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Peter Norris Dupas (b. 6 July 1953) is an Australian serial killer, currently serving two life sentences for murder. His violent criminal history spans more than three decades, and with every release from prison has been known to commit further crimes against women with increasing levels of violence. His signature or stamp is to remove the breasts of his female victims. As of 2006, Dupas has been convicted of two murders and is a prime suspect in at least three other murders committed in the vicinity of the Melbourne area.
Dupas was born the youngest of three children into what has been described as a "fairly normal family". Born in Sydney, New South Wales, his family moved to Melbourne whilst he was still a toddler. With both siblings considerably older, his parents treated him much like an only child. Dupas left high school upon completing Form 5, and later obtained his Higher School Certificate whilst in custody.
On October 3, 1968, at the age of fifteen, Dupas, still attending high school at Waverley High School in the eastern Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverley, visited his next door neighbour requesting to borrow a knife for the purpose of peeling vegetables. Dupas was apprehended after he stabbed his female neighbour in the face, neck and hand as she attempted to fight off his attack. He later told police he could not help himself and did not know why he began to attack the woman. He was placed on eighteen months probation and admitted to the Larundel Psychiatric Hospital for evaluation but released after one day and treated as an outpatient.
In October 1969, a mortuary located at the Austin Hospital was broken into. The bodies of two elderly women were mutilated using a pathologist's knife. One body contained a strange wound inflicted with a knife to the area of the thigh. Police now believe Dupas was involved in the break-in as the wounds inflicted matched that of a later murder victim, Nicole Patterson.
Senior Detective Ian Armstrong, who interviewed Dupas on November 30, 1973, at the Nunawading Police Station described Dupas as "weak and compliant" when confronted by authority.
He is an unmitigated liar … he is a very dangerous young person who will continue to offend where females are concerned and will possibly cause the death of one of his victims if he is not straightened out.
After Dupas received a term of nine years imprisonment for rape in 1974, prison psychiatrist Dr Allen Bartholomew noted Dupas was in constant denial of his criminal activity, noting at the time: "I am reasonably certain that this youth has a serious psychosexual problem, that he is using the technique of denial as a coping device and that he is to be seen as potentially dangerous. The denial technique makes for huge difficulty in treatment."
On July 25, 1974, Dupas was sentenced to nine years imprisonment with a minimum period of five years for an attack on a married woman in her own home. Dupas broke into the victim's house and threatened her with a knife before tying her up with cord and raping her. He threatened to harm her baby when she resisted his attack. The sentencing judge described the offence as "one of the worst rapes that could be imagined".
During 1979, approximately two months after his release from prison, Dupas again molested women in four separate attacks over a ten day period. On February 28, 1980, Dupas received a five year minimum prison sentence for three charges of assault with intent to rape, malicious wounding, assault with intent to rob, and indecent assault. A 1980 report on Dupas stated "There is little that can be said in Dupas' favour. He remains an extremely disturbed, immature and dangerous man. His release on parole was a mistake."
Dupas was again released from prison in February 1985. Approximately one month later, he raped a 21-year-old woman on a beach at Blairgowrie. After alighting from his car, Dupas followed the woman and attacked her, holding her to the ground at knifepoint before raping her. He later told police: "I'm sorry for what happened. Everyone was telling me I'm OK now. I never thought it was going to happen again. I only wanted to live a normal life."
On June 28, 1985, Dupas was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment for the Blairgowrie rape, and released in 1992 after serving seven years of his sentence.
Less than two years after his release from prison, Dupas was arrested on charges of false imprisonment over an incident at Lake Eppalock during January 1994. Wearing a hood and armed with a knife, insulation tape and handcuffs, Dupas followed a woman who was picnicking and held her at knifepoint in a toilet block. On August 18, 1994, after entering a guilty plea to one count of false imprisonment in the Country Court in Bendigo, Dupas was sentenced to three years and nine months imprisonment, with a minimum period of two years and nine months. In September 1996, Dupas was again released from prison and moved into a house in the Melbourne suburb of Pascoe Vale.
