Friday, January 23, 2015

Katherine Knight: Australia's most gruesome female killer?

Not many Australians have heard of Katherine Knight.  Yet Knight is one of the most gruesome murderers in Australian history.  So why haven’t we heard about her?  Because the media, the same media that revels in all stories of murder and mayhem, voluntarily decided that this story was just too horrific.

Katherine Knight is the first Australian woman to be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for the murder of her defacto husband John Price, known to his mates as Pricey.

Katherine grew up in an extremely violent and dysfunctional house, where her father would use intimidation and violence to rape her mother up to ten times a day. Her mother in turn would tell her children how much she hated men and sex.  But her mother’s advice to young Katherine, when she mentioned her boyfriend wanted to her to do a sex act she didn’t want to do, was “put up with it and stop complaining”.

Katherine was described as a pleasant young girl, but she was also prone to murderous rages in response to minor incidents.  She was a school bully, assaulting pupils and teachers alike.  By contrast, when she was not in a rage, she won awards for her good behaviour.

Katherine’s first husband, David Kellett, remembers the advice he received from Katherine’s mother on their wedding day in 1974 “You better watch this one or she'll fucking kill you. Stir her up the wrong way or do the wrong thing and you're fucked, don't ever think of playing up on her, she'll fuckin' kill you.”  It seems her mother knew her well.  Katherine fractured David’s skull with a frying pan one night after he returned late from a darts tournament.  He was late because he made the finals. 

David Kellett and Katherine on their wedding day.
David left Katherine shortly after the birth of their daughter Melissa, heading to Queensland with a new girlfriend.  Katherine suffered post natal depression and was hospitalised in Tamworth for several weeks.  Upon release from hospital she placed two month old Melissa on the train tracks, and took an axe into town, threatening to kill several people.  An old forager found Melissa before the train came along, and Katherine was readmitted to hospital.  She checked herself out the next day.

A few days after this, Katherine slashed the face of a woman, and demanded she drive her to Queensland to find David.  The woman escaped at a service station, but Katherine took a little boy hostage, and had a standoff with police.  They finally disarmed her with a broom, and she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.   Katherine had targeted the service station because the mechanic there had fixed David’s car, allowing him to go to Queensland.  She planned on finding David, and killing him and his mother.  Upon hearing of the incident, David left his girlfriend, and he and his mother decided to head back to New South Wales and support Katherine.

Katherine eventually left David in 1984, by which time they had a second daughter, Natasha.  Katherine had begun working in an abattoir, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Katherine began a relationship with 38 year old David Saunders in 1986.  David moved in with Katherine, but kept his apartment in a neighbouring town.  During the volatile relationship, David would often leave Katherine and return to his apartment.  Katherine would inevitably follow and beg him to come back to her.

In 1987 Katherine cut the throat of David’s two month old dingo pup in front of him to show him what would happen if he ever cheated on her.

1988 saw the birth of Katherine’s third daughter, Sarah.  During an argument with David, Katherine hit him in the face with an iron and stabbed him in the stomach.  David left, and upon his return he discovered that Katherine had cut up all his clothes.  At this point, he took long service leave from work and went into hiding.  After several months he returned to see his daughter, only to find that Katherine had gone to the police and obtained an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) against him.  She told the police that she was afraid of him.

Katherine gave birth to her fourth child in 1990, a boy named Eric.  Eric’s father, John Chillingworth, lasted three years with Katherine before she left him for a man she had been having an affair with – John “Pricey” Price.

Katherine and Pricey.

Pricey was a typical Aussie country bloke.  Easy going, and liked by all who knew him.  Divorced, his two eldest children lived with him.  He knew of Katherine’s violent reputation, but allowed her to move in with him anyway.  His children liked her, and although there were violent arguments, the relationship was generally happy.

Katherine wanted to marry Pricey, but he was reluctant.  His reluctance cost him the job he had held for 17 years.  In retaliation for refusing to marry her, Katherine told Pricey’s boss that he had stolen equipment from him, and Pricey was fired.  The fact that it was out of date first aid kits, taken from the company rubbish tip, was apparently irrelevant.
They separated for a while, but then Pricey took her back.  This time he refused to let her move back in with him, and the fighting was more frequent than ever.  Pricey’s friends now started avoiding him, because they didn’t want anything to do with Katherine.

The fights increased in violence, until one night in February 2000 when Katherine stabbed Pricey in the chest.  That was the last straw and he finally kicked her out of his house. 
He got an AVO against her on February 29th 2000.  That afternoon at work he told his colleagues that if he didn’t come into work the next day, Katherine had killed him.  They begged him not to go home, but he felt he needed to protect his children.
During the day Katherine had bought new black lingerie and videoed her children in what appeared to be an informal Will of sorts.

On arriving at his home Pricey found that Katherine was not there, but that she had sent his kids for a sleep-over at a friend’s house for the night.  Pricey had dinner with his neighbours, went home and went to bed.  Katherine arrived later, letting herself in.  She watched TV for a while, had a shower and woke Pricey.  They had sex and he went back to sleep.

The next morning Pricey’s neighbour noticed that his car was still in the driveway, long after he should have left for work.  When he didn’t show at work, a colleague went to his house to check on him.  There was no answer at the door or bedroom window.  Police were called after the colleague noticed blood on the front door.

When the police broke down the door, they found Pricey’s body, as well as Katherine unconscious from an overdose.  Katherine had stabbed Pricey with a butcher’s knife while he slept.  He woke and tried to escape, making to the front door before she dragged him back in.  She eventually stabbed him 37 times.  Katherine then left with his ATM card and withdrew $1000 from his account.

Now here is the gruesome bit – stop reading now if you don’t want to know what she did.

Katherine was an experienced abattoir worker, specialising in skinning the animals.  Several hours after he died, Katherine skinned Pricey and hung his skin from a meat hook in the kitchen.  She then decapitated him, and cooked parts of his body.  She served the cooked flesh on plates with vegetables, with name tags for each of Pricey’s children.  There was a third meal thrown on the back lawn.  Police speculated that she had tried to eat the meal, but couldn’t do it.

An almost illiterate note left on a bench implied that Pricey had raped Katherine’s daughter.  This accusation was found to be completely groundless.

Katherine offered to plead guilty to manslaughter, but this was rejected, and she was charged with murder.  During the jury selection Justice Barry O’Keefe allowed potential jurors to be excused if they would not be able to cope with the details of the crime.  Before the trial was able to commence, Katherine changed her plea to guilty.  Despite this plea, Katherine still refused to take responsibility for her actions, and appealed her sentence.  She was sentenced to life, without the possibility of parole.  Her file has been marked “Never to be released”, the harshest sentence imposed on a woman in Australia’s history.

I first heard of Katherine when I read the book “Beyond Bad: The Life and Crimes of Katherine Knight” by Sandra Lee.  If you get a chance, and you have the stomach for it, I recommend it.  I found it to be extremely well written, painting the picture of Katherine and Pricey and their lives in rural New South Wales so well that I felt like I was there with them.

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