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Ashley Mervyn COULSTON






A.K.A.: "Captain Bathtub"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: No motive has ever been offered for the killings
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: July 29, 1992
Date of arrest: September 1, 1992
Date of birth: 1956
Victims profile: Kerryn Henstridge, 22, Anne Smerdon, 22, and Peter Dempsey, 27
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Burwood, Victoria, Australia
Status: Sentenced to three consecutive life sentences plus seven years without parole

Ashley Mervyn Coulston is an Australian sailor and triple murderer currently serving three consecutive sentences of life imprisonment plus seven years without parole for the 1992 murders of three people in Burwood, Victoria and the attempted abduction and robbery of a couple in St Kilda Road several months later.

It would be the abduction attempt that would lead police to his involvement in the triple murder which had previously remained unsolved.

Trans-Tasman voyages

In 1988, Coulston came to media attention when he attempted to sail his custom built 8 foot vessel which he named G'Day 88 from Australia to New Zealand across the Tasman Sea.

On 26 January 1988, Coulston left Port Stephens in G'Day 88, a vessel he designed and built himself however he ran into troubles and on 12 March 1988, activated his vessel's emergency beacon.

He was rescued by a passing tanker just north of New Zealand's North Island after spending 46 days at sea in stormy weather. The remains of his vessel washed up on the New Zealand shore several months later.

On 25 October 1988, Coulston attempted his voyage once again sailing from New Zealand to Australia, successfully arriving in Brisbane on 6 January 1989.

Triple murder

On 29 July 1992, two students advertised in the Herald Sun newspaper for a tenant to share their home after a housemate decided to leave the premises and return home to live with their parents.

Kerryn Henstridge, 22, Anne Smerdon, 22, and Peter Dempsey, 27, the brother-in-law of one of the women, were forced into separate rooms and hogtied using cable ties before Coulston shot them execution style in the back of the head. No motive has ever been offered for the killings.

Attempted abduction

On 1 September 1992, Coulston armed himself with the same weapon used to commit the earlier murders and some cable ties, then drove to St Kilda Road and parked his car near the National Gallery of Victoria.

He then approached a couple and attempted to abduct them. The couple offered Coulston their money, which he took. He then proceeded to restrain the couple using the cable ties. Whilst attempting to restrain one he was overpowered by the other allowing the couple to escape and raise the alarm with nearby security guards.

The security guards gave chase however Coulston fired at the guards, hitting one in the hip. Coulston was eventually arrested by police at the scene and taken into custody. The gun used in the abduction attempt would later link Coulston to the triple murders in Burwood several months earlier.

He was originally sentenced to three consecutive life sentences with a non-parole period of 30 years, but was granted a retrial on the murder charges after appeal; he was re-sentenced to seven years on appeal, increased from four years six months, by the Crown on the remaining nine charges.

Coulston did not speak at all during either trial, and was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, to be served cumulatively with the seven-year sentence for the remaining offences; Justice Norman O'Bryan refused to fix a non-parole period, calling the murders "cold-blooded", "heinous" and "wicked", and telling Coulston that "you have forfeited forever your entitlement to live outside the confines of a prison".

Balaklava Killer suspect

Coulston is a suspect in the case of the Balaclava Killer, who stalked, raped and killed victims in Queensland over a 10 month period during 1979 and 1980. The killings stopped abruptly in 1980, coinciding with the time Coulston moved to Sydney, working as a mascot and living on a boat at Cronulla. He may have raped girls there. He owned a black Kawasaki motor bike and went back to Tweed Heads and his parents farm most weekends at that time, not long after that is when he travelled to Melbourne. Coulston also shares a rare blood type with the person believed to be responsible for the crimes.


Balaclava Killer case reopened

By Greg Stolz - The Courier-Mail

April 7, 2008

POLICE have re-opened investigations into one of Australia's most baffling murder mysteries the case of the Gold Coast's notorious Balaclava Killer.

The cold case is being thawed in the hope DNA evidence might solve the murder of one man and the rape of several women during a reign of terror on the Gold Coast and northern NSW in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Adventurer Ashley Coulston now serving three life sentences for the "thrill kill' murders of three people in Melbourne has previously been identified by police as a suspect in the Balaclava Killer/Balaclava Rapist case.

