Authors: Kathryn Patterson
Can you tell us about the night of the attack?’
I’ll try.’ She glanced at Frank and then at myself. ‘It was late, and Jeremy was finishing a plan he had been working on all day for a company. His deadline was coming up soon, and the project had taken him more time than he’d first anticipated. I was watching television, waiting patiently for him to finish so we could go to bed. When he finally did, I made two cups of hot chocolate, and we had them in the kitchen. A nightly ritual. Warm milk made us sleep better. Really, it was an excuse because we are both chocoholics.’
I smiled at her comment.
She smiled back and went on, ‘We made small talk while drinking our chocolate, working out what was ahead of us for the following day. Bedtime was the only time we really got to talk, to spend some quality time together. We were both very busy. After the hot chocolate, we went straight to bed.’
I was almost asleep, and I think Jeremy was too because he was snoring when I heard some kind of noise in the hallway. At first I didn’t know what the hell it was, but after listening attentively, I thought it sounded like someone trying to break into the apartment. I woke up Jeremy, and he heard the noise too. It sounded like cracking wood, and Jeremy said someone was breaking in through the front door. I’d never been so scared in my life. Jeremy jumped out of bed completely naked. He raced down the hallway without bothering with his dressing gown. I panicked and reached for the telephone. The line was dead.’
I remembered the telephone cable in the hallway of the Port Melbourne apartment had been ripped from the wall.
Teresa went on, ‘Then I heard Jeremy scream his head off, so I jumped out of bed, put on my dressing gown, and grabbed a stout metal ruler from Jeremy’s drawing tools. He always kept some tools in the bedroom in case he came up with an idea overnight and wanted to do a quick sketch. Always had work on his mind.
I rushed into the hallway, and this tall man came crushing on me. He lifted me from the floor and threw me back in the bedroom. I knocked my head against the lower edge of the dressing table and passed out.’
How long were you unconscious for?’ I asked, now totally absorbed by Teresa’s story.
I don’t know. I can’t remember. Ten minutes. Maybe half an hour. It’s hard to say.’
What happened when you regained consciousness?’
The overhead light of the bedroom was turned on. The man who attacked me was kneeling on the floor in front of the bed, making broad sweep movements with one hand while holding something down with the other. I looked up from the bed and felt this terrible pain at the back of my neck. I thought I was going to pass out, but I forced myself to stay awake. I looked down my body and saw the same man who attacked me in the hallway. He was bent over and cutting something. It took me at least fifteen seconds to realise the thing he was cutting was Jeremy.’
She stopped for a few seconds, waiting for our reaction. But we said nothing, so she went on, ‘He had this huge knife, and the noise was dreadful, like chalk hissing on a blackboard. It sent a jolt through my entire body. A hissing and squelching sound filled my ears. The weird thing was that Jeremy wasn’t trying to fight back, as if he was already dead.
‘I managed to get on my feet, but the pain at the back of my head was unbearable. I felt dizzy, and I thought I was going to pass out once more.
I moved closer to the man, and then I saw Jeremy’s neck opened like a horrible red mouth. I swear to God, it was the most horrid thing I had ever seen in my life. Less than half an hour ago, he was this person that I knew, and now he had become this bloody mess. I still can’t believe it was him. I don’t know if I want to remember...’
Teresa lost her composure as tears began cascading down her face.
‘It’s all right. It’s over now,’ I said, finally holding on to Teresa’s hand. ‘Nothing’s going to happen any more. You’re safe now.’ I made a gesture for Frank to stop the tape recorder.
No wait,’ Teresa sobbed, ‘the worst thing is that I knew him. I knew the man.’
My whole body went on red alert as my eyes met Frank’s.
He too had been taken by surprise. He kept the tape recorder going.
Who was it?’ I prompted.
Walter Dunn. He used to work with Jeremy once. But then, as soon as Jeremy’s business began to pick up, he sort of disappeared from our lives.’
I wrote the name down in my notebook.
‘Do you know where he lives?’
No, no, we lost track of him a while ago. In fact, we didn’t want to see him any more. So, I was kind of surprised when I saw him that night. He was the last person I’d expected to see.’
What did he do to you?’ I asked, knowing I should let her rest, but she was on a roll, and it was better to get it over and done with in one go while the story was still fresh in her mind.
