Ordinary Monster, Ordinary Beginning
Peter Norris Dupas
Peter Dupas was a predatory sex monster of the worst kind: A cruel and calculating fiend who meticulously went about his depravity and could then melt into a crowd in a heartbeat. A man so ordinary and inconspicuous that it was almost impossible to believe that he could commit such atrocities. That is the way his victims saw him and, time and again, they allowed him into their company.
He left those who survived so traumatized that some could never again go to sleep with the light off or walk down their own hallway unaccompanied. No sooner was Peter Dupas out of jail than he would re-offend, each time worse than the last, until he killed and was finally locked away, where he would never be allowed to hurt anyone again.
Map of Australia with Melbourne Locator
Born into a loving home in Sydney on July 6, 1953, Peter Norris Dupas was the youngest of three children and, as an infant, moved with his family to Melbourne, where he grew up in the Frankston and Mount Waverley areas. Peter’s brother and sister were many years older than he and his parents who were old enough to be his grandparents, treated him like an only child. He claimed later that he was a spoiled child, made to feel inadequate by his overprotective mother and perfectionist father.
Teased by the other kids at school because he was a slow learner and prone to be overweight — his nickname was Pugsley, after the boy in the TV show “The Addams Family” — Dupas grew up as the class dunce and repeated Form 1. At age 15, Dupas embarked on his criminal career in a fashion that would become his trademark — attacking women with a knife.
On October 3, 1968, while wearing his school uniform, Dupas went to the house next door and asked his friendly 27-year-old neighbor, who was nursing her five-week-old baby, if he could borrow a sharp knife so he could peel some potatoes. As the woman commented on what a good boy he was for helping his mother with the cooking, he lunged at her with the knife and stabbed her in the stomach without saying a word.
“He knocked me down onto the floor and fell on top of me,” the woman told the police. “He kept on stabbing me with the knife and I kept trying to ward him off. I felt the knife cut into my hands, mainly my right hand, my face and my neck.
“I was holding on to the knife at one stage trying to break the blade. I was lying on my back and he was sitting on top of me. He said, ‘It’s too late, I can’t stop now, they’ll lock me up.’”
After covering her mouth with his hand and repeatedly bashing the woman’s head on the floor, Dupas stopped as abruptly as he had begun. He told police he didn’t know why he had attacked his neighbor and that he would never intentionally hurt anyone.
“I can remember having the knife in my hand,” Dupas told police. “I must have been trying to kill her or something.”
The teenage assailant was taken to Larundel Hospital for psychiatric assessment. It was concluded in court that he was “caught in an emotional conflict between the need to conform to the expectations of his parents and the unconscious urges to express his aggression and his developing masculinity.” Dupas was put on 18 months’ probation and told to undergo psychiatric treatment.
“An evil, cold baby-faced liar”
Peter Norris Dupas
During form 5, he left the horrors of school and took up an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner at General Electric in nearby Notting Hill. As is the case with a lot of socially unacceptable serial sex offenders who get their kicks out of dominating and dehumanizing defenseless women, while doing his apprenticeship Dupas, applied to join the police force so he could exert his authority legally. But he was rejected for being 1cm too short.
On March 10, 1972, a man chased and caught 19-year-old Dupas after finding him peeping through the bathroom window at his wife in the shower. On November 15, 1973, Dupas was interviewed by police after a motorist reported that he had repeatedly driven alongside the complainant’s car, staring and smiling at his 12-year-old daughter.
Two weeks later, detectives from nearby Nunawading arrested and charged Dupas with the rape of a married woman three weeks earlier on November 5, 1973. They alleged that Dupas had asked his victim for help claiming his car had broken down outside her home. While the woman was looking for a screwdriver, Dupas hid in the house then threatened the woman and her 18-month-old baby with a knife before raping her.
Police alleged that in the two weeks before he was picked up, Dupas had tricked his way into two homes with the same ruse, but had left without assaulting either woman. He stole money from the first house and left, and fled from the second when the woman told him her husband was on the way home and would be there any minute.
Even in those early days, arresting detectives saw the potential danger in Dupas and the leader of the investigation, Senior Sergeant Ian Armstrong, described him to reporters as “an evil, cold, baby-faced liar who would possibly cause the death of one of his victims if he wasn’t straightened out.”
The investigating detectives discovered that Dupas was a consummate liar and a frustrating interview subject, as even in the face of overwhelming evidence he would deny everything. Then he would break down, and just when it looked as though he was about to make a confession, he would straighten himself up and deny everything again and they would have to go back and start again from the beginning.