Murder of Nicole Patterson
Nicole Amanda Patterson was a 28 year old psychotherapist and youth counsellor employed with the Ardoch Youth Foundation, an organisation formed to assist young drug users. Patterson had desired to operate her own private practice and was using her Northcote home as an office. She placed several classified ads in a local newspaper, the Northcote Leader in an effort to expand her client base.
Two neighbours reported hearing the screams of a young woman coming from Patterson's house between 9.00a.m. and 9.30a.m. on the day of her murder. Attempts by Patterson's boyfriend to contact her in the afternoon failed, raising suspicions.
On April 19, 1999 the body of Nicole Amanda Patterson was discovered by a friend in the front room of her Harper Street, Northcote residence. Patterson's friend had visited to attend for a dinner engagement. Upon hearing music from a radio and discovering the front door unlocked, she entered the house and found the body of Patterson severely mutilated.
Patterson died from twenty-seven stab wounds to her chest and back. Her body was discovered naked from the waist down, with her skirt found in a nearby bedroom and her underwear around her ankles. Small pieces of yellow PVC tape were attached to her body and both of her breasts had been removed using a sharp knife. Her handbag and drivers licence were stolen during the attack The murder weapon and Patterson's breasts have never been recovered.
Police investigations of the crime scene revealed Patterson had a 9.00a.m. appointment with a new client by the name of "Malcolm" as noted in her personal diary, alongside a mobile telephone number. The number was traced to an Indian student studying at La Trobe University named "Harry". Police learned Dupas had approached Harry with an offer of labouring work. On April 22, 1999, police arrested Dupas at midday at the Excelsior Hotel in Thomastown and charged him with the murder of Patterson later the same day.
Telephone records revealed Dupas had made three prior telephone calls to Patterson to arrange a counselling session to treat depression and a gambling addiction, the first from a public telephone booth approximately six weeks before her murder. Over the course of the next six weeks, Dupas made calls to Patterson in an attempt to establish her vulnerability. Dupas later told police he cancelled his appointment with Patterson after being told by her his problem was something he was able to work through of his own accord.
Police also noticed scratches on Dupas' face and hand, consistent with a recent struggle. Dupas claimed the scratches had occurred when he was working in his backyard shed and a piece of wood hit him while using a lathe, however Dupas did not own a lathe. He later changed his story to the effect that the injuries were sustained whilst working in the shed and walking by a protruding piece of wood.
A police search of Dupas' home revealed blood stained clothing, PVC tape similar to that located at the crime scene, a balaclava, newspaper clippings detailing Patterson's murder and also a paper containing her advertisement for psychotherapy services.
Trial and appeal
After retiring for less than three hours, the jury returned to deliver a guilty verdict. On August 22, 2000, whilst sentencing Dupas to life imprisonment, Judge Frank Vincent remarked "...the prospects of your eventual rehabilitation must be regarded as so close to hopeless that they can be effectively discounted. There is no indication whatever that you have experienced any sense of remorse for what you have done, and I doubt that you are capable of any such human response. At a fundamental level, as human beings, you present for us the awful, threatening and unanswerable question: How did you come to be as you are?"
Dupas appeared in the Supreme Court of Victoria Court of Appeal in August, 2001 to appeal his conviction for the murder of Patterson. His appeal was dismissed.
Murder of Margaret Maher
Margaret Josephine Maher, 40, was a prostitute working in the Melbourne area who was last seen alive at the Safeway supermarket at 12.20a.m. in Broadmeadows on October 4, 1997.
Her body was discovered under a cardboard box containing computer parts at 1.45p.m. on October 4, 1997 by Ronald Frank McDonald, who made the discovery whilst he was collecting aluminium cans beside Cliffords Road, Somerton with his wife, Eva and their children. A black woollen glove was found near Maher's body which police later confirmed contained DNA matching that of Dupas.
