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True crime. Casually done.

Katherine Knight: Australia’s ‘Female Hannibal Lecter’

Early morning on 1st of March 2000, the manager at a mining firm in the small Australian town of Aberdeen noticed that John Price, one of his best employees, hadn’t turned up for work. That was extremely out of character for the usually punctual Price, so one of his coworkers was sent out to check in on the missing man.

Whispers spread around the office that something terrible might have happened to him — the sort of thing he often joked about: “If I don’t show up for work tomorrow, it’s probably because she’s murdered me.” The woman he was referring to was his own partner, Katherine Knight.

And I say ‘joked’, but recently it seemed less like a bit of harmless humour, and more like an ominous warning. Everyone knew Kathy had an explosive temper, but over the past month it seemed like she was really losing it. 

Just two days prior, Pricey had to run to a neighbour’s house to escape after she swung a butcher’s knife in his face and threatened to slash him. Everyone had told him to get the hell away from her after that, especially after their conflicting reports meant the police never even arrested her. Kathy was still free to torment him, so maybe she came back to finish the job.

That’s what was on the coworker’s mind as he pulled up in front of John’s house at 84 St Andrews Street that Tuesday morning, to find the AWOL miner’s car still sitting in the driveway. A next-door neighbour had also noticed that John wasn’t up and about as usual that day, and the two men worked together to check in on him.

They circled around to the side of the house to knock on Pricey’s bedroom window. No response.. So they decided to try the front door. As they got close, they noticed something strange on the handle: a dark, reddish-brown stain. It was unmistakable: dried blood, smeared onto the metal. They called the police.

As they waited for the cops to arrive, the two men wondered about what might be waiting behind that door. No matter how bad they imagined the situation to be at that moment, the reality would prove infinitely worse. 

Behind that bloodstained door was one of the most gruesome, brutal, shocking crime scenes in Australian history. Fair warning, today’s big finale is enough to test the stomach of even the most jaded true crime aficionado.

This is the story of Katherine Knight, Australia’s ‘Female Hannibal Lecter’…

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The Ones That Got Away

Close Calls for David Kellett

In the small town of Aberdeen, New South Wales, Katherine Knight was well known for her instability: the nicest person in the room one moment, and a slasher film villain the next. In many ways, her entire life was defined by a series of insanely abusive relationships.

New England Highway, Aberdeen, NSW
New England Highway, Aberdeen, NSW. By Cgoodwin, is licensed under CC-BY-SA

It started with her first husband, a local man named David Kellett, who she met while working at the Aberdeen Abattoir in 1973, when she was still a teenager. Truck driver David was a heavy drinker, a fact attributed to the trauma of watching his best mate die in a rail yard accident at his prior job. 

He and Kathy married after just one year, despite the warnings from the bride’s own mother about the kind of things she was capable of. The very first time she met David, his future mother-in-law told him: “You better watch this one or she’ll f**king kill you. Stir her up the wrong way or do the wrong thing and you’re f**ked, don’t ever think of playing up on her [cheating on her], she’ll f**kin’ kill you.”

Not one for the wedding speech. And apparently it never fazed Dave that much — he still went through with the wedding. But it didn’t take long for Kathy’s Mr Hyde side to show itself. On their wedding night, David woke up to find his new bride throttling him by the neck. He managed to shove her off, and asked in a raps voice what the hell she was doing. 

She screamed that he had only managed to go three rounds when consummating the marriage, and she wasn’t satisfied. Jesus Christ, if he’d only managed one the poor guy probably wouldn’t have seen the morning. Probably a good time to start stocking up on those little blue pills.

After that rocky start to their life together, Kathy’s outbursts basically became part of their day-to-day routine. David described his wife as “unpredictably violent”, even though he never fought back: “I never raised a finger against her, not even in self defence. I would just walk away.” 

A huge part of Kathy’s complex revolved around infidelity; if she even slightly suspected her man of cheating, her first instinct was to hack and slash. Another night not long into their marriage, he woke up to find Kathy with her knee on his chest, pinning him down. In her hand was one of her most prized possessions: a butcher’s knife from her abattoir set, which she kept hung above their marital bed. She held it against his neck.

“You see how easy it is?” Kathy said. “Is it true that truck drivers have different women in every town?”

