Category: Serial Killers

Tynong North Killings – unsolved Australian murders

 

Catherine Headland.
Catherine Headland.

I wrote about the unsolved Australian crime known as the Tynong North Killings which was published online and in the local newspaper Berwick Leader.

READ: Tynong North-Frankston killings remain some of Australia’s worst unsolved murders

I spoke to the childhood best friend of one of the victims Catherine Headland. Reading about this series of murders is as shocking now as it would’ve been in 1980 when the skeletal remains of Catherine, 14, were found along with those of two other victims — Ann-Marie Sargent, 18, and Bertha Miller, 75 — at a secluded bush track off Brew Rd, Tynong North. There were also the murders of two other women from Frankston (a south-east bayside suburb of Melbourne) and another woman whose remains were found in Tynong North. The killings are believed by many to be by the same killer.

The memorial plaque to Catherine Headland at Akoonah Park, Berwick, Victoria.
The memorial plaque to Catherine Headland at Akoonah Park, Berwick, Victoria.

Catherine’s best friend Cheryl Goldsworthy is making another plea for anyone with information to tell the police. Time is ticking to solve this case. Victoria Police have had a prime suspect for years, there’s just not enough evidence to charge the man. This man is in his 80s now, if he is still alive.

Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

 

 

Luck of the Irish: Dr John Bodkin Adams

My second true crime book Angels of Death was released early this year. One of my favourite cases I covered in the book was that of  doctor John Bodkin Adams.

BUY THE BOOK HERE

The case of Dr John Bodkin Adams was a worldwide sensation in 1950s. The portly general practitioner lived and worked in the south coast English seaside town Eastbourne and he had a reputation for being a particularly attentive doctor, especially to elderly wealthy widows.

Dr John Bodkin Adams

 

 

READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER at Herald Sun True Crime Scene

Adams received money from over 300 wills and was left property, jewels, silverware and the luxury cars he so loved.

When police started investigating the death of one of Dr Adams’s wealthy widows it seemed that the good doctor may have been a serial murderer…

 

 

 

Angels of Death – Charles Cullen

 

angels cover 2015

I’m excited to share with you that my second true crime book is out in stores in Australia and available in ebook.

It is called Angels of Death and features cases of nurses and doctors who were serial killers.

The first chapter is about Charles Cullen, the New Jersey nurse who is believed to have killed hundreds of people during his time working in hospitals.

The Herald Sun has run the extract: Angels of Death tells how nurse Charles Cullen killed patients

Angels of Death is published by The Five Mile Press

Hawaii Unsolved Murders

 

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Hawaii has always intrigued me.

I have been fortunate to have visited Oahu twice – when I was 9 and 15 and it was beautiful. I especially loved the night markets and the friendliness of people. I’d like to return to Hawaii for a holiday now that I am an adult.

Of course, there are the television shows that have been set in Hawaii – Magnum PI and one I loved (but didn’t last long) The Byrds of Paradise.

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But for all the beauty and seeming casualness of Hawaiian life, there is a dark side to the island life and that’s most evident in the unsolved murders that police are still actively trying to solve.

I was intrigued by a more than decade-old article by the Honlolulu Advertiser about unsolved murders from the 1970s and 1980s.

It appears that a serial killer was active in 1985-1986 as there are five cases of women murdered in Honolulu. The killer has been dubbed The Honolulu Strangler and has not been caught. The victims were aged from 17 to 36.

There is also the horror case of eight-year-old Roiti Dias (below) who was kidnapped while walking to school on May 27, 1980, and later found dead with her throat slashed. No one has ever been arrested for her murder.

Another girl, Jiezhao Li, 12, was last seen on Feb. 11, 1988, selling fundraiser tickets near a 7-Eleven store in a Honolulu suburb called Nuuanu. She is still missing.

These unsolved crimes haunt detectives.

And a recent report on the Kauai cold case unit to say that they have not forgotten victims and investigators are actively working with the island’s prosecution office to crack these cases.

– The 1981 gunshot slayings of Californians John Klein, 28 and his wife Michelle, 25 who were vacationing on Kauai. Their bodies were found on a tourist trail and had been shot seven times.

Their murders unsettled tourists and was a set back to state officials and locals, who were trying to reassure people that Hawaii was safe to visit after some other high-profile instances of attacks visitors. There had been a gang rape of a Finnish woman, 23, by a gang of local teenagers in 1979, which attracted national coverage and condemnation over the shoddy handling of rape cases by the State.

One theory for the murders of the Kleins is that the couple – he a lawyer and she a publicist – stumbled across a marijuana crop. An Associated Press article from January 3, 1982 called “Marijuana Blight: Hawaii Paradise Threatened by Hidden Cultivation” reported that six months after the couple’s death, police harvested almost a tonne of weed within a mile of where their bodies were discovered.

