crimes that shook australia

Crimes That Shook Australia hosted by news anchor Stan Grant explores THE biggest crimes to hit the country through the eyes of the people placed right at the centre of the tragedies.

Through gripping interviews, drama reconstruction and archive; we piece together the murders that shocked a nation.

In this series, we will be explaining the detailed events leading up to the crime, the crime itself and the aftermath from: The Murder of Ebony Simpson, Jason Downie ,Peter Dupas, The Port Arthur Tragedy, Derek Percy and Katherine Mary Knight.

Season 1

In this series, we will be explaining the detailed events leading up to the crime, the crime itself and the aftermath from: The Murder of Ebony Simpson, Jason Downie ,Peter Dupas, The Port Arthur Tragedy, Derek Percy and Katherine Mary Knight.

Derek Percy

On 20th July 1969, Derek Percy approached 12 year old Yvonne Tuohy and friend Shane Spiller whilst playing at their local beach in Warneet, Victoria.  He grabbed Yvonne and tried to get Shane to come with him, but Shane managed to defend himself.  Yvonne was taken in Percy’s car to a remote location where he murdered and savagely mutilated her body.  Shane quickly reported several things he had noticed about Percy’s car, including a navy sticker which led police to the local Navy base HMS Cerberus.  When police tracked down the owner of the car, they located Percy washing his clothes and arrested him.  Eventually he admitted to the crime and calmly led police to Yvonne’s body.  Controversially, Percy was found ‘not guilty’ on reasons of insanity but was considered too dangerous to ever be released.  Since then Percy has been a suspect in a number of murders and disappearances of other children all over Australia including 7 year old Linda Stilwell who went missing from St Kilda beach in 1968. He was known as Australia’s most notorious child killer until his death in prison in July 2013.

The Murder of Ebony Simpson

On 19th August 1992, Andrew Garforth waited by his car for the regular school bus to drop off nine year old Ebony Simpson just 1 kilometre from her home.  As she walked towards her house he grabbed Ebony and placed her in the boot of his car.  Garforth then took Ebony to a remote location, at which he sexually assaulted her, tied her up with wire and threw her into a dam where she drowned.  Shortly after her disappearance, over 300 people set out in search of the little girl with Garforth joining them in an attempt to cover his tracks.  Investigations eventually led to Garforth and the police invited him in for questioning.  Miraculously he admitted to the murder almost immediately and led police to Ebony’s body late into the night of the 20th August, going to such lengths as to show them the horrifying manner in which he threw her body into the water.  Ebony’s distraught family took some solace when Garforth was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1993. Following Ebony’s tragic death her mother, Christine Simpson, fought tirelessly to change legislations for victims of crime.

Jason Downie

On 8th November 2010, Jason Downie broke into the house of his friend’s girlfriend, Chantelle Rowe. Chantelle and her parents, Andrew and Rose, were asleep when he entered the house. Alerted to an intruder, Andrew Rowe confronted Downie but was stabbed at least 29 times and eventually died. Downie then turned to Rose Rowe who had also woken up and discovered what had happened, he attacked and killed her in the same way.  After witnessing the attack on her parents, 16 year old Chantelle hid under her bed in terror, but Downie proceeded to stab her to death.  When their bodies were found Downie showed no remorse but instead was seen to be grieving, laying flowers outside the Rowe family home.  When traces of his DNA and semen connected him to the frenzied attack, he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 35 years.


Katherine Mary Knight lived in the small town of Aberdeen, NSW. In the early hours of March 1st 2000, Knight attacked her de facto husband John Price by stabbing him repeatedly until he bled to death in his hallway.  One day earlier, John had gone to court and taken out an Apprehended Violence Order against her.  Knight’s experience as an abattoir worker and her obsession with knives may have aided in how she then mutilated the body. After skinning John’s body she then decapitated him and cooked parts of his body to serve to his relatives.  After noticing John missing from work, his employer notified police and one of the most horrific crime scenes in Australian history was to be uncovered.  Police found Knight asleep in bed, having taken several sleeping pills.  She was the first Australian female to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole and her papers were marked ‘never to be released’.

Peter Dupas

On 19th April 1999, several times convicted criminal Peter Dupas posed as a new client of psychotherapist Nicky Patterson.  Having made arrangements for his first appointment, the 28 year old welcomed Dupas into her home under the pretence that she would be giving him counselling for gambling. Dupas attacked Nicky with a knife and after killing her he mutilated her body. Fortunately, police found incriminating evidence at the scene that led them to Dupas. With a history of violent sexual behaviour police quickly arrested him and searched his house in which they found more evidence connecting him to Nicky’s death. Having been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole in August 2000, he was later found guilty of separate 1997 murders of Margaret Maher and Mersina Halvagis and was given two more life sentences.

