Australian convicted of murdering 2 women, acquitted of 3rd
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A judge on Thursday convicted a man of murdering two women who disappeared while going home from a night out with friends in the Australian west coast city of Perth.
Bradley Robert Edwards, 51, was acquitted of murder in a third woman's disappearance. The crimes occurred in the 1990s, but he was not arrested until 2016.
Sarah Spiers, 18, Jane Rimmer, 23, and Ciara Glennon, 27, vanished without witnesses while making their way home from the city's up-market Claremont nightlife precinct in 1996 and 1997. The bodies of Rimmer and Glennon were found in woodland within weeks of their disappearances.
Justice Stephen Hall, who heard the seven-month trial, was not convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Edwards had murdered Spiers, whose body has never been found.
“The propensity of evidence makes it more likely that the accused was the killer of Ms. Spiers, but it cannot prove it beyond reasonable doubt in the absence of any other evidence as to the identity of her killer,” Hall said.
But the judge said he was satisfied on the evidence that all three had been abducted and killed over 14 months.
Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said he had told Spiers’ family that investigators would never give up looking for her remains.
“This is an important day for justice in Western Australia,” Dawson told reporters. “The Claremont killings struck at the heart of our way of life, stretching back almost a quarter of a century.”
Under Western Australian law, Edwards could be tried a second time for the same murder if new and compelling evidence came to light, such as a body.
Edwards, a former children’s athletics coach and telecommunication technician, shook his head as the verdicts were delivered, while gasps were heard from the public gallery. He will appear for sentencing on Dec. 23. Murder carries a potential maximum sentence of life in prison.
Edwards earlier admitted indecently assaulting a woman in her home in 1988 and abducting a woman in Claremont and raping her in a cemetery in 1995.
Semen found at that crime scene was matched to Edwards’ DNA a month before he was arrested.
He also matched DNA found under Glennon’s fingernails, although defense lawyer Paul Yovich had argued the samples had been contaminated in a police laboratory.
Rimmer’s sister Lee Rimmer told reporters outside court that she felt “really good” about the verdicts.
“ At one point, I thought he was going to be not guilty,” she said. "But no, we got the result we wanted and now we just have to keep working for the Spiers family and hope someone finds Sarah.”