Australian pair Catherine and David Birnie were born into very dysfunctional families in the year 1951. David was one of six children, raised by alcoholic parents. After his parentsdivorced neither of them wanted custody of him, so he was in and out of foster homes, eventually becoming a ward of the state. Catherine’s mother passed away when she was only 10 months old. She migrated to South Africa to live with her father for only two short years, she was then sent back to Australia to live with her grandparents. About one year later, she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle. She was a very sad, lonely little girl, who showed no emotions. She did not have many friends, in fact many of the neighbourhood children were banned from associating with her. Imagine the feeling of being unwanted, being thrown from one family member to another. She craved so much for the love and affection she never experienced.
Catherine and David met as children, after both families moved into the same neighbourhood. Along time passed and they reunited in their teens where they began a criminal rampage. In 1969 both Catherine and David were charged with eleven counts of theft, breaking and entering. David was sentenced to a three year imprisonment, whereas Catherine got off quite lightly with four years of probation. After being released from prison David and Catherine were reunited, for only two short weeks, before they were imprisoned once again, David for two and a half years, and Catherine for only six months.
After her release she was employed as a live in housekeeper for a family. Within a short time she fell in love with one of the sons, Donald McLaughlan. They married on the 31st May 1972 the same day as Catherine’s twenty first birthday. Over the years they extended their family by having six children. The marriage began to break down and Catherine found herself more and more reminiscing over the good times she had shared with David. A short time later she left her husband Donald McLaughlan, she then searched and found David and moved in with him. Some time passed and they wanted to bring some excitement into their relationship, so they started to conjure up ideas to spice it up. They both realized they shared the same warped fantasy of abducting and raping women. This would surely quench their thirst for their depraved sexual appetite. This was the start to a very evil and conniving sexual rampage.
1st Victim: 6th October 1986
A young 22 year old psychology student, by the name of Mary Neilson, came into David’s workplace wanting to purchase new tyres for her car. David told her to meet him near his place and he would offer her a better deal. On arrival Mary was bound and gagged at knifepoint, taken into Catherine and David’s bedroom, where she was chained. David then began raping her multiple times as Catherine sat back and watched with much enjoyment. After fulfilling their degrading sexual appetite they then took Mary into the forest of Gleneagles National Park, where David raped her once again, strangled her then brutally stabbed her to death. That is where she was buried. Six days later Mary’s car was found abandoned.
This was to be the start of a very sexually, sadistic, lifestyle which would only last a short 4 weeks.
2nd Victim: 23rd October 1986
15 year old Sussanah Candy a student from Hollywood High School was hitchhiking along the Stirling Highway on the night of October 23rd 1986 when David and Catherine Birnie kidnapped her at knifepoint she was then taken back to their house, bound, gagged and chained to the bed, much like that of the late Mary Neilson. David raped her then tried to strangle her, but Sussanah became so hysterical he could not succeed. The couple then forced her to ingest a handful of sleeping pills to make her more docile. David wanted so badly for Catherine to prove her love for him, that he asked her to kill Sussanah. She happily agreed to David’s request and strangled her. The couple buried her in the forest, not far from Mary’s gravesite.
3rd Victim: 1st November 1986
Catherine and David came across their third victim, Noelene Patterson, 31. She was a flight attendant and very beautiful. She was charming, elegant and popular. Noelene was having car trouble that night and found herself stranded on Canning Highway. She accepted a ride from the seemingly harmless couple, but was in for a lethal surprise. She too was held at knifepoint in the car on the way to the house. Catherine hated her from the moment that she saw her; she was envious because Noelene was everything that she wanted to be, but was not. Once at the house, she was gagged, chained and raped. Catherine’s resentment towards Noelene grew as David became entranced with her. He kept her alive for three days, at which point Catherine adamantly insisted that he kill her. David forced Noelene to take sleeping pills and then strangled her to death as Catherine happily watched. Noelene was buried in the forest near the others. Catherine’s intense jealousy caused her to joyfully kick sand in the deceased woman’s face.
4th Victim: 5th November 1986
Denise Brown was a 21 year old computer operator who shared a house with her boyfriend and friends. She was a very trusting young lady, always willing to help someone in need. On the night of her abduction, she was waiting for a bus on the Stirling Highway, a couple pulled up beside her in a car and asked if she wanted a lift. She accepted. Unbeknown to her this couple had more in mind than just offering a sweet innocent girl a lift. The Birnies drove straight to their house, leading her inside at knifepoint. She was then chained to the bed and raped. The couple then took her to Wanneroo Pine Plantation to rape her again. While raping her he began to stab her in the neck. Thinking that she was dead, the couple proceeded with the burial. To their surprise, Denise quickly sat up and began screaming. David grabbed an axe and savagely split her skull. So gruesome was the attack even Catherine, as desensitized as she was, made her very heavily disturbed.
By November 5th 1986 Detective Sergeant Paul Ferguson was convinced there was a serial killer on the loose.
On November 10, 1986, a 17 year old girl half naked and hysterical ran into a local supermarket screaming she had been raped. Taken to the local police station, she told her story of being abducted and held at knifepoint by a couple that had asked her for directions. She was then taken to a house where she was stripped and chained to a bed. She was raped by the male, while the female sat back and watched. The following morning, the male left for work and she was left home alone with the female. She begged the woman to untie her and much to her amazement she did. Later on in the morning there was a knock at the door, as Catherine went to answer it, the girl escaped out of the open window in the bedroom.
Despite her disturbing ordeal, the girl was still alert enough to remember the address and phone number of the couple. She led police to the house, where they hid outside in a parked van. When Catherine returned home, she was immediately arrested. She told police where to find David, who was also arrested. Denying all accusations, the police decided to interrogate them separately; this would avoid them influencing each other. It worked! David Birnie admitted to all the murders, which then forced Catherine to confess as well.
The couple led the police to the graves of their victims. All, bodies were located.
Both received life imprisonment, without parole for a minimum of twenty years. David was sent to Casuarina Prison, south of Perth, where as Catherine was sent to Bandyup Prison in the West Swan district of Western Australia.
If it wasn’t for the brave young girl, who remembered all the vital information regarding her kidnappers, there may have been many more young women killed at the hands of these two evil people.
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