Percy is a
sadistic child-murderer, who was imprisoned for murdering Yvonne
Elizabeth Tuohy on a Victorian beach in July 1969. Declared not guilty
by reason of insanity, he remains imprisoned because he is considered
too dangerous to be released. In December 2005 it was claimed that he
had committed other murders but would not admit them for fear of harming
any hope of being released in the future.
murder of Yvonne Tuohy
Twelve-year-old Yvonne Tuohy was
at a beach in the small town of Warneet, in Westernport Bay, Victoria,
one day in July 1969. She was talking with her friend Shane Spiller,
then aged 11. Percy, a 21-year-old naval rating, seized Tuohy and put a
knife to her throat. He would probably have abducted Spiller as well,
but Spiller was carrying a tomahawk which he waved to stop Percy
approaching him. Percy abducted Tuohy and drove off with her.
Spiller was able to describe
Percy, his car, and a naval badge on the car, to police. The description
led police to HMAS Cerberus, from where Percy was on weekend leave. They
found him within three hours of the murder and caught him red handed. He
was washing the blood from his clothes.
There was later speculation that
Percy had committed the crime in a frenzy, and that later realisation
and horror about what he had done led him to shut it out of his memory.
Percy’s memory was apparently already receding, but Detective Sergeant
Richard Knight took Percy through the process in reverse so that he
could reveal where he had put Tuohy’s body. It was found 10km from the
Percy was found to be criminally
insane. Picked earlier as being naval officer material, he hadn’t been
found suitable and had succumbed to a fantasy world. Charged with murder,
he pleaded insanity and was sentenced to be detained at the Governor’s
Pleasure. He was committed to Ararat Hospital in April 1970.
Percy appears to have become
quite settled in prison. According to a prison officer who knew him, "He
was the chess champion, a stamp collector and one of the best tennis
players in the division." He smoked, but despite being imprisoned for so
long he kept himself fit. Having working in the printing industry in
Ararat prison for 11 years, he had set up databases and allocated jobs
to prisons. He was said to be a model prisoner.
However, he kept himself to
himself, received no visitors, and the same prison officer who described
him as a chess champion and stamp collector also said: "He's highly
intelligent but you could never get a handle on his real feelings." More
significantly, he said: "He's our Hannibal Lecter."
In 1998, it was announced that
Percy’s case was to be reviewed by the Victorian Supreme Court. New
rules had been introduced for prisoners serving indefinite jail terms
under the category "at the Governor’s pleasure" and it was speculated
that he could be freed. In response to this speculation, it was said
that the Victorian government was considering instructing lawyers to
appear at any hearing, to oppose Percy’s release on the grounds of
Percy’s case was heard by a
Supreme Court judge, Geoffrey Eames. On 30 September 1998 Eames refused
to set a minimum sentence for Percy or a release date, despite Percy
having served the 25 year term that was the state norm for insane
criminals. Eames said that Percy had never been treated for his sadistic
paedophilia and nor had he sought treatment. He said:
He has demonstrated no
significant remorse or anxiety, at least none which I find credible,
as to the circumstances which caused him to kill.
In March 2004, Percy applied to
be transferred from Ararat Jail to Thomas Embling psychiatric hospital.
This application was turned down by Justice Murray Kellam, who like
others to have studied Percy’s case, said he was not convinced that
Percy didn’t still have dangerous sexual fantasies about killing
In February 2005, the Leader of
the Opposition in the Victorian parliament, Robert Doyle, sought to make
political capital out of Percy’s case. He said that if his party came
back into power, it would introduce "Hannibal Lector" laws to ensure
that Percy and people like him would never be released. He said:
There should not be any
chance at all that Percy can get out. And we will introduce laws
which provide for 'life lock-up' of special case prisoners who are
beyond help or redemption.
In reply, the Attorney-General,
Rob Hulls, gave assurances that Percy would not be released while he was
a danger to the community "This state has laws to imprison people for
serious violent, sexual and drug crimes for an indefinite period of
time," he said.
In June 2004, Percy began a one-to-one
sex offenders’ program, which he said he was doing well in. However,
according to a report that was leaked to the Melbourne newspaper The
Herald Sun, "Derek hopes that participation in the program might
give him a chance at possible parole".
In far more detail, the report
"Mr Percy does not suffer
from a mental illness and is not detainable under the Mental Health
Act. He does have a personality disorder and his ability to
experience human emotions is severely restricted. The most serious
aspect of his personality is his sadistic fantasy life which
revolves around children, their torture and mutilation. He has no
motivation to curb or control the deviant sexual fantasies. I would
be pessimistic about his ability to respond to any form of treatment.
Mr Percy is not suitable for transfer to hospital (Thomas Embling)
even though he was found not guilty by reason of insanity."
The Adult Parole Board refused
to recommend Percy’s release and psychiatriasts said that he should not
be removed from a prison to a less-secure hospital.
Dr Stephens, the Pentridge
Prison co-ordinator of forensic psychiatry services, had written in 1984
that Percy was "a highly dangerous, sadistic pedophile who should never
be released from safe custody". Dr Stephens didn't think that Percy was
mad, however, writing that "he is not certifiable, neither is he
psychiatrically treatable and he is totally unsuited to a mental
An unnamed police source quoted
in The Age was of the same opinion, though more blunt:
He's intelligent, cunning
and pure evil. There is no way he is mad.
Others who had examined Percy
came to the similar conclusions and a report on Percy cautioned: "If
Percy is ever so transferred, he will, in all probability, earn some
degree of freedom as the result of reasonable and conforming behaviour.
The consequences of such freedom could well prove tragic."
Yvonne Tuohy's friend, Shane
Spiller never quite recovered from his encounter with Percy. Speaking
many years later, he said:
I was promised back then
that he would never get out. I hope people don't forget what he was
like and what he did. They always thought he'd killed others but
they weren't able to prove it.
Percy had been every child’s (and
indeed, every community’s) worst nightmare. However, the encounter with
Percy on the beach wasn’t the last time that Spiller saw him; Spiller
was the key witness. As he described it:
What happened stuffed me . .
. In the line-up at Russell Street (police station), I had to pick
him. I had to walk up and point right at his nose. The look he gave
me. I can still remember it.
The trauma of having to walk up
to Percy must have been immense. To the adult detectives who supervised
the scene, it was both logical and necessary – Percy was surrounded by
policemen and obviously couldn’t do any more harm. Whether this was
obvious to the 11-year-old Spiller is difficult to say. He appears to
have remained terrified of Percy.
Spiller applied for crimes
compensation in 2000, 31 years after Yvonne Tuohy was murdered. He was
awarded $5000. He appealed and received $50,000, which was the maximum
that could be awarded under the compensation system. By this time he was
living in Wyndham, a town in south-east New South Wales. Locals who knew
him said that he remained scared.
Spiller disappeared in late
August 2002. When police investigated they discovered that his 4WD
vehicle was still parked at the front of his house. It is possible that
the fear of Percy became too much and that he fled, or that he killed
himself. Police sources are believed to have a different explanation for
his disappearance, however. They believe he was murdered for his
with Beaumont children and other cases
The circumstances under which
Yvonne Tuohy was murdered were such that police suspected that he had
committed other murders. Dick Knight, who later became an assistant
police commissioner in Victoria, was involved in the original case and
thought that Percy had been involved in other murders. The police
opinion was reinforced by the contents of notebooks found in Percy's
locker at HMAS Cerberus. The notebooks detailed ways of abducting
children and then mistreating them. The defence psychiatrist, Dr
Whittaker, was of the opinion that a man who had expressed himself in
the way Percy had done, would probably have done more than just write
about it. He believed that Percy had killed other children. He feared,
however, that Percy might have wiped knowledge of other murders from his
The cases for which police
suspect Percy of involvement are:
The abduction and
disappearance of the Beaumont children. Police have managed to
establish that Percy was near the scene of the crime when the
children went missing.
The Wanda Beach murders of
Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt, both aged 16, at Wanda
Bearch, Sydney, on 13 January 1965.
The murder of Simon Brook,
aged three, in Glebe, inner Sydney, on 19 May 1968. His body was
found in a cubbyhole near his home. Commenting on this and the Wanda
Beach cases when he was first arrested, Percy reputedly replied: "I
could have done it but I can't remember." Percy has admitted to
driving past the location where the body was found, on the day of
The disappearance of Linda
Stillwell, aged eight, from St Kilda, Melbourne, on Saturday, August
10, 1968. She was last seen at about 5pm, having been playing with
her elder brother and sister and some other children, near St Kilda
pier and Luna Park on the St Kilda foreshore. She has never been
found. Percy has since admitted to police that he was in St Kilda on
the day she disappeared.
