Frankston, Victoria, Australia 1993
Australia map with Frankston marked
Over a seven week period in the summer of 1993, three young women, ages 17, 18 and 22, were violently stabbed and slashed to death — one in broad daylight, in and around Frankston, about a 40-minute drive from Melbourne on Port Phillip Bay in south eastern Victoria. Another 41-year-old woman was violently assaulted and considered herself lucky to escape with her life.
None of the victims knew each other and there was nothing to connect them in any way except that they all lived in the Frankston district. After the first two murders and an assault in which the victim escaped, it became clear to police that there was a serial killer on the loose. The killer chose his victims at random and murdered for no apparent reason. Their theory was tragically proved correct when another young woman was murdered a short time later.
And when he was eventually caught, the serial killer turned out to be a local, Paul Charles Denyer, a 6-foot, very overweight, 21-year-old man who answered to the nickname of John Candy, after the (now deceased) funnyman of such movies as Uncle Buck, The Blues Brothers and Cool Runnings.
But Paul Denyer, the John Candy look-a-like serial killer was no funny man. He was a pudgy, dysfunctional misfit, an oafish character and self-confessed misogynist who was always going to be a monster. As a child he slit the throats of his sister’s toy bears and grew up obsessed with blood and gore movies such as The Stepfather, Fear and Halloween, which he watched over and over.
Paul Denyer was a beast who slit the throat of the family kitten with his brother’s pocketknife and hung the dead animal from a tree branch. After his arrest for murder it was discovered that it was Denyer who had disemboweled a friend’s cat and slit the throats of its kittens. Killing human beings was only a matter of time.
When he was captured, Denyer displayed absolutely no emotion as he told horrified police how he murdered the three women. He also told arresting officers that he had had the urge to kill since he was 14. “I’ve always wanted to kill, waiting for the right time, waiting for that silent alarm to trigger me off,” he told them.
Only a Matter of Time
Paul Denyer, age 9
The Frankston Serial Killer was born Paul Charles Denyer in Sydney on April 14, 1972, the third of six children, five boys and a girl to English working class immigrants, Maureen and Anthony Denyer, who came to Australia in 1965 and eventually settled in Campbelltown near Sydney.
The only significant thing about Paul Denyer’s infancy was that as a baby he rolled off a bench and knocked his head. This became a family joke for many years and whenever he would say or do anything out of the ordinary it would prompt the comment “that’s because you fell on your head as a baby.”
Denyer had trouble mixing with the other kids at kindergarten but seemed to grow out of this by the time he reached primary school and was just one of the normal kids. But that all changed when the family moved to Victoria in 1981 so that Anthony Denyer could take up the position as manager of The Steak Place in Centre Road, South Oakleigh, on the Frankston train line.
None of Anthony Denyer’s children approved of the move. They were happy at Campbelltown and Paul especially found it extremely hard to make the adjustment. At his new school, Northvale Primary, he was a completely different boy, a loner who found it difficult to make friends and who lacked self-confidence and was totally unmotivated.
To make matters worse, Paul Denyer grew into a big lump of a lad, much taller and a lot fatter than the other kids. And instead of playing with the usual things that would occupy a boy of his age, he grew up fascinated with his collection of knives and clubs and home-made slingshot-guns that fired pebbles or ball bearings.
His murderous intentions started at an early age when he regularly dissected his sister’s teddy bears with a homemade knife, and when he was 10, he stabbed the family kitten and hung it from a tree in the backyard. Later on, while working at what would be his last place of employment, he allegedly slaughtered and dismembered two goats in a paddock next door.
Just before his thirteenth birthday Paul Denyer was charged with stealing a car and was released with a warning. Two months later he was he was in trouble again and charged with making a false report to the fire brigade, theft and willful damage. At age 15, Denyer forced another boy to masturbate in front of some children and was charged with assault.
Paul Denyer, age 19
In 1992 he entered into a relationship with Sharon Johnson, a girl he had met while working at Safeway’s Supermarket, a job that came to an end when he allegedly deliberately knocked down a woman and a child with a convoy of empty shopping trolleys.
Denyer then applied to join the Victorian Police Force but was rejected on the grounds that he was unfit due to his massive bulk. Denyer’s last place of employment was a marine workshop where he was ultimately fired because he spent more time making crude knives and daggers than he did doing his work.
