By Rebecca Mugridge
Underneath the friendly Australian culture there has been a dark shadow of serial killers. While criminologists stress the rate is actually low statistically for the population, there were still 13 convicted serial killers and 52 victims between 1989 and 2006.
When we think of violent crime and serial killers, we usually look to America, but Australia warrants its own place on the list of some of the world’s most heinous people. With the limelight currently on the Claremont serial killer case, which is now before the courts, it is a chance to look a little deeper into the shadows.
1: John Wayne Glover – The Granny Killer
It has been 30 years since John Glover, nicknamed “The Granny Killer”, attacked and murdered six elderly women in Sydney between 1989 and 1990. His predominant choice of murder was blunt force trauma to the head with a hammer and strangulation with their own stockings. Police investigations were hampered at the time by well meaning neighbours, more than once, who “washed down crime scenes” before police could investigate them. Losing potenatillly vital clues. Neighbours of some of the victims at completely different crime scenes apparently believed they were being helpful by washing away the blood and cleaning the area. Glover’s first victim Gwendoline Mitchelhill was found by two young brothers, one of which was an 11-year-old Mathew Harmer, who grew up to become a detective and later worked on the case.
2: Caroline Grills – Aunty Thally
Caroline Grills was married with six children when she became a killer in 1958. The grandmother wore thick glasses and was known for visiting family and friends with her freshly baked goods. But her baked goods and tea were poisoned with thallium, a poison that is often used in rat baits. She would deliver these sinister delicacies to relatives she did not like, especially her in-laws. The poison itself can cause dramatic hair loss, nervousness and panic attacks, progressive blindness and even loss of speech before eventually killing the victim. She was convicted of four murders and questioned over other acts of poisoning. She had also been previously acquitted of poisoning her son in law, Balmain rugby league footballer Bobby Lulham.
Crown Prosecutor Mick Rooney said that she was “a killer who poisoned for sport, for fun, for the kicks she got out of it, for the hell of it, for the thrill”. “Seven people were the recipients of charity and kindness…they had died or suffered the nasty effects of thallium poisoning,” he said.
3: Paul Charles Denyer – The Frankston Serial Killer
Paul Denyer, who now identifies as Paula, stalked and murdered three women in Melbourne over a seven-week period in 1993. In court he went on to admit to stalking women in the area for years. One of his victims was Debra Fream, a new mother with a 12-day-old baby who had only “popped out to the shop for milk” and was jumped by Paul at her car.
4: Lindsey Robert Rose – The Lindsey Rose Murders
Lindsey Rose was a paramedic who was highly regarded after saving many lives during the Granville train disaster in 1977, only to go on a killing spree years later. Rose pleaded guilty to five counts of murder and various other crimes and was sentenced in 1998. His daughter has been very vocal in the media regarding her killer father.
Elisha Rose was just four months old when her father killed his first victim and was about to turn 13 when police first came to their home looking for her estranged father. The shock of it all, the experience of being a serial killer’s daughter, drove her to complete a Masters in Criminal Justice.
“The only thing that made sense to me for a long time was that my father had created an imbalance in this world by killing innocent people; my duty was to balance the scales,” she said. “No matter that the debt was not mine, I knew I had to right his wrongs.”
For many who knew him it was utter disbelief that their “drinking buddy” could be a serial killer.
And finally, to number 5, perhaps the most chilling of all: The Tynong North Killer. A case where the killer was never caught.
Catching a bus or a train is something people do every day but back in 1980 and 1981 in Tynong North, Melbourne this simple, every day act could end in murder.
For six women between the ages of 17 and 73 it would be the last thing they ever did.
And the killer was never found.
Despite more than 2000 interviews and numerous persons of interest, police were unable to identify the murderer. In 2017, Victoria Police announced the record-breaking offer of six $1 million rewards for information regarding the unsolved case, named the Operation Lindhurst.
No one has ever been charged.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Victoria Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.