The murder of Alan Redston,
aged six, in Canberra in September 1968. His body was found in a
muddy creek near his home.
Commenting in 1998 on the cases
for which Percy remains a suspect, the acting head of Victorian homicide,
Detective Inspector Paul Sheridan, said that police were checking the
evidence linking Percy to the murders. He was believed to have had
alibis for some of the cases, but not all.
One of the problems with
investigating Percy was that police did not have a sample of his DNA.
Police in Victoria can by law take DNA samples from anybody convicted of
a crime, but Percy was never convicted, having been found not guilty by
reason of insanity. This legal loophole meant that police could not take
his DNA. In at least one of the murders for which Percy is a suspect, it
is believed that DNA from the crime scene has been preserved.
In 2002, a parliamentary law
reform committee in the Victorian parliament began public hearings. One
of the suggestions, tabled in the Victorian parliament in March 2004,
was that the legal loophole be eliminated so that DNA samples could be
taken from people like Percy. The Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, said in
May 2004 it would consider making this change. However, as of February
2005 the new legislation had still not been passed.
In 2004, Percy was again
investigated over the disappearance of Linda Stillwell. On 2 February
2005, detectives from Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and the
Australian Federal Police applied for permission to interview Percy,
based on new information. In a secret hearing at Melbourne Magistrates
Court, permission was granted.
Commenting publicly on the
investigation, The Victorian police commissioner, Christine Nixon, said:
I think that what we are
doing is simply at the very preliminary stages. When we've got some
more information, when in fact the investigators have had a chance
to talk with this individual, then we'll certainly make more
information available as we can.
These are very difficult
issues and areas. They're old cases, the family's involved. You
don't really want to raise their expectations until we're a lot
clearer. We clearly have information, and that information will be
put and when we've got further to say about the matter, we will.
The new information possessed by
police was Percy's own admission that he'd been in St Kilda on the day
that Linda Stillwell vanished.
Percy was removed from Ararat
Prison to the Victorian police homicide offices in St Kilda Road to be
questioned about the Stillwell case and the other cases for which he was
a suspect. He was questioned for nine hours but said that he couldn't
remember anything. He made no admissions. He was then driven to the city
watchhouse before being returned to Ararat Prison the next day.
Simon Brook Inquest
Police investigations continued
and on 20 November 2005 it was announced that Percy would be subpoenaed
to give evidence at a new inquest into the unsolved 1968 murder of Simon
Brook. As detailed above, Simon Brook was three years old when he was
murdered on 19 May 1968. It was also hoped that the inquest, to begin on
12 December 2005, would bring to light details that could help solve
Simon Brook's father, Professor
Donald Brook, confirmed that he would testify at the inquest. Speaking
publicly for the first time in over 30 years, he said:
It is in the public interest
that the facts should be established . . . even after such a long
time. This is partly because it encourages trust in the police and
in the judicial process. It is also partly because, assuming that
the facts can be reliably established, it may become possible to
make sure that no other child will ever suffer the same fate, at the
Percy was flown to Sydney under
tight security on 9 December. The inquest, conducted by the New South
Wales coroner Mr John Abernethy, was scheduled to begin at the Glebe
Coroner's Court on 12 December. It was expected to run for two days.
The inquest opened and was
adjourned until the next day, to give Percy's legal team the time to
talk to their client. When the inquest opened again on 13 December,
detailed accounts of the murders of both Yvonne Tuohy and Simon Brook
were given to the coroner. Peter Zahra, SC, the counsel assisting the
coroner, said that the cases had "striking similarities".
Mr Abernethy agreed. He said
that the murders were "substantially and relevantly similar" and that "the
circumstances in which they occurred are, again, substantially similar."
Detective Sergeant Adam Barwick,
in charge of the new investigation into Simon Brooke's murder, said that
300 suspects had been eliminated from the original enquiry. Barwick also
said that he could not find anything in the case file that said that
Percy had been ruled out as a suspect. Percy had been serving in the
navy in Sydney at the time of the murder. Barwick informed the coroner:
"It's my opinion that Derek Ernest Percy is responsible for the murder
of Simon Brook."
A statement from a Victorian
policeman was also heard by the coroner. The policeman had known Percy
since they had been at school together. The policeman said that in 2004
he had spoken with Percy about the murder. In his statement, the
policeman said that Percy had admitted to driving past the site where
Simon Brook's body had been found, on the day Simon Brook was murdered.
The body had not been discovered until the next day.
Detective Sergeant Adrian
Paterson, a police identification expert, pointed out similarities
between photographs taken of Percy in the 1990s, and an identikit
picture of a man seen walking with Simon Brook shortly before the murder.
Other links could not be made,
however. There had been speculation before the inquest began that
forensic evidence might provide a lead. In particular, there were
rumours that DNA tests might have been applied to objects found with the
body. However police refused to confirm or deny that they had DNA
evidence and Sergeant Barwick told the coroner's court that all of the
clothing had been incinerated in 1988.
Percy's barrister, Nathan Steel,
said that there was no more evidence against Percy than there had been
in 1969. He said that the evidence was all circumstantial and there was
no physical evidence linking Percy to the crime.
Having taken all arguments into
consideration, the coroner said there was a reasonable prospect "that a
jury would convict a known person in relation to the offence." He
terminated the inquest after just one day and referred the case to the
Department for Public Prosections.
Speaking outside the inquest,
Professor Brook said:
If it is possible to find
out who did this and make quite sure it's not possible for this
person to do the same thing again ... then that will be very much in
the public interest. Grief is something everybody has ... and I
don't think ours is a matter of concern to anybody, so much as the
knowledge that the police do their work and the judicial process
grinds on, irrespective of time.
Some of the evidence given at
the inquest was not reported until several days after the inquest closed.
It was revealed publicly for the first time that it was Percy himself
who had told police that he had been in St Kilda on the day in 1968 that
Linda Stillwell vanished.
Another document, tended in
evidence, contained a statement by a NSW police officer. The officer, a
detective in the homicide squad, expressed his doubts about Percy's
willingness to cooperate with enquiries:
Percy stated that he one day
hoped to be released from jail ... I believe that Percy will never
make admissions to any offence while he still holds out hope of
being released from jail.
So how likely is it that
Percy was responsible for the disappearance of the Beaumont children?
Below are the arguments for, and the arguments against:
evidence for Percy's involvement
Percy is a good suspect for the
abduction of the Beaumont children and it is believed that he was in the
area at the time they disappeared. He is quite clearly capable of having
murdered them and the other cases for which he remains prime suspect are
very similar. He matches the description of the suspect.
evidence against Percy's involvement
While he has been linked to a
number of similar cases, the only one for which he has been caught was
the one at which he was caught red-handed. He would have been only 18
when the Beaumonts disappeared, which is younger than the suspected age
given in the description for the suspect. Logic suggests that the
Beaumont abductor must have had a car nearby, but how Percy could have
had easy access to a car in Adelaide has not been explained. More
critically, Percy may have been too young to drive.
Furthermore, if the Oval
Abduction was the work of the same person as the Beaumont children
disappearance -- which is by no means certain, but is suspected by some
people -- then Percy couldn't possibly have done it. He has been
imprisoned since 1970.
Finally, there simply isn't any
real evidence to connect him to the case, and there are three other
named suspects -- logically, they can't all have done it.
Child killer Derek Percy dies in hospital, aged
64, taking any secrets to the grave
Rachel Baxendale - TheAustralian.com.au
July 24, 2013
CHILD killer Derek Percy has died of cancer in a
Melbourne hospital, just days after crushing hopes he would shed light
on the 1960s disappearance of Linda Stilwell.
Percy, 64, was Victoria's longest serving prisoner
and had been battling lung cancer in a secure ward in St Vincent's
Hospital in Melbourne.
A justice department spokesman confirmed a
64-year-old man had died at 2am.
Percy was the prime suspect in Linda Stilwell's 1968
disappearance and suspected death in Melbourne and was a suspect in a
number of other child disappearances in other states.
Linda Stilwell's family had fought for years for
Percy to tell them what happened to their little girl.
