Perth’s has had its fair share of serial killers over the decades….
In recent times Bradley Robert Edwards, the Claremont Serial Killer was put behind bars for forty years for the killing of three girls in the swanky suburbs of Claremont, north of the river in Perth.
And before the Birnie’s, Eric Edgar Cooke stalked the same area before he was hung at Fremantle Prison in 1964.
But after Eric and before Bradley, there was Catherine and David Birnie.
The History of David & Catherine Birnie
Catherine and David Birnie met as children, both the result of very dysfunctional families. Unwanted by their parents, David was in and out of foster homes and Catherine, said to be a lonely, sad little girl, was shuffled from one family member to the next.
Their criminal history began with theft, breaking and entering, and were both eventually imprisoned with Catherine’s sentence over after only six months. Upon leaving prison she worked as a live in housekeeper, eventually marrying one of the sons and together they had six children. The marriage did not last the distance though and Catherine started to reminisce about the fun times she had shared with David. Deciding to leave her husband, she sought out David and they moved in together, settling in the Perth suburb of Willagee.
The couple never married, although Catherine changed her surname by deed poll.
The Birnie’s Sadistic Murder Spree
The Birnie’s soon realized that they shared a similar but warped fantasy for abducting and raping women as a way of satisfying their depraved sexual appetites. This was to be the beginning of a despicable and evil rampage which lasted for just four weeks.
Catherine had a code name when they were out trawling for victims, calling it ‘the munchies’ and on the 6th October 1986 they had found their first, a psychology student by the name of Mary Neilson. Mary had come into David’s workplace asking about new tyres for her car when David suggested they meet up later near his place where he would have a much better deal for her. When she showed up for the meeting, he bound and gagged her at knifepoint and chained her in the couple’s bedroom.
David then proceeded to rape her multiple times while Catherine watched. When they were done with her they drove her to the Gleneagle National Park, south east of Perth where she was assaulted and strangled before being finally and brutally stabbed to death. She was buried in the forest and her car was found abandoned six days later.
Their next victim was Susannah Candy, a fifteen year old student from Hollywood High School, who, on the 23rd October 1986 was hitchhiking along Stirling Highway. Catherine and David Birnie kidnapped her at knifepoint and took her back to their house where she was subjected to the same atrocities as Mary Neilson. Susannah became so hysterical when David tried to strangle her he couldn’t succeed and eventually forced sleeping pills down her throat in an effort to quieten her down. David decided that Catherine should prove how much she loved him and asked her to do the deed this time. She happily obliged and strangled poor Sussanah, before they took her body, and buried her in the forest not far from Mary’s gravesite.
Thirty one year old Noelene Patterson became their third victim on the 1st November 1986,when Catherine and David found her stranded on the side of Canning Highway after experiencing car trouble. They offered a ride and took her at knifepoint back to their house. She received similar treatment to the others but Catherine realised that Noelene was different. David was hypnotised by her and Catherine hated her. She was everything Catherine was not but wanted to be, beautiful, charming, elegant and popular. David kept her alive for three days as Catherine’s resentment grew to boiling point, before she demanded that Noelene be killed. David dutifully complied while Catherine watched and she too was buried in the forest with the others, but not before Catherine kicked sand in the dead women’s face in a jealous spat.
Victim number four was a twenty one year old computer operator, Denise Brown. On the 5th November 1986 she was waiting for a bus on Stirling Highway, when the Birnies pulled up in their car and offered her a lift. Her trusting nature was to be her downfall, when she too ended up at the Birnie house. She was savagely raped before being driven north of the city this time, to a pine plantation near Wanneroo. Still alive, she was raped again and stabbed in the neck. Thinking she was dead, the couple proceeded to bury her, but received the shock of their life when Denise suddenly sat up and started screaming. David grabbed an axe and brutally split her skull, the attack so gruesome that even Catherine was disturbed by it, although she apparently and bizarrely photographed him in the act.
Their final victim was a seventeen year old girl who had been abducted by the Birnies whilst stopping to ask her for directions. She too was taken to their house where she was chained and raped by David while Catherine watched. The next day after David left for work, the girl was left at the house with Catherine. She begged to be untied, which inexplicably, Catherine did. Later when Catherine went to answer a knock on the door, she escaped out of a window. She ran screaming hysterically into a nearby supermarket where the police were called. Despite her own horrific ordeal, the girl was smart and alert enough to remember the address where she had been held, leading police right to the Birnie’s door. Interrogated separately, they both eventually confessed to all the murders and led police to the locations where the bodies were buried.
As more details of these atrocities came out during police interviews, it became very clear that Catherine was not just a watcher, she too was very much an active participant. She has been described as a natural born killer, a psychopath devoid of feeling or remorse, with no capacity to feel love or emotion.
Catherine and David Birnie were both sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for a minimum of twenty years in 1987.
David committed suicide in prison in 2005 by hanging himself, but Catherine remains in Bandyup women’s prison in Western Australia. She has applied for parole on several occasions, all of which have been denied. Her next parole review is in 2016.
Source: Evil Ladies