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Woman’s miracle escape from Claremont serial killer, Perth

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It was early afternoon on May 7, 1990,  and social worker Wendy Davis was working alone in a corner of Perth’s Hollywood Repatriation Hospital, quietly absorbed in writing a report.

Sitting in an annexe between the palliative care ward and a small utility room with a toilet, the senior grief counsellor was familiar with the sight of tradies and technicians conducting an upgrading of the telephone and electrical systems.

As she wrote her report, Davis was looking forward to a family dinner for her youngest daughter’s 11th birthday, and she was wearing her favourite shoes, the maroon ones with a pink and red flower on top.

Behind her, a male voice asked to use the toilet, Davis grunted, then heard the toilet flush ‘too quickly’ before the voice made an odd request to retrieve a lost pencil.

Before she could register that something was not quite right, a large hand holding a cloth clamped over her mouth, snapping her head back, and then another arm grabbed her roughly and began pulling her backwards on her wheeled office chair.

The tall, strong young man tightened his arm around the petite and terrified Davis, who could feel his ‘murderous rage’ in the way he was hurting her as he dragged her back.

Bradley Robert Edwards attempted to kidnap Wendy Davis in a terrifying attack in Perth just six years before he embarked on the Claremont serial killings 

Wendy Davis (above with he then WA policeman husband Dave) was traumatised, injured and angry after the assault which Telstra bosses dismissed and police failed to properly investigate

Wendy Davis (above with he then WA policeman husband Dave) was traumatised, injured and angry after the assault which Telstra bosses dismissed and police failed to properly investigate 

Hollywood Hospital (above) where Davis was attacked by a young Edwards became part of his hunting ground as he morphed into a violent rapist and the Claremont serial killer

Hollywood Hospital (above) where Davis was attacked by a young Edwards became part of his hunting ground as he morphed into a violent rapist and the Claremont serial killer

As she recalls in her new book ‘Don’t Make a Fuss, It’s only the Claremont Serial Killer’, what she didn’t realise until later was the man kidnapping her had surveilled and targeted her.

And she wouldn’t know for another 26 years that this was a practice run for the killer whose murderous spree would haunt Perth for decades. 

The book outlines how lazy police work and Edwards’ Telstra bosses protected him from being identified early on as a depraved sex offender, and cost young girls their lives. 

Davis felt her attacker push the cloth he’d shoved into her mouth further down her throat and, terrified it was soaked with something like chloroform, she tried not to breathe.

She struggled and one of her shoes came off, and just as she ‘thought I was going to die’, her chair clattered over and with his fingers tightening around her, Davis managed to kick him once in the shins, as hard as she could.

Suddenly the man’s grip loosened and he was staring at her with dark, unfocused and vacant eyes, saying ‘I’m sorry’, over and over.

Still fearful, bruised and barely able to talk, Davis ran for help, a security guard came and she was given tea with brandy.

Someone told Davis the man had ‘cable ties in his hand’, although no-one told her her assailant had confessed to the guard what he had done. 

Bradley Edwards was 21 years old when he launched a terrifying attack on Wendy Davis, shoving cloth into her mouth and dragging her towards a secluded utility room

Bradley Edwards was 21 years old when he launched a terrifying attack on Wendy Davis, shoving cloth into her mouth and dragging her towards a secluded utility room

The attack on Davis, minimised by police and Edwards' employers, came just six years before he murdered Jane Rimmer (centre), followed by Ciara Glennon (left) who  both vanished from Claremont just like Sarah Spiers (right)

The attack on Davis, minimised by police and Edwards’ employers, came just six years before he murdered Jane Rimmer (centre), followed by Ciara Glennon (left) who  both vanished from Claremont just like Sarah Spiers (right)

Wendy Davis wearing her favourite maroon shoes, which she had on when Edwards dragged her off in 'a murderous rage' causing her to quit the job she loved (above) working in palliative care at Perth's Hollywood Hospital

Wendy Davis wearing her favourite maroon shoes, which she had on when Edwards dragged her off in ‘a murderous rage’ causing her to quit the job she loved (above) working in palliative care at Perth’s Hollywood Hospital

Police were called and the man was taken off and fingerprinted. His name was Bradley Robert Edwards, a junior Telecom (later Telstra) technician just 21 years old.