On Saturday, he gave evidence from his hospital
bedside during a coronial hearing, denying involvement in her
He previously said he could not remember if he was
Linda's brother Gary Stilwell, 54, said today it was
disappointing Percy had taken his secrets to the grave.
“I would've thought at the end of his life he
could've found it in his heart to actually give relief to us and to my
mother in regards to Linda,” Mr Stilwell said.
“I don't think anybody believes that he didn't do
Mr Stilwell said news of Percy's death brought some
“It does give me a form of peace knowing that he's
dead, to be honest,” he said.
“The spectre of Derek Percy's been hanging over our
family like a black cloud for a long time.”
In a statement, Corrections Victoria said the death
would be examined by the coroner, as is the case with all inmate deaths.
“The prisoner was being treated for a terminal
illness at the time of his death and his death is not considered to be
suspicious,” the statement said.
Coroner Iain West made an interim finding in 2009
that Percy, who is linked to some of Australia's most notorious child
killings, was in the area on the day Linda disappeared.
But the inquest into her death was adjourned after Mr
West decided not to compel Percy to give evidence.
He said he had concerns about the reliability of
Percy's evidence, given his mental state at the time of the abduction.
Linda's mother Jean Priest took her fight to
Victoria's highest court, which ruled in her favour and ordered the
inquest be reconvened.
It was expected to take place later this year, but
there was no certainty Percy would give evidence and the inquest was
then thrown in doubt when he was sent to hospital in a terminal
condition earlier this month.
Percy was found not guilty on insanity grounds of the
1969 murder of Yvonne Tuohy, 12, who was snatched from Warneet Beach,
southeast of Melbourne. He has been detained ever since.
Percy was also a suspect in several other unsolved
murders: Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt, both 15, on Sydney's
Wanda Beach in 1965, six-year-old Alan Redston in Canberra in 1966,
three-year-old Simon Brook in Sydney in 1968, and the disappearance of
the three Beaumont children in Adelaide in 1966.
Percy's link to missing Beaumont children mystery
August 30, 2007
CONVICTED child killer Derek Ernest Percy is
being quizzed today over a string of unsolved child crimes, including
the disappearance of the Beaumont children.
Melbourne Magistrates Court was today told police had
executed a search warrant on a South Melbourne warehouse on July 20 and
found material that they wished to question Percy about.
Magistrate Belinda Wallington granted police
permission to question Percy, who was in court for the brief hearing,
for eight hours today.
He will be questioned over the disappearance of the
Beaumont children in Adelaide in 1966, the murders of Christine Sharrock
and Marianne Schmidt on Sydney's Wanda beach in 1965, and the abduction
of Linda Stillwell, 7, from St Kilda's foreshore in 1968.
Police had obtained a warrant to seize 35 boxes of
files, clippings and handwritten diaries that Percy hid in a unit, which
he had rented for 20 years.
The material - packed in tea chests and cardboard
boxes - includes newspaper articles on sex crimes, pictures of children,
a video with a rape theme and handwritten stories on fresh sex offences
involving abduction and torture.
One of Australia's worst
Percy, 58, is currently in Victoria's Port Philip
Prison and is considered one of Australia's most violent sex criminals.
He was ordered to remain in custody indefinitely
after he was found unfit to plead on the grounds of insanity to the
murder of 12-year-old Yvonne Tuohy at Warneet beach, southwest of
Melbourne, in 1969.
He is also a suspect in the murders of Christine
Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt on Sydney's Wanda Beach in January 1965;
the disappearance of the Beaumont children, Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant,
4, in Adelaide in January 1966; the murder of Allen Redston, a six-year-old
grabbed in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, 3, killed in Sydney
in May 1968; and Linda Stilwell, 7, abducted from the St Kilda foreshore
in August 1968.
Police are expected to apply today under section 464
(B) of the Crimes Act to remove Percy from prison for questioning,
Material moved from prison since 1970
It is understood he will be questioned over unsolved
murders by detectives from Victoria and NSW.
Police said Percy has moved material from prison
since the early 1970s, first to a rented lock-up at Pascoe Vale then to
the South Melbourne unit.
The documents include material that police believe
may implicate Percy in the murders of Linda Stilwell and Christine
Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt.
They have found a 1978 street directory with a line
drawn through the St Kilda Pier where Linda Stilwell was abducted and a
pornographic lesbian cartoon on which Percy wrote the word “Wanda”
across the top.
When he was arrested in 1969, police found Percy had
maps of the areas where Linda Stilwell, Christine Sharrock, Marianne
Schmidt and Simon Brook lived or were murdered.
Hidden cache links child killer to unsolved
By John Sylvester -
August 29, 2007
DETECTIVES will seek a court order today to question
a long-serving prisoner, Derek Ernest Percy, after discovering fresh
evidence connecting him to a series of unsolved child killings -
including the unsolved Wanda beach murders more than 40 years ago.
The planned interrogation comes after detectives
found thousands of documents hidden by Percy. Some appear to link him to
the child abductions from the 1960s.
Police obtained a court-approved warrant to seize 35
boxes of files, clippings and handwritten diaries Percy concealed in a
self-storage warehouse in South Melbourne he has rented for 20 years.
They also found razor blades similar to those used to mutilate one
The material includes newspaper articles on sex
crimes, pictures of children, a video with a rape theme and handwritten
stories on fresh sex offences involving abduction and torture.
Percy managed to collect and transfer the material
from jail to his private collection despite being one of Australia's
most violent sex criminals and judged too dangerous for release.
Police now know Percy, 59, a former naval rating, has
maintained secret storage facilities in Melbourne since the early 1970s.
He was ordered to remain in custody indefinitely when
found unfit to plead on the grounds of insanity for the murder of Yvonne
Tuohy, 12, who he grabbed from the beach at Warneet, south-east of
Melbourne, on July 20, 1969.
He is also a suspect in the murders of Christine
Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt on Wanda beach in January 1965; the
disappearance of the Beaumont children, Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4,
in Adelaide in January 1966; the murder of Allen Redston, a six-year-old
grabbed in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, 3, killed in Glebe
in May 1968; and Linda Stilwell, 7, abducted from Melbourne's St Kilda
foreshore in August 1968.
The bodies of Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt,
two friends aged 15 from West Ryde, were found in the dunes of windswept
and deserted Wanda beach the day after they disappeared.
Along with the disappearance without trace of the
Beaumont children from Adelaide's Glenelg beach on Australia Day 1966,
it remains one of the most notorious unsolved murder cases of the 1960s.
A taskforce found credible evidence leading
investigators to say that Percy remains a person of interest in the
Following the discovery
of the documents, police are expected to apply for permission to
question Percy, who is in Port Phillip Prison, about the unsolved
murders. He is expected to be interviewed by Victorian and NSW
Since he was a teenager Percy has written diaries
that detail his violent sexual impulses. The first few were destroyed by
his parents, but after his arrest at HMAS Cerberus, the navy training
base on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, for the murder of Yvonne Tuohy,
police found more writings connected with plans to abduct and torture
When he was jailed, Percy became a model prisoner.
But a search of his cell in September 1971 found he had compiled
elaborate blueprints of planned sex crimes along with pictures of
children, obscene notes and complex charts showing abduction plots.
Percy has claimed that a prison psychiatrist, now
dead, urged him to write down his fantasies for "therapeutic purposes".
He has also said repeatedly that he has not had any violent fantasies
since that time.
In 1998, when Percy began legal moves to seek his
freedom, the Supreme Court was told that "since 1971 Mr Percy has never
written anything which could be indicative of any sexual fantasy".
But the discovery of the secret storage holdings show
that after the material was discovered in his cell Percy began to hide
his writings and clippings by sending them out of the prison.
Police say the evidence inside his private warehouse
indicates Percy has not changed but chose to hide incriminating material
that would destroy his hopes for release. "If he has stored them he must
believe he will get out so he can recover them," a senior policeman said.
Police now know that Percy has moved material from
prison since the early 1970s - first to a rented lock-up in the
Melbourne suburb of Pascoe Vale, and for the past 20 years, to a self-storage
unit in South Melbourne.
The documents, kept in tea-chests and cardboard boxes,
include material that police say may implicate Percy in the murders of
Linda Stilwell and the Wanda beach victims.
They have found a 1978 street directory where a line
has been drawn through the St Kilda Pier where Linda Stilwell was
abducted 10 years earlier and a pornographic lesbian cartoon on which
Percy has written the word "Wanda" across the top
When he was arrested in 1969 police found Percy had
maps of the areas where Linda Stilwell, Christine Sharrock and Marianne
Schmidt and Simon Brook lived or were murdered.