Even if David did have a bit on the side, that would’ve been a supremely awful time to break the news. He denied he was having an affair, and Kathy pulled the blade away from his neck. She was placated for now, but that extreme jealousy would almost be the death of David.

One evening in 1976 he was out at a darts tournament with his friends, and managed to get through to the final. This meant staying a little later than usual to see the competition through, which shouldn’t have been a problem. But back at home, Kathy (who was heavily pregnant with their first kid) flew into a paranoid rage — she took all of her husband’s clothes and shoes, slashed them to ribbons, and burned them in the garden.

Then when David eventually stumbled through the door past midnight, she flew at him with a frying pan, smashing it into the back of his head. David managed to flee to a neighbour’s house, where he collapsed down unconscious. Hospital scans revealed she had hit him so hard, it fractured the back of his skull! As the old saying goes, pots and pans can break my bones, but words will never harm me (or something like that).

Unfortunately, as is often the case with violent abusers, Kathy managed to convince her husband not to press charges. After their daughter Melissa Ann was born, David finally decided he’d had enough. He left his abusive wife for another woman, and moved up north to Queensland (a full day’s drive away). He wisely made sure that nobody told his knife-loving, pan-wielding missus his new address.

Our Kathy took it about as well as you might expect… 

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A Troubled Childhood

In a sense, Kathy Knight’s violent tendencies weren’t her fault; she was just a product of a pretty traumatic childhood. Born on October 24th 1955 in the town of Tenterfield, just minutes after her twin sister, her life was wrapped up in controversy from day one. Her mother Barbara had left her husband to be with the father, a severe alcoholic (even by Australian standards) named Ken Knight.

This caused a major scandal in the small conservative town, especially since the two lovers had met through Barbara’s husband — the father to her four sons. The lovers ran away from all that small town gossip, and settled down in Aberdeen, another tiny town with just 1500 inhabitants. There Ken found work at the local slaughterhouse.

Unfortunately, running off with Ken Knight turned out to be a mistake; he was extremely abusive, and would regularly beat and rape Barbara up to ten times a day. The couple had two more children together, making a total of four with Katherine and her twin sister. All of them witnessed the horrific physical and sexual violence inflicted on their mother, and with nobody else to confide in, she would often reveal some of the worst details to little Katherine and her sister.

While tending to her cuts and bruises, Barabara would tell her twin daughters all about how disgusting and brutal men are, and how they’re incapable of being kind or faithful. According to Katherine herself, she experienced this first-hand for herself, often finding herself the victim of similar violence from male relatives.

Needless to say, she didn’t grow up with a particularly healthy view of love and relationships…

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Baby on the Train Tracks

So when husband David left her in 1976, Kathy wasn’t able to just process the pain — she suffered what looked like a severe mental break. The day after her husband ran off, a local spotted her walking down the high street with her newborn in a pram; she was shaking it from side to side violently, while little baby Melissa wailed inside.

 Later that day, the police arrived at her house to arrest her for endangering her infant daughter. Kathy was admitted to St Elmo’s Hospital, and diagnosed with postnatal depression. After just a few weeks of treatment, she was released as good as new.

The loving mother was reunited with her daughter… who she proceeded to dump on a railway line just minutes before a train was due! Thankfully a local forager known as ‘Old Ted’ spotted the pram on the tracks, and managed to save the two-month-old with just moments to spare. At that time, the doting mother was off wandering the high street, threatening people with a stolen axe.

Kathy was admitted to a mental ward again, but somehow got deemed sane, and signed herself out the very next day. No attempted murder charges, no CPS intervention — she was just allowed to walk free as if she hadn’t tried to dispose of her daughter like an old cowboy film villain. 

This time, Kathy decided that taking out her pain on the little ‘un wasn’t necessary, she had to hunt down the man who broke her heart. Later that week, she grabbed one of her coworkers at the abattoir, and slashed her face. The terrified woman was forced to go on an impromptu road trip to Queensland so Kathy could track down and stab her AWOL husband (which sounds like a great plot for a buddy movie, but a pretty harrowing experience in real life).

Somewhere along the way, the duo pulled into a motorway service station, and the hostage managed to make a break for it. By the time she returned with help, Kathy had already found a replacement.