By 1993, Denyer was a social outcast. He was unable to hold down a job through a mixture of laziness and incompetence. Now nicknamed John Candy after the rotund film star because of his bulk and physical appearance, Denyer developed a fixation for death, the macabre and horrific murder movies such as The Stepfather, which he watched repeatedly.
In 1992 Denyer moved into a flat in Dandenong Road, Frankston, with Sharon Johnson. With Denyer unemployed, Sharon held down two jobs by selling over the phone. With plenty of idle time on Paul Denyer’s hands it wasn’t long before some unusual things started to happen around the block of flats.
One tenant arrived home to find her flat broken into and her clothes and engagement pictures slashed. Another caught the glimpse of someone peeping at her through a window. But the most disturbing of all was what happened to the sister of Tricia, a girl who lived in the same block of flats as Paul Denyer and Sharon Johnson.
Denyer and Johnson had become quite friendly with their neighbor Tricia and her sister Donna, who lived with her fiancé Les and Donna’s tiny baby in a block of flats nearby.
One night in February 1993, Les and Donna arrived home at about 11 p.m. with the baby in a bassinette after working Les’s late night pizza delivery run, to be confronted with the most horrific scene. On the lounge room wall next to the television set and written in blood were the words “Dead Don.” Lying on the floor in the middle of the kitchen was the remains of Donna’s cat Buffy, with a picture of a bikini-clad woman strewn over its disemboweled body.
The cat’s entrails had been dragged through the kitchen and scattered about the walls and the cat’s blood was sprayed everywhere. Written in blood in the middle of it all were the words “Donna — You’re Dead.” One of Buffy’s eyes was bulging from its socket. The other eye was missing, apparently ripped out of the unfortunate cat’s head and discarded.
In the bathroom they found Buffy’s two kittens with their throats cut lying in a baby’s bath of bloodied water. In the laundry there was blood everywhere, sprayed all up the walls and all over a plastic laundry basket full of baby clothes.
In the main bedroom the intruder had ransacked every drawer and clothes were ripped and strewn everywhere. Les’ collection of centerfold pin-ups had been slashed and stabbed with a sharp instrument. Cupboard doors had been kicked and beaten, leaving splintered gouges in them. The baby’s clothing had been slashed and a stabbed photo of a semi-clad model was draped across the baby’s crib. The words “Donna and Robyn” had been sprayed in white shaving foam on the dressing table mirror.
“Donna You’re Dead” writing on the wall
Donna didn’t have the faintest idea who the mysterious Robyn was and she never spent another night at the flat, instead staying temporarily with her sister Tricia until she found alternative accommodations.
Tricia’s neighbor, Paul Denyer, who knew Donna quite well through Tricia, told Donna that she would be safe now and that if the police ever caught the person responsible he would personally take care of him for her.
Moving up to Murder
On Saturday, June 12, 1993, the partially-clothed body of 18-year-old student Elizabeth Stevens was found in Lloyd Park on the Cranbourne Road, Langwarrin, a short drive from Frankston. The teenager had been reported missing the previous evening by her uncle and aunt whom she was staying with.
Naked from the waist up, Elizabeth Stevens had had her throat cut, there were six deep knife wounds to her chest, four deep cuts running from her breast to her navel and four more running at right angles forming a macabre criss-cross pattern on her abdomen. Elizabeth Stevens’ face had several cuts and abrasions and her nose was swollen indicating that it had been broken. Her bra was up around her neck. A post-mortem would reveal that she hadn’t been sexually assaulted.
Life-sized mannequin of Elizabeth Stevens
The killing was as senseless as it was brutal. Elizabeth didn’t have an enemy in the world. The attack had to be that of a random killer or perhaps a rape gone wrong. Police mounted a huge search for the killer. They used a life-sized mannequin at a roadblock at the bus stop where Elizabeth Stevens was last seen in the hope that someone may recognize her and hopefully the person she may have been with.
They knocked on every door in the district and questioned bus drivers and passengers who were on Elizabeth Stevens’ last known bus ride. They checked out every known library in the vicinity of where she was last known to have been. It all amounted to nothing.