A post-mortem examination revealed Maher had suffered a stab wound to her left wrist, bruising to her neck, blunt force trauma to the area of her right eyebrow and lacerations to her right arm. Maher's left breast had been removed and placed into her mouth. At the time of Maher's murder, Dupas had been out of prison for just over a year after serving time for rape offences and was no longer under the supervision of the government corrections agency, Corrections Victoria.
Dupas was already serving a life sentence without parole for the murder of Nicole Patterson at the time of his arrest for the murder of Margaret Maher. With Dupas in custody, police were able to obtain a DNA sample, linking him to the 1997 murder of Maher.
During a trial lasting three weeks, evidence was presented to the jury that the removal of Patterson's and Maher's breasts were so "strikingly similar" as to be a signature or trademark stamp common to both crimes, thereby identifying Dupas as the killer of both women. The jury, who was not told Dupas was already serving a life term of imprisonment for the murder of Patterson, took less than a day to convict him of his second murder conviction. Upon hearing the jury deliver the guilty verdict, Dupas claimed "it's a kangaroo court" before being led away by court staff to begin his sentence.
After the guilty verdict, Kylie Nicholas, sister of Nicole Patterson described Dupas as "...the most evil predator, a psychopath, a true evil predatory, cunning repulsive person. It's such a rare evil that comes into this world that's destroyed these women and our lives. We're just praying that this man is held accountable for everything he has done."
On August 16, 2004, Dupas was convicted of the October 4, 1997, murder of Maher and sentenced to a second term of life imprisonment.
Ian Joblin, a Melbourne based forensic psychologist released a report to the court attempting to explain Dupas’ sexual reoffending behaviour:
"Dupas attacked women to fulfil fantasies of conquest and control…For Dupas, the actual assault has not lived up to the fantasy which preceded the assault, and is seen at times as disappointing…He does not feel reassured by either his performance or his victim’s response and must find another victim, this time ‘the right one’. Thus, his offences become quite repetitive."
During sentencing, Justice Kaye remarked he would have sentenced Dupas for a life term for Maher's murder even if he had not killed Patterson, saying:
"In view of your appalling criminal history, and in view of the particularly serious nature of the crime for which you have been convicted, it is only appropriate that you be sentenced to life imprisonment. Even if the murder of Nicole Patterson had never occurred, I would have no hesitation in imposing a term of life imprisonment upon you.
"It is clear, both in the present case and from your previous convictions for rape and like offences, that your offending is connected with a need by you to vindicate a perverted and sadistic hatred of women and a contempt for them and their right to live. As such the present offence must be characterised as being in one of the most serious categories of murders which come before this Court.
"You intentionally killed a harmless, defenceless woman who, like all your other victims, had no prospect of protecting herself against you. At the time you committed that offence, you had, over almost three decades, terrorised women in this State. You have repeatedly violated a central norm of a decent civilised society. Your conduct in the present case is without mitigation or palliation. There has been no recognition by you of your wrongdoing. Rather, you repeated the same offence, with even more brutality, 18 months after murdering Margaret Maher.
"Based on your repeated violent offences, and on the gravity of this offence, there is no prospect of your rehabilitation. Nothing was advanced on your behalf to reflect that there is even the faintest glimmer of hope for you. Even if there were, any considerations of rehabilitation must, in this case, be subordinated to the gravity of your offending, the need for the imposition of a just punishment, and the principle of general deterrence. All those circumstances combine, in my view, not only to justify, but also to require that I do not fix a minimum term."
After Dupas received his second murder conviction, Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls stated judges needed discretionary powers to tailor punishments for criminals such as Dupas and that more training may be needed to assist them in making their judgments. Hulls was quoted as saying, "There's no question that a formalised judicial education and training needs to be introduced in Victoria. I intend to investigate how that can best be done".
Felicity Hampell QC, president of civil liberties group, Liberty Victoria replied in response to Hulls, "Neither imprisonment in itself nor parole in itself is going to stop everybody from committing offences. What's important to bear in mind is that a person has to be sentenced for the offence they've committed, and that might mean that somebody gets a sentence that is proportionate for the crime, but it doesn't cure them of the dangerousness or the characteristic that makes them continue to offend".
