Category: True Crime News

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Silent Night Deadly Night

Being Christmas I had a thought about the controversial 1984 film Silent Night, Deadly Night.

I was eight years old in 1984 and I remember some new reports about the furore the film’s release caused in the United States, Australia (where I’m from) and other countries.

We were frequent visitors to our local video store and I remember as a kid glancing at the horror movie covers, including Silent Night, Deadly Night and wishing I could watch them. (May sound weird but I do like a decent horror film.)

This slasher film is about a young man, who after witnessing his parents murdered by a criminal donning a Santa Suit and surviving childhood in an orphanage turns into a spree killer.

The film’s advertising was what causes the worldwide outrage. The film poster depicted a hand of Santa emerging from a chimney and clutching an axe. The tagline was: “You’ve made it through Halloween, now try and survive Christmas”.

A Milwaukee protest at the opening of Silent Night, Deadly Night in November 1984.
A Milwaukee protest at the opening of Silent Night, Deadly Night in November 1984.

The R-rated film was released in the United States on November 9 1984 and immediately the public was in uproar. By the end of November, the film’s distributor Tri Star Picturs dropped plans for a wider release. The film had performed poorly in the selected markets it was shown (The Northeast and Midwest of America) due to the media attention on the protests and complaints. An article “Christmas horror film dropped from distribution” (Gadsden Times, November 24, 1984) stated the film’s earnings declined after Tri Star stopped the controversial television ads for the movie. The commercials had shown a man in a Santa suit swinging an axe and shooting a gun.

But according to Box Office Mojo on the film’s opening weekend it screened in 398 theatres in the US and made USD$1,432,800. The film’s budget was reportedly USD$750,000. The opening weekend takings  actually more than the now legendary horror film Nightmare on Elm Street, which opened the same weekend and made USD$1,271,000 (it played in 165 theatres).

Local television stations were reportedly bombarded with complaints from parents who said the commercials for the film were too scary for children who could not discern the fact that the person in the film was not actually Santa.

Tri Star marketing vice president Steve Randell (who would have truly earned his money doing issues crisis management) told The Pittsburgh Press (November 16, 1984) “The picture doesn’t present Santa as a killer. It’s the story of of a man who dresses as Santa Claus who is the murderer”.

A pressure group called Citizens Against Movie Madness picketed the film’s opening and were vocal in the local media about their objections to the movie. Their campaign was picked up nationally. The founder of the group, Kathleen Eberhardt said of their efforts: “I guess all of my griping did some good”. Ms Eberhardt told a reporter from Los Angeles Times said she did not believe the group was practising censorship but would lobby any future sequels to the original film.

All the controversy went on to give the film somewhat of a cult status.
All the controversy went on to give the film somewhat of a cult status.

The film went on to get a cult status, mostly due to the controversy around the film’s marketing. But according to reviews, it was really a storm in a teacup. The movie wasn’t actually that scary or more violent than any other of its ilk.

A review in the Schenectady Gazette called it “cinematic garbage”. The Boston Phoenix said: “…it’s not a particularly gory film, or even a particularly suspenseful one…”.

The Toledo Blade’s film critic at large said “To say ‘Deadly Night is blasphemous would be an understatement. It’s an absolute travesty…”.

There were several sequels made.

I never did end up seeing the original movie…


Murdered teen 40 year mystery

I wanted to give a shout out to an outstanding digital journalism project by Journal Sentinel reporter Gina Barton.

The series called “Unsolved” is in chapters and podcasts and focuses on the very cold case murder of Milwaukee, Wisconsin teen Johnny Zera in 1976.

I have a lot of respect for journalists like Gina who get passionate about a case and set about giving a digital footprint to cold cases.
Unsolved  A murdered teen, a 40-year mystery - Google Chrome_2015-11-27_11-55-40


Wynarka suitcase girl and Belanglo “Angel” woman are mother and daughter

Wynarka suitcase girl identified as Khandalyce Kiara Pearce.
Wynarka suitcase girl identified as Khandalyce Kiara Pearce.

HUGE development in two Australian murder mysteries with the remains of the Wynarka suitcase girl and unidentified female dumped in Belanglo State Forest in NSW found to be related.

AND these remains have been identified.