On the evening of July 8, 1993, 41-year-old bank clerk Roszsa Toth was making her way home from work to Seaford in the Frankston district when she was violently attacked by a man who said he had a gun and tried to drag her into a nearby nature reserve.
Mrs. Toth put up a fight for her life during which the man pulled out clumps of her hair and she bit his fingers to the bone on several occasions. She eventually fought the man off and with torn stockings and trousers and no shoes she managed to hail down a passing car as her assailant fled into the night. Roszsa Toth had little doubt that had she not resisted so strongly she would have most definitely been murdered.
Mrs. Toth rang the police who were at the scene of the assault within minutes. They found nothing. Later that same evening 22-year-old Debbie Fream who had given birth to a son, Jake, 12 days earlier, went missing after she drove to her local store at Seaford to pick up a bottle of milk while in the middle of preparing dinner.
Four days later her body was found by a farmer in one of his paddocks at nearby Carrum Downs. Debbie Fream had been stabbed about the neck, head, chest and arms 24 times. She had also been strangled. She had not been sexually assaulted.
The attack of Roszsa Toth, which had been considered a purse snatching gone horribly wrong, was now considered to be the work of the same killer of Elizabeth Stevens and Debbie Fream. There was a madman on the loose in Frankston.
The women of the Frankston district locked themselves indoors and the streets were noticeably deserted at night. Real estate sales and rental inquiries plummeted. Frankston became known as the place where a serial killer lurked among its residents and everyone was a suspect. Every day the newspapers gave an update and detailed reports of the huge police manhunt that was underway to track down the killer.
Police were relentless in their investigations. Every lead, no matter how small, was followed up and even the slightest clue as to the assailant’s identity was looked into immediately. A help center named Operation Reassurance was set up to advise local women what they should do if attacked by the Frankston Serial Killer and how to prevent from being attacked in the first place.
But it was to no avail. On the afternoon of July 30, 17-year-old Natalie Russell went missing while riding her bike home from the John Paul College in Frankston. Eight hours later, her body was found in the bushes beside a bike track that ran between the Peninsula and the Long Island Golf clubs. She had been stabbed repeatedly about the face and neck and her throat had been cut. It appeared that the savagery in Natalie Russell’s slaying was far worse than in the previous two victims. Natalie had not been sexually assaulted.
But this time the killer had left a damning piece of evidence that would prove him guilty should he be apprehended. A piece of skin, possibly from a finger, was found on the neck of the dead girl. It didn’t belong to the victim; the only other possible explanation was that the killer had cut himself as he attacked the student and the slither of flesh had attached itself — stuck by dried blood — onto her skin.
The other good news was the sighting of a yellow Toyota Corona on a road near the bike track at 3 p.m., the time the coroner estimated that Natalie Russell had been murdered. The observant police officer had written down its number from its registration label because the car had no plates.
Paul Denyer’s yellow Toyota
Back at the police station, detectives fed the registration number into their computer. It matched up with a report from a postman who had spotted a man slumped in a suspicious position, as if to avoid being seen, in the front seat of a yellow Toyota Corona. A quick check through the computer also revealed that the same car had been spotted in the vicinity where Debbie Fream’s body had been found. Three sightings of the one vehicle were just too much of a coincidence.
The car was registered to a Paul Charles Denyer who wasn’t home when detectives Mick Hughes and Charlie Bezzina called at his address at 3.40 p.m. They left a card under the door asking him to contact them as soon as he arrived home. At 5.15 p.m. the detectives received a call from a Sharon Johnson and, so as not to frighten Denyer away, she was told that it was merely a ‘routine inquiry’ and that they were interviewing everyone in the district. Within 10 minutes, a team of detectives, headed by Mick Hughes, Rod Wilson and CIB Detective Darren O’Loughlin, converged at the block of flats at 186 Frankston-Dandenong Road.
Paul Denyer answered the door and commented that he was surprised to see so many detectives for just a routine inquiry, but he cheerily let them in. He explained that while his car had no plates he had a permit to drive it for 28 days while he made necessary repairs to have it registered.
As Denyer explained his whereabouts at the time of the murders, the detectives noticed that his hands were cut in several places. From one cut, the skin was missing and they mentally noted that the missing piece would have resembled that which was found on Natalie Russell’s body.