The police arrived to find her holding a young mechanic with a knife to his neck. News reports say the cops then attacked her with brooms to knock the knife out of her hand, which suggests some pretty severe funding issues in the NSW police force. After being tackled to the ground and arrested, Kathy was shipped off to Morisset Psychological Hospital, to finally get the help she needed. Borderline personality disorder was added to her record.

Morisset Hospital
Morisset Hospital. By Lucy Moore, is licensed under CC-BY

She later told the nurses there that her plan was to kill David, his mother, and also that mechanic, whose only crime was fixing the fugitive husband’s car on the drive up north. Things get even sadder from here, because when the news of Kathy’s complete mental breakdown reached David up in Queensland, he couldn’t help but feel guilty for the psychological state of his would-be assassin. He ended up breaking off the relationship with his new partner, and moving back down south with his mother to look after Kathy. When she was discharged that August, it was into their care.

So the happy family tried to start over in Brisbane, and even brought another child into that toxic environment in 1983! I guess Kathy must have pinkie promised to not throw this one in front of public transport. To add insult to injury, David’s self-destructive dedication wasn’t enough for Kathy in the end: the very next year, she left him and returned to Aberdeen with their two children. She  returned to work at the only place she ever felt fully content: the Aberdeen Slaughterhouse. 

There she could vent all of her inner torment by slicing the skin off cattle, and hacking pig carcasses to pieces. And by all accounts, she was pretty damn good at it… 

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Queen of the Abattoir 

In 1970, Kathy had left school with barely any qualifications; at 15 years old, she was still unable to read or write. Most of the teacher and pupils were glad to see her go, since her time in education was about as stable as her future marriages: Kathy was infamous for gleefully bullying the smaller children, and once even attacked a young boy with a knife during lunch break. 

The violent outcast even got into an altercation with a teacher at one point, and it was later ruled that this fully-grown adult was actually acting in self-defence against the blade-wielding teen. That kind of track record usually doesn’t sit too well with HR departments, but Kathy was lucky that Aberdeen’s biggest employer was in constant need of young people with a talent and passion for knives.

Twelve months after dropping out, she was working what she called her ‘dream job’: mopping up blood and guts at the Aberdeen Abattoir. On the hottest summer days, you could smell the acrid stench wafting through the entire town, but Kathy was never happier than when deep in its blood-soaked halls. Despite a deep-seated resentment of her abusive father, she still idolised him for his work in the abattoir, and was thrilled to follow in his footsteps. 

After a few months cleaning up and heaving around carcasses for disposal, the management were impressed with her enthusiasm (although in slaughterhouse work, surely there’s such a thing as too enthusiastic). Kathy was promoted to ‘de-boning’ the livestock, and received her very first set of professional abattoir knives.

She was so proud of her new blades, that she decided to take them home every evening for cleaning and maintenance — another huge red flag, surely. After sharpening and polishing the blades, she always hung them above her bed, so they “would always be handy if I needed them”. You know, just in case she got the overwhelming urge to do some domestic slaughtering. 

At this point, there’s about a 60% overlap between the biographies of Katherine Knight and Leatherface. But at the time, people never saw this hardworking teenaged butcher as a threat. One of her old coworkers remembered her as “a kind-hearted bubbly girl who didn’t warrant a second glance if you passed her on the street.”

That duality was her greatest asset: Kathy could be warm and charming enough to put people at ease, then flip in a matter of seconds. All of her loved ones were aware of this deeply disturbed dark side to her personality, but none of them suspected how far she would eventually go…

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Bringing the Slaughterhouse Home

The stress relief outlet that the slaughterhouse offered Kathy was snatched away when she sustained a back injury at work in the mid 80s, and had to retire prematurely. Now surviving on a disability pension, she received government help to land a family house in Aberdeen, for herself and her two daughters.

She decked out her new house in her own particular style: slaughterhouse chic. Every inch of wall and ceiling was covered with serial killer-esque paraphernalia, such as animal bones, animal hides, rusted animal traps, knives, and pitchforks. If Kathy couldn’t go to the slaughterhouse, she would bring the slaughterhouse to her (in more ways than one…).

Soon after the move, she met a new love interest named David Saunders. Imagine going round to your girlfriend’s place for the first time and seeing a horde of cow skulls staring down at you from the bedroom wall — I doubt anyone’s going to manage three rounds with that audience looking on. But somehow Saunders wasn’t put off by all that disturbing decor, not even by the knives above the bed. 