For months the of the identity of a little girl’s remains found in a suitcase on a roadside in South Australia has been one of Australia’s most baffling cases. Detectives have worked tirelessly to identify the little girl whose bones were found alongside clothes and a quilt in the suitcase, dumped along Karoonda Highway near Wynarka, SA in July this year.

Today it was revealed the girl is Khandalyce Kiara Pearce, born in Alice Springs, Northern Territory in 2006.

And in a major breakthrough police have also found that remains found in Belanglo State Forest in August 2010 are those of Khandalyce’s mum Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson.  She had been dubbed “Angel” by police and media because she was found with a t-shirt bearing an angelic motif.

Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson is the "Angel" found in Belanglo State Forest.
Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson is the “Angel” found in Belanglo State Forest.

In a medial release from SAPOL today the significant development began on October 8 when a call to Crime Stoppers suggested Khandalyce as  possibly being the little girl in the suitcase. The caller had not seen Khandalyce or Ms Pearce-Stevenson for some time and believed they were missing.

Major Crime Detectives obtained Khandalyce’s records which showed she was immunised at 18 months.  There was no further record of her after that.

Investigators then located a witness who had seen Khandalyce and her mother at Marion Shopping Centre, Adelaide in November 2008. She had taken photos of Khandalyce wearing a pink dress.  That dress is identical to that found with the remains in the suitcase.

Police were also provided with photos of Khandalyce in a stroller with the handmade quilt that was also found in the suitcase.

The quilt became a significant part of the investigation and police sought the help of quilters from around Australia to try and identify the young child.

The quilt found with the remains of Khandalyce.
The quilt found with the remains of Khandalyce.

According the police the last known sighting of the pair was on Saturday, 8 November 2008 when Ms Pearce-Stevenson was driving on the Stuart Highway near Coober Pedyin south Australia.  Khandalyce was aged just two.

Family and friends of the victims said they were from a loving family but in 2008 Karlie moved away from the family and started to travel.

Head of Major Crime, Detective Superintendent Des Bray said: “Contact with the family became less over time and on 4 September 2009 Ms Pearce-Stevenson’s mother raised a Missing Person Report with the Northern Territory Police.

“It is understood that report was closed on 10 September 2009 after it was believed Ms Pearce-Stevenson was safe and well but did not want family contact,” Det-Supt Bray said.

According to newspaper reports Karlie’s mother had since passed away.

NSW Police Homicide Commander, Detective Superintendent Mick Willing said there were now many lines of enquiry to follow.

“While we will do our best to keep the community informed, we need to first establish fact from fiction and ensure we avoid speculation, which could damage our investigations,” Det Supt Willing said.

Det Supt Bray said: “It is with community assistance that we have reached this very important breakthrough, but it is important to note the identification is only the beginning of the investigation.”

Anyone with information should contact crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


Crime news wrap

Some crime stories from around the web:

– Study identifies traits of serial killer nurses (The Guardian) Read here.

– Ipswich, England murder of young mum still a mystery 21 years on. (Ipswich Star) Read here.


– The murder of three Washington DC police officers in a shooting rampage is remembered 20 years on. (CBS Local) Read here.

– Police identify body of a Canadian man who went missing 30 years ago. ( Read here.

– Hollywood Actor Ashton Kutcher’d girlfriend was murdered by a serial killer when they were dating back in 2001 (InTouch) Read here.





Justin Tapp death inquest


Here is an update I have written to this August 25 blog post on the Tapp murders about the tragic effect the crimes have had on the surviving family, namely Justin Tapp, who died earlier this year at age 44. Mr Tapp was traumatised by his mother and sister’s death and struggled for the rest of his life with depression and alcohol abuse.

AN INQUEST in England into the death of an Australian man whose mother and sister were murdered 30 years ago in Melbourne has delivered an open verdict.

Justin Tapp, who was 14 when his mother Margaret Tapp and nine-year-old sister Seana Tapp were killed on August 7, 1984, died earlier this year.

Mr Tapp was not at his family’s Kelvin Drive, Ferntree Gully home on the night of the still unsolved murders and moved to England in 2001 where he lived until his death.

He was found dead in his Wycombe bedsit on June 3 by ex-girlfriend Wendy O’Donovan, with whom he had remained friends in the years since their separation.