Although he admitted to being in the vicinity of two of the murders at the time they were believed to have taken place, Denyer steadfastly denied any knowledge of the killings other than what he had read in the papers. He offered weak excuses for being at the murder scenes, saying that his car had broken down near the place where Natalie Russell was murdered and that he was waiting to pick up his girlfriend from the train on the other occasion. He explained the scratches away by saying that he got his hands caught in the fan while working underneath the bonnet of the car.
But there was no fooling the seasoned detectives. They knew they had their man and that it was only a matter of time before he would crack. Taken to Frankston police station and questioned in an interrogation room while being videorecorded, Denyer maintained his innocence through to the early hours of the following morning. But he knew his number was up when police asked for a blood sample and a sample of his hair and told him that a DNA test would match him to anything on his victim that came from him.
Denyer asked some questions about how long the DNA results would take and whether or not the police had something with which to compare his DNA. Then he thought for a bit and, out of the blue, volunteered, “Okay, I killed all three of them,” to Detective Darren O’Loughlin.
Confession: Elizabeth Stevens
Just before 4 o’clock on the morning of August 1, 1993, Paul Denyer began his confession to the murders of Elizabeth Stevens, Debbie Fream and Natalie Russell, and the attack on Roszsa Toth. He told them that at around 7 p.m. on the bleak, rainy evening of June 11, 1993, Elizabeth Stevens got off a bus on Cranbourne Road, Langwarrin, to walk the short distance to her home. Paul Denyer was waiting – not for Elizabeth in particular. Anyone. Just someone to kill. Elizabeth Stevens just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The homemade knife Denyer used as a fake gun
Denyer followed the young student along the street in the dense rain and grabbed her from behind, telling her that he had a gun and that if she screamed or tried to run away he would kill her. He told detectives that the “gun” he held in her back was in fact a piece of aluminum piping with a wooden handle. At “gunpoint,” Denyer marched the terrified girl to nearby Lloyd Park.
Denyer’s statement said in part: “Walked in a bit of bushland beside the main track in Lloyd Park. Sat there, you know, stood in the bushes for a while just – I can’t remember, just standing there I suppose. I held the ‘gun’ to the back of her neck, walked across the track over towards the other small sandhill or something. And on the other side of that hill, she asked me if she could, you know – go to the toilet, so to speak. So I respected her privacy. So I turned around and everything while she did it and everything. When she finished we just walked down towards where the goal posts are and we turned right and headed towards the area where she was found. I got to that area there and I started choking her with my hands and she passed out after a while. You know, the oxygen got cut off to her head and she just stopped. And then I pulled out the knife … and stabbed her many times in the throat. And she was still alive. And then she stood up and then we walked around and all that, just walking around a few steps, and then I threw her on the ground and stuck my foot over her neck to finish her off.”
The manner in which Denyer gave his confession chilled the detectives to the bone. It was devoid of emotion or remorse — almost flippant. When the detectives asked questions they were answered in an almost condescending manner, as if Denyer was in complete control of the situation because he was the only one who knew what had actually happened.
Denyer described, matter-of-factly, and demonstrated how he had pushed his thumb into Elizabeth Stevens’s throat and strangled her. He made a stabbing motion, showing how he stabbed and slashed her throat. Then, to the astonishment of the detectives, he demonstrated for the video camera how Elizabeth Stevens’s body had begun shaking and shuddering as she went through the death rattles before finally dying.
Denyer then told police how he had dragged Elizabeth Stevens’s body to the drain and left it, where it was eventually found. He explained that the blade of the homemade knife he had used to stab Elizabeth Stevens had bent during the assault and had broken away from the handle. He dumped the pieces beside the road as he made his way from the murder scene.
When asked why he had killed Elizabeth Stevens, Denyer replied: “Just wanted … just wanted to kill. Just wanted to take a life because I felt my life had been taken many times.”
Confession: Roszsa Toth
After a long and detailed confession to the first murder, Paul Denyer went on to tell of the events of the night of July 8, 1993. He told detectives Wilson and O’Loughlin that he approached Mrs. Toth from behind after he had seen her walking near the Seaford station. He put a hand over her mouth and held a fake gun to her head with the other hand. Mrs Toth resisted strongly and bit his finger to the bone.