Information on these cases and more can be found on the website of the Kaua’i Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.

Anyone reading this blog who has information that could solve any of these homicides should contact Honolulu Crime Stoppers or the Kauai County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney at 808-241-1888 or via email: coldcase@kauai.gov

Rose West: The Making of a Monster

Criminologist  Jane Carter Woodrow presents a deeper examination of Rose West in Rose West: The Making of a  Monster, published in 2011.

From years of research into West, Carter Woodrow presents evidence and detail that Rose was the driving force in the murders and sexual depravity with her husband Fred. The couple is notorious as the perpetrators of “The House of Horrors” murders in the early 70s through to the late 1980s where young women and the children of Fred and Rose were sexually abused, tortured and murdered to satiate the couple’s perverted desires.

The book goes into great detail about West’s early years. She was the product of two mentally ill parents – her father was a paranoid schizophrenic who terrorised his eight children. The book reveals that Rose’s father  Bill Letts groomed his daughter, who learned that the abuse meant that she wouldn’t be targeted for her father’s brutality. By age 13, Rose was sexually abusing her two younger brothers.

While the book focuses mainly on Rose, Carter Woodrow also details Fred West’s depraved upbringing and the fact that the union of Fred and Rose (she met Fred when she was just 16) was like the “perfect storm” of dysfunction and danger that saw Rose become one of Britain’s worst sexual predators and serial killers.

Carter Woodrow draws from previous books written about the pair, including Fred & Rose by Howard Sounes. For those who have read about the Wests before, they will be familiar with the timeline of murder and the pair’s crimes, which are also detailed in this book but what is different is the extensive look at Rose’s childhood and the events that led to her behaviour. Carter Woodrow find evidence that it was Rose, rather than Fred who was the stronger of the two – the dominant force in the sick relationship. In fact it is believed by some investigators that it was Rose who did most of the murders and Fred disposed of the bodies. The abuse that The Wests own children suffered is also sickening, shocking and unfathomable.

Rose West: The Making of a  Monster is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

 

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

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I re-read The Stranger Beside Me by true crime queen Ann Rule, last week. I hadn’t read it for almost 20 years and it was like I was reading it for the first time.

The Stranger Beside Me is about serial killer Ted Bundy. What makes this book stand out from the rest is that Ann Rule actually knew Bundy. She worked with him on a suicide prevention line in the 1970s and she got to know him quite well. Rule injects the story of Bundy’s life and crimes with the fascinating insights and experiences she shared with the psychology graduate and aspiring lawyer. Little did she know Bundy was a mass murderer.

Bundy is infamous for his intelligence, good looks and charm. This is how he lured so many young, smart, beautiful young women to their deaths.

Re-reading about Bundy’s crimes has left me thinking so much about personal safety and how a criminally intelligent and sexually psychopathic Bundy was able to kill women so easily. So many of his victims went missing literally hundreds of metres from their destinations. One victim, who was vacationing at an Aspen lodge with her boyfriend and his children, simply walked from the lodge’s communal lounge to her room to fetch a magazine and she was never seen again.

Bundy lured many of his victims with the ruse of being a police officer or wearing a fake leg cast or arm sling. He asked women to help him carry things to his car. Bundy seemed “normal” and polite and he picked his victims carefully.

Bundy was put to death in 1989. In his last interview, the day before his execution, Bundy told interviewer Dr James Dobson (Dobson a psychologist and founder of the Christian ministry Focus on the Family) that he blamed his crimes on exposure to hardcore pornography. The interview is available to watch on YouTube and well worth a look.

In my mind he is one of the most chilling serial killers ever (I mean all serial killers are disturbing in the extreme) because he was able to fit into society so easily. I constantly asked myself whether I would have gone to help Bundy had he asked me? The women and girls he murdered were smart, caring women who had the world at their feet. It also made me ponder how I will balance teaching my daughters to be safe and wary of potentially dangerous situations but also letting them enjoy life.

I love Ann Rule’s work. She is one of my true crime favourites and deserves her reputation as a queen of true crime writing.

This is a true crime classic. An absolute must-read if you are into true crime. It has sold more than two million copies.

The Jeffrey Dahmer Story: An American Nightmare

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was terrifying.  This book is a well-paced detailing of Dahmer’s life and horrific crimes. It also features a lot of historic background about Milwaukee – the city where Dahmer stalked,  murdered and in some cases ate, his victims.

Dahmer could be seen as the worst case scenario of scores of young, aimless men with substance abuse problems (he was a chronic alcoholic) who drift through life having brushes with the law. Dahmer was a convicted pedophile and from an early age a

In 1991, when 31-year-old Dahmer was arrested he had killed at least 17 young men (there is some concern that he may be responsible for several missing persons cases in Germany where he was stationed for two years) and that  this was done with such ease is truly terrifying, He preyed on young, vulnerable men on the streets or in gay bars.