Ms O’Donovan told the Buckinghamshire Coroners’ Court on September 23 that Mr Tapp had problems with alcohol and had tried several times to commit suicide.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had depression.

The body of Mr Tapp, aged 44, was in such a state of decomposition that the cause of his death could not be found by a post-mortem.

Police found a book and other literature about suicide near his body.

Accounts from neighbours on Mr Tapp’s last known movements indicate he may have died around a week before he was found.

The Bucks Free Press newspaper reported that Mr Tapp had no family living in Britain and it was after a concerned aunt in Australia contacted Ms O’Donovan that she went to his flat.

The coroner’s court heard that Ms O’Donovan looked through the window and saw Mr Tapp collapsed on the floor.

A former neighbour of Mr Tapp, Charlotte Kirby, contacted True Crime Reader via a comment on the blog post “Margaret and Seana Tapp murders – more tragedy”  and said she knew nothing of his traumatic history until she read about it last week on the front page of her local newspaper Bucks free Press.

Ms Kirby told True Crime Reader that Mr Tapp was a ‘very quiet and private man’ and she wished they had talked more.

“I felt really bad about his death and cried when I read the newspaper,” Ms Kirby said.

She said they both lived in an old house in Wycombe that had been split into three flats and Mr Tapp lived in the basement one.

They both moved away in 2011.

“Justin did not wish to be bothered really by the world,” Ms Kirby said.

“It is just a shame that he lived in isolation, but with that kind of trauma in his past, no wonder.”

Ms Kirby said she had often wondered about Mr Tapp’s past.

“I suspected there were reasons for his departure from Australia and even asked him why he left,” Ms Kirby said.

“All he told me was that he had grown tired of Australia.

“I just pray he rests in peace and that he has a decent funeral and resting place.”


The cold case murder of Margaret and Seana Tapp is one of Victoria’s biggest mysteries. On August 7, 1984 Margaret Tapp, 35 was strangled in her bed. Seana, 9 was sexually assaulted and also strangled.There was no sign or forced entry, which suggested that the killer was familiar with the house. The backdoor had a broken latch and could not be locked. A neighbour heard a muffled scream at around 11pm and other neighbours heard the Tapp’s dog barking frantically, which was not usual. The murders of the mother and daughter were not discovered until 6pm the next day when a friend of Mrs Tapp arrived to take her on a pre-arranged date.

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

AUTHOR EVENT – The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama by Julie Szego



Australian journalist and author Julie Szego will speak in Perth on Tuesday october 14 about her true crime book The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama.

In 2008, 21-year-old Farah Jama, who had arrived in Australia as a refugee from Somalia, was sentenced to six years behind bars for the rape of a middle-aged woman as she lay unconscious in a Doncaster (ED NOTE: an eastern suburb of Melbourne) nightclub. Throughout the trial Jama had maintained his innocence against the accusations he committed such a heinous crime. But the Prosecution had one ‘rock solid’ piece of evidence that nailed the accused – his DNA.

In 2010 his conviction was overturned and Szego tells the whole story of how a young man came to be convicted of rape and the failings of the justice system. Szego’s book has had praise from people including Julian Burnside, AO QC, barrister, human rights and refugee advocate.

ED NOTE: I wish I was in Perth so I could attend!

DETAILS: ‘The Tainted trial of Farah Jama’ by Julie Szego, Tue 14 Oct, 7-8pm cost $19

To book go to

The book is published by Wild Dingo Press


Been a bit quiet here

Hi everyone. I felt the need to explain why posts have been a little sporadic at True Crime Reader.

I am head down into writing my second book, which will have more of an international crime flavour.

My first book Murder in Suburbia is going well and I’m getting lots of feedback from readers. Thanks to everyone for the support.

Writing books is HARD. I’m finding is harder to write my second now that i know how much work and research goes into it. I had absolutely NO idea (which was probably a good thing) when I embarked on writing Murder in Suburbia.

I’ll get back into regular posts asap. In the meantime, please keep in touch and let me know what books you are reading at the moment!