The couple wrestled and Mrs Toth escaped from his grasp and ran out into the middle of the road, but none of the passing cars stopped. Denyer chased after her, grabbed her by the hair and said: “Shut up, or I’ll blow your fucking head off,” and the woman nodded in agreement but again escaped and this time managed to flag down a passing car while Denyer fled.
When asked what he intended to do to Mrs Toth, Denyer replied coolly: “I was just gonna drag her in the park and kill her — that’s all.” Denyer said that as well as the fake gun, he was carrying one of his homemade knives with a razor-sharp aluminum blade in his sock.
Confession: Debbie Fream
After the near miss with Mrs. Toth, Denyer went to the nearby railway station and casually boarded the Frankston-bound train. He got off at Kananook, the next station along, and crossed over the rail overpass bridge in search of another victim. Here he sighted Debbie Fream getting out of her grey Pulsar and go into the milk bar on the corner.
Denyer said that while Debbie Fream was in the milk bar, he opened the rear door of her car, let himself into the back, and closed the door behind him. He crouched in the back seat and listened as her footsteps came back to the car, and she got in and drove away. “I waited for her to start up the car so no one would hear her scream or anything, “Denyer said in his confession. “And she put it into gear and she went to do a U-turn. I startled her just as she was doing that turn and she kept going into the wall of the milk bar, which caused a dent in the bonnet. I told her to, you know, shut up or I’d blow her head off and all that shit.”
Denyer said that he held the fake gun in her side. The detectives asked Denyer if he had noticed anything in the back and he said that he had seen a baby capsule beside him in the back seat. Denyer must have known that he was about to kill a young mother. Obviously, it made the least scrap of difference to him.
Denyer told Debbie Fream in which direction to drive. It was to an area that he knew well and knew he wouldn’t be seen as he murdered her. ‘I told her when we got there that if she gave any signals to anyone, I’d blow her head off, I’d decorate the car with her brains,’ Denyer told the police.
Denyer told her to stop the car near some trees and get out, and he pulled a length of cord from his pocket. “I popped it over her eyes real quickly, so she didn’t see it . . .’cause I was gonna strangle her. But I didn’t want her to see the cord first. I lifted the cord up and I said: “Can you see this?” And she just put her hand up to grab it to feel it and when she did that I just yanked on it real quickly around her neck. And then I was struggling with her for about five minutes.” Denyer said that he strangled Debbie Fream until she started to pass out. He then drew the knife from his sock and repeatedly stabbed her about the neck and chest. When she fell limp at his feet he set upon her with the knife, stabbing her many times in the neck and once in the stomach.
“She started breathing out of her neck, just like Elizabeth Stevens,” he told the detectives. “I could just hear bubbling noises.” When asked if Debbie Fream put up any resistance, Denyer replied: “Yeah, she put up quite a fight. And her white jumper was pulled off during that time as well. I just felt the same way I did when I killed Elizabeth Stevens.”
The detectives then asked Denyer what happened after he had stabbed her round the chest and throat area. “I lifted up her top and then ploughed the knife into her gut. I wanted to see how big her boobs were.” He said that when he saw Debbie’s bare stomach he ‘”just lunged at it with the knife.”
Satisfied that Debbie Fream was dead, Denyer dragged her body into a clump of trees and covered it over with a couple of branches he broke from the nearest tree. He then spent about five minutes looking for the murder weapon which he had dropped after the killing, found it and put it in his pocket. He drove off in Debbie Fream’s car, dumped it close to where he lived, and walked home in time to ring Sharon at work and pick her up at the Kananook railway station.
The following morning, he brazenly returned to Debbie Fream’s car and collected her purse and the two cartons of milk, eggs, chocolate and a packet of cigarettes she had purchased from the milk bar the previous evening, and took them home with him. The only thing of value he found in the purse was a $20 note.
He emptied the milk down the sink, threw out the eggs and burned the carton, as he considered this to be evidence that could be used against him. He then buried the dead woman’s purse in the nearby golf course and near the bike track where he would later kill Natalie Russell. Denyer then dismantled his homemade knife and hid the parts in the air vent in the laundry of his apartment.
“Why did you kill her?” the detectives asked him.