Police never took a statement from Davis, but she remembers a meeting at a police station with her then WA policeman husband Dave and a Telecom manager who apologised for the ‘unfortunate incident’. 

Dave protested, saying ‘it was attack, mate. He lost it’ but the manager said ‘young Bradley’ was having ‘relationship problems’, was ‘a good worker’ and what he’d done ‘was completely out of character’.

Davis tried to explain her terror, the sinister facts of the attack and her trauma, but the Telecom man became annoyed at her making such a fuss.

The man said cable ties were standard Telecom equipment, that Bradley had emotional issues and there was no evidence for a more serious charge than common assault.

Edwards duly pleaded guilty to the minor offence, equivalent to a push in the chest with a finger, and was placed on two years’ probation and ordered onto a sex offenders’ course, during which Telecom promoted him. 

Ciara Glennon fought off her depraved murderer in a valiant but ultimately doomed attempt, scratching Bradley Edwards and collecting the vital DNA under her fingernails which helped convict him

Ciara Glennon fought off her depraved murderer in a valiant but ultimately doomed attempt, scratching Bradley Edwards and collecting the vital DNA under her fingernails which helped convict him

Ciara Glennon’s fingernail scrapings (above) provided the DNA profile of an unnamed man which when linked with prints from other cases and Wendy Davis' attack identified Bradley Edwards as the Claremont killer

Ciara Glennon’s fingernail scrapings (above) provided the DNA profile of an unnamed man which when linked with prints from other cases and Wendy Davis’ attack identified Bradley Edwards as the Claremont killer

Ten days after the attack, Wendy Davis resigned from the job she had loved, no longer able to cope with being at Hollywood Hospital.

What no-one except Edwards knew was that Wendy Davis’ attack would form part of a pattern of a man metamorphosing into a serial killer and that it had taken place in an area which would become part of his hunting ground.  

In the shock, hurt, anger and fear that followed for Davis, she coped by burying her feelings and her memory of it.

Like most Perth residents, Wendy had read about a spree in the late 1980s by a prowler stealing women’s underwear from clotheslines in the suburb of Huntingdale.

Two years before her own assault, a teenage girl had suffered a terrifying attack by a man dressed in a silk kimono, after which Davis said in then relatively small Perth ‘everybody locked their windows’.

Police had been concerned enough to take finger and palm prints from the prowler locations, and retain the kimono in a box. 

What was relatively unknown was when the man in the kimono had straddled the teen in her bed, he had tried to push a cloth into her mouth.  

By 1995, Wendy Davis was struggling to keep her marriage to her second husband Dave together, its breakdown likely exacerbated by the shift in her confidence and easygoing nature since the assault.

On February 11 of that year, a 17-year-old girl had finished drinking at Club Bayview in Perth’s Claremont entertainment quarter around 2am and was crossing nearby Rowe Park when she was abducted.

The chain of evidence which linked Bradley Edwards to his crimes included semen from a silk kimono the women's clothing fetishist stole in his teens and left after assaulting an 18-year-old girl

The chain of evidence which linked Bradley Edwards to his crimes included semen from a silk kimono the women’s clothing fetishist stole in his teens and left after assaulting an 18-year-old girl

Bradley Edwards (above) as a young man was a disturbed sex offender who wore women's clothes and terrorised the suburb of Huntingdale where he lived with his parents

Bradley Edwards (above) as a young man was a disturbed sex offender who wore women’s clothes and terrorised the suburb of Huntingdale where he lived with his parents

Part of Edwards' hunting ground was Karrakatta Cemetery where he twice raped a 17-year-old he had abducted, bound with telephone wire and placed a hood over her head - police believe he would have murdered her if not disturbed

Part of Edwards’ hunting ground was Karrakatta Cemetery where he twice raped a 17-year-old he had abducted, bound with telephone wire and placed a hood over her head – police believe he would have murdered her if not disturbed

Bradley Edwards tied her with Telecom cable, stripped her naked, placed a hood over her head, drove her to nearby Karrakatta Cemetery, and raped and defiled her.

He intended to kill her but dumped her in bushes, police believe, because he was disturbed by the sound of a security guard’s car, patrolling the cemetery perimeter.