She locked her eyes into mine and said, ‘He turned around with the knife in his hand. It was covered in blood, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. I thought, oh, my God, he’s going to cut my neck like he did to Jeremy. I was so scared. I’d never been so scared in my life, like you know, you’re going to die, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But he didn’t. Instead he threw the knife away. For a moment, I felt relieved knowing he wasn’t going to use the knife, but my relief was short-lived. He threw himself on top of me, grinning all the time, in a horrible kind of way, his eyes filled with anger, as if he was evil or something.’
I pressed her hand to encourage her to go on.
And she did. ‘I’d never seen Walter this way before. He grabbed me with one hand between my legs and the other at my nightgown and threw me on top of the bed. I knocked the back of my head on the edge of the bed, exactly at the spot where I hit the dressing table earlier on. I thought I was going to pass out again. But I didn’t because of the pain.’
I wanted to tell her to take a break if she felt like it, but she seemed too engaged in her story, so I didn’t bother.
She was moving her free hand as she continued, ‘He was muttering something like, “You sonofabitch, motherfucker, two-timing piece of shit”, and then he went for me. I tried hard to fight back, but he was much stronger than me. I had not a hope in hell. He tore my underwear and opened me up with his fingers before pumping himself into me. I swear to God, I never thought I was going to come out of this alive. All along, he was groaning in anger and pleasure, beating me across the face with the back of his hand.
‘When it was over, he tossed me around and shoved something in my backside. The pain was horrific, like something I’d never felt before. I thought I was going to die. I found it so hard to understand what was going on. So hard to understand why...’
Teresa broke down in tears.
I retrieved my hand from hers and wiped her tears with my thumb. ‘All right, that’s enough,’ I said, ‘You’ve done well.’
I nodded to Frank, and he turned the tape recorder off.
I took Teresa’s hand again and added, ‘You’ve been very brave.’
But maybe I could have saved him,’ she said with a coarse voice. ‘If only I didn’t let him leave the bedroom. Maybe he’d still be alive. Maybe everything would have turned out fine. ’ With the tears, the bruising and the cuts, Teresa Wilson was not a pretty sight.
A rage built up inside me. I had never been so angry in my life.
‘It’s not your fault Teresa,’ I said. ‘It never was your fault. Don’t you dare think for a minute that this had anything to do with you. You couldn’t have done anything. You did the best you could. You couldn’t have known what he was going to do to Jeremy.’
She nodded in silence, but I could tell my comments didn’t make her feel better. She’d been the victim, but also the survivor. She was experiencing a normal post-traumatic reaction. Survivors of an ordeal who’d lost a partner always blamed themselves for not having done enough, even though there was absolutely nothing they could have done.
Sometimes the blame hung around for days.
Sometimes for weeks, months, years.
What if he comes back to get me?’ she sobbed. ‘What if he knows I’m not dead and decides to finish me off?’
We’re going to catch him, Teresa,’ I said, determined to do what I had just promised. ‘We’re going to get the sucker and make him pay for everything he’s done to you.’
She looked into my eyes and my heart sank, like it had when I first walked in the room.
alter Dunn didn’t have a prior criminal record, but his name was listed with Vic Roads, and as a result we had no problem tracking down his address.
Of course, neither Frank Moore, nor myself expected to find Walter Dunn sitting comfortably in front of his television, watching re-runs of old American television series at two o’clock in the morning. For all we knew, he was already half way across Australia or on a 747 flight to America or Europe.
The proper thing to do would have been to inform the detective in charge of the investigation about the current situation. But as it was, both Frank and I were too enraged to wait for someone else to catch the bastard. We could always argue later with the detective that Teresa Wilson was in danger, and there was an urgency in stopping the killer of her husband.
Walter Dunn’s residence was listed in Caulfield, not far from Monash University, just off Grange Road.
We drove straight there from the hospital.
I checked the time on the dashboard: 2.16 a.m. This was the second time in a week I’d be up all night. But my mind was clear and alert. The rage inside me fuelled me as if I’d just swallowed ten cups of black coffee.
When we left the hospital, Teresa slipped into a state of shock. She stared at the empty space in front of her, and for a moment I worried that she’d might have slipped back into some sort of coma. I expected her behaviour to become hysterical in the next few days unless she somehow accepted the reality of what had happened. What was strange was that it was all clear in her mind. Some victims of violent crimes sometimes chose not to remember on a conscious level. But Teresa Wilson remembered everything. She had trouble accepting the truth, but she remembered it clearly.
I passed Monash University’s Caulfield campus. Streets were dark and empty, except for the odd taxi driver desperately working all night for less than a hundred dollars.
‘What do you think the chances are that he’ll be home?’ Frank asked as he passed a hand over his thinning hair. I glanced at him quietly, trying to keep my eyes on the road. He seemed slightly concerned about our actions.