Dahmer could have been stopped earlier. One of his victims – a 14-year-old Laotian boy with limited English – escaped Dahmer’s flat dazed and bleeding but the killer convinced police they they were having a lover’s quarrel. He was escorted back to the flat by police and Dahmer went on to kill several more men.

Interestingly last week the man who beat Dahmer to death in prison in 1994 has been reported as looking for a book deal.

There are a lot of books written about Jeffrey Dahmer, including an excellent one I read years ago by his father Lionel however The Jeffrey Dahmer Story: An American Nightmare is considered one of the best and was a New York Times bestseller.

The Trash Bag Murderer by Tony Stewart

 

 

When true crime author Tony Stewart contacted me to review his book THE TRASH BAG MURDERER I was intrigued. Not only had I never heard of the “Trash Bag Killer” Patrick Kearney but there was also the added intrigue that the author was a survivor of this serial killer.

As a child and youth, Tony Stewart lived in the same Californian neighbourhood as Kearney (he even did odd jobs for the serial killer) and he and his brother Ron separately had encounters with him that, unbelievably, did not end in their grisly deaths. (When you read the book you will discover the horrific manner in which Kearney killed his victims. In short, Kearney preyed on young men, teens and even children.).

“…Personally, I did not perceive any abnormal or peculiar characteristics in his persona; he appeared to be a calm, soft-spoken considerate man, but this compassion turned out to be pure deception to lure victims to their deaths. My brother and I were fortunate, we escaped…” author Tony Stewart, The Trash Bag Murderer.

Kearney, an engineer with an IQ of 180 (genius territory) turned himself in to authorities in 1977 (along with his lover and room mate David Hill) and confessed to the murders of over 32 males (the true number is thought to me up to 43). Hill was never convicted for lack of evidence. The details of Kearney’s crimes are very tough to read but Stewart has been thorough in his detailing of the victims’ lives and how they came to be killed.

What I liked about this book is the personal element of Stewart’s knowledge of Kearney and also the extensive research that the author has put into the story. As a working  journalist I appreciated the research and determination Stewart has communicated in his work. A quest for the truth and also a respect for the victims and their families is at the heart of the book and Stewart has been dogged in chasing up case files and details of Kearney and the police investigation into his crimes that span the 1960s and 1970s in California and even Mexico.

There is plenty of extra content in this book beside the story – transcripts of interviews, a summary of Kearney’s crimes and letters from relatives of the victims. There’s also the extra-fascinating chapter where Stewart ponders whether Kearney could be the infamous Zodiac Killer who has never been found.

Verdict: Definitely worth a read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fred & Rose by Howard Sounes

I first read Fred & Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors by British journalist Howard Sounes in 1996. I can remember being shocked by the story then but on re-reading it (and perhaps with age, gaving children and having lived in England for many years) the book was absolutely disturbing – stuff of nightmares.

Fred & Rose West murdered at least nine women (including their own daughter) together in their home in Gloucester. These crimes happened over the 70s to the early 1990s and there is wide speculation that they could have murdered many more. Their crimes were discovered in 1994. Fred West also murdered at least two other women on his own and Rose, her stepdaughter while her husband was in jail.

Fred West didn’t live to face up to his crimes. He hung himself in a police cell on New Year’s Day 1995. Rose West will spend the rest of her life in jail.

The Wests were  two people who together, were a nightmare pairing. Their fatal attraction resulted in nine young women being sexually tortured, raped and mudered. Worse still, Fred dismembered their bodies and their is information in the book from experts that this was more than just a means to bury these women, rather is was part of Fred West’s sexual deviancies.

The Wests presented a facade of being a hard-working, loving family, They had four children together and Rose had four others, most likely fathered by the men she slept with at the notorious 25 Cromwell Street, dubbed “The House of Horrors” by Sounes who was a reporter on the Sunday Mirror and covered the crimes and the trial. The Wests children were also abused and tortured.

The Wests were able to kill and abuse for so many years undetected for many reasons that all conspired together to create the depravity that has made them some of the worst murderers in history. There was the troubled and poor family background the pair came from, their obsession with violent sex, the inadequacies of the social services in Britain at the time and the failure of some families of the murder victims to report their girls missing.  The Wests were able to gain the trust of women they picked up because they “seemed” like a (relatively) normal couple and trawled the streets together in their car to pick up hitchhikers.  One of the most chilling parts of the book – besides the grotesque and cuel crimes of the Wests – was a brief mention by Sounes that colleagues of Detective Constable Hazel Savage (DC Savage pushed for an initial search of 25 Cromwell St, which led to the discovery of the crimes) that:

“…if it weren’t for Hazel being held in such high esteem within the force (Gloucestershire Police), and had been so persistent, that nothing would ever have been done…” (pg 230)

This is a must-read for those interested in true crime. Very, very sad, shocking and disturbing but Sounes has written the facts and offers on opinion until the end in the epilogue. There is no fat on this book. It is detailed and well-paced. The chapters on Rose and Fred’s childhoods and family lives are fascinating and well-researched.

