Paul Denyer always felt like an outsider...but what made him become a killer?
His first victim was his younger sister’s Care Bear. He stabbed and ripped open Bedtime Bear’s fluffy blue torso and slashed his neck.
When he was 21, in February 1993, he did the same to his neighbour’s cat, Buffy. Her owners would find her disembowelled body in their kitchen under a magazine picture of a scantily-clad model. Buffy’s three kittens were found in the bathroom, their throats cut.
Four months later, on 11 June, he followed a young woman when she got off a bus on her way home one night. He choked her and stabbed her repeatedly in the neck. Less than a month later, he strangled another young woman and stabbed her in the stomach.
And twenty days after that, he struck again, slitting the throat of a 17-year-old woman.
Paul Denyer had brutalised his sister’s toys. Now, he’d become the killer of three women.
He was born in 1972 to British parents in Australia. It was a busy household of five children with no more than five years between the oldest and the youngest.
When he was still a baby, Paul rolled off a bench and knocked his head.
He’d be reminded of it for the rest of his childhood. If he was naughty, if he was forgetful, if he was aggressive, his family had a ready excuse.
‘It’s because you hit your head when you were a baby,’ they’d tell him.
Or, ‘Paul’s not right in the head.’
At school, Paul was quiet and made few attempts to mix with the other children.
As the son of immigrant parents, he may have felt like an outsider.
He was tall, too. Centimetres taller than his classmates. And a few kilos heavier.
It only made Paul feel more isolated.
When he was 10, he started slashing his sister’s teddy bears. His family couldn’t understand why he’d do such a thing.
Perhaps they put it down to his being a middle child and craving attention.
But then, when Paul was 12, a neighbourhood cat was found hanging from a tree. It’s throat had been cut.
Straight away, Paul’s family suspected he was behind the cruel killing…
At 15, Paul left school and had a series of jobs. He was fired from several for his laziness.
One job was as a trolley collector for a large supermarket.
Paul’s colleagues nicknamed him John Candy, after the obese American film actor.
But the supermarket manager had to let Paul go after he reportedly allowed a chain of trolleys to crash into a woman and her child, knocking them both to the ground.
Soon after, he met a young woman. They moved in together in September 1992.
Them five months later, he attacked and killed his neighbour’s cat, Buffy, and her kittens.
And after another four months, Paul killed an 18year-old woman, Elizabeth Stevens.
He followed her when she got off her bus one night and dragged her to a deserted park.
There, he stabbed her. But there was more.
‘I stuck my fingers into her throat and twisted her cords,’ Paul would later tell investigators.
Then, he used his knife to slash a criss-cross pattern into the skin of her torso.
A signature. And a symbol of his hate.
His next victim was 22-year-old Deborah Fream. He killed her in the same way as his first. And the third, Natalie Russell, was only 17.
The murders made the headlines. And once again, Paul’s family suspected his involvement.
As soon as they confronted him, Paul Denyer confessed.
‘I hate women,’ Paul told the police when he was arrested.
In December of that year, Paul Denyer was sentenced to three life terms for the murders. On appeal, the sentence was changed to a 30-year non-parole sentence, which means he may be released in 2024.
Since starting his sentence, Paul started dressing as a woman and calling himself Paula. He even petitioned the prison authorities in Australia to let him wear make-up.
And they also refused when he asked them for gender reassignment surgery. Paul wanted to be Paula permanently.
Was Paul looking for another way to fulfil his obsession with women?
But was it possible Paul Denyer not only hated women, but was jealous of them?
So jealous, he’d sought to destroy the very thing he longed to be…