Perth, the capital of Western Australia, has had a dark cloud over it for the last 20 years. It was between 1996–1997 that three women; aged 18, 23, and 27 disappeared in similar circumstances. After 20 years and multiple investigations, it was in 2016 that a man, Bradley Edwards, was charged with murder.
On the 27th January 1996, Sarah Spiers was out celebrating Australia Day at Club Bayview in Claremont. The town is known as a wealthy suburb of Perth. She was out at a bar and at around 2 am she called a cab from a phone booth to take her home. The cab arrived minutes later but Sarah had disappeared and hadn’t been seen since.
On 9th June 1996, just around the corner from Club Bayview, at the Continental Hotel, Jane Rimmer vanishes after a night of drinking. She arrived at 9.30 pm with friends, 2 hours later her friends go home in a taxi while she chooses to stay at the hotel. Jane is last spotted on CCTV leaning against a pole. It was 8 weeks later, 3rd August 1996, that her body was discovered.
Jane’s disappearance led police to believe that a serial killer was on the loose, and set up the Macro Taskforce as a response. The task force investigated over 3000 suspects in the hunt for the killer.
A year passed without incident, then on 15th March 1997, a repeat of Jane’s circumstances when Ciara Glennon disappears after leaving the same hotel. She hadn’t long returned home to attend her sister’s wedding. She left the Continental Hotel just after midnight and was last spotted at some traffic lights on Sterling Highway.
On the one-year anniversary of Jane’s body being found Ciara’s body was discovered.
Because the women vanished after calling a cab, suspicion fell upon taxi drivers. There were 5,500 of them. They were swabbed for DNA and fingerprinted but none of them matched.
The police soon focussed on Lance Williams. He was a civil servant, driving around Claremont at night offering women lifts home. In the podcast, Claremont, we hear from Lance about how he just wanted to be a good samaritan and help. After being under surveillance for around 2 years, he was dismissed as a person of interest. Now, more than 20 years later, a former police commissioner says that the suspect and his family are owed an apology. Lance died of cancer in 2018.
The Macro Taskforce was under pressure. Everybody wanted answers. Having not produced any firm results it was a focus of 11 police reviews. At the peak the taskforce had over 100 members over 10 teams. Strict confidentiality protocols were implemented along with suppression of the injury details. It was wound down in 2005 and moved over to the Special Crimes Squad.
Then on 22 December 2016, a man called Bradley Robert Edwards was arrested and subsequently charged with the murders the following day. Bradley Edwards is pleading not guilty to these charges; however, he admits to rapping a girl in 1995 in a cemetery and attacking another woman in her home in 1988.
Starting in November 2019, the marathon trial has been running since November and has recorded more than 10,000 pages of transcript encompassing more than 200 witnesses. It was concluded in June 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the final day of custody, Hall handed down a 619-page written verdict within which Edwards was found guilty of the murders of Rimmer and Glennon, but not of Spiers (though it was “more likely” that Edwards was involved in her disappearance than not). It was on 23 December 2020 that Edwards appeared in court for sentencing. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 40 years. However, the judge noted that there was a high likelyhood that Edwards would possibly die in prison.