The Port Arthur Tragedy

On 28th April 1996, 28 year old Martin Bryant shot and killed 35 people in the popular Tasmanian tourist site of Port Arthur and its surrounding areas. On that Sunday morning, the psychologically unstable young man travelled to Seascape guest accommodation and shot both owners whom he had known previously.  He then travelled to the tourist site of Port Arthur and ate a meal before opening fire on unsuspecting tourists in the Broad Arrow Cafe.  In a tirade of irrational behaviour, Bryant used his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to end the lives of over 20 people in a matter of seconds.  He then drove to various points in the surrounding area, chasing innocent victims and shooting them point blank – including women and children.  Bryant continued his tirade and took a hostage back to Seascape, where police attempted to negotiate with his demands for a helicopter to take him to Hobart Airport to be flown to Adelaide.  At some point during the negotiations Bryant killed the hostage.  He was eventually caught when he set fire to the accommodation and ran out of the house suffering from severe burns.  With some reluctance Bryant pleaded ‘guilty’ and was sentenced to 35 life sentences without parole for each of his victims. Following the Port Arthur tragedy swift action was taken to change gun laws in the country.

Season 2

In this series, we will be explaining the detailed events leading up to the crime, the crime itself and the aftermath from: The Strathfield Massacre, Darcey Freeman, Gerard Baden-Clay, Peter Falconio, Raechel Betts, Robert Farquharson, The Russell Street Bombing and the Hoddle Street Massacre

Hoddle Street Massacre

In August 1987, Hoddle Street in Clifton Hill, Melbourne became the scene of utter carnage as disgraced Army cadet, Julian Knight shot and killed seven people and injured countless more.  He was given 27 years minimum sentence and despite several legal petitions, the Victorian government has said it is unlikely he will be released.  Featuring interviews with survivors, Police officers and emergency responders we tell the true of story of the massacre.  The programme also features chilling footage of Knight’s Police interview as well as footage of the moment he was taken back to the scene and explained what he had done.

Gerard Baden Clay

Allison Baden Clay was a beauty queen with a successful real estate husband.  They lived in Queensland with their three young children.  In 2012, Allison’s body was discovered in a creek, ten days after being reported missing by her husband.  In July 2014, Gerard Baden Clay was found guilty of murder after a protracted trial.  He appealed the verdict and in 2015, to widespread outcry, his conviction was downgraded to manslaughter.  The crime has shone an uncomfortable light on the prevalence of domestic violence in Australia.

The Russell Street Bombing

On Easter Thursday in 1986, a car bomb exploded outside the Russell Street Police HQ in central Melbourne.  Constable Angela Taylor was caught by the full force of the blast and succumbed to her wounds 21 days later in hospital.  She was the first serving female Australian Police officer to be killed in the line of duty.  The subsequent investigation into the bombing would change the face of forensic inquiries and lead to the apprehension of a gang or armed robbers with a vendetta against the Police.  The programme includes interviews with Angela’s parents, officers who carried out the investigation and survivors of the attack, many of whom haven’t spoken of their experiences before.  The episode also features previously unseen footage of the scene in the aftermath of the explosion.

The Strathfield Massacre

The Strathfield massacre in Sydney on the 17th August 1991 will be forever remembered as one of Australia’s most shocking gun crimes.  A lone gunman, Wade Frankum, entered a shopping mall one afternoon, had a cup of coffee and observed shoppers going about their business.  Moments later, he stabbed a teenage girl next to him before opening fire on unsuspecting shoppers for ten minutes.  The devastation left eight dead and six wounded.  Before police arrived, he took his own life.  Officers later found a collection of violent literature and films at his home – the only clue into why this killer took all those innocent lives.  The crime provoked fierce debate on the country’s gun laws.

Darcey Freeman

Four-year-old Darcey Freeman suffered a horrific death at the hands of her father on the 29th January 2009.  Driving her to her first day at school, he stopped the family car on the Westgate Bridge and callously threw her off the side, in full view of her two older brothers.  He then returned to his car and drove to the law courts in central Melbourne where he handed himself in, pleading with officials to take his boys off him.  In a trial that gripped the nation, the jury had to decide if Freeman was ‘mad or bad’.

The murder of Raechel Betts

Raechel Betts was a young woman from the Melbourne suburbs whose life spiralled out of control after she began selling drugs on behalf of a male acquaintance.  Tragically this man, unbeknownst to Raechel, was a double murderer who had slipped through the parole system and was free to kill again.  In August 2009, her remains washed up on a Phillip Island beach.  Her body had been dismembered.  Featuring interviews with Raechel’s friends and family as well as the detective who led the investigation, we tell the tragic tale of Raechel’s life and death plus examine the failings in the system that allowed a killer to murder an innocent woman.

