Serial killer dubbed ‘Australian Rose West’ – rape, murder and parole attempts

She’s one of the world’s most notorious serial killers after being convicted of kidnap, rape and the murder of four women in a sick partnership with her husband in the 1980s.

But these days, Catherine Birnie passes her days as a humble, seemingly harmless prison librarian, hoping to be granted parole.

The murderer, who is serving four life sentences for her depraved crimes, teamed up with husband David Birnie to lure their victims into their house in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia.

Together, the pair raped and murdered Mary Neilson, 22; Susannah Candy, 15; Noelene Patterson, 31 and Denise Brown, 21.

A fifth victim, 17-year-old Kate Moir, managed to escape the house of horrors after she was also kidnapped. She seized her opportunity to crawl out the bedroom window when David was at work and Catherine was answering the door.

The home on Moorhouse Street became known as the ‘house of horrors’


Newspix / Rex Features)

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The pair would stalk the streets of their town, encouraging unsuspecting women to get in their car, locking them in and forcing them back to their house.

‘I’ve got the munchies’

While the sick pair travelled around looking for prey, Catherine would act as a disarming figure who would gain the trust of their victims.

When Catherine spotted a woman walking along the road who she liked the look of, she’d reportedly turn to her husband David and say: “I’ve got the munchies.”

If he liked the look of the potential victim as well, he’d turn back to his wife and say: “I’ve got the munchies too.”

The depraved couple embarked upon their killing spree in the Spring of 1986, when Catherine, then 35, was a mother of six.

She had abandoned her kids to reunite with her husband, before they started the killings.

Once the women were brought back to David’s house, they were chained to a bed before sick David raped, tortured and murdered them.

Meanwhile, Catherine would watch on, taking photos of the horrific violence and cheering on her twisted husband.

The killings became known as the Moorhouse murders, named after the address of the house where the vile crimes took place.

Catherine and David have since been likened to Moors murderers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, and Fred and Rose West.

Twisted teen relationship

David Birnie grew up in a filthy household as the oldest of five children. His mother was an alcoholic and his father was disabled.

Mrs Birnie was foul-mouthed, neglected her children, and was known to exchange sexual favours with taxi drivers instead of paying them.

When he was 12 years old, David moved next door to a young girl called Catherine Harrison, who had also had a difficult childhood.

When Catherine was two years old, her mother died giving birth to her baby brother, who then also died. Catherine was shipped off to South Africa where she was abused by her father.

Finally, she was sent back to Perth to live with her grandparents, but when her grandmother died, she was moved to live with her aunt and uncle – who were neighbours of the Birnie family.

It’s thought that, when David and Catherine met, they were in a sexual relationship before the age of 14.

David Birnie is believed to have been raised in an incestuous household



But eventually, David and his siblings were all sent off to different care homes, after social services intervened and took the neglected kids away from their mum and dad.

Over the years, David and Catherine continued to reunite, in between prison stints and starting new families.

By 1983, they’d embarked upon an affair and Catherine eventually left her family to get back together with David.

Although the pair never officially married, Catherine changed her name via deed poll to Birnie.

House of horrors

When the pair moved to 3 Moorhouse Street in the Perth suburb of Willagee, neighbours considered them a quiet couple.

But behind the walls of what came to be known as their ‘house of horrors’, the Birnies smoked cannabis, injected heroin and took prescription drugs.

David, who had become addicted to sex, demanded it six times a day. He reportedly injected anaesthetic into his penis to extend his performance.

In between more stints in jail for theft, David started having sexual fantasies of rape and murder. Soon, he asked Catherine to help him kidnap, bind and rape a young woman.

Their first victim was 22-year-old Mary Frances Neilson, who David approached at the spare parts yard to offer her a cheap deal on new car tyres, which were at his house.

When she arrived at the house, David chained her to the bed and raped her while Catherine watched. The sadistic couple then drove her out to a rural picnic area miles away from their home, where he raped her again, before strangling her with a nylon cord.

Susannah Candy was just 15 years old when she jumped into the Birnies’ car two weeks later, lured in by Catherine, who offered her a lift.

They kidnapped her and took her back to Moorhouse Street where she was repeatedly raped. Over the next days, she was kept alive as the couple’s sex slave.

Sickeningly, while holding the teen captive, the couple forced her to write letters to her parents, saying she needed time away from home.

When David grew bored of the captive teen, he tried to strangle her, but Susannah fought him off. Then he forced sleeping pills down her throat.

He took another nylon cord and said to Catherine: “Prove you love me.” Catherine strangled Susannah to death.

Months later, 31-year-old Noelene Patterson was relieved to see the Birnies, whom she knew, drive up beside her on the road after her car ran out of petrol. But as soon as she was in the car, David put a knife to her throat and she was driven to Moorhouse Street.

She was strapped to the bed, gagged and repeatedly raped in the house. But after a few days, Catherine became jealous and suspected her husband was attracted to their victim.

She took a knife to Noelene’s throat and said to David: “It’s her or me.” David obliged, forced Noelene to take sleeping pills, and strangled her while Catherine watched.

Just three days later, the pair offered babysitter Denise Brown, 21, a lift. She was taken back to the couple’s home where she faced the same fate as their previous victims.

The pair even forced her to call her parents and insist she was ok.

But after a few days, Catherine grew tired of her being alive and drove Denise to a plantation, where they planned to kill her.

Catherine Birnie was arrested after Kate Moir went to the police


Newspix / Rex Features)

David Birnie admitted to the charges against him


AAP/PA Images)

In broad daylight, David raped his victim again, slicing her throat while he did it. But Denise didn’t immediately die.

Realising their victim was still alive, Catherine pulled a bigger knife from the car and David plunged it into her chest.

Final victim

The final victim of the depraved couple was Kate Moir, who was just 17 when she hopped in the Birnies’ car.

Realising she was in danger, Kate asked: “Are you going to rape me or kill me?”

David replied: “We’ll only rape you if you’re good.”

Back at the house, Kate was forced to dance for the perverted couple and raped twice. She was also given sleeping pills to take, but hid them under her tongue.

The next morning, the Birnies made Kate call her parents to apologise for not coming home, claiming she was “really drunk.”

Shortly after, David left for work. Realising her chains had been left unshackled, Kate seized her moment when Catherine went to answer the front door.

She broke the lock on her bedroom window and managed to climb out. After trying three houses for help with no answer, she ran to a shop where she told the man working there she had been raped. He immediately took her to a police station.

Finally, after months of sexual violence and bloodshed, the Birnies were arrested and charged with four counts of murder, two counts of aggravated sexual assault on the 17-year-old girl and one count of deprivation of liberty.

At a hearing in February 1987, the Birnies pleaded guilty to all charges. David was sentenced to a whole-life term in prison, but Catherine was made eligible for parole in 2007.

Catherine was dragged kicking and screaming from the courtroom, and spat at the van that took her to jail.

During her stay in prison, Catherine has claimed to visitors that she was confused during the killing spree and was having withdrawal symptoms from heroin.

In 2005, David Birnie committed suicide in his cell. No one claimed his body and he was given a pauper’s funeral.

Meanwhile Catherine began her bid for parole and started to express sorrow for her victims – particularly 15-year-old Susannah.

She has even participated in prison plays, as well as quietly spending her days in the library.

But despite applying for parole in 2007 and 2013, Catherine was rejected. In 2016, the decision was reviewed once more, and again Catherine was not recommended for release.

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