Your guess is as good as mine,’ I said, giving my full attention back to the road. ‘I don’t know why he didn’t kill the girl. Don’t you find him silly, leaving someone behind as a witness?’
Frank shifted on his seat. ‘Yeah, but when you consider he’s left virtually every imaginable piece of evidence behind, it would have only been a matter of time before we tracked him down, even if he did kill the girl.’
Frank was right of course. We found a piece of fabric that was probably from his wardrobe; a knife with no fingerprints but covered in blood; and hair specimens all over the place.
As I left Princes Highway and took a right turn into Grange Road, I realised this was not only one of the most heart-wrenching cases I had been involved in, but also the easiest one to solve.
And yet something at the back of my mind disturbed me.
If Walter Dunn had premeditated the attack, then why had he been so careless? Could he have been so enraged that he never paid attention to what he was doing? Did he really think he could carry out what he did without getting caught? Most murderers left enough evidence behind for us to work with. But it looked as if Walter Dunn hadn’t even tried to conceal his presence at the scene, as if he really wanted to get caught. I wished I knew what was going on in his mind before proceeding. We had no idea what we were up against. And if Teresa’s testimony was anything to go by, we were about to deal with a raging lunatic.
The only way we were going to find out why he snapped was by asking him.
I stopped the car in front of Walter Dunn’s Victorian house. Suburbia gave me the creeps, mostly because I grew up there. I kept associating suburbia with normal, everyday, boring life, which was probably an accurate description of the majority of people’s lives who lived there.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a fear of blending in too much with the rest of the world. I feared if too plain and common, I would drown in a sea of ordinary people living monotonous lives.
Back at high school, I tried hard to look different. An easy task, since my parents were of Brazilian origin, and my birth name was Petera Oliveira Dos Malina. My hair was down to my buttocks and darker than charcoal. My bronze skin gave the impression that I was tanned all year round. I wasn’t tall, but slim enough to get lustful stares from boys and hatred looks from girls.
My friends were far and few, so I concentrated on working hard. The only thing I had full control over. I knew I could become whatever I wanted to become by using my head. And yet, in spite of my love for studying, I hated school, and the way most teachers taught us without care or compassion. A hidden agenda fuelled my crave to be different. Like most people who have a built-in desire to succeed, I kept secret the details of my dysfunctional family until I turned sixteen, when it became impossible to hide the truth any longer.
The lights at Walter Dunn’s home were turned off.
A greyish Honda Prelude occupied the driveway. Because of the darkness, I couldn’t quite make out the colour. Everything seemed to be in shades of grey.
We better watch ourselves,’ Frank said as he checked the nine-shot clip of his 9mm semiautomatic pistol, a gift I bought him from one of my visits to the USA. To get it past customs had been a nightmare. I had to apply for a special license, and they grilled me with every question in the book. I remained cooperative because I was aware of the increasing number of concealed weapons finding their way outside the USA.
Frank loved the gun, but he wasn’t happy with the fact that he had to release and re-depress the trigger every time he used it, a standard feature of semiautomatic weapons. The pistol was also fitted with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge.
‘You stand behind me,’ he ordered, as if I had a choice.
I wasn’t licensed to carry a weapon, which was the most ridiculous situation to be in when you’re an investigator. But the paperwork was in someone’s tray, and soon, I was told, even though I’d been waiting nearly a year, I would be authorised to carry my own killing machine.
As we sat in the Lancer, darkness surrounding us, I began to have a really bad feeling about our situation. I knew it was wrong. I shouldn’t have been here at all since I’d been barred from the Wilson’s homicide. Nor should Frank. His job description as a crime-scene examiner did not entail making arrests. But he could always argue later that he was operating under section 459A of the Victorian
. As a sworn member, the act gave him the power to enter any premises and arrest a person who had committed a serious indictable offence in the State of Victoria. And Walter definitely fitted the description of such a person. I would have to defend my actions as exercising my rights of citizen’s arrest. We had already talked it over on the way from the hospital. We were both willing to cop flack if anything went wrong.
We stepped out of the car and eased ourselves into the front yard. The grass was in bad need of attention. A cool wind sent a shiver down my spine as I illogically wondered why in the world we never called for backup. It was pretty obvious why. We weren’t meant to be there, full stop.
‘Do you think this is wise?’ I whispered, now doubting our reckless move.
Tssss.. this is not the time to change your mind.’