In 2005 the NSW Coroner, John Abernethy, held an
inquest into the murder of Simon Brook. Percy refused to give evidence
on the grounds of self-incrimination.
Some of Percy's writings, including those seized in
South Melbourne, detail abducting a young boy and inflicting similar
injuries to those found on Simon Brook's body. Police also found in
Percy's collection a kit filled with old-style razor blades, the same
type used to mutilate the young victim.
Mr Abernethy referred the case to the NSW Director of
Public Prosecutions to see if there was sufficient evidence to charge
Percy, but the DPP has decided not to proceed.
Victoria's Coroner, Graeme Johnstone, is now set to
open an inquest into the murder of Linda Stilwell. Percy will be the
only known suspect. Mr Johnstone will also examine material that links
Percy to the interstate cases.
Police believe the storage boxes contain Percy's
possessions at the time of his arrest, material smuggled from jail in
the 1970s and official documents, including court records that have been
legitimately transferred over the past two decades.
Earlier this month a court in Victoria found
officially that Linda Stilwell had been murdered. The magistrate, Susan
Wakeling, granted the Stilwell family an application for crime
Percy has received a navy pension since his arrest,
has nearly $200,000 in the bank and has successfully invested in gold.
He has used part of his income to rent the South Melbourne storage area.
Among the items seized by police was an extensive
stamp collection valued at several thousand dollars compiled while Percy
was in prison
One man, so many
faces of evil
By John Sylvester - TheAge.com.au
April 22, 2007
THE young sailor slumped on the bed in the watch-house
cell was crying with self-pity when an old school friend walked in. It
was the first familiar face he had seen since his arrest two days
earlier at the Cerberus naval base over the murder of a 12-year-old girl
taken from a nearby beach.
But the "friend" was not there out of concern. He was
now a young policeman and the homicide squad had sent him to persuade
the prisoner to talk about past crimes. The suspect was Derek Ernest
Percy — arrested trying to wash away his guilt and a dead girl's blood
at the navy base, hours after Yvonne Elizabeth Tuohy had been abducted
at Ski Beach, Warneet, and then molested, tortured and murdered.
When Percy grabbed her, he also tried to abduct her
friend, Shane Spiller, 12, who escaped by threatening Percy with a
tomahawk and running away.
The nature of the crime led detectives, including
elite investigator Dick Knight, to conclude this was not Percy's first
It was 1969 and Australia was reeling from a series
of child abductions and murders over the previous four years.
Christine Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt were murdered
on Sydney's Wanda Beach in January 1965; the Beaumont children (Jane, 9,
Arnna, 7, and Grant, 4) were abducted in Adelaide in 1966; Allen Redston,
6, was murdered in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, 3, was
killed in Sydney in 1968; and Linda Stilwell, 7, was abducted from St
Kilda in August 1968. All cases remain officially unsolved.
For nearly 40 years police have wondered if Percy was
responsible for nine murders. Now, after a complex investigation
involving old memories and new techniques, they have built a compelling
case against Australia's longest-serving prisoner.
But in July 1969, the novice policeman was supposed
to listen to his old schoolmate in the hope he would open up. And it
almost worked. The policeman left the force 18 years ago to return to
country Victoria and a quiet life. But when contacted by cold case unit
detectives he immediately knew why.
Unprompted, he recalled his last conversation with
"He had been sobbing and was very distraught.
"He said, 'Looks like I've f---ed up this time'. I
said, 'It certainly looks like it, Derek'.
"Derek put his head in his hands for a while, then he
looked up at me again and he had tears in his eyes and panic written all
over his face. He also looked at me with a plea for help."
The schoolmate gently asked: "Were there any others,
"Derek put his head in his hands and began to sob
again. He said, 'I cannot remember'."
It was the same response he'd given two days earlier
to homicide detectives over the Tuohy murder, until confronted with
The schoolmate, a policeman for barely six months,
pushed on. "Well look, Derek, I'll ask you about some of the ones that I
know about. You don't have to say anything. If you remember I will jot
it down and it could be used in court."
Asked about Linda Stilwell, Percy again said his
memory was blank but then made the first of several telling admissions:
"Yes, I drove through St Kilda that day. I had been at Cerberus in the
afternoon and was driving along the esplanade on the way to the White
Ensign Club for some drinks."
Asked if he killed her, he said: "Possibly, I don't
remember a thing about it."
Questioned on Simon Brook, he admitted being in
Sydney at the time and said he had driven his brother to work, turning
off at the railway cutting where the body was found.
The policeman, who cannot be named because of a
suppression order, pressed him: "So you drove past the same spot in
Sydney on the day Simon Brook was killed." Percy said, "Yes".
Question: "Do you remember if you killed him?"
Answer: "I wish I could. I might have. I just don't
Question: "What do you know about the Beaumont
children in South Australia."
Answer: "I was in Adelaide at the time."
Question: "You were what? You remember being in
Adelaide when they went missing?"
Question: "Whereabouts were you when they disappeared?"
Answer: "Near the beach. But nothing else."
Percy was placing himself at each crime scene.
Perhaps with more time and pressure he would confess, as he had done
over the Tuohy murder.
But at that moment, the watch-house keeper told the
junior constable he had no business being in the cell. The young copper
said he was on homicide squad business, but when he turned back to Percy
the spell was broken. The killer knew his former schoolmate was no
longer a friend, but trying to find the secrets of his dark past.
In April 1970, Percy was found not guilty of Yvonne
Tuohy's murder on grounds of insanity. He has never been charged with
any other crime. But prison officers, psychiatrists, judges, police and
welfare officers consider him the most dangerous man in Australia.
The policeman, now long retired, has never been in
doubt. When he left the cell that day, another former schoolmate, called
to Russell Street to make a statement, saw him. He was upset and shaking.
"That f---ing bastard, I hope they hang him," he said.
FOR the cold case unit, going over Linda
Stilwell's disappearance from St Kilda 36 years earlier was meant to be
a case of tidying up loose ends to provide the coroner with a summary of
facts. With no real chance of finding a body, the unit did not want to
waste time needed for other cases. But when Senior Detective Wayne
Newman started to delve in January 2004, he began to discover evidence
that pointed to Percy.
For Newman, the "quick" investigation turned into a
two-year quest linking Percy to baffling murders that have long seemed
unsolvable. It would involve police from four forces, psychiatrists and
The investigators, many of whom were not born when
the murders were committed, co-operated in a unique operation, codenamed
Heats. To establish that Percy had killed more than once, detectives
retraced the life of the quiet country boy who became a monster.
ERNEST PERCY was a NSW railway electrician for
nearly 25 years before taking a job with the State Electricity
Commission in Victoria, first moving to Chelsea, then relocating his
young family to Warrnambool in 1957.
Ernest Percy's passion was sailing. His eldest son,
Derek, just nine when they moved to Warrnambool, shared the hobby.
In 1961, Percy senior was promoted and the family
went to Mount Beauty, near Bright. The Percys took caravan holidays,
often travelling interstate to yachting competitions in their V8
Studebaker. Much later, police would track these holidays against their
murder map from the 1960s, with intriguing results.
In 1961, Derek started at Mount Beauty High School.
The school uniform included a green and gold striped tie. Other students
noticed that Derek's tie was made of coarse fabric and not a perfect
match for the school pattern — although it was close enough.
He became a friend of a local farmer's son who had
also just moved to town and was one of few who liked Percy. Others found
him intense, abrupt and at times unsettling. But no one thought he was
When police from Operation Heats approached the
friend, he told them: "One thing that stood out about Derek was that he
was very intelligent. Most or nearly all of us at school had to work and
study very hard but not Derek." He also noted that Percy was shy and
never had a girlfriend.
Banned by his worried parents from playing football,
Percy would sometimes borrow a friend's gear for the occasional game,
convincing his mate's mother to wash the clothes so he would not be
If the Percys were over protective, it was
understandable. Their third-born, Brett, died from diphtheria when aged
only 10 months. They were to have three surviving sons.
Derek earned his pocket-money working in the tobacco
fields with friends — buying a second-hand red bike with racing "ram's
He carried his sharp knife everywhere, but in country
Victoria that did not make him unusual. In the 1960s a pocket-knife was
more a tool than a weapon, used to solve a problem rather than create
But when Percy used his to help a mate make running
repairs to the sole of a shoe during a handball game, he showed a
glimpse into his future.
