murty The Australian

 

CARS AND FIBRES, AND FIBRES IN CARS

So drive on they did, first to consider Mr Edwards' old work car - found still working after more than 20 years - and then what was found in it following the most exhaustive examination of a vehicle ever undertaken by Perth's ChemCentre lab.

Thirteen blue polyester fibres, which were said to match those found on the bodies of Jane and Ciara. Grey fibres found on them were said to match the car seats and carpet. 98 in all, all microscopic, and all needing to be compared to each other. Day after day, side-by-side, slide-by-slide ChemCentre analyst Rees Powell described the 10 years of meticulous work.

It was all summed up by UK expert Dr Ray Palmer, who said the chance of Jane having been in the car as "strong", and Ciara "very strong".

 

Police continue their forensic investigation at the Kewdale home of Bradley Robert Edwards on December 23, 2016 in Perth, Australia. Picture: Getty
Police continue their forensic investigation at the Kewdale home of Bradley Robert Edwards on December 23, 2016 in Perth, Australia. Picture: Getty

 

BRACE YOURSELF BRADLEY

And so, after so many days, and scenarios, and opinions, and experts, there was one more man to hear from. Bradley Edwards.

After that stunning arrest in December 2016, Detectives Joe Marrapodi and Aaron Capes sat on either side of the unshaven engineer, and quizzed him. That interview was taped. And that tape was the last piece of evidence.

"I just want to go to sleep and to wake up and for this to all be a bad dream," Mr Edwards said at the start of the grilling.

It continued for hours - about Sarah, about Jane, about Ciara. About Claremont. About the rape, about the break-in. He denied them all. But he did agree to a DNA test, a swab inside the cheek rushed off to be tested.

"Brace yourself, Bradley," Det Snr Sgt Marrapodi said as the results were returned to him. "Your DNA sample was a positive result."

The charges were relayed, and then revealed to a stunned Perth public. The beginning replayed at the end. And that was the end of the prosecution's evidence - with Mr Edwards and his legal team given their chance. That chance lasted 89 seconds. Mr Edwards declined to give evidence in person - as was always likely.

But just one document, a temperature chart from 1996, was tendered as a follow up, and that was that. A sprint to the end of a marathon, with the closing ceremony to come.

 

 

Prosecutor Carmel Barbagallo at the Supreme Court of Western Australia in Perth. Picture: AAP
Prosecutor Carmel Barbagallo at the Supreme Court of Western Australia in Perth. Picture: AAP

 

NORMAL MEETS ABNORMAL

Ms Barbagallo pointed to 25 reasons which proved the State's case, a "multiplicity of facts" which had shed light on Perth's "enigma of the dark".

"Forensic evidence which - supported by the evidence - has cast light on and unmasked the killer sought by so many and for so long. Bradley Robert Edwards, we say, is the Claremont serial killer."

But Mr Yovich, in his final submissions, conceded that Jane and Ciara were more than likely killed by the same person - but that person was not Mr Edwards. And what he also suggested was that there may not have even been a Claremont serial killer at all.

"Despite the fact that the community has been acting on that assumption for 20 years … it is perfectly plausible that different offenders are responsible," he said.

 

Originally published as Claremont serial killer found guilty



Ipswich upbringing lifts Barry to Hall of Fame honour

Premium Content Ipswich upbringing lifts Barry to Hall of Fame honour

World-class achiever acknowledges another Ipswich legend. Read about city’s two...

‘Almighty crash’ as alleged carjacker smashes into fence

Premium Content ‘Almighty crash’ as alleged carjacker smashes into fence

Witnesses have described the moment an alleged car thief crashed a stolen car

Tully only councillor not to sign expenses privacy waiver

Premium Content Tully only councillor not to sign expenses privacy waiver

Former councillors and directors of council-owned entities have been asked for...