The Claremont serial killer dumped two bodies in bushland at opposite ends of Perth, covered them in foliage and left them to “rot” in the hope they would never be found, and it was a miracle they were recovered.
“There was one killer and that killer was Bradley Robert Edwards,” prosecutor Carmel Barbagallo told the West Australian Supreme Court on Monday as she opened the case for state’s so-called trial of the century.
The 50-year-old confessed rapist and former Telstra technician denies murdering secretary Sarah Spiers, 18, child care worker Jane Rimmer, 23, and lawyer Ciara Glennon, 27, after nights out in the affluent suburb in 1996 and 1997.
Ms Barbagallo said the bright and beautiful women vanished “under the cover of darkness”, and the community had lived in fear “caused by an enigma of the dark”, which she would “demystify” in coming months.
“Two were found dead, dumped in bushland, covered in foliage and left to rot in the killer’s hope that they would never be found … so that any evidence that might connect the killer to the crimes would be lost forever,” she said.
“Despite the killer’s best efforts, miraculously the bodies of those two young women were found.”
Ms Barbagallo suggested the women died where their bodies were dumped, adding they both had cuts to their necks and other areas consistent with “sawing”, and injuries indicating self-defence.
She said the absence of Ms Spiers’ body meant the killer’s identity would be proved in other ways.
The night Ms Spiers vanished on January 27, 1996, four people heard screams several streets apart in Mosman Park.
One couple was woken and saw a light-coloured station wagon, while a second woman heard a high-pitched scream that abruptly stopped.
“In the still of the night, the screams of a female in distress can carry long distances and may be difficult to accurately ascertain the direction from which they come,” Ms Barbagallo said.
The court also heard the call Ms Spiers made for a taxi minutes before she vanished.
Ms Barbagallo said Ms Rimmer declined a taxi ride with friends on June 9, 1996, and that was the last time they saw her.
Security footage outside the pub was played but none of the four cameras captured everything.
One clip shows Ms Rimmer, then pans away and when it returns 13 seconds later, she has disappeared.
A couple in Wellard said they were woken by the sounds of a female yelling that night then a car driving off, while another couple about one kilometre away also heard screaming that stopped suddenly, Ms Barbagallo said.
Ms Rimmer’s watch was found in the middle of a dirt road the next day by a man who had fallen off his horse and did not realise its significance, the prosecutor said.
Ms Rimmer’s naked body was discovered nearby by “absolute chance” 55 days later in an advanced state of decomposition, metres from the road.
A family had stopped their car after a rooster ran in its path, and while the children chased it, the mother picked death lilies then made the grim discovery.
Ms Glennon had only just returned from a year of overseas travel when she disappeared and was supposed to be her sister’s bridesmaid.
The court heard 12 people saw a lone woman matching Ms Glennon’s description walking away from the Continental Hotel on March 15, 1997, including a group referred to as the “burger boys” who told her she was “crazy to hitchhike”.
They later saw her leaning into the window of a station wagon.
Ms Glennon’s moderately decomposed body was found 18 days later in Eglington by a man looking for cannabis plants.
The court heard her left thumbnail was damaged and the tip of another nail was gone.