Detectives also discovered that Dupas was no ordinary rapist who chose his victims at random. He was organized to the point where he had everything worked out down to the last detail. He had pre-chosen his victim(s) and went about his business in a very cold and calculated fashion, remaining calm at all times, even when arrested.
“He was a cool, cunning liar,” Detective Armstrong told reporters. “You’d look at him and think, ‘Could he be this callous, this dangerous? But I knew this guy would be a danger…you could smell it.’”
After being charged with rape and released on bail, Dupas was remanded to Mont Park psychiatric hospital, where he was allowed to come and go as he pleased. While still attending Mont Park, Dupas was arrested for a series of incidents at nearby Rosebud Beach.
He was seen on at least three occasions entering a female toilet and shower block and watching girls showering before he was trapped in a police stakeout. Dupas was taken back to Mont Park and admitted as a voluntary patient, where he stayed put from January 8 to February 22, 1974.
Dupas Gets the Urge
Charged with loitering with intent and offensive behavior over the Rosebud allegations, the court heard that while psychiatrists at Mont Park were unable to find any gross psychiatric disorders with the 21-year-old Dupas, they did not exclude the possibility of personality problems for him in the future. Dupas was fined $140.
Six months later, at his sentencing for the Nunawading rape of the married woman on November 5, 1973, the judge was not so lenient. County Court Judge John Leckie didn’t hold back as he berated Dupas for what he described as one of the most appalling rapes that could possibly be imagined.
“You raped a young married woman who was previously unknown to you in her own home and on her own bed,” he told the prisoner. “You invaded the sanctity of her home by a false story about your car breaking down. You threatened her with a knife, you tied her up with a cord, you struck her when she tried to resist and, worst of all, you threatened to harm her baby when she tried to resist.
“Whilst accepting that you are psychologically disturbed,” Judge Leckie said, “I believe you were fully responsible for your actions.”
And in what would be a fatally accurate prediction, Dr Allen Bartholomew, one of Australia’s most experienced forensic psychiatrists, who had examined Dupas while he was in custody, told the court, “I am reasonably certain that this youth has a serious psycho-sexual problem, that he is using the technique of denial as a coping device and he is to be seen as potentially dangerous.”
Judge Leckie sentenced Dupas to nine years in jail with a non-parole period of five years.
Jail and attempts at rehabilitation obviously had no affect on Peter Dupas and a little more than two months after his release on September 4, 1979, after serving five years and eight months, he attacked four women over a 10-day period, leaving them psychologically damaged for the rest of their lives. This time he was equipped with what would become his trademark — a knife and a balaclava.
Dupas raped his first victim in a Frankston public toilet block. His next three victims escaped, but one, an elderly woman, was stabbed in the chest as she offered as much resistance as she could muster in an attempt to escape. His attempt at rape foiled, Dupas bolted. The woman told police that as she started getting to her feet after her assailant had run away, she realized that blood was pouring from the left side of her chest. She had been stabbed.
When picked up by police, he confessed to all of the attacks, said that he was glad that he had been caught, and said that he had fled from the last two attempted assaults when the women started screaming. His only explanation for the attacks was that he “gets the urge.”
Dupas told arresting officers in a recorded interview, “It just comes over me. I can’t help myself. I have had this problem for about six years. It all started again about a year ago. I don’t know if it was because me (sic) girlfriend left me or what it is. I just find it hard to mix with people and I haven’t many friends. I just don’t know what to say.”
Dupas was charged with rape, three counts of assault with intent to rape, malicious wounding, indecent assault and assault with intent to rob. Judge Leo Lazarus presided over the case, and when Dupas was found guilty on all counts, the judge shocked the prosecution by handing down what they considered a meager 6½-year sentence with, a five-year non-parole period, despite the fact that it was Dupas’ second time around for rape and he was in on considerably more charges than his previous conviction.
A Loaded Time Bomb
Four days after he was released on February 27, 1985, after serving five years and three months, Dupas raped a 21-year-old receptionist as she lay sunbathing at Blairgowrie back beach. Two men the distraught victim had asked for help caught Dupas as he walking along a road away from the beach after he had misplaced his car.
Dupas could offer no explanation for his behavior, only that he was enjoying himself on the beach having an easy day “laying back” when he saw the woman and couldn’t help himself. Dupas said that he was sorry for the attack, that everyone had assured him that he was all right now and that all he wanted to do was to live a normal life.