Fred & Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors is published by Sphere.

Dean Corll and the lost boys of Houston

I thought  I knew about most serial killers and multiple murderers but this week I discovered mass murders from the 1970s, which haunt a city and countless families to this day.

In 1973, Dean Corll was found shot to death in Houston – information from the young men who shot the former candy salesman to death led police to the mutilated bodies of 27 boys. This was, at the time, the largest multiple murder in United States history.  These young teens simply vanished. They were from loving homes and going about normal daily life when they disappeared.

Corll (also known as The Candy Man) had young accomplices – David Brooks and Wayne Henley – who killed Corll, led police to the horrific discovery of the victims and are both serving life sentences for their part in the crimes. (Henley and Brooks helped lure victims to Corll and were both abused by him too.)

Author Skip Hollandsworth wrote an amazing longform article  in April 2011 on the crimes for Texas Monthly called The Lost Boys. (To acess the full article sign up for the Texas Monthly site) It is truly one of the best pieces of journalism I have read. the anchor of Hollandsworth’s article is the elderly mother of one of the boys murdered by Corll. I say much more except that the heartbreak and halted lives of the families of the victims is sensitively conveyed.

Sharon Derrick, a forensic anthropologist at the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences was working to identify bodies from the murders. (Here’s a good article that explains her work and dedication.)

There’s also the dedicated work by author Barbara Gibson, managing editor of Texascrimenews.com, who has researched and reported on the Houston mass murders for a number of years and discovered two misidentified victims of Corll.

Corll was a serial killer but back when he was killing, the term “serial killer” was not well known, nor was criminal profiling. Police wrote the boys off as runaways, despite the information from their families.

 

 

The Cruel City by Stephen Orr

Is Adelaide the murder capital of Australia?

The Cruel City by Stephen Orr presents some of Adelaide’s most notorious and gruesome crimes – and the city has had a lot of them. Also known as the city of churches, Adelaide is probably Australia’s “most English” city – refined, quiet and hosts a world-renowned arts fringe festival.

There’s the well-known crimes – The Snowtown killings (or “the bodies in the barrels”), The Truro Murders from the 1970s and of course, the disappearance of the Beaumont children, which is probably the greatest unsolved crime in Australian history. If the truth about what happened to the Beaumont children, or if their remains were ever found, it would be one of the biggest news stories EVER. On Australia day in 1966 Jane, nine, Arnna, seven and Grant, 4 disappeared from a morning at the beach at Glenelg. My mum says she remembered the media coverage at the time (she was 14) and said that it was very common back then  for kids to go off by themselves for the day.

The author opens the book with an intriguing story from Orr about a stranger who knocked on his home door one day claiming to know what happened to The Beaumont children. At the time Orr was writing his book on the mystery called Time’s Long Ruin.

For someone like me who is fairly knowledgeable about crime (only because I read so much about it!), this book was a great read because there were some crimes I had never heard of like the Hope Forest Massacres. (In 1971 Clifford Bartholomew killed 10 of his family – his seven children, wife, sister-in-law and her 16-month-old son on a single morning.)

The chapters on Bevan Spencer von Einem and The Family Murders and The Truro murders are comprehensive and enough to give you a good idea of what happened in just one chapter each. (I didn’t know that Truro serial killer Chris Worrell killed four women in separate incidents in just one week.) Worrell’s killing (seven women) was cut short by his death in a car accident in 1977. His accomplice James Miller, who did not take part in the murders but did nothing to stop them said “if he [Worrell] had lived, maybe seventy would have been killed…”.

The Cruel City: is Adelaide the murder capital of Australia by Stephen Orr was published by Allen & Unwin in 2011.

 

Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son: The Story of Peter Sutcliffe

Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son: The Story of Peter Sutcliffe was one of the first true crime books I read and it remains one of the best I have read.

 

Written by the late Gordon Burn in 1984, this book is a study of the serial killer known as the The Yorkshire Ripper who killed 13 women in the late 1970s and 1980 and was sentenced to life in 1981.

Gordon Burn spent three years living in Sutcliffe’s home town of Bingley, researching his life and absorbing the environment that led to his telling of the life of the man who had the North of England in fear during the 1970s (which wasn’t the most positive decade anyway in Britain).

Burn’s writing transplants the reader right into the life of Peter Sutcliffe and quite successfully into what Burn imagines is his mind. This book is a modern true crime classic, written long before the “true crime” genre became so popular. It is oft likened to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

Peter Sutcliffe is jailed at the infamous Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital for the criminally insane.