The naked and terrified teenager ran to nearby Hollywood Hospital and banged on a glass door, where she could see a nurse.

Semen and fibre samples were taken from the girl and her clothes stored in police evidence bags.

On January 27, 1996, the first suspected murder victim to go missing from Claremont, 18-year-old secretary Sarah Spiers, left Club Bayview to call a taxi home and was never seen again, alive or dead.

Around that time, Wendy Davis’ marriage to Dave broke apart, and she would begin a process that would take her far from WA, to Tasmania, after marrying her third husband, Tim. 

However, in that year her daughters were by then in their late teens and early 20s and socialising in Perth night spots.

The diabolical potential was that they could have become victims of Bradley Edwards, who since savagely attacking their mother, had descended into violent, sadistic rape and then murder. 

Bradley Robert Edwards was a seemingly inoffensive Telstra technician and amateur sports official

Identikit image of a man seen in a Telstra vehicle in Claremont on January 27, 1996, when Sarah Spiers vanished

Bradley Robert Edwards (left) a seemingly inoffensive phone technician and (right), an Identikit image of a man seen in a Telstra vehicle in Claremont on January 27, 1996, when Sarah Spiers vanished

Policeman Robert Hemelaar measuring where tree branches had been torn off near the area where Ciara Glennon's body was dumped and covered with foliage in Eglinton in 1997

Policeman Robert Hemelaar measuring where tree branches had been torn off near the area where Ciara Glennon’s body was dumped and covered with foliage in Eglinton in 1997

On Saturday, June 8, 1996, child care worker Jane Rimmer went drinking with friends at Claremont’s Continental Hotel, where she lingered on when they caught a taxi home, and was captured outside on CCTV at 12.04am.

When Jane didn’t return home, and her parents reported her missing, WA police formed Task Force Macro to investigate.

Fifty-five days later, in early August, a woman picking lilies while her children chased a rooster in then semi-rural Wellard 40km south of Perth found Jane Rimmer’s naked body covered with foliage in a field.

Despite the decomposition, police established that Jane had tried to fight off a knife attack and had a severe wound to her throat; a Telstra-issue knife was found nearby. 

On Friday, March 14, 1997, Ciara Glennon, a 27-year-old lawyer, went drinking with friends at Claremont and failed to return home.

WA police commander Bob Ibbotson was forced to admit: ‘we certainly have fears that there is a serial killer at loose in Perth’. 

Less than three weeks later, on April 3, Ms Glennon’s body was found covered in leaves and twigs in bush at Eglington, north of Perth, her throat cut, a large defensive wound on one arm and her fingernails ragged from fighting back.

Like Jane Rimmer, her hands were posed on her chest life a boxer’s. 

Edwards (above) was arrested two days before Christmas 2016 and will spend the next four decades in prison for two murders and two attacks on women, meaning he will probably die in jail

Edwards (above) was arrested two days before Christmas 2016 and will spend the next four decades in prison for two murders and two attacks on women, meaning he will probably die in jail

inside Edwards' modest Kewdale home in southwestern Perth, police found a horrific collection of violent pornography, home made sex toys and women's underwear with holes cut out

inside Edwards’ modest Kewdale home in southwestern Perth, police found a horrific collection of violent pornography, home made sex toys and women’s underwear with holes cut out

For the ensuing years, Strike Force Macro was under intense pressure to identify, charge and prosecute the man known as the Claremont serial killer.

From her experience with the WA police after her 1990 assault by Bradley Edwards, Wendy Davis she would not be surprised at their inability to solve the case, but by 2004 she had moved to Hobart and pushed his attack into the background of her memory.

Much like NSW police mishandled the investigation into the 2014 disappearance of toddler William Tyrrell by focusing on two ‘suspects’ who have since been cleared, WA police became transfixed by an eccentric public servant and a former Claremont mayor.

Both men were unfairly hounded by sidetracked investigators and Macro was hamstrung by tunnel vision and misdirection, until a DNA breakthrough and a  decision by the task force to investigate all old sexually-motivated crimes.

Wendy Davis’s husband Tim had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but the couple led busy and full lives and Wendy visited her daughters and granddaughters in Darwin, Hobart and Perth.