“Same reason why I killed Elizabeth Stevens. I just wanted to,” he replied.
As the sun rose on that Sunday morning, 12 hours after they had started questioning Paul Denyer at Frankston police station, the weary detectives began questioning him about the murder of Natalie Russell.
Confession: Natalie Russell
If the detectives were showing any signs of weariness, what they were about to hear would shock them back to attentiveness with a jolt. Denyer’s almost unbelievable confession to the murder of Natalie Russell would put him among the most despicable monsters this country has ever known. Denyer had planned his next murder in advance. His intention was to abduct a young woman, any young woman, as she walked along the bike track that runs alongside the Flora and Fauna Reserve in nearby Langwarrin, drag his victim into the reserve and murder her.
He had gone to his planned abduction spot earlier in the day and, with a pair of pliers, had cut three holes a few metres apart in the cyclone wire fence that ran between the bike track and the reserve. Each hole was cut big enough to fit him and his victim through into the cover of tree-lined reserve.
Hole in the fence on Skye Road
At about 2:30 that afternoon, he drove back to the start of the bike track in Skye Road and waited for a victim to enter on foot. His plan was to follow his victim and, as they approached a hole in the fence, he would grab her and take her through it and into the reserve. He was armed with a razor-sharp homemade knife and a leather strap which he intended to use to strangle his victim. After a wait of about 20 minutes, he saw a girl in a blue school uniform come out of the road where John Paul College was and enter the bike track. He followed.
“I stuck about 10 yards behind her until I got to the second hole,” Denyer told the detectives. “And just when I got to that hole, I quickly walked up behind her and stuck my left hand around her mouth and held the knife to her throat…and that’s where that cut happened.” Denyer then indicated the cut on his thumb from which the piece of skin was missing. “I cut that on my own blade.”
Denyer said that Natalie was struggling at first when he grabbed her but stopped when he told her that if she didn’t he would cut her throat. The terrified girl then offered Denyer sex, which disgusted him as he clearly failed to see that Natalie must have realized that she was in the hands of the Frankston Serial Killer and would have done anything, even if it meant having sex with him, to save her life.
“She said, ‘You can have all my money, have sex with me,’ and things — just said disgusting things like that, really,” Denyer told the detectives as he shook his head in revulsion at what he obviously interpreted as the schoolgirl’s loose morals. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Upset, Denyer forced Natalie to kneel in front of him and held the point of the knife very closely over her eye. Then he forced her to lie on the ground and he knelt over her, holding her by the throat and still holding the point of the knife over her eye. When she struggled he cut her across the face. She somehow managed to stand up and started to scream.
“And I just said, ‘Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.’ And, ‘If you don’t shut up, I’ll kill you. If you don’t do this, I’ll kill you, if you don’t do that,’” Denyer told the detectives. “And she said, ‘What do you want from me?’ I said, ‘All I want you to do is shut up.’ And so when she was kneeling on the ground, I put the strap around her neck to strangle her and it broke in half. And then she started violently struggling for about a minute until I pushed got her onto her back again – and pushed her head back like this and cut her throat.’”
Denyer then demonstrated how he held Natalie Russell’s head back. “I cut a small cut at first and then she was bleeding. And then I stuck my fingers into her throat … and grabbed her cords and I twisted them.”
The detectives could hardly believe what they were hearing, but somehow managed to contain their abhorrence so that they could prompt him to continue with his confession of horror.
“Why’d you do that?”
“My whole fingers — like, that much of my hand was inside her throat,” Denyer said as he held up his hand, indicating exactly how much of it he had forced into the wound in the schoolgirl’s throat.
“Do you know why you did that?” the detective asked again.
“Stop her from breathing … And then she slowly stopped. She sort of started to faint and then when she was weak, a bit weaker, I grabbed the opportunity of throwing her head back and one big large cut which sort of cut almost her whole head off. And then she slowly died.”
“Why did you kill her?” the shocked detectives asked, just managing to hold themselves back from being physically ill.
“Just same reason as before, just everything came back through my mind again. I kicked her before I left.”
