Ciara Glennon was struck with an object that fractured her skull, “momentarily stunning her” before she was killed, the trial of the alleged Claremont serial killer has been told.
- Details about the autopsies of Ciara Glennon and Jane Rimmer have been released to the public
- Evidence from a post-mortem examiner suggests Ms Glennon was “stunned” before being killed
- Jane Rimmer’s cause of death was ruled “unascertainable”
Graphic details of the injuries sustained by Ms Glennon and Jane Rimmer as they seemingly fought for their lives can now be revealed after a temporary suppression order preventing the publication of a forensic pathologist’s evidence was lifted.
Ms Glennon, 27, was the third of Bradley Edwards’s alleged victims after Jane Rimmer, 23, and Sarah Spiers, 18, whose body has never been found.
Edwards denies having anything to do with their disappearances or murders.
He has admitted to attacks on two teenagers, an 18-year-old woman as she slept in her Huntingdale home in 1988 and a 17-year-old girl, who he abducted and raped inside Karrakatta Cemetery in 1995.
Dr Karin Margolius was the chief forensic pathologist for both Ms Glennon’s and Ms Rimmer’s cases.
She died of cancer in 2010, so her statements, including observations from the post-mortems and from the crime scenes where the women’s bodies were found, were read to the court by prosecutor Carmel Barbagallo.
Dr Margolius determined that Ms Glennon died from a “neck injury”.
The court has already heard that she was found lying face down in bushland in Perth’s north in 1997, with a “large, gaping” wound that ran from her temple to her neck.
“The neck defect is the most obvious injury to the body,” Dr Margolius wrote in her report.
“Only the right side of the neck is involved. The left side is intact.”
She also observed there was a large cut, about 20cm in length, to Ms Glennon’s right arm.
In her opening statement, when the trial commenced two months ago, Ms Barbagallo said that injury was consistent with being inflicted by a sharp instrument.
“This is an incised wound and the angle of withdraw is different to the angle of insertion,” Dr Margolius wrote.
The pathologist also observed that Ms Glennon had a depressed fracture to her skull, which she described as likely being a “sharp force injury”, that would have occurred at or about the time of her death.
“In my opinion, this defect might have caused obtunding, blunting of the senses, momentarily stunning her or rendering her semi-conscious,” Dr Margolius wrote.
She also found Ms Glennon’s left thumbnail to be severely damaged and the tip of her right ring-fingernail torn off, determining that the damage to both nails had also occurred close to the time of death.
“The edges are irregular, shredded, torn, disrupted, not rounded and inconsistent to the remaining nails,” she wrote.
The prosecution alleges a DNA profile found under Ms Glennon’s left middle fingernail and left thumbnail matches Mr Edwards, claiming it got there when Ms Glennon scratched at her attacker as she tried to fend him off.
Jane Rimmer’s cause of death ‘unascertainable’
Dr Margolius also carried out the post-mortem on the body of Ms Rimmer, after it too was found in a bush grave, in an advanced stage of decomposition, almost two months after she disappeared from Claremont in June 1996.
She concluded the cause of Ms Rimmer’s death was “unascertainable” but added, “I cannot exclude the possibility that it was the result of a neck injury”.
Also present at the post-mortems and scene examinations was forensic pathologist Dr Clive Cooke, who gave evidence at the trial in person on Thursday and Friday.
He described the “diamond-shaped” defect to Ms Rimmer’s neck, as being about 10cm by 17cm in size with “a raggedness to it”.
The prosecution alleges it was inflicted by her killer with a bladed instrument used in a “cutting or even sawing action”.
Dr Cooke also made observations about injuries to Ms Rimmer’s left forearm, saying they were indicative of self-defence.
“People who are defending themselves from whatever the assault is will often assume a boxing position,” Dr Cooke said as he raised his hands across his face to demonstrate that stance which exposes the elbow and little finger.
“Cuts along that aspect particularly are typical of self-defence.”
He said the cut had breached the skin and soft tissue of Ms Rimmer’s arm and was consistent with being caused by a sharp implement, such as a knife.
Details released after suppression order lifted
The initial suppression order preventing the publication of the autopsy details was imposed by Justice Stephen Hall, who is presiding over the marathon trial, after an application was made by Ms Barbagallo on behalf of the victims’ families.
She told the court on Thursday that the relatives of Ms Rimmer and Ms Glennon had never been privy to the “minutiae” of the post-mortems and that details should be suppressed to protect the dignity of the deceased.
“[Their families] would not know what’s been done, what’s been kept, how it’s been examined multiple times,” Ms Barbagallo said.
“They have been spared that detail over the years.”
However, on Friday lawyers representing Seven West Media made a submission, requesting an amendment to the terms of the order.
Justice Hall revoked the original suppression and issued a less restrictive one.
“In many murder trials the deceased’s dignity is lost to a significant extent,” Justice Hall said.
“[Dr Margolius’ reports] were fairly typical of post-mortem reports in the methodology that was used and the level of detail. There was nothing remarkable about them.
“The reports of the media will be incomplete and perhaps inaccurate unless they can report on what’s happening in open court.
“I don’t want to be in charge of the way the media reports the proceedings.”
The trial will resume on Tuesday.