In mid-December 2016, Davis was icing a Christmas cake at home when a WA policewoman called Katy rang her and asked if she remembered the 1990 attack.

When Wendy Davis saw Edwards' face, he looked older and heavier than the man who had violently attacker her 26 years earlier, but she knew it was the same person

When Wendy Davis saw Edwards’ face, he looked older and heavier than the man who had violently attacker her 26 years earlier, but she knew it was the same person

Don and Carol Spiers (above) attending the trial which concluded with an acquittal for the murder of their daughter Sarah, although Justice Hall said he believed Edwards was likely responsible for it

Don and Carol Spiers (above) attending the trial which concluded with an acquittal for the murder of their daughter Sarah, although Justice Hall said he believed Edwards was likely responsible for it

Sarah Spiers has been missing since January 1996, the first of the suspected Claremont serial killing victims, although her case remains unsolved

Sarah Spiers has been missing since January 1996, the first of the suspected Claremont serial killing victims, although her case remains unsolved 

Davis had not thought about it consciously for years, and the call brought tumultuous memories flooding back.

As she says in ‘Don’t Make A Fuss’, ‘Once I’d started I couldn’t stop. A feeling of anger slowly engulfed me and I told her this was the first time anyone had really listened to my account’. 

Katy didn’t tell Davis exactly why she wanted to speak with her about the attack and asked if she could remember her attacker’s face.

Gripped by a sense of unease, Davis spent the next six days experiencing flashbacks.

Two days before Christmas, Davis was at a Pilates class when she returned a missed  call from Katy who told her, ‘We wanted to speak with you so you can prepare yourself.

‘We just arrested a man in connection with two of the Claremont serial killings. His name is Bradley Robert Edwards and he is the same man who attacked you in 1990.’  

So began four years of Wendy’s life when she would be engulfed by ‘the feelings of terror, helplessness, despair, shock and anger that had assailed me’ back in 1990, and would remember Edwards’ face.

As she waited for the Claremont serial killer to go on trial, eventually starting in November 2019, she began writing a  journal as a catharsis to her trauma that would become her book. 

Wendy Davis (above with her beloved dog, Maisie, has had a hectic six years since WA police alerted her to the arrest of the Claremont serial killer, the man who attacked her in 1990

Wendy Davis (above with her beloved dog, Maisie, has had a hectic six years since WA police alerted her to the arrest of the Claremont serial killer, the man who attacked her in 1990

Wendy Davis' new book, Don't Make A Fuss, It's Only The Claremont Serial Killer, is a memoir of her life through the crimes of Bradley Robert Edwards and relates her terror, despair and  anger at police and Telstra for allowing the killer free rein

Wendy Davis’ new book, Don’t Make A Fuss, It’s Only The Claremont Serial Killer, is a memoir of her life through the crimes of Bradley Robert Edwards and relates her terror, despair and  anger at police and Telstra for allowing the killer free rein

By that time, Edwards had pleaded guilty to the 1988 Huntingdale attack, and the 1995 Karrakatta Cemetery abduction and rapes, and would be tried for the murders of Jane Rimmer, Ciara Glennon and Sarah Spiers.

Wendy Davis would testify at the trial about her own attack as ‘propensity evidence’, entering the same court room as Edwards with ‘a surge of pure terror’ in December 2019.

Her own attack couldn’t be prosecuted because of Edwards’ guilty plea to the minor charge and Davis – still angry at police and at Telstra – was frustrated she couldn’t tell the court about the saga of incompetence and failure which had made him free to kill.

The trial, however, did reveal the incredible chain of evidence that had come together to prosecute him, with Wendy Davis’ attack proving an essential part in catching the killer.

In 2008, what had been thought of as just forensically useless detritus beneath Ciara Glennon’s fingernails was sent to London for a new type of DNA testing called low copy number (LCN) profiling.

The tests revealed male DNA Ms Glennon had scratched off Edwards in her dying moments, in a valiant, but ultimately doomed effort to fend off her depraved murderer.

Macro detectives had rethought their previously rejection of the 1995 Karrakatta rape as an obvious precursor to the Claremont killings, and found the DNA in that evidence box matched that under Ciara’s fingernails. 