Dupas also couldn’t help police with their inquiries into the murder 16 days earlier — while he was on temporary leave from prison — of sunbather and mother of four, Helen McMahon, who was beaten to death in the sand dunes at Rye back beach, 4km away.
Once again in court for rape, Dupas was not to be as fortunate as he had been with the benevolent Judge Leo Lazarus. Instead, he had to again confront Judge John Leckie, the same judge who had verbally caned him before sentencing him to five years jail on the Nunawading rape 11½ years earlier. To add to Dupas’ woes, in the interim, Judge Leckie had been critical of the previous lenient sentence handed down by Judge Lazarus, saying it was “inadequate.”
Judge Leckie told the court that Judge Lazarus’s attempt to rehabilitate Dupas five years earlier had “failed miserably” and showed no compassion to the prisoner as he described Dupas as “walking around with a loaded time bomb in his pocket.”
Judge Leckie sentenced Dupas to 12 years in prison with a minimum of 10 years before he could apply for parole.
In prison, Dupas underwent medical treatment to reduce his sex drive. In 1987, while still a prisoner in Castlemaine Jail, Dupas married a nurse 16 years his senior. A Mont Park psychiatrist said later, “He believes all of that (his sex attacks) is behind him since he understands himself better and has become more assertive.”
Released on March 3, 1992, after serving exactly seven years, Dupas lay low for 18 months. On September 23, 1993, he attacked a 15-year-old girl who was horse-riding at Kyneton. Fortunately, the girl had the common sense to put her horse between herself and the attacking Dupas, and she escaped unscathed. Dupas escaped unidentified.
On January 3 at 11:30 a.m., Dupas attacked a 26-year-old bank teller who was spending the weekend with her fiancé and three friends at a holiday house near Lake Eppalock in northwestern Victoria, as she sat on the toilet in a public restroom. Dupas burst into the cubicle wearing a hood with eye-holes and pointing a knife at the woman’s face.
Dupas kept yelling for the woman to turn around and face the wall, but she resisted. The woman was cut badly on the hands as she fought to prevent her attacker from dragging her out of the toilet cubicle. Thwarted, Dupas abruptly stopped the attack, let the woman go and calmly walked away to his car.
As Dupas sped off the woman identified him to her fiancé — an off-duty Australian Federal Police officer — who, with friends, chased the station wagon before overpowering Dupas after his car ran off into the bush on a dirt road.
Australian Federal Police Patch
Police found a roll of insulation tape and a pair of metal handcuffs in Dupas’ pockets. In his car they found a grisly cache of the tools of trade of a well-prepared traveling rapist: knives, a black balaclava, condoms, a roll of sticking plaster and — chillingly — a sheet of plastic and a shovel.
And Violence Begets Murder
Despite what police saw as Dupas’ meticulous planning of what would be a sexual abduction, murder and concealment of the body, disappointed prosecutors told Judge Leo Hart that they did not have enough evidence to sustain a charge of attempted rape against Dupas and, unfortunately, charges would have to be reduced to the much lesser charge of false imprisonment.
It was a bitter blow to police and the prosecution. Under recently introduced Victorian legislation designed to deal more severely with serial sex offenders, they could have put Dupas away for an indefinite period where he couldn’t harm any more innocent women.
But seeing as the prosecution didn’t have the likelihood of getting a sexual conviction and risked the prospect of having to let Dupas get away with no conviction at all, instead, Judge Hart could only proceed with the matter presented before him, and sentenced Dupas to just three years and nine months jail with a minimum of two years and nine months after he pleaded guilty to false imprisonment.
During the proceedings the court had been told that the woman Dupas attacked and tried to abduct was still too scared to even walk down the passage from her bedroom to the toilet at night.
Dupas served the full minimum term and was released on September 29, 1996, to find his wife had left him. He got a job as a factory worker and lived for a short time in an apartment in Rose Street Brunswick. Later, he moved in with a woman, who knew nothing of his background, in Coanne Street, Pascoe Vale, near a busy Cumberland Road shopping area.
On October 4, 1997, a local prostitute and recovering heroin addict, 40-year-old Margaret Maher, who shopped at Pascoe Vale regularly, was abducted and murdered. Maher’s body was found in long grass on industrial land near Cliffords Road, Somerton. Maher had been stabbed many times and her breasts had been grotesquely mutilated.
