The wealthy suburb of Claremont in Perth was a popular nightspot for young Australians, who flocked to the bars and clubs in its central precinct.
But for two years it lived in terror as a monster stalked its streets – and the case of the Claremont Serial Killer became one of the state’s longest-running and most expensive, taking two decades to deliver justice.
The horror began with the disappearance of Sarah Spiers.
Having recently graduated from high school, the 18-year-old – described by friends as being full of laughter – was working as a secretary and sharing a flat with her older sister in southern Perth.
Sarah went out with friends to celebrate Australia Day on 26 January 1996 and they moved on to the popular Club Bayview, in the centre of Claremont, in the early hours.
After spending a while inside, Sarah decided to leave without her pals. It was an unusual move for the safety-conscious teen.
She called a taxi from a phone box at 2am but asked for it to take her to a local park instead of home. Witnesses saw her walking alone and one saw a car stop close to where she was waiting. When the taxi arrived at 2.09am, Sarah had vanished.
Her case got huge publicity but despite a major search, she was never found. With no answers, the city grew nervous.
The second woman to disappear was Jane Rimmer, a childcare worker who loved surfing at the local beach and spending time with family on the weekends.
On 8 June the same year, the 23-year-old was out with friends, going to the Ocean Beach Hotel and then the Continental Hotel – now The Claremont.
Late in the evening, Jane and her friends moved on to Club Bayview but there was a long queue.
Her pals decided they didn’t want to wait and got a taxi home – but she stayed out. CCTV showed her waiting outside the Continental at 12.04am. It was the last sighting.
Tragically, on 3 August, Jane’s naked body was found in bushland some 25 miles south of Perth. She had neck injuries and had been partially covered by branches.
A task force was set up to solve the riddle of the two disappearances and rumours grew that a serial killer was targeting the area. A $250,000 reward was offered for information – the largest of its kind to date.
While only one body had been found, the individual being hunted was dubbed the Claremont Serial Killer. And the city, now gripped by terror, would be shaken again nine months later.
Lawyer Ciara Glennon, 27, was out with friends at the Continental on 14 March 1997. She was intelligent and spirited, and had arrived back in Perth two weeks earlier after finishing a year of travelling.
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When Ciara decided to make her way home, witnesses saw her walking alone at around 12.30am. A light-coloured vehicle was seen near her – then she vanished.
Tragically, a bushwalker discovered Ciara’s body 19 days later, dumped in scrubland 25 miles north of Perth. She was semi-clothed, with slashing injuries to her neck. Her death confirmed what everyone had suspected – a serial killer was preying on women.
The hunt for the Claremont Serial Killer was the biggest investigation in the area’s history with more than 700 officers working on the case. Clubbers in Perth were scared.
Ciara had put up a fierce fight and DNA from her attacker was found under her nails.
Fibres were also found on her body – as with Jane. They were identified as being from blue clothing and a Holden Commodore car.
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At first, police believed the culprit might be a taxi driver. There were reports of cars approaching women in the area at the time of the abductions. But after a massive DNA testing drive, no killer was found and all other leads came to nothing.
Then, in December 2016, there was a shock arrest when investigators pieced together evidence from other, earlier cases.
In 1995, a year before the killings started, a 17-year-old girl was abducted from the Claremont area while walking home and raped in the local Karrakatta Cemetery. There was DNA at the scene.
And in 1988, a man broke into the bedroom of an 18-year-old girl and sexually assaulted her. He went into the room wearing a woman’s nightie and fled leaving a silk kimono with DNA on it.
The DNA from the cases led police to Bradley Edwards, a technician for telecommunication company Telstra.
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Fibres at the crime scenes of Jane and Ciara matched his Telstra-issue uniform. Other fibres matched those in a work vehicle he would borrow – a Holden Commodore.
All four crimes could be linked to him and disturbing pornography was found on his computers, while his online username was Bogeyman.
Edwards had a minor criminal record but could officers prove he was a serial killer?
He was charged with the 1995 rape and 1988 assault, and he surprised all by pleading guilty.
But when he was charged with the murders of Sarah, Jane and Ciara, he denied guilt. Due to the case being so high-profile, Edwards applied and succeeded in getting a judge-only trial.
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His hearing began in November 2019 with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Hall presiding. Members of the public lined the streets to get a chance to sit in on the case that had gripped Perth.
The prosecution said Edwards’ admission that he had attacked two teens in 1988 and 1995 proved his character. They told the court that after his wife had left him, his behaviour had escalated to murder.
They said he had abducted the women from the street, using a company vehicle he borrowed for after hours, then driven them to the outskirts of the city before attacking them with a sharp object.
Several witnesses said a man looking like Edwards had been seen late at night in Claremont, driving around offering lifts to women. Was that how he’d lured his victims?
The prosecution said fibres found on Jane and Ciara matched those in his car and his uniform, and his DNA was found under Ciara’s fingernails.
But the defence said the DNA on Ciara had been compromised and the fibres were not conclusive.
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By June 2020, following seven months of evidence and over 200 witnesses, the judge considered his verdict, which would take three more months.
In September, he declared Edwards guilty of the murders of Jane and Ciara – but found him not guilty of killing Sarah.
“The propensity evidence makes it more likely that the accused was the killer of Sarah Spiers but it cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt in the absence of any other evidence as to the identity of her killer,” he said.
In December, Edwards, 51, faced sentencing. “You were a dangerous predator who sought out vulnerable young women and attacked them for your own gratification,” the judge told the fiend.
“You targeted unsuspecting women who were usually unknown to you. Your actions were premeditated, executed with pitiless determination and you were remorseless in your disregard for their pain and suffering.”
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Loved ones made impact statements, including the survivors of his earlier attacks. They spoke for the victims who couldn’t.
After two decades, the Claremont Serial killer was sentenced to life in prison and told he would serve a minimum of 40 years.
“There is a high likelihood that you will die in prison,” the judge said.
There was applause in the courtroom as one of the grimmest trials Perth has seen came to an end.
Edwards has since been linked to other victims, including the cases of several missing women.
Police have vowed to never stop looking for Sarah’s body and working to secure a conviction for her murder.
The trial may be over but the case of the Claremont Serial Killer will never be concluded until all of Edwards’ disturbing secrets are uncovered – and Sarah’s family finally has closure.
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