Frank’s bald spot was shining in the street light. Although he was probably the best crime-scene examiner in this country, I felt completely unsafe. We were out of boundary. Frank wasn’t trained to jump in on criminals in the middle of the night, especially those who took a delight in cutting your head off or inserting a squash ball up your arse.
‘Shit,’ I muttered, ‘Maybe we should get some help. What if he’s got a gun?’
If he had a gun, he would have blown Jeremy Wilson’s head off, not cut it off.’
That was as convincing an answer as I wanted to hear.
‘So we’re doing the right thing?’ I was beginning to lose my cool, which surprised me, and probably Frank because I had always been self-assured in previous homicides.
Frank turned around and breathed right down my neck, ‘If you don’t want to come, you don’t have to. Frankly, I don’t care either way. I’m gonna get that sonofabitch with or without you.’
I was taken back by the intensity of his anger. I never noticed at the hospital, but Teresa Wilson’s injuries must have affected him deeper than I first realised. My main motivation for trapping Walter Dunn was Teresa’s safety. Frank seemed to be fuelled by hate and revenge for the person who had committed such a disturbing crime.
All right, let’s do it,’ I said, not feeling I had a choice in the matter.
Frank stood in front of the door, loudly knocked twice, and stepped aside. He pulled the slide on his 9mm semiautomatic to bring the first bullet into firing position. He was ready to perform.
I listened attentively.
‘Maybe he’s not home,’ I whispered, wanting to get back into the safety of my car, call for back up, and let a Special Operations Group do its job.
His car’s here.’
Frank knocked again, this time louder.
Fuck,’ Frank said, ‘let’s go through the back. He could be asleep.’
We circled the house and landed in a big yard with washing on the line. It smelled like grass and dog droppings. And yet, there were no dogs around. Maybe it was the neighbours.
‘He’s house-trained,’ Frank joked, pointing to the clothes-line with his pistol.
Under the circumstances, I found his joke rather lame.
Perspiration was dripping down the small of my back as we closed in on the back door.
The flyscreen creaked when Frank pulled it towards him.
We both froze like statues, waiting for someone to burst out of the house with a cook’s knife, chase us around the backyard, and have the time of his life separating our heads from our bodies.
Frank placed one hand on the knob of the back door, turned it, and pushed the door open.
A wosh of foul air smacked me in the face, sending me two steps backwards.
Frank turned his head, grimaced, looked straight at me and said, ‘Shit, this smells awfully familiar.’
We found Walter Dunn with a gunshot wound to the head. He’d shot himself in the temple with a Smith & Wesson .38 service revolver.
Insects were crawling around and inside the body, and fluid was leaking from the nostrils and mouth of the dead man. A putrid odour of decomposition filled my lungs.
Walter’s face was almost unrecognisable and had turned greenish-red. I found it horrid, but I had the stomach for it, making it easy for me to do the job I did.
Looking back at the way I felt before we entered the house, I realised I was more at ease coming face to face with a dead Walter Dunn than one who was still alive.
We went back to the car to collect our overalls, boots and other protective equipment. Frank carried the PERK in two separate dark briefcases, while I carried a metal briefcase with two SLRs and enough film to shoot an entire issue of Vogue. Frank had called for backup, not that we really needed it at that point in time.
Prior to collecting evidence, we videotaped the entire crime scene and its vicinity. Videotaping was now the norms for any crime scene where murder or suicide had occurred.
Passing the front yard, video camera rolling, I suddenly realised why the lawn was so overgrown. While Walter Dunn had been busy fermenting his body and turning it into a haven for maggots and insects, nobody bothered maintaining his surroundings.
As I began taking a photographic record of the body, I asked Frank, ‘And how the hell are we going to write this one up in the report?’
He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other while making a sketch of the room. ‘It’s all right,‘ he said, ‘I’ll take care of it.’
I took two shots of Walter Dunn’s temple with a colour film, and two with a black & white infra-red film.
‘You’ll take care of it. I’m involved in this as much as you are, and I’d like to know how it’s going to come out. You knew we weren’t supposed to be here in the first place. We should have got backup.’
I’ll take care of it, I said.’
I know you will. But people are going to ask questions. This is no small investigation. The damn thing’s been all over the papers for the last few days. The media is going to ask how we got to the killer, and why we decided to move in on him without following the proper procedures.’
Frank threw his pen on the bloody carpet. ‘Jesus, Malina, give me a break. You seem to forget that we decided to come here together. We both made the decision. You’re the friggin’ crime-scene investigator. I’m only a crime-scene examiner. Why is it that suddenly this whole thing falls on my back? I’m no more responsible than you are.’