The two ended up getting married, and he moved in with the family in 1987. Just in case he ever needed an out, he decided to keep the apartment where he used to live alone, which didn’t sit right with Kathy. Just like before, she was convinced her new husband was having an affair. 

What she needed to do was send a clear signal: ‘this is what’ll happen to you if you mess around behind my back’. After a particularly violent argument, Kathy walked out to the back garden and grabbed Saunders’ 8-week old dingo puppy. He watched as she slit the little dog’s throat, just to prove that she was callous enough to do it.

Amazingly, that wasn’t the end for their relationship; the two even had a daughter together in 1988. David Saunders only reached his breaking point only after Kathy came within an inch of ending his life. After a night of drinking with his friends, he opened the front door to an iron in the face. While he was still dazed, Kathy stabbed a pair of scissors into his stomach.

These little murderous ambushes were her little way of showing how much she cared. How sweet.  Saunders had to leave his job and hide in another town to escape her, and when he returned after 7 months to visit his daughter, the police told him that Kathy had taken out the AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) on him

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The Final Days of John ‘Pricey’ Price

Following Saunders’ well-timed departure, Kathy embarked on a new romantic adventure — by far the most stable of her life. This time it was the turn of an older man named John Chillingworth, who had worked with her at the abattoir for years. Chillingworth has admitted that he did see Kathy’s bad side, but says he never felt threatened.

The two had a son together in 1991, and stayed together for another 2 years after. Then, approaching Christmas 1993, Chillingworth discovered that Kathy was having an affair. He broke the relationship off, and Kathy decided to move in with her secret lover: our missing man from the start of the episode, Mr John Price. He was a hard-working, well-liked guy with the iconic permed mullet of a classic Aussie bloke’s bloke.

John Price and Katherine Knight together at a party shortly before she murdered him.
John Price and Katherine Knight together at a
party shortly before she murdered him.
By Murderpedia.org

By now, you’ve seen exactly what Kathy was capable of, and it was no secret around town back then either. But somehow Pricey must have seen something in this 38-year-old mother of four, with a long record of almost killing her lovers, a house like a serial killer’s shack, and an unhealthy obsession with knives. Not exactly my type, but each to his own. 

John was a miner, with a pretty hefty salary and comfortable lifestyle. He lived with his two teenage kids from a previous relationship. Kathy and her own little ones got on well with the lot of them at first. But things soon turned sour after John revealed he wasn’t particularly interested in getting married again — both of them were middle-ahead and he didn’t see much point. 

After that, Kathy’s bad side came out in full force. Not long after they moved in together in 1995, John was called into his supervisor’s office, and asked to take a seat. Management presented him with a video from inside his own home, showing what appeared to be stolen company property: medicine kits stashed inside one his cupboard. John pleaded with them that he never stole the kits, they were just out-of-date ones that he salvaged from the trash.

But there was nothing he could do to convince them. Despite working there for 17 years, he was fired on the spot. And there was no doubt who had sent the video — this was Kathy’s revenge for the lack of a ring on her finger.

John quite rightly kicked her out as soon as he got home, but just a few months later they started dating again. He kept her at arm’s length, refusing to let her move back in for the time being. Most of his friends were livid that he kept seeing her, and refused to talk to him while he stayed with this ritual abuser.

On the other hand, Kathy wouldn’t be satisfied until she could start playing happy families again, and the two were joined in holy matrimony. So their arguments became even more frequent and explosive. Every time John ran in terror from her, she would shower him with apologies, and guilt trip him into coming back.

Things went on like this for years. The couple would get together and break up over and over, until  Kathy decided she’d had enough — it was time for an ultimatum. In 1999, Katherine Knight told her own daughter: “I told him if he took me back this time it was to the death. If I kill Pricey, I’ll kill myself after it.”

Which incidentally brings up right on back to that chilly March morning in the year 2000, when Pricey’s neighbour and coworker stood on his front doorstep, hearts racing as they noticed the dark stain of dried blood on the handle. Throughout the month prior, John had been coming into work with fresh cuts and bruises: his partner’s assaults were growing ever more brutal by the day.