Four weeks later, on November 1, 1997, Mersina Halvagis, 25, was repeatedly stabbed and left to die between graves as she was laying flowers on the grave of her grandmother in the nearby Fawkner Cemetery. By a strange coincidence, the grave of Peter Dupas’ grandfather is buried at Fawkner Cemetery, only 100 yards away from where Halvagis was murdered.
At 6:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, 1997, Kathleen Downes, a frail 95-year-old who had suffered two strokes and had difficulty in walking, was found stabbed to death in her room at Brunswick Lodge nursing home, where she had lived for eight years. Detectives established that phone calls were made from Dupas’ Pascoe Vale home to the Brunswick nursing home in the weeks before Mrs. Downes’ death. They were unable to establish any previous link between the two addresses or any reason for the calls to have been made.
At around 6 p.m. on April 19, 1999, Rena Hoffman called on her friend Nicole Patterson at her Northcote home in Westgarth for tea. Hoffman became concerned when she couldn’t get a response, so she entered the house — where Patterson worked from home as consulting psychotherapist — to find her friend dead on her consulting room floor.
The Evidence Points to Dupas
Patterson was naked from the waist down. Her clothes had been ripped and cut. “I saw Nicky arranged naked and there was blood near her, not actually on her,” Hoffman told police. “She seemed cleaned up or something.”
An autopsy revealed that 28-year-old Nicole Patterson had been dead since that morning. She had been stabbed 27 times. There were numerous defensive wounds to both her hands. It was impossible to say if she had been raped. Both of Patterson’s breasts had been sliced off and were nowhere to be found at the murder scene. Patterson’s mutilations were similar to those of Margaret Maher, who was murdered on October 4, 1997.
Patterson’s neighbor heard a woman scream at 9:30 a.m. and another witness heard two shouts around about the same time. Another neighbor said he heard “a scream of pain, not fear” and about 10 minutes later, he saw a man walking with “a sort of intentness” from the direction of Patterson’s house.
The killer had been thorough. He had cleaned up after himself. There were no fingerprints or footprints. It looked as though the house had been wiped down and it appeared as if the killer had scoured the premises to see if he had left any clues. He had even taken Patterson’s purse containing her driver’s license and her mobile phone.
But the killer had missed the most incriminating piece of evidence. Under clothing on the lounge, detectives found Patterson’s appointment book. It contained a 9 a.m. appointment for a “Malcolm” that morning and a mobile phone number written next to it.
“Malcolm” turned out to be a student who had no idea who Patterson was. “Had he given out his phone number to anyone recently?” the police asked. He had, and gave police a list. One of the names he was doing a bit of handy work for, Peter Dupas, came up on the computer.
Police put what they had together. Patterson advertised her business for clients in the local papers, so it wouldn’t be hard to get into her house. Her killer had made an appointment under a false name for that morning using a false mobile phone number to avoid detection. What he didn’t count on was police finding the appointment book.
Peter Norris Dupas
When police raided Dupas’ home — which was less than 30 minutes from where Patterson was murdered — three days after the murder, Dupas had a fingernail scratch on his face. A search of the premises uncovered a bloodstained green jacket in a bundle of clothing in a workshop cupboard. DNA testing showed that there was less than one in a 6.5 billion chance that the blood in 13 of the 14 drops on the jacket did not belong to Patterson. The other drop was Dupas’ blood mixed with Patterson’s.
Investigators found a black balaclava and a page out of the Herald Sun with a report of the murder on it. The photo of Nicole Patterson in the article had been slashed. In Dupas’ garbage bin, police found torn-up pieces of newspaper and when the pieces were put together, they formed a handwritten note with the words “nine o’clock Nicci,” and “Malcolm” written on it. Police also confirmed that on the day of the killing, Dupas was caught on video buying gas near Patterson’s home.
A Cruel & Pointless Death
Despise the mountain of circumstantial evidence, Dupas denied any knowledge of Patterson’s death, saying only that the police must have planted the evidence on him in order to get a conviction. Peter Dupas was charged with the murder of Nicole Patterson and remanded in custody for trial.
To her family and friends and anyone who had even been remotely in touch with her throughout her life, Nicole Patterson’s death was cruel and pointless. Nicole didn’t have an enemy in the world. Of all of the things that an attractive, athletic and intelligent young woman could have done with her life, she chose psychotherapy and dedicated much her time helping young people with drug problems.
In her spare time Nicole worked as a youth counselor at the Ardoch Centre, an organization which endeavors to assist homeless or disadvantaged young people. She also assisted in activities associated with the Australia Drug Foundation.