On July 25, 2005, Dupas appeared in the Supreme Court of Victoria Court of Appeal to appeal his conviction for the murder of Maher on the grounds of;
* "whether the judge erred in ruling that the facts of the mutilation of Patterson’s body should have been admitted at trial".
His appeal was dismissed.
Murder of Mersina Halvagis
Mersina Halvagis was a 25-year-old Melbourne woman murdered in an attack on November 4, 1997, while visiting her grandmother's grave in the Greek Orthodox section of Fawkner Cemetery in Fawkner, a northern suburb of Melbourne. The alarm was raised by Halvagis' boyfriend when she failed to meet with him later that day as the couple had earlier planned.
Halvagis' body was discovered at 4.35a.m. on November 5, 1997, by police in an empty plot, three graves from where her grandmother was buried. Police believe Halvagis was attacked from behind whilst kneeling to attend to a flower arrangement, and that she died from massive injuries, including eighty-seven stab wounds about her knees, neck, with most wounds concentrated around her breasts. Her upper clothing had been pulled over her head towards her chest.
Dupas' home in Coane Street, Pascoe Vale was near the cemetery. Halvagis' murder has remained unsolved since 1997, with the Victorian state government, together with police offering a AUD$1 million reward for information leading to an arrest. The large reward was the fourth such reward of AUD$1 million in Victoria's history.
Frank Cole, an elderly resident of Pascole Vale, claims he saw Dupas leaving the Fawkner Cemetery on the day of the murder. Cole was the same man who had earlier claimed he shot the dingo who was suspected to have killed two-month-old Azaria Chamberlain who went missing at an Ayers Rock camping ground on August 17, 1980.
An inquest into the death of Halvagis before coroner Graeme Johnstone heard circumstantial evidence in the case against Dupas in relation to the murder;
* Nine witnesses identified Dupas as a man they saw at Fawkner Cemetery on the day Halvagis was attacked.
Senior Detective Scarlett told the inquest a car known to be used by Dupas at the time of the murder was sold to a work associate in the month following the murder of Halvagis. The car has since been crushed for scrap metal and was never examined by detectives.
Forensic pathologist Professor David Ransom, who compared wounds suffered by Halvagis to the wounds suffered by Patterson and Maher, told the inquest there was insufficient evidence to suggest the wounds suffered by Halvagis were inflicted using the same knife or by the same person who had murdered Dupas' other victims.
Barrister for Dupas, David Drake, advised the inquest that the only evidence linking Dupas to the murder of Halvagis was the fact that Dupas had lived nearby to the Fawkner Cemetery, and his reputation based on prior convictions for similar offences. He further said police had relied upon their beliefs that Dupas had a propensity to attack women using knives, thereby linking him to the crime.
On August 1, 2006, the inquest was adjourned indefinitely following charges laid by police on Dupas for the murder of Halvagis.
After obtaining a court order granting permission to interview Dupas in relation to the murder of Halvagis, police collected Dupas from HM Prison Barwon on September 2, 2006, taking him to the St Kilda Road Police Headquarters in Melbourne for questioning. On September 11, 2006, police charged Dupas with the murder of Mersina Halvagis, after disgraced Melbourne lawyer, Andrew Fraser, revealed Dupas confessed to the killing of Halvagis whilst gardening weeds in Port Phillip Prison during 2002.
Fraser told police he once found a homemade knife concealed amongst weeds at Port Phillip Prison and he called Dupas over to inspect it, which is when the confession occurred:
"We regularly used to find stuff hidden in the garden, drugs, weapons and other stuff. I once found a homemade knife and called Dupas over to show it to him. He took it off me and started handling it, almost caressing it in a sexual way. Dupas then started saying 'Mersina, Mersina' over and over with this strange look on his face. I was certainly left in no doubt that Dupas murdered Mersina.