"I remember Derek getting his pocket-knife out and
telling me that he would cut (the sole) off … Derek began to cut the
sole off my shoe and all of a sudden the blade went into Derek's left
thigh about three quarters of an inch (about two centimetres). The blade
went deeply into his thigh and I recoiled back in surprise.
"I was amazed that Derek just looked fascinated with
what had happened. He didn't scream, cry or really show any sort of
emotion that you would expect from someone with a knife in their leg.
"I thought his reaction was extremely odd," the
friend said. "He seemed happy about it."
Kiewa Valley's hydro-electric plant was no Snowy
Mountains Scheme but it gave tradesmen the chance to raise families in
one of Victoria's prettiest spots.
There was little violent crime in the town of fewer
than 2000 people, no need to lock houses or cars. But in late 1964, a
small crime wave began: women's underwear began to disappear from
clothes lines — and Derek Percy was rumoured to be the thief. Until then
he had been a model student and a school prefect, but in 1965 his grades
Ernie Percy threatened to sack any hydro worker who
suggested his son was the phantom "snowdropper", but by late 1964 at
least two locals knew that Derek was the culprit and that he was much
worse than just a petty thief. He was dangerously disturbed and, they
believed, a potential killer.
On a warm Sunday, two teenagers, Kim White and Bill
Hutton, walked to a local swimming hole. There they saw what they
thought was a girl in a petticoat. Then they realised it was Percy in a
"Well, at least it fits," one joked to his mate. But
any humour was lost when Percy began to slash wildly at the clothing,
then cut and stabbed at the crotch of a pair of knickers.
Hutton could see Percy's face. "I
would describe Derek's eyes as being full of excitement, a glazed look,
but I recall there was something very cold and sinister in the look," he
told police much later.
The boys told a teacher the next day and were accused
of making up stories. They confronted Percy but he denied everything.
Most fellow students thought their story was fabricated. After all,
Percy was the obedient student and his accusers loved a little mischief.
The following year Ernie Percy took a job with the
Snowy Mountain Scheme and moved his family to Khancoban in NSW, but to
allow Derek to finish school at Mount Beauty the teenager boarded with
The woman who lived next door remembers how the new
boarder would watch her hang out washing. One Saturday she took her
daughters, then aged seven and nine, to visit a relative. When they
returned they found the girls' wardrobes had been rifled through and
their underwear and dresses stolen.
The mother reported the theft to the police, who
asked her if she suspected anyone. She suspected Percy but did not want
to say so, she admitted years later.
A few weeks later a local found some of the dresses
in a bundle hidden under some bushes. With it was a girl's doll, with
the eyes "blinded" and newspaper clippings of women in bikinis. The
women's eyes were pencilled out and the bodies mutilated with razor
blades. The slashes would match some of the wounds inflicted on the
children murdered around Australia in the 1960s.
The blinded doll belonged to the girl next door to
where Percy was living.
Percy moved from Mount Beauty to join his family in
Khancoban after he failed his exams in 1965, a strange result for a
student with an IQ of 122.
In his entry in the Mount Beauty school magazine he
revealed a little of his concealed thoughts. His favourite saying was: "It
depends." Perpetual occupation: "Isolating himself." Ambition: "Playboy."
Probable fate: "Bachelor." Pet aversion: "Girls."
When Percy left Mount Beauty the "snowdropping"
stopped, only to begin near his new home in Khancoban. There were also
reports of a Peeping Tom.
While at Khancoban a neighbour found that Percy had
lured her six-year-old daughter into the family caravan to sexually
assault her. The girl's father decided to deal directly with Ernie Percy,
who promised it wouldn't happen again. And it didn't. At least not there.
While both parents said they thought their eldest son
was shy but normal, deep down they had growing fears.
One Mount Beauty local said that while Mrs Percy
allowed her middle son freedom, the elder brother was kept on a tighter
rein. "Derek had to get permission to go anywhere with us outside of
school hours and she would question his intentions."
Ernie Percy would later tell NSW police he had once
found Derek dressed in woman's clothing. The parents also found some
disturbing sexual writings by their son and immediately burnt them.
Later Percy's grandmother found letters filled with "rude" thoughts.
Percy denied they were his. Again they were burnt.
Percy began writing down bizarre and violent sexual
fantasies in 1965 — around the time his school grades collapsed. He
continued the self-incriminating habit for years.
Much later police would allege the writings were
plans for the crimes he was to commit and directly linked him to the
series of unsolved child murders.
At the end of 1966, having repeated year 11, Percy
was ready to leave school. His father also decided to leave the
mountains to move into private enterprise. He invested his payout on a
Shell service station in Newcastle.
Derek tried year 12 in a NSW school, dropped out,
worked at the service station, and in November 1967 joined the navy,
graduating top of his class a few months later.
Nearly four decades later, detectives started trying
to piece together his movements around Australia over the crucial four-year
period in the 1960s.
They knew the Percys often took their caravan to
holiday near beaches during yachting regattas. They also could prove
Percy was harbouring thoughts of molesting and killing children at the
same time as the series of shocking abductions were carried out in four
states and territories — and with one exception — all near beaches.
But was it simply a series of coincidences? How could
a teenager from country Victoria grab kids hundreds of kilometres away?
And how could a young sailor murder and return to his base undetected?
On a windy Monday — January 11, 1965 — teenage
neighbours Marianne Schmidt and Mary Sharrock went to Sydney's popular
Cronulla Beach area with Marianne's four younger siblings. After a
picnic, the younger children stayed in a sheltered area at Wanda Beach
and the two 15-year-olds started talking to a fair-haired youth.
Peter Schmidt, 10, saw his sister and her friend with
the teenager. His brother Wolfgang, 7, had also seen them talking to the
boy earlier. The youth had a knife in a sheath and carried a spear.
The girls' mutilated bodies were found the next day,
partially buried near a sand dune.
As in the Tuohy case, the victims were taken from the
beach and dumped nearby. The crotch area of one of the girls' bathers
had been cut. Percy had been seen slashing female underwear at Mount
Beauty in late 1964 — just weeks earlier.
Some people remembered that the Percys had gone to
Sydney for a holiday that summer. The mother of one of Percy's closest
friends in Mount Beauty told detectives that she had always suspected
that Percy might have been "a suspect in that case".
Ernie Percy took holidays to coincide with yacht
races around Australia. That summer the national yachting regatta was at
Botany Bay Yachting Club — near Wanda Beach. Percy's grandparents lived
walking distance from the West Ryde railway station where the two girls
caught the train.
After police arrested Percy at Cerberus, they found a
diary in which he described his urges to sexually abuse, torture, murder
and mutilate children. They also found drawings of naked children and
In one excerpt, Percy wrote he would force one of his
victims to drink beer. Autopsy results showed that Mary Sharrock had a
blood alcohol reading equivalent to drinking about 300 millilitres of
In his murder blueprint he wrote about abducting and
killing "Two girls at Barnsley", a NSW beach in northern NSW. Police
believe it was code for Wanda Beach.
It was 1966 and Percy had moved to Corryong High when
classmate Wayne Gordes decided to tease the new student after he saw the
obvious resemblance to the photo-fit. "I jokingly thought to myself 'That's
Derek', because of the description and I knew that they went to a beach
"A group of us were standing in the quadrangle when
Derek Percy walked past. I said, 'We know it was you that killed those
girls in Sydney. You have the same haircut and we know you were there.'
"With that Derek went berserk. He said, 'Don't you
say that' … I think he wanted to fight me for what I had said. I had
never seen Derek behave like that before."
ON WEDNESDAY, January 26, 1966, the Beaumont
children — Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, Grant, 4 — caught the bus from their
Somerton Park home to Glenelg Beach, Adelaide. They left about 9.45am;
their mother, Nancy, expected them home about midday.
A friend of Jane's saw them sitting near the Holdfast
Bay Sailing Club about 11am. A man was seen talking to them and at
11.45am the children bought a pie and two pasties from a bakery in Jetty
The man almost certainly gave them
cash for the food as they paid with a £1 note — more money than their
mother had given them. They were never seen again.
The suspect was described as in his 30s with light
brown, short swept-back hair parted on the left side, a thin face and
clean-shaven. He was suntanned and wearing blue bathers with a white
stripe down the side.
Could it have been Percy? He was only 17 at the time
but was sometimes mistaken for being older. His writings showed he
planned to give food to the children he would kidnap before killing them.