Robert Farquharson

The crime committed by Robert Farquharson has been etched on the minds of Australian’s since 2005.  Farquharson drove his car into a dam off the Princes Highway near Winchelsea on Father’s day, drowning his three sons, Jai, 10, Tyler, 7 and Bailey, 2.  After two trials, Farquharson was found guilty of murder with the prosecution confirming he killed his children to get revenge on his wife from whom he had recently divorced.  Featuring interviews with Cindy Gambino, the children’s mother, plus detectives from the team charged with bringing Farquharson to justice, the programme reveals the true horror of this shocking crime.

Peter Falconio

On the 14 July 2001, British couple Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees stopped on the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory after a man flagged down their car. This man, later identified as Bradley Murdoch, shot Falconio before tying Lees up. She managed to escape while Murdoch was distracted, hiding in nearby bushes for five hours until she was able to run out into the road and flag down a truck driver who took her to safety. Falconio’s body has never been found. The subsequent trial and media furore would stun the nation as well as raising questions about the strength of the allegations against Murdoch.

Season 3


Police on duty are always at risk but the ambush of two constables in Walsh Street, South Yarra, 25 years ago was as random as it was barbaric. The plan that morning was to kill police – any police – as a payback for the death of a gunman shot by armed robbery squad detectives 13 hours earlier.

To older officers this was an event frozen in time, to younger ones it is a couple of names on an honour board at the academy and to Victorians it is an event that shaped the community.

The events surrounding the ambush would change the very nature of policing, raise disturbing questions about the way serious crime was investigated and cost six lives.

It was a war fought on Melbourne streets that left three suspects dead, two patrol officers murdered and led a respected investigator to take his own life.  It was an open and shut case when a gangster’s wife dobbed in her husband but the trial collapsed when she changed her mind.  She went on record years later saying the men who got away with it, committed the murders.


“This is the worst case of murder with which I have had to deal.’ Judge Ormiston

In 1997, Leslie Camilleri and Lindsay Becket abducted two teenagers. 14-year-old Lauren Barry and 16-year-old Nichole Collins. They were driven across the state of Victoria and subjected to rape and torture.

After a harrowing twelve-hour ordeal, the two friends were stabbed to death and buried in scrubland near Fiddlers Green Creek. Their untimely and heart breaking deaths still shock the nation to this day.


The Queen Street massacre was a spree-killing that occurred on the 8th of December 1987 at the Australia Post offices in Melbourne, Victoria. The attack resulted in nine fatalities, including the perpetrator, and many more injuries.

That day was anything but just another day as far as Frank Vitkovic was concerned.

He woke knowing it was to be the day he fulfilled his mission … to kill his former school friend and tennis partner Con Margelis. Vitkovic had also woken knowing December 8 was to be the day he too would die. He said so in his diary entry for that day.

Margelis was unaware of the hatred festering in Vitkovic’s mind. His otherwise normal day was almost over when Vitkovic called in to the credit union at 4.17 pm and asked to see him.

Seventeen minutes later Vitkovic was plunging out of an 11th floor window before crashing to his death on the footpath below.  Eight people died in those 17 minutes. Margelis survived simply because the weapon Vitkovic bought to fulfil his mission was faulty.

This was one of the biggest crime cases of the last century which went on to change gun laws, 30 years later we investigate the case and its repercussions.


Jill Meagher was a 29 year old Irish woman living in Australia who was raped and murdered while walking home from a pub in Brunswick, an inner suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, in the early hours of 22 September 2012.


Meagher’s case was initially classified that of a missing person, as she had failed to return home to her husband, Tom Meagher. But it soon became a homicide investigation. Her disappearance attracted widespread media attention and a review of closed-circuit television images from the area of her disappearance. Her body was discovered six days later near Gisborne South, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Brunswick.


Adrian Ernest Bayley pleaded guilty to Meagher’s rape and murder in April 2013. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a 35-year non-parole period. His bid to appeal his minimum term, in September 2013, was unsuccessful. In May 2015, Bayley was sentenced to another 18 years and his non-parole period was extended from 35 to 43 years for three other rape convictions. In July 2016, the sentence was reduced to 40 years, deducting three years of the term, making Bayley eligible for parole in 2055.


Dubbed the Black Widow, she murdered one partner and tried to kill another by shooting him in the head while he was sleeping. In both instances she had forged documents to transfer property and assets into her name.