Crime news roundup

Some crime news and links from around the web:

Missing in America – There are over 87,000 adults and children listed as missing in the United States and most of these cases receive no media coverage. Read more.  (HuffPost Live, November 9, 2013)

Karen Williams cold case – In Australia, South Australian detectives have mad an arrest in the 23-year-old mystery of 16-year-old Karen Michelle Williams’s disappearance and presumed murder. On  November u, 2013, police charged 42-year-old Nikola Novakovich with murder. He was the last person to see Karen alive and had been interviewed numerous times over the years. Police are currently searching for Karen’s remains in Coober Pedy, where she was last seen. Read more. (, November 8, 2012)

Siberian serial killer Mikhail Popkov – A former policeman known as a ‘perfect husband and father’ led a secret life as serial killer who murdered at least two dozen women in Siberia. Read more. (, November 7, 2013)

Hunt for French Riviera Serial Killer – A hunt for a serial killer is underway after the skeletal remains of four people, including a skull with ‘Death to paedophiles’ written across it, were found off the French coast. Read more. (, November 8, 2013)

Young detective turns mass killer – English writer and journalist David Thomas writes the true story of a talented German detective who catches a serial killer in Wartime Berlin, but then goes on to become a Nazi war criminal. The book is called OstlandRead more. (, November 8, 2013)

There are 1000 unidentified bodies on UK police files


uk Missing Persons Bureau
Artist impression of the a man whose decomposed body recovered from the shore at Poole Harbour on January 6 2000. Picture: UK MISSING PERSONS BUREAU


There was a BBC article this week that shocked me.

There are currently around 1000 unidentified bodies on police files. Some of these bodies date back 50 years.

This is so sad and baffling. How is it that people can go missing and NO ONE tries to find out what happened? I understand that many of these bodies will be people from Europe or other countries but still, how does this happen?


This woman aged between 17-25 was struck by vehicles on the A1 near Baldock, Hertfordshire at 0615. Her body was found on February 18, 1975. Last seen by witness at 0530 hours, she stated she was heading for London. Had a foreign accent. picture: UK MISSING PERSONS BUREAU
This woman aged between 17-25 was struck by vehicles on the A1 near Baldock, Hertfordshire at 0615. Her body was found on February 18, 1975. Last seen by witness at 0530 hours, she stated she was heading for London. Had a foreign accent. picture: UK MISSING PERSONS BUREAU


The website UK Missing Persons Bureau gives details of these bodies but despite it being “live” for seven months, there have been no new leads on any of the cases.

News roundup

True crime news from around the world:

– The widow of an Atlanta police officer, who was killed on duty, died this week. The 1980 murder of officer Alfred Johnson remains unsolved. Sadly, his widow Mildred did not live to see his killer be brought to justice. (Source:

– Police believe a serial killer is responsible for the deaths of at least four gay men in Gauteng, South Africa. (Source:

– Chicago newspaperman and true crime author Edward W. Baumann died on November 6. (Source:

– The family of a British girl, who went missing in Germany in 1981, will march on Downing Street to raise awareness of the family’s plight to find Katrice Lee, who was two years old when she disappeared. (Source:




LAPD turns to Facebook to find other victims of “Grim Sleeper”

Los Angeles Police have turned to social media juggernaut Facebook to identify more potential victims of the city’s serial killer dubbed the   “Grim Sleeper”.

The LAPD posted its first appeal on the dedicated Facebook page on October 18 with photographs of yet-unidentified women whose photos were found among thousands in the possession of serial murder suspect Lonnie David Franklin Jr. Franklin (pictured below) was arrested in July 2010 and is accused of killing women ranging from ages 14 to 36 between August 1985 and January 2007.


The Grim Sleeper

The photographs were taken between 1976 and 2010.

Police dubbed the killer the “Grim Sleeper” because of the long gaps – often years – in between murders.


Twitter: @LAPDGrimSleeper


Other articles on the “Grim Sleeper” case:

The Case of the Grim Sleeper (TIME)

A fascinating map of serial killers who operated in South LA (Los Angeles Times)

160 pictures of women may be serial killer’s victims, say police (The Guardian)

True Crime News Roundup

– American newspaper the Reading Eagle is documenting all the unsolved murders in Berks County – almost 100 – before January 1. A really interesting and important resource.