The Beaumonts were in the age group Percy fantasised about and they went
missing from the beach, as did Yvonne Tuohy, Marianne Schmidt, Mary
Sharrock, and Linda Stilwell.
Some elements of the description fitted Percy, some
didn't. The original sketch of the suspect was done by a non-police
artist and is not considered accurate.
Was Percy in Adelaide? He told police he had been
there on holiday but couldn't remember when. His brother confirmed they
had been there. The mother of one of Percy's friends told police: "I can
also recall that Derek travelled to Adelaide on holidays by plane on one
Asked by detectives in 2005 if he was in Adelaide
when the Beaumonts went missing he answered, "I don't know".
They then asked if he was blocking out thoughts "because
something horrible happened in Adelaide and you don't want to remember
it?" and he said it was possible.
Five days after the Tuohy murder he was interviewed
by prison psychiatrist Dr Allen Bartholomew who found Percy had the
capacity to repress memories of the crimes he committed. He said that if
Percy had been arrested a week after the murder he would no longer have
been able to recall what he had done.
Without bodies or a confession, Percy heads a short
list of suspects for the Beaumont children. Evidence is too scanty to
prove or disprove his involvement but the similarities of the crime with
Percy's modus operandi are striking.
Detective Sergeant Brian Swan from Adelaide's major
crime investigation branch said Percy remains "a person of interest in
the disappearance of the Beaumont children".
And Dr Bartholomew observed after interviewing Percy:
"It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that there is some other
great harm been done in the past and there is no way of knowing it."
ON SEPTEMBER 27, 1966, Allen Geoffrey Redston, 6,
left his home in the Canberra suburb of Curtain to go to the nearby milk
bar to buy an ice-cream.
The following day his body was discovered concealed
in reeds by a local creek. The body was hog-tied and had plastic wrapped
around the throat.
A police investigation found that in the days leading
up to the murder, a fair-haired teenager had been forcing boys to the
ground, tying them up and placing plastic over their heads in an
apparent attempt to asphyxiate them.
The identikit closely resembled Percy and the suspect
was riding a distinctive red pushbike with "ram's horn" handlebars — the
type Percy rode at Mount Beauty and took with him on caravan holidays.
When Dick Knight questioned Percy in 1969, he
confirmed taking a family holiday in Canberra in 1966. Police
established he had a Canberra relative but have found no records to
pinpoint the exact date of the holiday.
Percy's writings detail using plastic and his plans
to tie up and asphyxiate victims. Both Redston and Tuohy were tied and
gagged when their bodies were found.
Percy was the product of an otherwise stable family.
But there was a secret. When Derek was young and being cared for by his
grandmother, she would use a bizarre form of punishment: she would lock
him in a room and hog-tie him — feet and hands bound the way little
Allen Redston's were.
One item found at the crime scene puzzled the
original investigators. Along with other material used to used to bind
the child was a tattered green and gold striped tie. It was similar to
the Mount Beauty High School ties but was made of a distinctive coarse
cloth, like hessian. It matched the school tie Percy no longer needed
after transferring to Corryong High earlier that year.
That is one reason why federal police say that Percy
cannot be eliminated "as a person of interest in relation to the death".
AFTER three months in the navy, Percy was posted to
the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne on March 9, 1968. But the ship was
in Cockatoo Dry Dock at Sydney Harbour for a year-long refit and the
junior sailor was assigned fire sentry duty.
He lived at the naval base at nearby Garden Island
and commuted through the suburb of Glebe to the dock. On Saturday, May
18, 1968, Simon Brook, 3, went missing from the front yard of his family
home in Alexandra Lane, Glebe. The house was next to Jubilee Park on
Sydney Harbour, close to beach and yachts.
A truck driver later said he'd seen a boy matching
Simon Brook's description holding a young man's hand near Jubilee Park.
The mystery man was well-groomed with a neat haircut,
and an identikit image has a startling similarity to a photograph of
Percy in his school year book.
The little boy's body was found behind a building
site about 350 metres from the Brooks' home. There were several
signature injuries similar to those inflicted on Yvonne Tuohy. When
police examined the scene they found two Gillette razor blades probably
used in the attack. The same brand was issued to sailors.
But the most damning evidence comes from Percy's own
hand. In his diary, he wrote of abducting and killing a three-year-old "baby"
and described in detail the exact injuries inflicted on Simon Brook.
Detectives say it is a virtual confession.
When Dick Knight interviewed Percy in 1969 he asked
him, "Did you kill Simon Brook?", and Percy said "I could have". When
Percy talked to the young policeman who was his old schoolmate, he
admitted he had been in the Glebe area at the time "turning off at the
railway cutting where the body was found".
Only someone with a detailed knowledge of the area
would know that Simon Brook lived near a railway cutting, and if Percy
turned off at the railway cutting he would have driven straight past the
Crime profiler Detective Senior Sergeant Debra
Bennett concludes "there is all likelihood that the offender for Simon
Brook's murder and the offender for Yvonne Tuohy's murder is one and the
And NSW Coroner John Abernethy agrees. A new inquest
was held in 2005 and after just two days he found the evidence so
compelling he closed the hearing and referred the case to the Director
of Public Prosecutions. Percy was flown to the inquest but chose not to
give evidence on the grounds of self-incrimination.
Abernethy said he believed there was a "reasonable
prospect … that a jury would convict a known person in relation to the
offence". Charges might still be laid.
LINDA STILWELL was four when her family arrived in
Melbourne from England on the migrant ship the MV Fairsky in April 1965.
Linda was the second youngest of four children. For her mother Jean and
father Brian the new start could not save their marriage. In July 1968,
Brian left for New Zealand with their youngest child, Laura. Jean stayed
in Melbourne with the other three, took a job at an Albert Park hotel
and moved into a flat in nearby Middle Park.
On Saturday, August 10, 1968, she told
her children to stay home while she went grocery shopping. But the lure
of the beach was too much for the two eldest, who wanted to explore the
When Mrs Stilwell arrived home about midday, Karen,
11, and Gary, 9, had left. She dressed Linda, 7, and told her to go and
find her brother and sister to bring them home for lunch. Three hours
later Karen returned to say Gary and Linda were fishing on the St Kilda
About 4pm Gary returned, saying Linda had gone to
Little Luna Park to "look at the rifles" with some boys. His mother sent
the boy back to find his sister but he came back saying he thought she
might have gone to the police station to collect some fishing rods.
Stilwell rang the police and was told that two boys
had been in to get the rods but there was no sign of a little girl.
Three small boys told police they had last seen Linda at Little Luna
Two days later a woman contacted police and said she
had seen a girl matching Linda's description rolling down a grassy hill
near the Lower Esplanade. She said she saw a man near her. She described
him as having an olive complexion, thin features and wearing dark
She said the man was wearing "a deep navy blue,
almost black, spray jacket, similar to that worn when sailing. The man
was sitting with his legs crossed looking out to sea quite intently, but
About 80 suspects were questioned but no leads came
up. Linda was never seen again.
Percy had transferred to the troop ship HMAS Sydney (based
in Melbourne) on July 1, 1968, but was on leave for 18 days from August
5, five days before the abduction.
After Percy was arrested for the Tuohy murder the
following year, the woman witness opened the paper to see the picture of
the suspect. He was wearing a dark spray jacket. "I got the biggest
shock of my life. This was the same man that was sitting on the park
bench the day that the little Stilwell girl disappeared in St Kilda,"
About two years ago, when Percy's arrest photo was
again published, identifying him as a suspect in a series of unsolved
murders, the witness came forward again. "I am absolutely sure that the
man I saw sitting on the park bench the day Stilwell disappeared is the
same man," she said.
When Percy was asked by his policeman friend about
Linda's disappearance, he said that he had driven through St Kilda that
day. Asked if he was the killer, he said: "Possibly, I don't remember a
thing about it."
In his belongings police found maps he had marked.
One was in West Ryde near where the Wanda Beach victims caught the train,
one was marked through Glebe where Simon Brook was killed, and another
was marked with a line past the spot where Linda Stilwell was last seen.
Victoria's State Coroner Graeme Johnstone is expected
to hold an inquest into her disappearance. Whenever Linda Stilwell's
mother, Jean Priest, moved house, she would go to the homicide squad to
pass on her new address in the hope that one day she would get the call
that there had been a breakthrough. But over the years she found the new
generation of detectives no longer even recognised her daughter's name.