Coulston was dubbed "Captain Bathtub" in 1988 when he sailed his 2.4m boat, G'day 88, across a storm-tossed Tasman Sea to New Zealand.

He had set out from Port Stephens, north of Sydney, on Australia Day and was rescued by a tanker 46 days later north of New Zealand after enduring cyclonic seas.

His abandoned boat was found washed up on the New Zealand coast but Coulston repaired it and sailed back to Brisbane in 1989.

Three years later, he was making headlines of a different kind.

He was convicted of murdering three people after answering their share-house advertisement in a Melbourne newspaper.

Student teachers Kerryn Henstridge and Anne Smerdon, both 22, and Peter Dempsey, 27, were bound, gagged, moved to separate rooms and shot in the head.

Coulston was arrested after a botched attempt to abduct a couple in Melbourne. They tackled him as he was pulling plastic ties from his bag. He was still wearing a balaclava and toting a gun.

A security guard who came to their aid was shot in the hip. In Coulston's bag, police found handcuffs, a black balaclava, knife, cartridges, plastic cable and condoms.

Coulston was living in northern NSW when the Balaclava Rapist began terrorising women at gunpoint in the summer of 1979-80.

And he was living in Sydney in the early 1980s when several women were attacked by a balaclava-clad, gun-wielding man dubbed the Sutherland Rapist.

Evidence at the time indicated the Balaclava Rapist, Sutherland Rapist and Coulston had the same blood type.

In 1980, English migrant Jeffrey Parkinson, 33, and a female friend were abducted at Tweed Heads by a masked man.

Mr Parkinson grappled with the man and was shot dead. The victim's son, Garry, said last week his father had drawn blood from his attacker but a small blood sample had been lost by Tweed Heads police during a police station move.

He said if Coulston was responsible, the Melbourne murders could have been prevented had the blood sample been preserved.

"At least three people would be alive today and several women might not have been raped," he said.

"I've been after justice for 28 years for the man who killed my father."

Tweed Heads detectives refuse to say if new evidence has come to light.

The detective heading the investigation, Brett Edmonds, said: "With any unsolved murder, the investigation is never really closed."


Murderer hoards violent TV images

February 7, 2005

Violent images of a woman being beaten which were found on the prison cell computer of a triple murderer were downloaded from an old war film on free-to-air television.

Killer Mervyn Ashley Coulston used a device, known as a frame-grabber, to capture the images from his television, and download them on to his computer at Barwon Prison, near Geelong, a Corrections Victoria spokesman said today.

The images came from a black and white World War II movie depicting the French Resistance, the spokesman said.

"It's not exactly A Clockwork Orange or Romper Stomper, but they are still unauthorised materials," he said. The 15 contraband images were downloaded along with dozens of others from the film and concealed on the computer, which Coulston used to complete courses in English, hospitality and computers at the prison.

The 15 suspect pictures depict a fully-clothed woman being assaulted and dragged by her hair, and were discovered through a routine check of Coulston's computer in December last year.

Coulston, now 48, was convicted and sentenced to life with no minimum term for the murder of three students in a share house in Burwood, in Melbourne's east, in July 1992.

"Coulston has since had a Governor's disciplinary hearing, where he denied knowledge of how the images got on to his computer but they were well concealed," the Corrections Victoria spokesman said.

"He had 14 days loss of privileges, where he was placed in a management cell and subject to strict regulation, and he has lost the computer for the foreseeable future."

The spokesman said all prisoners were required to take up prison work, vocational training or study.

Coulston applied to use the computer for his courses. Computers were not supplied by the state government, but were provided by the prisoner or a member of his family, the spokesman said.

No prisoners were connected to the internet, he said.

"We have to balance between allowing prisoners to use computers for educational purposes, training purposes and the checks and balances that come with that," the spokesman said.

"We need to be vigilant and we are.

"We have regular checks, otherwise we're talking about going back to the quill and parchment days."

But Crimes Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara said prisoners such as Coulston should have no right to use a computer.

"He's in for life, so he's not going to enter the workforce or go back to crime because he'll be too old, and can't do anything," Mr McNamara said.

"So I question his need to even have a computer for whatever studies he's doing.

"In another life or another country there would have been capital punishment and he wouldn't be around."


In 1988, Coulston came to media attention when he attempted to sail his custom built 8 foot vessel which he named G'Day 88 from Australia to New Zealand across the Tasman Sea.



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