‘Menacing memories’ of Claremont killer

The Claremont serial killings trial could be delayed due to new evidence.
The Claremont serial killings trial could be delayed due to new evidence.

SEEING the pre-trial hearing of Claremont killer accused Bradley Robert Edwards play out in court and in the media has dredged up 20-year-old menacing memories for me, writes Sara Fitzpatrick.

I’m taken back to a strange, frightening and exciting few years when I worked on infamous Bay View Terrace and tasted the panic and intrigue that permeated the suburb.

I worked in a music store when the Claremont Serial Killer struck, across the road from the then-Continental Hotel where Jane Rimmer was last seen and Ciara Glennon visited shortly before disappearing.

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Claremont serial killer’s hunting ground 

I was 17 when Sarah Spiers and Ms Rimmer vanished and 18 when Ms Glennon was taken.

The glamorous strip wasn’t just my place of employment, the whole precinct and greater suburb was my stomping ground since birth.

I went to nearby MLC, lived in Mt Claremont, shopped and ate in the ‘burb and frequented its nightspots – this was my hood and it would never be the same again.

My home was now a hunting ground for a killer who could literally be anyone – and that was terrifying. My fear wasn’t being the next victim – not overly; my fear was that I would know the killer.

Could he be a teacher at my school, a neighbour, a friend’s father/brother/uncle? Was he a customer at my store or the chef from the cafe next door?

It was all so close to home that it seemed very likely I could know this man.

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Police hunt for clues in August 1996 after discovering the body of Jane Rimmer in Wellard. Picture: WA News

Killings caused climate of fear

Fear and speculation ran high through my circle of friends, family, the terrace and indeed my shop.

Mothers who came into the store would tell me of their concerns for their daughters – especially those that fitted the bill: young, voluptuous and blonde.

Ms Spiers and Ms Rimmer looked scarily similar and I recall feeling somewhat safe when they vanished as I didn’t look like them.

I also remember that wall of safety shifting when Glennon – a petite brown-haired woman, more like me – became victim number three.

An eerie sense of unease loitered around the streets and paranoia ensued, with almost everyone having a story that could be linked – somehow – to the cases.

Even I was quick to relay a story to police, who had set up information vans at the bottom of the terrace.

Police continue their forensic investigation at the Kewdale home of Bradley Robert Edwards. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

It was around Easter and raining heavily – a dark and dreary day – and I was buying chocolate eggs on my lunch break.

As I stood at the front of a shop on nearby St Quentin Avenue, waiting for the rain to subside, a strange woman began pressuring me to get under her umbrella.

She was insistent that she escort me home and it scared me – I had seen enough crime shows to know women could be dangerous too.

Police were very interested in my story.

There was a huge push from the force to find evidence after the second and third incident and people were urged to report anything suspicious, no matter how seemly insignificant.

Police appeared desperate – they were failing – and this further fed our fear.

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Police cordoned off the Kewdale home of Bradley Robert Edwards. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Police fears over a familiar face

My dad even became a potential suspect for a moment. He would wait for me at the back of the store every Thursday night at closing.

It was dark and dingy back there and he must have looked sinister, lurking in the shadows.

Several police knocked on the backdoor of the shop one night, Dad close at their side: “This man says he is your father, is that true?” they asked.

Many of my friends and colleagues avoided the strip at night – I certainly did – but amazingly I would still see young drunken women continuing to stagger around the precinct alone, even after the third case.

More than two decades later we may have our man. Feeling somewhat removed from the incidents, with so much time passing, I can’t help but feel a rush of relief that he’s not the familiar face I feared.

sara.fitzpatrick@communitynews.com.au

 

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