Operation Heats has given her new hope. "It has
helped me to know that people like (Senior Detective) Wayne Newman have
cared so much and done so much work," she said last week. "You learn to
live with what has happened but you can never forget."
All she wants now is for the evidence against Percy
to be produced at inquest. "Then I will be able to put a name to the
face … I just hope he would finally admit what he has done."
Derek Percy was surprisingly chatty when Operations
Heats investigators questioned him in early 2005. Balding with a long
grey beard, he has retained his striking cold blue-eyed stare. He
chatted happily while drinking tea with three sugars and nibbling on a
cheese and tomato sandwich.
He is serving an indefinite sentence under the
insanity verdict, but he has previously applied for a minimum term — an
appeal that has failed because he is considered a danger to the
He still hopes to be released, and a confession that
he had killed many times would destroy that dream. Having received a
navy pension since his arrest, he is one of the richest inmates in
prison, with nearly $200,000 in the bank.
Detectives were to ask him 1535 questions. He could
recall details of his childhood but when asked about the murders he grew
NSW Detective Sergeant Adam Barwick said that when
Percy was asked about the Brook murder he was "visibly different, in
that his lip quivered, and his answer was 'I can't remember'. I formed
the opinion that Percy was lying when answering these questions."
Police believe that Percy's claim that he cannot
remember is self-protection rather than self-deception. They think he is
bad — not mad.
Ironically, detectives say, the charade that he was
insane at the time of the crimes is in the public interest. If he had
stood trial and been convicted in 1970 for the murder of Yvonne Tuohy he
would have been released years ago … and would inevitably have struck
THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DEREK PERCY
1948, SEPTEMBER 15 Born in
1954 Attends primary school,
Missions Point, NSW
1956 Family moves to Chelsea
1958 Moves to Warrnambool
1961 Moves to Mt Beauty
1964 Seen slashing women's
clothing. A suspect for "snow dropping".
1965, JANUARY 11 Wanda Beach
murders. Mt Beauty locals see resemblance between Percy and identikit
1965 Starts keeping graphic diary.
School grades plummet. Fails year 11.
1966 Moves to Khancoban. Molests
1966, JANUARY 26 Beaumont children
go missing. Mt Beauty residents recall Percy holidaying in Adelaide.
Percy later says he was in Adelaide on the beach on the day.
1966, SEPTEMBER 28 Allen Geoffrey
Redston, 6, is abducted and murdered in Canberra. Percy later tells
police he has holidayed in the capital but can’t recall details. In
the days leading up to the murder there are reports of a teenager
attempting to suffocate children in the area. The description fits
Percy. Suspect rode a bike similar to Percy's and victim was bound
with a tie similar to Mt Beauty school uniform tie.
1967, NOVEMBER 25 Joins navy.
1968, MARCH 9 Stationed in Sydney.
1968, MAY 18 Simon Brook, 3,
abducted in Glebe. Percy writes in his diary of abducting and
murdering a three-year-old. The details in the diary match the fatal
injuries inflicted on the victim.
1968, AUGUST 5 Goes on 18 days’
leave from navy. Tells police he stays in Melbourne.
1968, AUGUST 10 Linda Stilwell
abducted from St Kilda foreshore. Percy on leave at the time. Had a
map that was marked in the area she went missing and told police he
was in the area that day.
1969, APRIL 1 Stationed on the
1969 Attempted abduction of a 12-yearold
girl on a bike near the Cerberus base. Victim later identifies Percy
as the attacker.
1969, JULY 27 Abducts and murders
Yvonne Tuohy from Ski Beach. Arrested later that day. Police find his
diary filled with violent sex fantasies.
1970 Found not guilty of the Tuohy
murder on the grounds of insanity. Jailed for life.
New Bid On 1968 Murder- Killer Faces
Sunday Mail (20-11-2005)
Sadistic child killer Derek Percy will be quizzed at
an inquest that could ulock the secrets of Australia's most baffling
child murders. He will be subpoenaed to give evidence at the inquest
into the 1968 murder of Sydney toddler Simon Brook.
Breaking three decades of silence, the boy's father,
Donald Brook, said he hoped justice would be done.
"It is in the public interest that the facts should
be established...even after such a long time." This is partly becuase it
encourages trust in the police and in judicial process.
"It is also partly because, assuming that the facts
can be reliably established, it may become impossible to make sure that
no other child will ever suffer the same fate, at the same hands."
Prof Brooks will be among those called to testify in
the hearing, to be held at the Glebe Coroner's Court in Sydney.
Detectives from Victoria and New South Wales and an identity expert will
also give evidence.
A court spokesman said the inquest would be held in
mid-december. The move follows a renewed push from the Victorian Police
cold case unit to re-examine the suspected crimes of Percy. The Brook
case is one in a string of unsolved child murders and disappearances
over which Percy was recently questioned.
Three-year-old Simon Brook's body was found in bushes
near the family home at Glebe Point on May 19, 1968. An autopsy later
found balls of newspaper stuffed down his throat.
During the 1969 inquest into the child's death, a
coroner ruled that the boy had died form suffocation.
"It would be almost impossible to find words to
express the revulsion felt at the fiendish crime perpetrated on this
child," the coroner said at the time.
The coroner found the death had been caused by an
unknown person. Now a different coroner will now be asked to decide
wether, on the balance of probabilities, Percy was that person.
Percy remains among one of Victoria's longest serving
prisoners after his trial over the murder of Yvonne Tuohy at Victoria's
Western Port Beach in 1969.
He was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity,
but jailed at the Governor's pleasure.
Victorian police have been working with
detectives in three other states and territories to investigate Percy
over other child murders dating back almost 40 years.
Child Killer Pockets Navy Pension
Sunday Herald Sun (8-5-2005)
VICTORIA'S most evil man has amassed a fortune from
taxpayers. Sadistic pedophile Derek Percy has pocketed about $177,000
from a government-funded naval pension in the 36 years he has spent
He has told police he earns almost $200 a fortnight
from the pension, which he has received since his discharge from the
navy in 1969.
The discharge followed his arrest for the horrific
torture and murder of 12-year-old Victorian girl Yvonne Tuohy at Western
Port Beach in July that year.
Percy has since emerged as a suspect in eight other
child murders across three states in the 1960s.
He has been in jail, at the Governor's pleasure,
since the jury in the Tuohy case found him not guilty by insanity.
But a string of psychiatric reports in recent years
have found him to be bad, not mad, and showing no remorse.
"The most serious aspect of his personality is his
sadistic fantasy life which revolves around children, their torture and
mutilation," said a report.
It is believed he may have used some of the money to
pay lawyers at his various court hearings and reviews. He reportedly has
also invested in gold.
His total pension is almost four times that awarded
to the man who helped jail him, Shane Spiller.
Mr Spiller, who vanished from Wyndham in NSW in 2002,
was awarded $50,000 in victim's compensation in 2000. As an 11-year-old
boy, Mr Spiller was with Yvonne Tuohy when she was abducted, and gave
police a description of Percy's car.
The State Government has joined victims' groups in
urging an end to Percy's taxpayer-funded bonanza.
Police Minister Tim Holding said Percy should give
his pension cheques to the families of his victims. "It's a great shame
that money that should be going to veterans and their dependents is
instead being spent on a man who has committed such a horrendous crime.
"If this person had even a shred of decency he would
give this money to people who have suffered as a result of his actions,"
"I would call on him to do this and to finally
express remorse for his heinous crimes."
Crime Victims Support Association president Noel
McNamara called on the Federal Government to cut Percy's pension.
"The public will be shocked, and who could blame
them? It's just another big stuff-up that shouldn't have happened."
"Whatever he's got should be confiscated and the
pension should stop."
The office of Federal Veterans' Affairs
Minister, De-Anne Kelly, directed the Sunday Herald Sun to the
Department of Defence. A spokesman said the department would offer a
response to the "sensitive" case next week.
Man Questioned Over Beaumont Mystery
DETECTIVES will question notorious child killer Derek
Ernest Percy over the disappearance of the Beaumont children in Adelaide
almost 40 years ago.
The disappearance of Jane, aged 9, Arnna, 7, and
Grant, 4, near Glenelg Beach, Adelaide, on Australia Day 1966, remains
one of the nation's most baffling mysteries. In an unlisted hearing in
Melbourne Magistrates Court today, homicide detectives from Victoria's
cold case unit and police from three other states were granted
permission to quiz Percy over the crime.
