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Claremont serial killings left state in the grip of a murder mystery

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Ever since the search for Sarah Spiers began, the state of Western Australia had been in the grip of a triple-murder mystery without end and without justice.

Inside two decades worth of files, news clippings and notebooks there is a homemade poster, roughly cut-and-pasted in hasty desperation.

"Have you seen Sarah?"

A photograph of a young woman – her perfect skin and beaming smile – projects a future full of hope and opportunity.

Sarah Spiers disappeared in January 1996. Her body has never been found.

But 24 years later, the life of Sarah Spiers, like the photograph, remains frozen in time.

No one, other than her abductor and killer, has seen the 18-year-old secretary since the early hours of January 27, 1996.

Today was judgement day for Bradley Robert Edwards - the man accused of murdering Sarah Spiers and two other young Perth women.

All three vanished from the affluent western suburb of Claremont over a 15-month period.

And ever since the search for Ms Spiers began, the state of Western Australia had been in the grip of a triple-murder mystery without end and without justice.

Claremont's streets are lined with giant eucalypts and seasonally-brilliant Cape Lilacs.

New and old money bungalows and mansions occupy above-average sized blocks of land that skirt the Swan River and fill in the gaps between the suburb's sought-after private schools.

Throw in the trendy Club Bayview nightclub and bustling Continental Hotel and Claremont was a place to be seen for Perth's upwardly-mobile.

The women all disappeared from the Perth suburb of Claremont in 1996 and 1997.

It was also perfect for a predator prowling for young women spilling onto the streets, often tipsy or drunk after a night on the town. 

When Ms Spiers exited Club Bayview at around 2am, following her Australia Day celebrations, she walked to a nearby telephone booth to call a taxi.

She made that call, the taxi turned up, but Ms Spiers was gone.

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No amount of "Have you seen Sarah?" posters, leads from the public or painstaking police work resulted in a breakthrough. 

Her body remains missing and her parents Don and Carol remain tormented.

Nine News Special: The Claremont Killings

Six months on, it happened again.

A 23-year-old childcare worker disappeared in eerily similar circumstances on June 8.

Jane Rimmer was with friends at the Continental Hotel before the group decided to leave shortly before midnight.

Some climbed into a taxi.

Ms Rimmer stayed talking to people on the Bayview Terrace footpath.

She disappeared and no one around the busy nightspot saw or heard anything.

Suddenly, police had two missing persons cases and the prospect of a serial killer on the loose.

When a woman walking down a bush track on August 3, 1996, was drawn by the sight of a large death lily springing from the damp grown in the southern semi-rural suburb of Wellard, Ms Rimmer's fate was sealed.

Her naked body had been concealed with branches.

Jane Rimmer's body was found in bushland.

A WA Police taskforce dubbed "Macro" was formed and interest in the crimes began to snowball.

"It was frenetic," retired police sergeant Anthony Potts recalled.

"We had enquiries from media organisations all over Australia."

But neither the surge in public interest nor police manpower would lead to who was responsible and eight months later, another family was missing a daughter.

Ciara Glennon, 27, was a lawyer who had recently returned to Perth from overseas.

On March 14, 1997, she left the Continental Hotel and was never seen alive again.

Her body was located a month later in bushland 50km north of Perth. Her killer was no closer to being caught.

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"The killer was organised and planned the events," Mr Potts, who ran the Macro Taskforce's media unit at the time, said.

"He showed some ingenuity and was afforded a degree of luck."

Ciara Glennon was a lawyer. She disappeared from the Continental Hotel and her body was later found in bushland.

That luck finally ran out on December 23, 2016, when Edwards was arrested at home and eventually charged with murdering all three women.

He pleaded not guilty to those crimes.

The now 51-year-old was also charged, and pleaded guilty, to the 1995 Claremont abduction and rape of a 17-year-old, and an unsolved bedroom attack in Huntingdale that happened in 1988, when Edwards was aged 19.

But as the marathon trial rolled on to today's conclusion, evidence emerged about Edwards, his history and long-term employment which raised questions about the effectiveness of the police investigation through those crucial years in the late 1990s.

Police files were peppered with reports of a Telstra worker giving or offering lifts to young women in the Claremont area.

A Telstra employee's knife was found not far from where Ms Rimmer's body was located.

At the time of the 1995 rape of a teenager, a security guard reported seeing a Telstra vehicle driving around the cemetery where the violent sexual assault took place.

Across all those years and incidents, Edwards worked as a Telstra technician.

Former Telstra technician Bradley Robert Edwards is now a convicted killer.

In 1990, he received a criminal record after he grabbed a female hospital worker from behind and tried to drag her towards a toilet.

She broke free, but when police arrested Edwards, he was found with cable ties in his pocket.

Then aged 21, Edwards pleaded guilty, was sentenced to two years' probation and forced into a sex offender's program.

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The hospital where that crime took place was in the neighbouring suburb to Claremont.

"The reality was thousands of pieces of information were coming in," Mr Potts said.

"All those pieces of information were looked at, and enquiries were conducted into them. Where it leads depends on a lot of things."

Two of the bodies were found in semi-rural bush on the outskirts of PerthBradley Robert Edwards also pleaded guilty to mulitple sex attacks.

For more than three years, police had another suspect firmly in their sights and continue to make no apology for it.

Socially awkward public servant Lance Kenneth Williams was surveilled and questioned by the Macro Taskforce more than once and stalked and interviewed by the media relentlessly.

His unnerving desire to drive around Claremont making sure young women were safe became a focus of detectives.

"The actions were completely justified," Mr Potts said.

"The taskforce did the appropriate thing, in their legal and moralistic framework, to ensure every line of inquiry was done with Mr Williams.

"It's unfortunate that he's since passed away.

"But the reality is the taskforce had a responsibility to the community to follow every lead that might stop or identify this offender."

In the end, and far too long after the Claremont crimes were committed, Edwards was identified through a cold case inquiry into the Huntingdale sex assault in 1988.

A DNA match was the breakthrough and now justice can finally be done.

Source: 9News

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