Nicole’s life was her work, her partner of 20 months, Richard Smith, and her beloved dog, Bella, which she had rescued from an animal shelter. Her sister Kylie said of Nicole, “She was the most beautiful person I’ve known and she had a lot of special gifts that not many people have.”
Early in 1999, Nicole decided to extend her practice and set up the front bedroom of her home as a consulting room and advertised for clients in the local papers.
Putting the pieces together, investigators believed that the man calling himself “Malcolm” made the first of 15 phone calls to her on March 3 and eventually made an appointment for 9 a.m. April 19 on the pretext that he wanted to consult her about his chronic gambling problem.
Police believed that after Dupas arrived at 9 a.m., he was ushered into the consulting room and attacked Nicole as she was making coffee for them both. Dupas set upon her, stabbing her viciously and repeatedly with a knife he had brought with him. But Nicole put up strong resistance, as was indicated by the shouting heard by the neighbors and the cuts to her hands.
Once he had murdered Nicole, Dupas set about fastidiously cleaning the room up and removing any clues that may have led to him. Then he took his souvenirs — Nicole’s purse and her body parts. But, fortunately for investigators, he missed the diary that led them straight to his door.
A Just Sentence
Supreme Court of Victoria
At his trial held at the Supreme Court of Victoria before Justice Frank Vincent in August 2000, Dupas, who described his occupation as a part-time furniture maker, told the court that all of the evidence must have been planted by police because he had never been to Nicole Patterson’s Northcote home. He said that if Patterson’s blood was on his jacket, then it must have been planted there by police. He said that he did not have anything to do with Patterson after April 12, 1999, when he cancelled an appointment to see her about his gambling problem.
Justice Frank Vincent
Dupas said he did not contact Patterson on April 19, the day she was murdered, or go anywhere near her house. He said that he only left his Pascoe Vale home on that day to by milk and petrol, to do some shopping and to pick up his de-facto wife. Dupas said that while he was at home, he was washing clothes and other gear in readiness for a camping trip and working on a cocktail cabinet in his shed.
David Brustman, acting for Dupas, told the court that there were issues about how his client’s jacket came to have blood on it and whether the jacket proved anything. But there was no issue, he said, that 13 of the stains had Patterson’s blood and that the 14th a combination of her blood and that of Dupas.
“On the face of it, game, set and match,” Brustman told the jury, adding that the issue was not whether Dupas or someone else had done it. He said that the issue was: Did he make an appointment and not keep it, or keep it in the most horrible way?
In cross-examining Dupas, prosecutor Geoff Horgan pointed out that it must have been an amazing coincidence that out of all of the jackets Dupas had in his home, the police sprinkled the deceased’s blood on the one he was wearing the day she was killed. Horgan suggested that if this were the case, then the police must have carried around a vial of Nicole Patterson’s uncongealed blood for two days in order to sprinkle it on the jacket on the day that he was arrested.
The Halvagis family
On August 17, 2000, after two and a half hours of deliberations, the jury returned a guilty verdict. At Dupas’ sentencing hearing on August 23, 2000, Justice Vincent told him, “I note that you have an appalling criminal history involving repeated acts of sexual violence and which extends over approximately 30 years. You have admitted 16 prior convictions involving six court appearances between March 27, 1972, and November 11, 1994
“All of the offences were sexually related or motivated. A number of them involved physical violence and the use of a knife. On three separate occasions you were sentenced to terms of imprisonment for the commission of rape, aggravated assault or assault with intent to rape.
Peter Norris Dupas
“On the second and third of these occasions, you committed your offenses within a very short time of your release from custody. It appears that the only periods during which you were at large in the community without committing offenses were two periods of approximately 12 months each, during which you were subject to strict parole conditions following your release from prison in 1992 and 1996.
“However, it was not long after that form of control was lifted by the expiration of the sentence to which it was related that you reverted to your usual type of criminal behavior.”
“You regarded Nicole Patterson as nothing more than prey to be entrapped and killed. Her life, youth and personal qualities assumed importance in your mind only by reason of the sense of satisfaction and power you experienced in taking them from her.”
“At a fundamental level, as human beings, you present for us the awful, threatening and unanswerable question — how did you come to be as you are?”
Justice Frank Vincent sentenced Peter Norris Dupas to be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life without the opportunity for release on parole.
Peter Dupas has since been questioned about the unsolved murders of Margaret Maher, Mersina Halvagis, Helen McMahon and Kathleen Downes. He has denied any involvement.