That weekend prior, she ended up stabbing him in the chest, while their kids hid in the bathroom terrified. On February 29th, he took a detour to Scone Magistrate’s Court to take out a restraining order. His coworkers tried to convince him not to go back home that day, but John was terrified of what might happen to his kids if he didn’t. 

He had no idea that Kathy had already sent them off to a relative, in preparation for the very special evening she had in mind…

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Entering the Hell House

Police officers Matthews and Furlonger responded to the call that morning, and arrived at the Price house at just after 8:10am. The two men waiting in the front garden pointed out the blood on the handle, and explained their suspicions about the homeowner’s famously unstable girlfriend.

So the cops went around to the back of the house, and kicked in the back door. In the dim light of the dingy hallway, Officer Matthews made out what appeared to be a piece of cloth, hanging from the roof: 

There was something hanging, blocking my entry […]. I thought it looked like some type of blanket […]. I used my left hand to push it aside, and I remember feeling coldness… I looked down and my left arm was covered in blood. I couldn’t understand why my arm was bleeding.”

But it wasn’t his blood at all. That’s when Matthews registered the strange texture of the blanket against his arm, and the scarlet puddle glistening on the floor… and the eye holes… This ‘blanket’ he had just pushed to the side was actually the skin of John Price, removed in one complete pelt, still slick with blood! It hung from a meat hook affixed to the roof of the hallway. 

The officers were expecting a routine domestic violence call — perhaps a murder at worst. What they weren’t expecting, however, was to be tossed headfirst into a Silent Hill level: “I saw a torso on the ground without a head, without any genitalia,” recounted Matthews.

This skinned and dismembered body of 44-year-old Pricey had been stabbed 37 times, deep wounds puncturing deep into the lungs, liver, and kidneys, and severing the aorta. This left a vast puddle of blood on the lounge floor where it was found. The body had been butchered by an expert hand — by someone who knew how to remove the entirety of the skin from the head, face, nose, ears, torso, neck, genital organs and legs in one piece. 

But the worst sight was in the kitchen. On the stovetop was a large soup pot, with the skinned head of John Price, bobbing around in a bloody mixture among potatoes and cabbage. Compared to that horror show, the dining room was actually quite presentable: the table was set for dinner; two plates sat on the tabletop, steak and a side of vegetables on each. 

Next to them were pieces of paper — folded notes, with the names of John’s children written on them, marking out where they were supposed to sit. As you’ve probably guessed, the meat served up that morning was actually the flesh of the victim himself, cut from his buttocks. It seemed as if the killer planned on feeding him to his own kids! 

And there, lying catatonic on the lounge floor, was the culprit. After brutally killing, butchering, and skinning her partner, Katherine Knight had taken a cocktail of pills in an apparent suicide attempt. She lay there unresponsive, and was taken off to hospital in an ambulance.

Detectives then went about the unhappy task of piecing together a cohesive narrative from all the piles of gore, in the worst crime scene of their careers by far…

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The Timeline

Detective Bob Wells was the lead investigator on the case, and the one who was scheduled to interrogate Kathy once she could be stabilised in the hospital ICU. Until then, he was able to build a clear enough picture of what happened that night based on the physical evidence alone.

The mattress in the master bedroom was sodden with blood, indicating that Kathy had set upon the victim while he lay in bed. Trails of blood and footprints leading down the hallway showed how he must have woken up screaming, and made a break for the front door. Blood spatters covering the walls revealed how she chased after him, stabbing the blade into his back and sides as he fled.

John had actually managed to make it outside the house — as proven by the blood on the door handle — but by that point he was well on the way to bleeding out. By the time he made it onto the front step, he was too weak to resist. Kathy grabbed him with all her strength, and dragged him back inside to finish the job. 

In the hallway behind the front door, a drying puddle of blood stretched out almost 2m wide, signalling where John Price’s life ended. Drag patterns smeared in blood showed how Kathy then heaved the corpse through to the lounge, where she used her years of abattoir experience to expertly remove his skin in one complete piece. 

The butcher’s knife she then used to hack him to pieces was still sitting there, beside the dismembered, beheaded remains. After taking off the skin and hanging it to dry, she chopped the body up with an expert hand, just like she’d done to thousands of cattle in the past. 

She cooked the human steaks first, then boiled the vegetables in the pot with the victim’s flayed head. The temperature of the broth was still between 40-50 degrees Celsius, meaning all of this probably happened in the very early hours of that morning. (Pretty rough day for the CSI technician that had to log the temperature of the horror stew.)