CCTV of Jane Rimmer (bottom left, holding coat) just after midnight outside  Perth's Continental Hotel from which she vanished, her naked remains found 55 days later in a field 40km south of Perth

CCTV of Jane Rimmer (bottom left, holding coat) just after midnight outside  Perth’s Continental Hotel from which she vanished, her naked remains found 55 days later in a field 40km south of Perth 

Drag marks on the ground at Karrakatta Cemetery made when Bradley Edwards took his 17-year-old girl through in February 1995 and twice raped her before dumping her in bushes

Drag marks on the ground at Karrakatta Cemetery made when Bradley Edwards took his 17-year-old girl through in February 1995 and twice raped her before dumping her in bushes

Still, who was this unknown male, whose DNA was not on any database?

Investigators had retrieved the silk kimono from the Huntingdale attack evidence box and, eventually, got around to DNA testing semen stains found on the fabric.

The tests came back as a match to the unidentified male who had raped the Karrakatta victim and had been scratched by Ciara Glennon.

Police also returned to the Huntingdale prowler offences from 1989 and ran finger and palm prints through the national database and had a Eureka moment: they matched the fingerprints taken from Bradley Edwards in the hours after he had attacked Wendy Davis.

Finally, police had a name. It belonged to ‘a seemingly ordinary and inoffensive Telstra worker’ who lived in Kewdale in southwestern Perth, was a computer nerd, a stepfather and officiated at Little Athletics games.

Placed under surveillance, Bradley Edwards was tailed to a cinema, where he discarded a Sprite bottle, which police retrieved and tested.

It had the DNA of the once unnamed male who had haunted Huntingdale in his teens, and then escalated into a sadistic killer.

After his December 23, 2016 arrest, police searched Edwards’ home and inside his garage they found extreme pornography, women’s underwear with holes cut in them, semen deposits in sandwich bags, bizarre homemade sex toys, and disturbing scenarios he’d written of abduction, rape and murder. 

Bradley Edwards (above, sketched by a court artist during his murder trial) remained passive throughout, only shaking his head slightly as he was found guilty of two Claremont murders

Bradley Edwards (above, sketched by a court artist during his murder trial) remained passive throughout, only shaking his head slightly as he was found guilty of two Claremont murders

Murder victim Ciara Glennon's family, sister Denise, mother Una and father, Dennis, arriving at the WA Supreme Court in December 2020 for Bradley Edwards sentencing to 40 years' prison

Murder victim Ciara Glennon’s family, sister Denise, mother Una and father, Dennis, arriving at the WA Supreme Court in December 2020 for Bradley Edwards sentencing to 40 years’ prison 

His trial for murder would hear that he became violent during times of emotional upset – a theory also ascribed to Belanglo backpack killer Ivan Milat – and given that Edwards second wife had left him the year before, perhaps police were not a moment too late. 

His second wife would testify at the trial that she had left him because she feared for her life.

Although it was not further explained, she had taken detailed notes from his bank statements between 1996 and 1998, which included withdrawals from a Bayview Terrace, Claremont ATM in December 1996.

He had told her he’d attacked a social worker in 1990, but ‘minimised it’. When their relationship ‘escalated’ to the point she became fearful, she left him in 2015. 

Tiny fibres taken from the Karrakatta victim and the bodies of Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon would prove at trial to be the custom coloured ‘Telstra Blue’ fabric of Edwards’ work shorts.

Fibres from his Holden Commodore work car seats were also found on the murdered women.

In September 2020, Justice Stephen Hall found Edwards guilty of the murders of Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon, but not guilty of murdering Sarah Spiers, although he said Edwards was probably responsible.

Edwards, who showed no emotion during the entire trial – perhaps mirroring the vacant stare he gave Davis after attacking her – was sentenced to a minimum period of 40 years in prison.   

Davis’ book is both a memoir about her life intertwined with the Claremont serial killer case, and she hopes an inspiration for women to be vocal about assault, rape and brutality.

‘My story describes exactly what can happen if women are not able to speak up about violence … and be believed,’ she said.

Don’t Make A Fuss. It’s Only The Claremont Serial Killer, Fremantle Press, $32.99 

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