– The story of the real-life “Dog Day Afternoon” robbery. (

– A New Jersey teen who is accused of attempted murder in setting fire to her family home, awaits court date. (

Young history detectives on Summer Camp in Kansas discover a serial killer. (

True Crime News Roundup

True crime news from online sources:

– Californian serial killer faces court in New York on charges of murdering two women in the 1970s. (Source: New York Daily News)

– This case is high profile in New Zealand. Ewan Macdonald on trial for the murder of his brother-in-law, farmer Scott Guy. (Source:

– The very real dangers of online dating. 26-year-old woman stabbed to death by man she met through online dating service. (Source:

– Propublica looks at the for-profit detention industry in United States (with some links to excellent investigative pieces from other news sources). (Source:

Music for the Missing event in Canada. Photos of 39 men and women were on display at the event.

True Crime News Roundup

Some news links from around the web:

– West Australian jury visits the perth hotel where a New Zealand man, Andy Marshall, died as part of a trial to decide whether he was murdered.

– Queensland man Gerard Baden-Clay appears in court charged with the murder of his wife, Allison. This case is certain to be one of the most watched in Australia.

– Scottish police bosses will spend £400,000 hiring ex-police to investigate cold cases.

– French police reopen case of 1990 murder of British student Joanna Parrish. Ms Parrish’s parents believe Michel Fourniret, a 69-year-old former forest ranger convicted of the murder and rape of seven girls and young women in France and Belgium in 2008, was responsible for their daughter’s death.

“Lipstick Killer” William Heirens dead



One of Chicago’s most infamous killers has died in prison, aged 83 on March 5.

William Heirens was arrested in 1946 and confessed to the murders of three females, including a six-year-old.

Heirens, then-17, was dubbed the “Lipstick Killer” after investigators found a message  on a mirror with lipstick at one of the women’s homes that read: “For heaven’s sake, catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself.”

FBI profiler Rober K Ressler writes about Heirens and delves into a criminal profile of the teen killer in his book Whoever Fights Monsters.
Read more about Heirens at the Charlotte Observer.

Crime News Roundup

Crime news links that I’ve found interesting this past week:

– A 42-year-old man, Lesley Camilleri has been charged with murder of Melbourne teen Prudence Bird, who went missing in 1992.  The disappearance of Prue Bird has been one of Victoria’s most baffling unsolved crimes. (Source:

– An appeal for the truth about what happened to her little brother has been published in a London, Canada newspaper. Frankie Jensen, 9 disappeared on his way to school in 1968. His body was found two months later. Frankie’s big sister Bente Jensen is now 60 and wants to know what happened. Bente believes Frankie was the victim of a serial killer. (Source: London Free Press)

Irish families cling to hope missing loved ones will turn up. There is criticism in this article that the Garda (Irish Police) have not done enough to investigate missing persons cases.


Crime News Roundup

A selection of Crime news articles and blog posts that I have found interesting this past week:

Van Der Sloot sentenced to 28 years

– The prime suspect in the death of Alabama student Natalee Holloway, Joran Van der Sloot,  sentenced to 28 years in Peru for murder of 21-year-old student. Natalee Holloway was officially declared dead this week too.

Montana teacher found dead

A popular Montana teacher, whose disappearance sparked a search with more that 1200 volunteers, was found dead on January 13. Two men have been charged over the death of Sherry Arnold.  Police are investigating a number of theories on Arnold’s disappearance and death, including that she was the victim of a hit-and-run accident.

Missing persons list contains murder victims whose bodies have still to be found

New South Wales Police homicide squad say they are investigating many  missing persons cases. This article also includes a gallery of crimes that haunt the state of NSW.


Read more:


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, 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.



Crime Bites

Some interesting crime and justice  news from the around the world:

No leads in Rotorua missing persons cases – New Zealand Police launched the Missing Persons website last August which featured profiles of current and historic missing people.  (The Daily Post, September 24, 2011)

Chronicle of Crime in Kentucky – A new book details some of the most notorious crimes in Lexington KY. (, September 23, 2011)

British crime drama Prime Suspect gets American treatment – Maria Bello, Aidan Quinn and Brían F. O’Byrne star in NBC’s Prime Suspect and the show has a decidedly Irish feel with the two male leads of Irish extraction and Maria Bello’s Jane Tennsion-inspired character Jane Timoney being Irish-American.