Home' Scoop : Scoop 65 Spring 2013 Contents 104 SCOOP SPRING 2013
he idea of females behaving
badly has been a spellbinding
subject for me since my days as
a young news reporter.
So, when I was approached to write Fa t a l
Females: 13 Cases that Gripped a Nation, I was excited
to begin months of research. Who are Australia’s
most memorable female criminals?
Top of my list was K athleen Folbigg, found
guilty of the murder of three of her children,
and the manslaughter of a fourth. There is little
sympathy for mothers who kill their children,
stirring a strong public desire to punish severely.
At the time of the deaths, the children were
thought to have died from SIDS. Then Folbigg’s
chilling diary entries were discovered.(Ja n 2 8,
1998: I knew I was cruel and short temper ed to her and
she left. With a bit of help). Folbigg maintains her
innocence and a growing number of experts claim
she might have been wrongly convicted because of
inaccurate evidence at her trial. But there was no
outpouring of public sympathy at the time: would
that have been the case if Folbigg had been a man?
Another fascinating fatal female was NSW
abattoir worker Katherine Knight. She should be
a household name but, because her crime was so
horrific, newspaper editors back in 2000 decided
that readers should be spared the graphic details.
Did anybody really need to be subjected to how
Knight stabbed her partner John Price, before she
dismembered him and cooked some body parts?
Surely she must be ‘crazy’? Yet, during her trial,
psychiatrists claim that while the mother of four
had borderline personality disorder, she was not
insane. What she did, by cooking the body parts,
was try to create the appearance of insanity. She is
the only Australian woman to be sentenced to life
without possibility of parole.
South Australia is home to one of our most
notorious female criminals, Michelle Burgess. The
28-year-old housewife began a love affair with her
husband’s boss, David Matthews. Together they
hatched a plan to hire a hit man to kill Matthews’
wife, Carolyn. But, shortly before the cowardly
killing in 2000, Burgess began an affair with the hit
man. Then, she started another love affair with the
hit man’s friend. She was eventually sentenced to
life in prison, where she continued her sex-g oddess
ways – at least two prison officers g ot themselves
in trouble when Burgess managed to seduce them.
For me, the most fascinating of the stories in
Fatal Females is that of Russian-born Australian
librarian Lucy Dudko, whose case I covered for the
ABC. In 1999, Lucy hijacked a helicopter which
landed in the exercise yard of Silverwater prison
to break her boyfriend, John Killick, out of prison.
Perth journalist Libby-Jane Charleston delves into the lives and
crimes of Australia’s most notorious female criminals.
The couple spent 44 days on the road as fugitives,
but their luck ran out when they checked into
a Bass Hill caravan park and were recognised by the
park’s manager. (Their faces were splashed across
every newspaper in the country and all the couple
had done to change their identity was to dye their
hair!) Lucy was released after ser ving seven years
behind bars, but her former lover Killick is still in
prison after a recent bid for parole was refused.
Love makes people do crazy things, but, apparently,
Lucy’s love for Killick ran cold after a few years in
therapy. Word is that she is now a recluse, working
at a pavlova factory not far from Silverwater. Who
knows, perhaps Lucy will be at the prison gates to
greet Killick on his release. Or perhaps she is now
so far removed from her gutsy gut-toting days that
she shudders at the memory.
words Libby-Jane Charleston
13 Cases that
Grant Books, $25
FROM FAR LEFT
Lucy Dudko and
ARTS & CULTURE books
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