There is no evidence a 23-year-old childcare worker allegedly murdered by the Claremont serial killer had been sexually assaulted before her death, although it could not be conclusively ruled out, a forensic pathologist has told the WA Supreme Court.
- Jane Rimmer’s body showed no obvious signs of sexual assault but was badly decomposed
- A defect to Ciara Glennon’s skull was naturally occurring and not a fracture, pathologist Clive Cooke said
- V-shaped wounds to her body were consistent with knife wounds
Jane Rimmer disappeared from the upmarket Perth suburb of Claremont in June 1996 and her decomposed body was found in bushland at Wellard, south of Perth, nearly two months later.
Confessed rapist Bradley Robert Edwards, 51, is accused of murdering her and two other young women during a 14-month period in 1996 and 1997 — Sarah Spiers, 18, and 27-year-old Ciara Glennon.
Pathwest pathologist Clive Cooke, who was present during the examination of Ms Rimmer’s body where it was discovered in bushes at Wellard and also at her post-mortem examination, told the court on Tuesday there was nothing to suggest Ms Rimmer had been sexually assaulted.
But the absence of any obvious signs did not mean it could be excluded, because her body was so badly decomposed and there could have been sexual penetration without injury, he said.
Edwards’ history of sex assaults
Edwards was initially charged with five further offences relating to sexual attacks on two other young women, including a 17-year-old who was brutally raped at Karrakatta Cemetery after being abducted as she walked home from a night out in Claremont.
Another victim was 18 when she was assaulted as she lay in her bed at night in south suburban Huntingdale by Edwards, who straddled her and forced cloth in her mouth.
However, the former Telstra technician sensationally admitted to these crimes on the eve of his trial, although he maintains his innocence of the three murder charges.
Dr Cooke said he agreed with the conclusions of chief pathologist Dr Karin Margolius that Ms Rimmer’s cause of death was not able to be determined, but that it could have been the result of a neck injury.
Dr Margolius conducted post-mortems on both young women and also took samples from their bodies at their burial sites.
She died in 2010 and Dr Cooke is being questioned about the contents of her autopsy reports.
He said defects on Ms Rimmer’s neck and wrist were likely caused by a sharp instrument such as a knife.
Ciara Glennon’s neck injury detailed
Dr Cooke was also asked about the condition of Ms Glennon’s body, which was discovered partially covered in vegetation at Eglinton, north of Perth, on April 3, 1997, 19 days after she vanished.
Sensitive videos and photographs of the post-mortem were shown behind barriers to part of the court, but could not be seen by the public, as Dr Cooke was questioned about aspects of what he was seeing.
He said Ms Glennon’s body had not been as badly decomposed as that of Ms Rimmer and had not been damaged by animal activity.
In her reports written after conducting Ms Glennon’s post-mortem, Dr Margolius concluded the young lawyer had died of a neck injury, described as a “large, gaping” wound that ran from her temple to her neck on the right side.
The wound was so extensive that just seven centimetres of Ms Glennon’s neck remained intact.
However, Dr Cooke said while he agreed with Dr Margolius, post-mortem reports written today tended to be “ultra-conservative” and would probably record the cause of death as “unascertained” but “consistent with a neck injury”.
Dr Cooke said the pattern of staining on Ms Glennon’s T-shirt indicated her neck wound had been inflicted while she was lying down on her right side, in the same position she was found.
He said her blood would have pooled beneath her and been partially absorbed by her T-shirt.
Skull fracture disputed
Last week, state prosecutor Carmel Barbagallo read from Dr Margolius’s post-mortem report that said Ms Glennon had been struck with an object that fractured her skull, “momentarily stunning her or rendering her semi-conscious” just before she was killed.
However, Dr Cooke said he disputed Dr Margolius’s conclusion about the skull fracture after he and another pathologist, Dr Alana Buck, conducted a more detailed examination of a fraction of Ms Glennon’s skull in 2013 that had been kept by Dr Margolius.
He said further tests revealed her skull had not been fractured and the defects observed were instead the result of a naturally occurring condition.
Ms Glennon also sustained a significant arm wound — a cut of about 20 centimetres in length.
Dr Cooke said V-shaped skin defects found on Ms Glennon’s body were consistent with knife wounds and could have been caused either by a slicing or sawing motion.
He said Ms Glennon’s skirt had been crumpled around her waist and was twisted and slightly torn, and her T-shirt was also crushed up at her waist, exposing about five centimetres of her body.
The tendons in Ms Glennon’s right arm had been cut and there were corresponding defects to her arm bones, which indicated she had been stabbed with a knife at least twice to her arms.
These injuries, he said, were typical self-defence or pugilistic type wounds consistent with sharp force.
The trial, before Justice Stephen Hall, is continuing.