The body of her first victim, Carl Gottgens, has never been located and now Byers is using a loophole in the law to get out of jail, 17 years after she was convicted of his brutal murder.

Byers, who currently is in a South Australian prison admitted to police during her confession that she hit her victim with a blunt object and he then fell into the Coomera River. The body has not yet been found. Three years after Mr Gottgens went missing, Byers shot her new partner John Asquith while away on holiday for a weekend aboard a boat and was convicted of his attempted murder.


In the weeks after Morgan Huxley was found dead in his Neutral Bay flat, police were interviewing everyone who knew the popular 31-year-old businessman.

A young man seen on CCTV footage running after Mr Huxley as he left The Oaks Hotel early on September 8th, 2013, was identified as Daniel Jack Kelsall, a kitchen hand and cleaner from the local Sydney Cooking School. The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Dukes, said that when Kelsall was first voluntarily interviewed by police he was not considered to be Mr Huxley’s murderer.

“I thought he was just strange, to be honest” Detective Dukes told a pre-trial hearing in the NSW Supreme Court, glancing at Kelsall in the dock.

It only took a matter of hours for a NSW Supreme Court jury to determine that Kelsall had stabbed Mr Huxley more than 20 times after sexually assaulting him.  The 22-year-old loner stared expressionless as he was sentenced to forty years in jail, with a minimum parole term of 30 years.


The Snowtown murders were so barbaric and shocking, the Australian community still struggle to come to terms with what happened. Between August 1992 and May 1999 John Bunting, Robert Wagner, and James Vlassakis tortured and murdered eleven people (many of whom they knew) in South Australia – disposing of their bodies in barrels. The trial that followed was one of the longest and most publicised in Australian legal history.

The killers were allegedly led by Bunting who claimed the victims were paedophiles, homosexuals or “weak”.


In the 1990s, the bodies of seven young backpackers were discovered in Belanglo State Forest, a 9,400-acre wood in New South Wales, Australia. The bodies, each riddled with stab wounds, had been posed face-down with loose hut-like structures of sticks constructed over them. The killings, which became known as the Backpacker Murders, were discovered to be the work of Ivan Milat, an Australian man with a prior history of abduction and rape. He was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences, plus 18 years.


In June 2012, Milat’s great nephew, Matthew Milat, 18, was convicted of murdering one of his friends with an axe in Belanglo State Forest.

In a confession, Milat said he was just “doing what my family does” when he and Cohen Klein, 19, lured their friend David Auchterlonie, 17, into the forest on November 20, 2010. Milat and Klein had told Auchterlonie that they were going there to drink and smoke marijuana, but when they arrived, Milat accused Auchterlonie of “going round telling people his affairs”.

Justice Mathews sentenced Milat to a maximum of 43 years, Klein to a total of 32 years.


Anu Singh (born 3 September 1972) is an Australian of Indian descent who, in 1997, while a law student at the Australian National University, killed her boyfriend, Joe Cinque. She laced his coffee with rohypnol, and then injected him with heroin.


Singh’s close friend Madhavi Rao invited acquaintances to two dinner parties in October 1997 and told them that a terrible crime would be committed.  After the first dinner party, Singh made an aborted attempt to kill Joe.  Her second attempt was more successful.


Cinque died on 26 October 1997, the morning after the second dinner party. The toxicology reports showed high levels of heroin and rohypnol in his body.


Singh was charged with murder and but found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.


The Town of Albury on March 16, 1985 – A shop worker in a store saw a man exposing himself in a car outside. Her boss called the cops.

The Police arrived and arrested the man, as was routine even flashers were fingerprinted. Five days later, the flasher’s prints arrived at the central fingerprint bureau in Sydney.

The detective noticed a scar on the little finger and it rang alarm bells.

So began the unravelling on one of Australia’s most shocking crimes.  A trail that led to double murderer and multiple rapist Raymund Edmunds  – a trail that spanned 2 states and almost 20 years.

In 1966, two teenagers Garry Heywood and Abona Madill went missing in Shepparton.  Initially the townsfolk thought it was a case of two young lovers running away – until Heywood’s prized car was found abandoned the next morning. Their two bodies were discovered in a field days later – they had been shot, beaten and Madill, raped.  Their killer would remain hidden until the chance discovery of his fingerprints 20 years later.

A violent man who had raped and beaten his first wife and sexually abused his daughter, Edmunds was also responsible for a series of rapes in the 1970’s and early 80’s that led the police to dub the then unknown offender “The Donvale Rapist”.

Victoria Police are now campaigning for a change in the law to compel Edmunds to provide a blood sample with which they can test samples recovered from several rape cases they believe he may be responsible for.