Some time after processing the body like a hunk of fresh beef, Kathy arranged the body into a pose that prosecutors believed intended to humiliate Pricey. She crossed his legs, and placed his left arm over an empty plastic drink bottle. On top of a picture of Pricey, she placed a barely understandable handwritten note:

“Time got you back Johathon for rapping [raping] my douter [daughter]. You to Beck [Price’s daughter] for Ross – for Little John [his son]. Now play with little Johns dick John Price.”

No evidence was ever found to back up these claims of abuse. 

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Before he went inside, Detective Wells was told by the responding officers that it was too much for them to handle. Even after that, he was shocked at the blood soaked brutality of the scene — in all his 20 years on the job, he hadn’t seen anything like it. One of the fingerprint technicians actually handed in his resignation the very next day. 

After plating up the man’s flesh for his kids, it looked like Kathy had cooked herself a portion for herself meal that ended up tossed out into the back garden. It’s thought she tried to eat this part herself, but couldn’t go through with it. Slaughtering and butchering a loved one must have ruined her appetite. After that, she decided to end her own life — perhaps premeditatedly, or perhaps after an unexpected pang of regret. Either way, she went to the medicine cabinet and grabbed all of the medication she could find.

She then lay dying a slow and painful death for hours, until the police broke down the back door and found her there. For a while, it looked like she might’ve succeeded in ending things, but after three days in the hospital she was dragged back into the world of the living to answer for herself. Detective Wells visited her on the ward for the first interrogation.

Just like every other time she inflicted horrible violence on a partner, she had swung back towards the nicer side of her personality. Hardly the Hellraiser demon that Detective Wells was expecting. In fact, she was quite compliant from the outset.

She explained that on the night of February 28th, she went over to John’s house at 11pm hoping to surprise him. She let herself in with a spare key, and sat watching TV for a while before jumping in the shower. It was a hot night, so the sound of the AC in the bedroom meant John was still asleep when she opened the bedroom door.

She claimed that she had slipped into a new piece of lingerie, and woken the victim up: “He wanted sex so we had it. He was gentle and kind […]. [Afterwards] he went to the toilet. He was walking back to bed and that’s it.”

“That’s it”: that’s all she remembered. None of the murdering butchering, flaying, or any of that fun stuff. She claimed that she blacked out for that entire episode. But Detective Wells could sense she wasn’t telling the truth: 

“You interview a lot of people and you’ll catch someone’s eye and you’ll know: ‘This person has just bullshitted me.’ And that’s how I felt about that interview. If she wants to take it to the grave with her, well so be it.”…

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“Never to be Released”

Now, the prosecution definitely didn’t need a confession to prove the crime, seeing as Kathy was all but bathing in the victim’s blood when the cops arrived. The only question remaining was the charges she should be sent down on. Proving that this killer was mentally competent enough to convict was another story.

Through interviews with her family members, detectives learned that she seemed to have planned it this way all along. It wasn’t only her daughter that she told about her plans to kill Pricey, but her brother too. In 1999, she said to him: “I’m going to kill Pricey and the two kids too, and I’m going to get away with it. I’ll get away with it cause I’ll make out I’m mad.”

Remember, this is a woman who once tried to leave her newborn on some train tracks and only served one day in a mental hospital as a result. As far as she was concerned, the insanity card was as good as total immunity. She offered to plead guilty to manslaughter, on the grounds of diminished responsibility, which carries a comparatively light sentence down under. But unfortunately for the Aberdeen Butcher, the evidence didn’t quite add up with her story.

The precise expertise with which she skinned her lover didn’t suggest a woman acting crazed or irrational. As Judge NSW Supreme Court Justice O’Keefe said, the flaying was “so expertly done that, after the post mortem examination, the skin was able to be re-sown onto Price’s body in a way which indicated a clear and appropriate, albeit grisly, methodology.” 

Yep, before the funeral they were actually able to wrap the skin back onto the murdered man, as if they were putting the packaging back on a piece of meat. Good as new… If that image is making you uncomfortable, consider the alternative: what the hell did Kathy plan on doing with the human pelt once it dried? Maybe she was planning to take a leaf from the Ed Gein handicrafts handbook.

