Bradley Robert Edwards was convicted on Thursday of killing 23-year-old child care worker Jane Rimmer and 27-year-old lawyer Sierra Glennan in 1997. Sarah Spears, an 18-year-old secretary, was not convicted of murder. The body was never found due to lack of sufficient evidence.
The verdict came after a seven-month trial by a judge alone in a case that continues to grow in the minds of Perth residents in the state of Western Australia.
“The events in question occurred 20 years ago, but disturbed the memory of many and disturbed the public conscience,” West Australian Supreme Court Judge Stephen Hall said in his ruling.
“The disappearance and murder of three young women is a matter of great concern. The fact that these three have gone missing from a popular nightlife area that many young people often visit has provoked a real and widespread sense of dread.”
The three women were last seen in the early hours of the morning after spending a night in Claremont, a suburb of Perth. Pictures of Spears, who disappeared in 1996, were strewn around the city, and he continued to appear on the front pages of local newspapers.
The disappearance of the women sparked widespread fears in Perth, where many were shocked that women had been abducted from suburbs such as Claremont, which was considered safe.
“The disappearance of three young women from the streets of Claremont was described as a mystery of darkness,” Hall said. “I mean there was a mystery as to who took the three victims.”
Within weeks of their deaths, the bodies of both Rimmer and Glennon were found in Bushland. Both were killed by sharp wounds to the neck, Hall said in his verdict.
Spears was last seen in the early hours of January 27, 1996. His body was never found, but there was nothing to indicate he was still alive, Hall said.
“She must have been abducted or killed, but the circumstances under which she was taken and how she died are unknown,” he added.
For decades, their disappearances went unresolved. Then, in 2016, there was a turning point for the police.
Edwards – who was jailed in 2016 after being convicted in two rape cases – has been identified as a suspect.
Police matched his DNA with samples taken from under the nails of Glennon’s left hand. The prosecution argued that DNA may have been under his nails during a violent protest before his death.
They said the fibers found in Rimmer and Glennon’s bodies matched those taken from Edwards’ work car, indicating that he had abducted two women in the vehicle. At the time of their abduction, Edwards was working for the Australian telecommunications company Telstra.
Reaction to judgment
Lee Rimmer welcomed the verdict on Thursday, saying the decision ended without knowing what had happened to his sister for more than two decades.
“I think you will close a little, but it will always be the same. No one is going to bring her back,” she told CNN affiliate Channel 9.
Western Australia Prime Minister Mark McGowan said what happened to young women changed the state.
“Throughout this long, tragic trial, Western Australia is grieving with you.”
Channel 9 reports that Edwards will be sentenced on December 23.
CNN’s Samantha Beach and Angus Watson contributed to the reporting.