"This wasn't some sort of jailhouse confession where somebody has gone in and sat in a cell one night and had a brew with another prisoner and somebody has allegedly said something. It's a lot stronger than that. Dupas and I spoke regularly, just the two of us. This was over months and months that he was talking to me and confiding in me.
"There was one occasion when another prisoner came up to us when we were gardening and started abusing Dupas. This prisoner was yelling at Dupas saying 'You killed Mersina, you killed Mersina'.
"After he had gone, Dupas turned to me and said 'How did he know I did it?
After agreeing to give evidence against Dupas, Fraser was released from Fulham Correctional Centre in Sale on September 11, 2006, two months early of his five year sentence for drug trafficking. The Victorian government has said Fraser is now eligible to apply for a share of the AUD$1 million reward offered for information leading to an arrest on Halvagis' murder.
Direct presentment to trial
The Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew the charge of murder in the Melbourne Magistrates Court and requested the case against Dupas be sent directly to trial, bypassing the committal hearing process. On September 26, 2006, Dupas appeared via video link in the Supreme Court of Victoria, charged with Halvagis' murder, entering a plea of not guilty. Dupas' barrister David Drake told the Supreme Court his client was being unfairly dealt with by skipping the usual process of a committal hearing in the Magistrates' Court. The Supreme Court of Victoria ruled on whether Dupas will face a committal hearing in November, 2006. On November 14, 2006, Dupas appeared in the Supreme Court of Victoria before Justice John Coldrey, where he requested an opportunity to be able to cross examine witness Andrew Fraser before a criminal trial takes place.
On December 12, 2006, the Supreme Court of Victoria ordered Dupas be presented directly to trial for the murder of Mersina Halvagis, bypassing the usual committal hearing process.
Murder of Helen McMahon
Helen McMahon was a 21-year-old woman found bashed to death on a Rye beach in February 13, 1985. Although Dupas was imprisoned at the time of McMahon's murder and was not released until two weeks later, investigators learned Dupas was on pre-release leave from prison and living in the Rye area when McMahon was killed.
McMahon was sunbathing topless on the beach when attacked. Her body was discovered naked, covered by her beach towel. The location of the murder of McMahon was nearby to the location where Dupas had earlier raped a 21-year-old woman at a beach in Blairgowrie, for which he was convicted and served a term of imprisonment. Police believe McMahon may have been Dupas' first murder victim although McMahon's murder officially remains unsolved.
Murder of Kathleen Downes
Dupas has been connected and is a suspect in the murder of 95-year-old Kathleen Downes at the Brunswick Lodge nursing home in Brunswick. Downes was stabbed to death at 6:30a.m. on December 31, 1997, a month after the murder of Halvagis. Police investigations revealed Dupas had telephoned the nursing home some time before the murder. No charges have been laid regarding the murder of Downes. Her murder is being considered for referral to the State Coroner.
While imprisoned at Melbourne's Pentridge Prison, Dupas formed a relationship with mental health nurse, Grace McConnell, who was sixteen years his junior. The pair married in 1987 inside Castlemaine Gaol.
McConnell described her marriage to Dupas during the inquest into the murder of Mersina Halvagis:
"He insisted that he was in love with me .... and that with my help he could come out of himself and become a normal person. I agreed (to marry Dupas), not out of particular love for this man but from a sense of responsibility to helping him become a useful member of the community. In my mind, our relationship was mother and son.
"Our sex life was very basic, almost non-existent. I would go along with it out of a sense of responsibility … It got to the stage where I could not bear him touching me.
His new wife found him to be self-obsessed, a snob, lazy and needy, and they divorced during the mid 1990s.
As of 2006, Dupas is serving his sentences between the maximum security protection unit of Port Phillip Correctional Centre, at Laverton and HM Prison Barwon in Lara, a northern suburb of Geelong. He has attempted suicide several times whilst imprisoned. Prison staff describe him as a model prisoner whilst in custody and a monster whenever released.
Summary of criminal convictions
Before his first conviction for murder, Dupas had sixteen prior convictions involving acts of sexual violence from six court appearances between March 27, 1972, until November 11, 1994.