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24 Shocking True Stories of Australia’s Worst Serial Killers
True Murder Cases included in this volume;
Ivan Milat: Arguably Australia’s most notorious serial killer, Milat was convicted of the rape, torture and murder of seven backpackers.
Kathleen Folbigg: Murderous mother who sent four of her infant children to an early grave.
Paul Denyer: Sexually obsessed young man who hacked three women to death in Frankston, Victoria.
Bevan von Einem: Gay torture slayer convicted of one murder and suspected of at least four more. But was he part of a sinister pedophile murder gang?
William MacDonald: Serial slasher who terrorized Sydney and was at the center of the bizarre “Case of the Walking Corpse.”
Caroline Grills: “Aunty Thally” routinely killed members of her family, adding rat poison to the cakes and cookies she baked for them.
David and Catherine Birnie: Depraved couple who kidnapped, sexual tortured, and murdered four young women in and around Perth, Western Australia.
Archibald McCafferty: Psychotic killer who believed that the voice of his dead baby son was instructing him to kill.
Francis Knorr: One of only four women to be hanged in Victoria, Francis Knorr was a baby farmer believed to have killed upwards of 18 infants.
John Wayne Glover: A repulsive sex fiend who preyed on elderly women in Sydney’s Mosman suburb, battering at least 6 victims to death.
Plus 14 more sensational Australian Serial Killer Cases
The Frankston Serial Killer
Paul Charles Denyer was born in Sydney, New South Wales on April 14, 1972. His parents, Anthony and Maureen, had emigrated from England in 1965, and Paul was the third of their six children, five boys and a girl. The family eventually settled in Campbelltown near Sydney.
There was nothing unusual about Paul’s childhood, save for the fact that he once rolled off a bench as an infant and banged his head. The incident would become a bit of an in-joke in the Denyer family. Whenever Paul did something odd, one of the family would usually comment, “that’s because you fell on your head as a baby.”
Denyer was an introverted child who found it difficult to mix with his peers. However, by the time he reached primary school, he appeared to have overcome his social awkwardness and was just a normal, happy kid, secure in his surroundings. Then an event occurred that would disrupt his settled life. His father accepted a job in Frankston, Victoria and the family had to move. None of the Denyer children was particularly happy about the upheaval, but Paul took it particularly hard. He retreated back into his shell and became a loner. To make matters worse, the hulking boy had begun to put on weight, making him a target for schoolyard taunts.
It was around this time that Denyer started showing signs of his abnormal psychology. First he started mutilating his sisters’ teddy bears with one of his homemade knives. Then he turned his attention to living creatures and killed and mutilated the family kitten, hanging its slaughtered corpse in a tree.
Just before his thirteenth birthday, Denyer was charged with stealing a car and was released with a warning. Two months later he was charged with making a false report to the fire brigade. At age 15, he was arrested for assault, after forcing another boy to masturbate in front of a group of children.
By 1992, Denyer had sprouted to a height of over 6-foot and was so obese that his colleagues at the Safeway’s Supermarket where he worked called him John Candy, after the rotund comedic actor. Despite this, he managed to attract the attention of a co-worker, Sharon Johnson, and the two moved in together. A short while later, Denyer was fired from Safeway after he deliberately knocked down a woman and a child with a shopping trolley. He next applied to the Victoria Police Force but was rejected due to his massive bulk. A subsequent job was also short-lived due to his workplace behavior.
With Sharon now working two jobs to foot the bills, Denyer was left to his own devices. He filled the time by breaking into apartments, shredding clothes and trashing mementos. The worst of these crimes was exacted against a couple named Les and Donna, who Sharon had befriended. After breaking into their apartment, Denyer slaughtered their cat and her kittens, leaving the poor creature’s blood and entrails scattered around the apartment. He also ransacked every drawer, shredding clothes and photographs. The message “Donna You’re Dead” was written in blood on the walls, furniture was gorged and splintered. The couple was so traumatized by the ordeal that they moved out of the apartment that same night, never to return.
As horrific as that crime was, Paul Denyer was about to take things to a new level. On Saturday, June 12, 1993, the partially clothed body of 18-year-old Elizabeth Stevens was found in a park in Langwarrin, just a short drive from Frankston. Her throat had been cut, and there were six deep knife wounds to her chest. In addition, four vertical cuts ran from her breast to her navel and four horizontal cuts had been inflicted forming a macabre crisscross pattern on her abdomen. The victim had also suffered a beating, resulting in a broken nose. Her bra was pulled up around her neck, but there was no evidence of sexual assault, leaving the police baffled as to the motive for the crime.
A massive manhunt was launched, but the police had not yet made any progress when, on July 8, 1993, Denyer struck again, attacking two women in a single night. The first victim was 41-year-old bank clerk Roszsa Toth, who put up such a fight that Denyer eventually broke off the attack and fled. But Toth’s bravery spelled disaster for another woman. Frustrated at the failed attack, Denyer went looking for another victim.
The one he found was 22-year-old Debbie Fream, who had given birth to her first child just 12 days earlier. Debbie went out to buy milk for the baby and never returned. Her body was found in a field in nearby Carrum Downs four days later. She had suffered 24 stab wounds to her neck, head and chest. She had also been strangled, but as in the Elizabeth Stevens murder, there was no sign of sexual assault.
This latest murder sent shock waves through Frankston and its surrounding communities. It was now clear that there was a madman on the streets, attacking and killing women at random. The police meanwhile, upped their patrols and set up a dedicated line to process tips from the public. Every lead, no matter how trivial was followed up. It did no good.
On the afternoon of July 30, 17-year-old Natalie Russell went missing while riding her bike home from school. Eight hours later, her body was found in bushes near the Peninsula and Long Island Golf clubs. She had been stabbed repeatedly in the face and neck, the attack carried out with even more ferocity than the previous two. This time, however, the killer had left a clue. A sliver of skin found on the victim’s throat was believed to have come from the killer. Police believed he had accidently sliced it from his own finger while carrying out the frenzied attack.
That, of course, would help the police to nail the perpetrator once they had him in custody. But they still had to catch him. Then an even more promising lead emerged. A yellow Toyota Corona had been spotted by a police officer in the vicinity of the crime scene at the time the murder was believed to have occurred. The car had no plates, so the officer jotted down the number from its license disc. Running that number through the system, delivered a name. The car was registered to Paul Charles Denyer.
The first thing detectives noticed when they called at Denyer’s home, was that his hands were cut in several places. Denyer cheerily answered their questions, admitting to being in the vicinity of the crime scene, but denying any involvement in the murder. His explanation for the cuts on his hands, however, was so weak that the detectives asked him to come down to the station for further questioning. There he continued to proclaim his innocence until investigators asked him to submit blood and hair samples for DNA analysis. Probably realizing by now that the game was up, Denyer then said, “Okay, I killed them. I killed all three of them.”
Over the hours that followed, Denyer gave a detailed confession to the murders, describing the gory details so matter-of-factly that even the most seasoned of investigators was shocked. Asked why he’d killed the women, Denyer said. “I just hate them.” Asked if he was referring to just the woman he’d killed or to women in general, he responded, “General.”
Paul Charles Denyer went on trial at the Victoria Supreme Court on December 15, 1993. After entering guilty pleas to all of the charges against him, he was sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. A subsequent appeal saw that sentence adjusted to include parole eligibility after 30 years. It means that the Frankston Serial Killer, one of the most vicious murderers in Australian history, could walk free from prison in 2023.
Australian Monsters includes 23 more riveting stories of Australia's worst serial killers