The psychiatrists on the case never bought the insanity plea either. When the trial commenced in October 2001, one of them told the court: “The problem is not that she did not know it was wrong to do such things, but that she did not care about doing them. Callousness is not an absence of knowledge of what is right or wrong.” 

As anyone who ever dated her knew, Kathy was just an exceptionally cruel individual, willing and capable to stab, bludgeon, and terrorise the people closest to her. And as soon as you start killing puppies, you’ve lost any chance at sympathy from the internet mob.

The defendant stuck to her amnesia story, and pleaded not guilty. But shortly after the trial began, she must have seen it was a lost cause, and switched her plea. The trial was adjourned before the first witness even took the stand.

Justice O’Keefe wrapped up the sentencing by saying: “The last minutes of his life must have been a time of abject terror for him, as they were a time of utter enjoyment for her. […] The only appropriate penalty for the prisoner is life imprisonment and that parole should never be considered for her.”

Just like that, Katherine Knight — Aberdeen NWS’s very own horror movie monster — became the first woman to ever be sentenced to life without parole in Australia. She was transferred to Silverwater Prison, her papers marked with the words “never to be released”…

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Wrap Up: Where is She Now?

And she never has been. Kathy Knight appealed her sentence once back in 2006, but it was denied. She still dreams of overturning the no-parole ruling, and walking free again. Whether or not the community will ever allow it is another question entirely. Despite the undeniable tragedy of her start in life, Kathy’s adulthood was a parade of abject horror, as she became more and more deeply disturbed.

Apparently though, she’s managed to turn things around a bit behind bars. Back in 2020, John Chillingworth (Kathy’s third partner, and the only one she wasn’t able to dominate) revealed that he still goes to visit her at the prison. To hear him tell it, she now no longer poses a risk to society: “She does pottery class and she’s pretty good at it, she likes painting. She seems to be calmer and mixes with the other girls. It’s like a big dormitory, but she gets on with everyone; they call her grandma.”

Aw, how sweet. Except, this grandma’s secret soup recipe has just a tad too much human remains for my tastes. And ‘calmer’ is a relative term: so long as she’s not stabbing and skinning people she’s obviously making some progress. It’s doubtful that any judge will ever buy that Kathy is reformed enough to be reintroduced to society. 

The images of what she did to John Price haunt the officers who wandered into that terrifying alternate dimension back in 2000. Detective Wells retired ten years after, but because of this case and a few more bad ones, he still needs weekly counselling: “My diagnosis was severe chronic post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – it’s never going to get any better but you just need to keep on top of it.”

It doesn’t matter how strong your stomach is, or how many times you’ve listened to true crime episodes describing horrific scenes, nothing can quite prepare you for seeing a man skinned and served up for dinner. I guess for Kathy, it was no big deal — after years spent hacking up carcasses in the slaughterhouse, it’s all just meat in the end.

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[[[[[HERE FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND ALL THAT]]]]]

One last thing before we finish up today. I think it’s really worth noting the significance of domestic violence in this story, and the importance of condemning it no matter which way it goes. An angry wife cracking a frying pan over her drunk husband’s head is often treated like a bit of harmless slapstick in old TV shows, but the reality is that Kathy was cracking skulls. That’s no laughing matter.

We’ve seen examples of abuse in many forms today, including some of the subtler emotional manipulation used to trap victims long-term. At the end of the day, abuse is abuse, and should be treated as such. If you or anyone you know — man, woman, child, dog, cat, or other — might be in a situation like the ones we’ve described today, we’ll drop some resources in the description which can help.

Dismembered Appendices 

1. Despite growing up in a pretty terrible family environment, there was one person who Kathy could really rely on: her uncle, Oscar Knight, a champion equestrian. After he killed himself in 1969, Kathy swore that his ghost would regularly visit her, even after she was imprisoned. 

2. The progression from slaughterhouse worker to murderer might seem like a bit of a cliche, but according to Yale Global Health Review, it’s a well deserved stereotype. The act of slaughtering hundreds of living animals on an industrial scale can completely desensitise workers to violence, and many turn to drugs, alcohol, and spousal abuse to work through the feelings. If they already have trauma from personal abuse, that can often lead to murder. You don’t have to be a deranged psychopath to work there, but it certainly helps.

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