How the Claremont serial killer left a mar on Perth’s soul that’s only just healing

No one in Perth thought this day would ever come, the Claremont serial killer not only tracked down but jailed for life.

Solving the case was a fairytale, a source of a dark humour, or a cautionary tale parents told their 18-year-old kids before their first night out.

Jane Rimmer, 23, Sarah Spiers, 18, and Ciara Glennon, 27, could have been any mate we lost track of on a drunken night out, just at the wrong place at the wrong time in 1996-97.

Three young women vanished from a nightspot every teenager has partied at until late and not a single lead, their families with no closure.

It is difficult to explain to anyone who didn’t grow up in Perth how much these shocking murders traumatised the city to its soul.

Their killer was the monster under your bed, the dark shadow around the corner.

Sarah Spiers, 18, is the most recognisable of the Claremont victims as her body was never found and the search for it was relentlessly covered. A judge ruled it was likely Edwards was likely her killer, but there was not enough evidence to convict him

Sarah Spiers, 18, is the most recognisable of the Claremont victims as her body was never found and the search for it was relentlessly covered. A judge ruled it was likely Edwards was likely her killer, but there was not enough evidence to convict him

Jane Rimmer, 23, disappeared from Claremont on June 6, 1996 and was the second victim of Bradley Robert Edwards

Ciara Glennon, 27, was the last victim of the so-called Claremont serial killer. She disappeared after a night out in Perth on March 15, 1997 and her body was found in bushland 40km away

Jane Rimmer (left), 23, and Ciara Glennon (right), 27, were the other two victims, and all three felt like they could have been the mate we lost track of on a drunken night out

His choice of hunting ground was even harder to stomach, and not only because it was slap in the middle of the affluent and prestigious ‘golden triangle’.

Claremont for great swathes of Perth’s youth is a rite of passage where friendships are forged and memories are made (and lost).

Back then, two venues dominated the suburb’s nightlife and had lines out the door even on a Wednesday.

The Claremont Hotel, then called the Continental, was a classic semi-refined western suburbs pub but was prone to getting rowdy late in the night.

Club Bayview, on the other hand, was a notorious dive with sticky floors and an even dodgier crowd of barely-legal teenagers and the creepy old men they attracted, with drunk university students as reinforcements.

Often it was your end of night destination, leaving us standing in a never-ending line snaking around the corner hoping not to sober up too much.

There was the recurring joke ‘I’m too sober for Clubba’ and just as many nights that ended in the line as the club itself.

The Claremont Hotel, then called the Continental, was a classic semi-refined western suburbs pub but was prone to getting rowdy late in the night

The Claremont Hotel, then called the Continental, was a classic semi-refined western suburbs pub but was prone to getting rowdy late in the night

Club Bayview, was a notorious dive with sticky floors and even and even dodgier crowd of barely-legal (or not at all legal) teenagers and the creepy old men they attracted, with drunk university students as reinforcements

Club Bayview, was a notorious dive with sticky floors and even and even dodgier crowd of barely-legal (or not at all legal) teenagers and the creepy old men they attracted, with drunk university students as reinforcements

After several irresponsibly served cheap tequila shots, you had to gingerly descend the frighteningly high stairs fallen AFL star Ben Cousins infamously fell down and broke his arm during a fight with Daniel Kerr.

This Identikit image shows a man seen on the night Sarah Spiers vanished - all any of us had to go on for two decades

This Identikit image shows a man seen on the night Sarah Spiers vanished – all any of us had to go on for two decades

Every uni pub crawl and numerous sessions at the University of Western Australia tavern just a drunken stumble away ended in either of these places, just by default.

Just as important was the Hungry Jacks across the car park where many a night ended in a bout of messy chaos and vanishing mates. 

Lurking in this target-rich environment was a predator in the truest sense, waiting for drunk and vulnerable prey to be separated from the herd.

Claremont’s geography makes getting a taxi at 2am, as Ms Spiers did, almost mission impossible, giving him the perfect opening.

Jane, Sarah, and Ciara all jumped into his car, just happy a nice stranger offered them a lift home. But they never made it.

Instead, the last time anyone saw them was dumped in bushland. Only one person knows where Sarah’s body is, and he’s not telling.

Just as important was the Hungry Jacks across the car park where many a night ended in a bout of messy chaos and vanishing mates

Just as important was the Hungry Jacks across the car park where many a night ended in a bout of messy chaos and vanishing mates

The limited space meant finding a taxi was impossible and accepting a lift from a stranger far more likely

The limited space meant finding a taxi was impossible and accepting a lift from a stranger far more likely

Perth, a safe city with minimal crime particularly in a place like Claremont, isn’t used to what’s familiar and fun suddenly having the rug pulled away.

The faces of those three young woman are forever burned on to all our brains, especially Sarah’s as the search for her body dragged on. 

With non arrest or even a suspect and a trail of abductions, there was always the chance you could be next. He was still out there.

Even a decade to a decade and a half later when I stood in that enormous line dozens of times, a part of you knew what happened just metres away.