Years of Stalking
Denyer then told the stunned detectives that he had kicked Natalie Russell’s body to make sure she was dead, slashed her down the side of her face with his knife and left her where she lay. As he walked back the way he had come in, his blood-soaked hands concealed in his pockets, Denyer saw two uniformed officers taking details from the registration sticker on his car, so he turned around and walked home the other way.
At home, he washed his clothes and hid the murder weapon in his backyard. He later picked up Sharon from her work and spent a quiet evening with her at her mother’s place.
The only emotion that Denyer had shown through the entire interview was when he was disgusted to think that the schoolgirl Natalie Russell would offer him sex. Outside of that it was almost as if he were proud of his achievements.
Then Denyer went on to confess to the slaughter of Donna’s cats. He said that he had brought a knife that afternoon with the sole purpose of “cutting Donna’s throat” because he “didn’t like her.” When he found noone at home after he entered through a window he vented his anger on her cats.
Denyer told the detectives that he had been stalking women in the Frankston area “for years, just waiting for the right time, waiting for that silent alarm to trigger me off. Waiting for the sign.”
“Can you explain why we have women victims?” Detective O’Loughlin asked Denyer.
“I just hate ‘em.”
“I beg your pardon?” said O’Loughlin.
“I just hate ‘em,” Denyer repeated.
“Those particular girls,” asked O’Loughlin, in reference to Denyer’s victims, “or women in general?”
It seemed that the only woman on earth that Denyer didn’t hate was his lover Sharon Johnson, who had absolutely no knowledge of his murderous activities. “Sharon’s not like anyone else I know. I’d never hurt her. She’s a kindred spirit,” Denyer told the detectives.
Eligible for Parole in 30
Paul Charles Denyer was charged with the murders of Elizabeth Stevens, Debbie Fream and Natalie Russell and the attempted murder of Roszsa Toth, which was later changed to the lesser charge of abduction.
At his trial, on December 15, 1993, before Justice Frank Vincent at the Supreme Court of Victoria, Paul Denyer pleaded guilty to all charges.
The court heard from clinical psychologist Ian Joblin, who had been appointed to examine Denyer in prison while he was awaiting sentence. Mr Joblin told the court that, in his view, Denyer showed no remorse for his crimes. In fact, he revelled in telling of the murders and seemed as if he got pleasure recounting them. Denyer blamed a number of things that had happened in his life for leading him down the path to serial murder. He said that his hard upbringing, the alleged sexual abuse by his elder brother and his habitual unemployment were the major contributing factors that caused him to murder young girls.
But the psychologist did not accept the excuses. He said that thousands of people in the community lived under similar circumstances and none of them had resorted to serial murder. Mr. Joblin told the court that of all of the adult offenders he had interviewed over the years – and there had been many – not one was even remotely close to the psychology of Paul Charles Denyer.
Mr. Joblin told the hushed court that Paul Denyer was a very rare breed — a killer who murdered at random and without motive — and this made him the most dangerous type of criminal. He said that Denyer had a cruel and demeaning nature. He had exhibited aggressive behavior since childhood and he seemed to be amused by the suffering that he had inflicted.
Mr. Joblin added that Paul Denyer was a sadist whose pleasure and satisfaction after each murder dissipated quickly so that he would again feel the desire to kill. He said that there was no effective treatment for Denyer’s sadistic personality. On December 20, 1993, Justice Vincent sentenced Paul Charles Denyer to three terms of life imprisonment with no fixed non-parole period. In other words, the Frankston Serial Killer would spend the rest of his life behind bars without ever the possibility of release. Justice Vincent also gave Denyer an additional eight years for the abduction of Roszsa Toth.
Justice Vincent said: “The apprehension you have caused to thousands of women in the community will be felt for a long time. For many, you are the fear that quickens their step as they walk home, or causes a parent to look anxiously at the clock when a child is late.”
Paul Denyer appealed to the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria against the severity of his sentence, and on July 29, 1994, he was granted a 30-year non-parole period, the equal highest non-parole period ever imposed in Victoria. The other recipient was triple murderer Ashley Coulston.
The families of Paul Denyer’s victims felt cheated by the Supreme Court’s decision, as they believed that the only possible sentence for Denyer was jail for life, never to be released. It seems that no one would argue with that except the Supreme Court judges. Only time will tell whether the Frankston Serial Killer will ever be allowed back into society.