A former detective who was responsible for putting one of Australia’s worst serial killers behind bars has shared the chilling moments Paul Denyer admitted to killing three young women.
In the seven weeks between June 11, 1993 to July 30, the Victorian man brutally killed Elizabeth Stevens, 18, young mum Deborah Fream, 22, and Melbourne schoolgirl Natalie Russell, 17. He was just 21 years old at the time.
A former detective involved in the investigation, Charlie Bezzina, said Denyer had been “absolutely soaked” the day after killing Natalie, with remnants of blood under his fingernails during a marathon two-hour grilling by cops.
“And just out of the blue, I think his words were, ‘I did the three of them.’ Three of what? ‘Well those three women you’ve been asking me about, I killed them,’” said Mr Bezzina on Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes.
The retired detective said Natalie – who would be Denyer’s final murder – was killed while walking home from school, and was his first planned murder.
Describing the crime scene, Mr Bezzina said Denyer “must’ve been in a frenzy” at the time.
“I won’t go into details but the savagery of it was so significant,” he told journalist Tara Brown.
Mr Bezzina – who rated Denyer as “one of the highest categories of a killer, without remorse or mercy” appeared emotional describing the moment.
“The elation was out of this world,” he said.
“Our job was done basically at that stage and then it was gonna be up to the courts to convict him.”
After pleading guilty to the three murders, Denyer was given three consecutive life sentences, with a non-parole period of 30 years.
In May this year, the Victoria’s Adult Parole Board rejected an application for Denyer’s bid for freedom, with Natalie’s family and Victorian MP David Limbrick – who was her boyfriend at the time – calling for strengthened laws to keep Denyer locked away for life.
Also appearing on the program, Natalie’s brother Darren Russell said he didn’t believe Denyer had changed.
“He was an extremely callous, dangerous, and I don’t use this word lightly, evil person. We’ve got no reason to believe that’s changed,” he said.
Speaking publicly about his sister’s death for the first time, Dr Russell said he found solace that Natalie had done “a good thing” by ending Denyer’s killing spree.
“That was the only little source of light, that it was because of Natalie’s death that Denyer was caught,” he said.
“I think it’s upsetting because there’s the evil that he did and there’s kind of the good that Natalie was able to do out of an evil act.
“Her death meant that no one else needed to die. No other family needed to suffer.”
Earlier this year, ahead of the Adult Parole Board’s rejection of Denyer’s bail, Natalie’s family issued an emotional plea to ensure Denyer would not be able to apply for parole in the future.
Similar steps have been taken to ensure Hoddle Street shooter Julian knight and Russell Street bomber Craig Minogue will remain imprisoned for life.
“I think the whole idea of him even being considered for parole is ridiculous,” Natalie’s dad Brian Russell told Sunrise
“He had a good trial and … had psychologists and psychiatrists and everybody agreed that he should never be allowed out into normal society.”
In June, Victorian Daniel Andrews flagged tighter laws which would require the state’s worst criminals to wait at least five years between parole applications.
He also admitted the families of Denyer’s victims had not been “as well supported as they should have been”.
“The system has had 30 years to get ready for this day,” he said.
“I’ll take responsibility for that and we’re going to make sure that that doesn’t happen again.”