KILLER CAUGHT Murdered Irish woman ‘helped’ catch Claremont killer
'It was rewarding for me to see Claremont killer finally convicted', says forensic scientist Dr Whitaker
THE sex crimes of the Claremont Killer began with stealing women's underwear as a teenager but ended with the abduction and murder of at least two women.
The key to revealing the evil past of Bradley Edwards, convicted this week for those murders, was the DNA evidence taken from the fingernails of Ciara Glennon.
Ciara's parents Denis and Una Glennon, who left Ireland in the 1970s, had campaigned to keep their daughter's 1997 murder case in the public eye.
The forensic scientist at the centre of what became Australia's longest and most expensive criminal investigation told the Sunday World it was "rewarding" to see their work end with a conviction.
Tiny fragments taken from Ms Glennon were flown to Dr Jonathan Whitaker in the UK in 2008, 11 years after Ciara's horrifically injured body was discovered 50km north of Perth.
"It was not until quite a few years later we realised how important that result was going to be," he said.
Using the latest DNA technique at the time the result matched to another sample from an unsolved rape in the Western Australia city which gave cops another avenue of investigation.
"There were just minute bits of debris taken from around the fingernails of Ms Glennon, because they were so minute the Low Copy Number was really the most appropriate technique to apply to them," explained Dr Whitaker.
A painstaking trawl through decades old crimes eventually put Edwards under suspicion which was confirmed in 2016 when an officer sent a Sprite bottle from which Edwards had drunk for testing.
Putting the pieces together it emerged that, aged 19, he had been a prowler, breaking into homes stealing women's underwear and in one case straddling a teenager, leaving a semen stain on a silk kimono.
His fingerprints were matched to a separate break-in all which happened within 1km of his home at the time.
Edwards had also been convicted in 1990 of attacking a woman when he put his hand over her mouth and tried to drag her to nearby toilets. The woman managed to get away and Edwards was given two years probation. He would eventually plead guilty to the 1990 rape from which there was damning DNA evidence to prove he was the attacker in which a 17-year-old girl was abducted, hooded and twice raped.
But it was the fingernail DNA that would prove vital in a chain of evidence to convict Edwards of murdering Ciara Glennon and Jane Rimmer.
"Personally it's quite a rewarding thing to have been through. Obviously for Mr Glennon and the family it has given them closure," said Dr Whitaker. "I was lucky enough to meet him when I went out to court..., we had a little chat afterwards. He's an amazing gentleman he has such resilience.
This week, Denis Glennon stood in the same room to pay tribute to the huge effort to bring his daughter Ciara's killer to justice as he had 23 years ago. Back then in the Western Australia police headquarters the Mayo native was pleading for information to find the 27-year-old lawyer.
In his soft Irish accent Denis Glennon cut a dignified figure as he told on Friday how he promised Ciara at her graveside in Perth that he would find justice or die trying.
Underlining the grief and torment his family endured since the brutal murder at the hands of the serial killer he read a quote from his wife Una's book, Ciara's Gift.
"Days that are meant to be days of celebration are now days tinged with sadness. There's always somebody missing, a conspicuous absence, an empty chair."
"Her silence speaks louder than our words, we miss her acutely," she wrote.
Mr Glennon recalled how he originally pleaded for information that might help find his daughter.
"Through tears I said she would fight for her life because of the way she was brought up," he said. "And little did we know then how prophetic these words would be. As she fought to save her life, she left us the vital DNA clues."
Ciara became a successful lawyer and at 27 had returned home to Perth after spending a year travelling included several weeks with her relatives in Ireland.
A week before the wedding of her sister Denise, March 14, 1997, she had gone with colleagues for drinks at the Continental Hotel in the suburb of Claremont. She left the hotel at midnight to get a taxi and was 10 minutes from home. In the 18 months before, Sarah Ellen Spiers (18) and eight months later Jane Louise Rimmer (23) disappeared from the same area.
Edwards, who worked as a phone network technician, will be sentenced in December.