Answer to serial killer mystery
A rogue rooster led to the shocking discovery of one alleged victim of the Claremont serial killer and two decades later a Sprite bottle provided the last vital clue police needed to charge Bradley Robert Edwards.
After a Supreme Court trial that spanned several months - which not even the COVID-19 pandemic could derail - Western Australia will finally get an answer to a mystery that has haunted Perth's affluent western suburbs for more than 25 years.
Is Edwards the infamous Claremont serial killer?
Prosecutors behind Perth's so-called "trial of the century" claim the former Telstra technician has been "unmasked" as the "enigma of the dark" who preyed on three vulnerable women - Sarah Spiers, Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon - in the mid-1990s.
But Edwards, who called himself the "bogeyman" online and lied to detectives about his sex attacks before finally confessing to being a rapist shortly before his trial began, insists he did not commit the murders.
"It wasn't me. If it wasn't me how would I know what happened?" Edwards said in his 2016 police interview.
Ms Spiers, 18, vanished first in January 1996 and her body has never been found, so there is no physical evidence connecting Edwards to the secretary.
She had been at Club Bayview with friends following Australia Day festivities but did not wait to leave with them.
Instead, she called for a taxi from a phone box at 2.06am, but was gone by the time it arrived minutes later.
Childcare worker Jane Rimmer, 23, was the second victim to disappear after visiting the Continental Hotel with friends in June 1996.
She did not leave with her friends and was captured on CCTV moments before she vanished.
Ms Rimmer's naked and decomposing body was found about two months later in Wellard when a rooster ran in front of a car, prompting a family to stop so the children could chase after it and the mother could pick death lillies.
"I felt on the back of my leg it was a stick, but it was a foot," Tammy Van Raalte-Evans testified.
Solicitor Ciara Glennon, 27, was the final victim taken after a night out with colleagues in Claremont in March 1997.
Her body was also found in bushland - but at the opposite end of Perth in Eglinton - by a man searching for cannabis plants almost one month later.
The murders - which police long believed were committed by the same person - remained a tragic and terrifying mystery for two decades until Edwards was arrested in December 2016.
The former Little Athletics coach was also charged with twice raping a 17-year-old girl he dragged through Karrakatta Cemetery in 1995 and indecently assaulting an 18-year-old woman sleeping in her Huntingdale home in 1988.
During a raid of his Kewdale home, video footage played in court showed him handcuffed on the floor and swearing in apparent disbelief.
Police were able to swoop on Edwards after discovering his DNA was on a silk kimono left behind at the Huntingdale home, on the cemetery rape victim and under Ms Glennon's fingernails.
Officers collected a discarded Sprite bottle to confirm Edwards' DNA, then raided his home.
Prosecutors presented hundreds of witnesses during the trial, including Edwards' two ex-wives, his love rival, former friends and colleagues, and people who described a stranger loitering in Claremont offering lifts.
The man who had an affair with Edwards' first wife while living with them testified the 51-year-old threatened to kill him after he learnt what was happening under his nose.
Edwards' second wife, whom he met on April Fools' Day in 1997 and wooed with a dozen roses, was repeatedly cut-off when in testimony she blurted out some shocking comments.
She said she was "sick and tired of the lies", "I feared for my life" and "I was terrified while writing this" when questioned about notes she wrote about Edwards' ATM transactions.
One statement showed two withdrawals from Claremont in December 1996, despite Edwards claiming he had no link to the area.
The cemetery rape victim said in a statement she was too frightened to fight or scream.
"I kept my eyes shut - I thought it would be better if he thought I couldn't see him," she said.
"I thought at the end of it all that he was going to kill me."
Other witnesses testified they heard bloodcurdling screams the night the first two murder victims disappeared.
Details of the post-mortems were often gruesome, prompting boards to be erected to stop the public from viewing the graphic images.
Prosecutor Carmel Barbagallo said Ms Rimmer and Ms Glennon had "sawing" cuts to their necks and injuries indicating they had fought back.
The technical scientific evidence, including DNA and fibre analysis, was often tedious but crucial to the case.
Edwards did not testify at his trial, and in fact, his defence team did not call any witnesses at all.
Defence counsel Paul Yovich said during his closing submissions that one could not act on a 20-year-old assumption that the women were victims of a serial killer.
"It is perfectly plausible that different offenders are responsible for these offences," he said.
"No doubt the community and the families of the victims yearn for closure, but a conviction or convictions founded on inadequate evidence and not by powerful satisfaction beyond reasonable doubt on any of the counts will not constitute proper closure."
However, Mr Yovich conceded Ms Rimmer and Ms Glennon were likely murdered by the same person, given they had similar injuries and were concealed the same way in bushes.
It has been the heavy responsibility of Justice Stephen Hall, who has heard the trial without a jury, to consider all of the evidence.
He will hand down his verdict on Thursday and his judgment is expected to be hundreds of pages long.
The women who were sexually attacked by Edwards - crimes he confessed shortly before his trial - and the families of the murdered victims have attended court during much of the epic proceedings, which began in November.
Edwards' parents have also been in court, with the accused throwing them a smile from time to time.
Originally published as Answer to serial killer mystery