Mystery loves a rumour and there were plenty, including that the killer was a taxi driver or modified his car to appear as one after a few drinks.

Bradley Robert Edwards (pictured) was just 19 when he donned a woman's nightie and crept into the bedroom of a sleeping 18-year-old woman. He has pleaded guilty to that attack in 1988 but denied murdering three women who disappeared from Claremont

Bradley Robert Edwards (pictured) was just 19 when he donned a woman’s nightie and crept into the bedroom of a sleeping 18-year-old woman. He has pleaded guilty to that attack in 1988 but denied murdering three women who disappeared from Claremont

Bradley Robert Edwards is pictured at the back of a van while he was married to his first wife, who gave evidence the couple had separated in late 1995 or early 1996

Bradley Robert Edwards is pictured at the back of a van while he was married to his first wife, who gave evidence the couple had separated in late 1995 or early 1996

Every well-known killer from backpacker murderer Bradley Murdoch to serial rapist Mark Dixie was put forward, along with a series of innocent, if oddball, randoms. 

Years, decades passed and hope faded, but no one ever forgot – like an open wound ripped into the city’s flesh that could never heal.

The case even outlived Clubba, which closed after yet another RSA violation just months before the big break in the case.

Then, suddenly, on December 22, 2016, Bradley Robert Edwards was arrested and the next day charged with two of the three murders. No one could believe it.

So much was the disbelief that the murders would ever be solved that many assumed the case would collapse as it dragged on for years without a trial.

Edwards’ legal team, for all the reasons I’ve written, pushed for and received a judge-alone trial, which only fuelled the cynicism.

Denis Glennon and Una Glennon (right), parents of Ciara Glennon with their daughter Denise Glennon (left) finally get justice for Ciara at Edwards' sentencing on Wednesday

Denis Glennon and Una Glennon (right), parents of Ciara Glennon with their daughter Denise Glennon (left) finally get justice for Ciara at Edwards’ sentencing on Wednesday

A marathon eight-month trial followed with barristers keen for a steady flow of headlines sending us on a rollercoaster of confidence to dread.

Pub conversations turned to painstaking discussions of the week’s evidence and whether it looked better or worse for a guilty verdict than the one before.  

Right up to the moment Judge Stephen Hall condemned Edwards as guilty for two of the three murders, there was fear he’d somehow wriggle away.

Instead there was elation, but most of all relief. Even though there was no justice for Ms Spiers, he was going away for a long time.

Four years to the day he was charged, Edwards has now been jailed for life and will spend at least the next 36 years rotting behind bars before he can even apply for parole.

I can’t tell you want it means for any son or daughter of Perth to have this weight off our shoulders.

To know it’s finally over.

KEY DATES IN MARATHON CASE OF THE CLAREMONT KILLER 

 February 15, 1988

– An 18-year-old woman is indecently assaulted in her sleep during a break-in at a Huntingdale home but her attacker flees after a struggle.

February 12, 1995

– A 17-year-old girl is abducted while walking through Rowe Park in Claremont and taken to Karrakatta Cemetery where she is sexually assaulted.

January 27, 1996

– Secretary Sarah Spiers, 18, disappears after leaving Club Bayview in Claremont after calling a taxi from a nearby phone booth. Her body has not been found.

June 9, 1996

– Childcare worker Jane Rimmer, 23, similarly vanishes in Claremont and is last seen outside the Continental Hotel.

June 10, 1996

– Western Australia Police sets up Macro task force.

August 3, 1996

– Ms Rimmer’s body is found by a mother and her children picking flowers in Wellard, south of Perth.

March 15, 1997

– Lawyer Ciara Glennon, 27, is last seen in Claremont after also visiting the Continental Hotel.

April 3, 1997

– Ms Glennon’s body is found in bushland at Eglington, north of Perth.

October 16, 2015

– A newspaper claims police have established a forensic link between Ms Glennon’s murderer and the man who raped a teenager in Karrakatta two years earlier but police refuse to comment for ‘operational reasons’.

December 23, 2016

– Bradley Robert Edwards, 48, from Kewdale, is charged with eight offences related to the deaths of Ms Glennon and Ms Rimmer and the Karrakatta and Huntington attacks, but no charges are laid over the disappearance of Ms Spiers. Edwards is remanded in custody.

February 22, 2018

– Edwards is charged with the wilful murder of Ms Spiers.

October 21, 2019 

– Edward pleads guilty to five of eight charges against him, including the Huntingdale attack and raping the 17-year-old girl at Karrakatta, but maintains he didn’t commit the murders. 

November 25, 2019

– A judge-alone trial begins in the Western Australia Supreme Court.

May 6, 2020 

– The trial is adjourned after all evidence has been heard.

September 24, 2020

– Bradley Robert Edwards is found guilty of the murders of Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon, but is cleared of killing Sarah Spiers

December 23, 2020

– Edwards is sentenced to life in prison with a 40-year non-parole period

Source: AAP

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