Percy, in his late 50s, is Victoria's longest-serving
He has spent 35 years in Ararat prison for the rape,
torture and murder of 12-year-old Yvonne Elizabeth Tuohy.
He abducted her from a spot near the beach in the
Warneet area of South Gippsland on July 20, 1969.
"This application has been sought following
investigations by a multi-jurisdictional taskforce set up in early
2004," Inspector Craig Walsh said.
"The task force includes detectives from Victoria,
New South Wales, ACT and South Australia who are reviewing a number of
unsolved murders and suspicious disappearances of children between 1965
Media reports last week suggested Tasmanian Police
Commissioner Richard McCreadie believed convicted child killer James
O'Neill could have been responsible for the Beaumont abduction.
But Mr McCreadie and South Australia
police rejected the reports, saying O'Neill had been investigated and
there was no evidence to link the prisoner to the case.
Murder Witness Vanishes In Suspicious
THE witness whose testimony helped jail suspected
child serial killer Derek Ernest Percy disappeared in suspicious
circumstances in 2002, shortly after he received a secret crimes
compensation payout for decades of trauma.
Shane was walking with his friend Yvonne Tuohy, 12,
on the beach at Warneet when Percy confronted them on July 20, 1969.
Percy abducted, tortured and killed the girl, but
Shane escaped after he waved a small tomahawk.
Percy is now the suspect in eight unsolved child
murders from the 1960s. They include Adelaide's Beaumont children, who
disappeared from Glenelg Beach on Australia Day, 1966.
Police from Victoria, NSW, South Australia and the
ACT interviewed Percy in Melbourne on Wednesday after detectives were
granted a magistrate's order to question him. Percy was returned to
Ararat Prison yesterday.
Percy was identified and arrested largely on the
recollections of Shane, then aged 11. The boy described the man, his car
and accurately identified a navy insignia on the vehicle.
Percy, a rating, was stationed at nearby HMAS
Cerberus. Police found him washing blood from his clothes at the base.
Percy was found unfit to plead over the Tuohy murder
on the grounds of insanity. He has been in custody ever since. Shane
remained terrified of Percy.
"What happened stuffed me... In the line-up at
Russell Street (police station), I had to pick him," he told The Age in
1998. "I had to walk up and point right at his nose. The look he gave
me. I can still remember it.
In 2000, Shane applied for crimes compensation and
was awarded $5000. On appeal to VCAT he received the maximum $50,000.
In late August 2002, Shane disappeared from the
south- east NSW town of Wyndham, where he had lived for years. A
Victorian police source said he feared Shane had been killed for his
His four-wheel-drive vehicle is still parked at the
front and squatters have moved into the house.
A resident who knew him said: "He was always saying
someone was after him. No one knows what happened to him."
Local publican Bernadette Godfrey said: "He was
really scared. He told me that one day he might just take off."
Police are preparing a brief of evidence for the
coroner on Shane's disappearance.
Percy was interviewed on Wednesday about Christine
Sharrock and Marianne Schmidt, who were murdered on Sydney's Wanda Beach
in January 1965; the disappearance of the three Beaumont children, Jane,
Arnna and Grant, in Adelaide in 1966; Alan Redston, a six-year-old
murdered in Canberra in September 1966; Simon Brook, a young boy killed
in Sydney in 1968; and Linda Stiwell, 7, abducted from St Kilda in
Percy made no admissions and said he could not
remember what he said when interviewed about some of the murders in
A prison report stated: "Early in his incarceration
he was questioned by police about similar child murders in NSW, South
Australia and Victoria, where similar acts of sadism were carried out on
While Percy was found unfit to plead on the grounds
of insanity, psychiatrists who have interviewed him since say there are
no signs of mental disease.
Professor Paul Mullen wrote: "In common
with other psychiatrists who have examined Mr Percy subsequent to his
trial in 1970, I could find no evidence suggestive of psychiatric
link to child murders
Victoria´s longest serving prisoner is being investigated over some of
Australia's most baffling unsolved child murders stretching back nearly
confidential Victoria Police circular has revealed that detectives are
investigating sadistic killer Derek Percy in connection with "several
unsolved child murders in the 1960s".
probe is believed to involve three states, including the disappearance
of the Beaumont children in Adelaide in 1966.
been in jail since 1969 over the murder and mutilation of a 12-year-old
girl he abducted from the Western port Bay fishing village of Warneet.
confirmed yesterday that the abduction and presumed murder of
seven-year-old Linda Stillwell at St Kilda in 1968 was one of the cases
spokesman Kevin Loomes confirmed that detectives from the homicide
squad's missing person and cold case unit were "following a number of
new leads in the Stillwell case".
police would not disclose what fresh information had prompted the new
investigation and had not yet interviewed Percy.
Herald Sun also learned yesterday that Percy has never been DNA tested,
because the law allows database samples to be taken only from convicted
55, was found not guilty by reason of insanity and jailed at the
Governor's pleasure in 1970 for the murder the previous year of Yvonne
never convicted and is not recorded on the Victorian DNA database of
almost 10,000 samples. Police can apply for DNA sample from a relevant
suspect if they can convince a magistrate there are reasonable grounds
for suspicion and material is available from a crime scene to enable DNA
scene material is likely to exist in the case of Linda Stillwell, who
disappeared from the St Kilda foreshore on August 10, 1968, and has
never been found.
Interstate cases which have been reopened include:
Wanda Beach murders, of 15-year-olds Christine Sharrock and Marianne
Schmidt, on January 13, 1965.
disappearance of the three Beaumont children – Jane, 9, Arnna, 7, and
Grant, 4 – near Glenelg Beach in Adelaide on January 26, 1966.
September 1966 murder of Canberra six-year-old Alan Redston, whose
strangled body was found wrapped in plastic with his hands and feet tied
with a loop around his neck.
killing of Simon Brook, 3, who was found suffocated and mutilated near
his home in the Sydney suburb of Glebe in May 1968.
to question Percy about the five unsolved cases in Melbourne, Sydney,
Canberra and Adelaide were first made by Victorian and interstate
detectives soon after his arrest in 1969.
said in 1970 that Percy, a naval rating stationed at HMAS Cerberus at
Crib Point when he was arrested, was either living in those cities or on
leave and visiting them when the eight children either disappeared or
He was in
Adelaide when the Beaumont children disappeared, stationed at Cerberus
when Linda Stillwell disappeared, lived 5km from where Simon Brook's
body was found and was in Canberra when Alan Redston was killed.
homicide squad detectives said there were similarities about several of
the cases and Percy matched the description of suspects in some,
including the Wanda Beach murders.
told detectives he had no memory of any of the children.
circumstances of some of the child murders were similar to things
described by Percy in manuscripts he wrote before and after Yvonne
writings described ways of abducting, murdering and mutilating children
and were found in his locker at HMAS Cerberus and in a search of his
cell after he was sentenced.
psychiatrist who assessed Percy for the defence after his arrest for the
Yvonne Tuohy murder concluded from things he had written that he had
many psycho-sexual abnormalities and was highly likely to have killed
12, was abducted from the beach near her home at Warneet, on Western
Port Bay, while walking with an 11-year-old boy.
gagged body was found with her wrists tied behind her back and her
throat cut about 10km away at Devon Meadows.
the only Victorian offender found mentally unfit to plead who is still
in jail. He is in Ararat Prison, a medium security jail that houses many
sex offenders and protection prisoners.
Services Department spokesman said 47 others were in hospitals and 36
were in the community on non-custodial supervision orders.
failed in March this year in a bid to be transferred from prison to a
who refused the application, Justice Murray Kellam, said he was not
convinced Percy did not still have grossly abnormal sexual fantasies
involving killing children.
Supreme Court judge, Justice Geoff Eames, rejected an attempt by Percy
in 1998 to have a minimum term set.
Eames said Percy had never sought or received treatment for his unusual
and deadly pedophile condition and was still a serious danger to
Percy's condition, which was described by a psychiatrist as sadistic
pedophilia, had existed in the four years leading up to Yvonne Tuohy's
homicide detectives have also begun new attempts to find a woman who may
have escaped an attempted abduction by Percy in North Dandenong in 1967.
contacted police after seeing a photograph of Percy in a newspaper
article in 1998, but detectives have been unable to find any report of
the offence or establish the woman's identity.
with information that could help police is asked to ring Crime Stoppers
on 1800 333 000.