Bid to unlink Claremont murders from rape

Rebecca Le May
Paul Yovich, defence barrister for the accused Claremont serial killer, is making closing remarks

The accused Claremont serial killer's defence lawyer has rubbished the theory the murders were sexually motivated, in a bid to disassociate the crimes from a brutal rape his client has admitted.

In her closing address at Bradley Robert Edwards' Supreme Court of Western Australia trail last week, prosecutor Carmel Barbagallo pointed out 23-year-old childcare worker Jane Rimmer was found naked in 1996, while Ciara Glennon, 27, was discovered with her skirt up around her waist in 1997.

In 1995, less than 12 months before 18-year-old secretary Sarah Spiers was last seen in Claremont, Edwards abducted a teenager from the same affluent Perth suburb and raped her in a cemetery.

Midway through the attack, he removed a hood he had placed over her head, but the terrified girl said she kept her eyes shut and pretended to be unconscious when he threw her into bushes, walked away, then came back and "chucked" her into even denser bushes.

Ms Barbagallo argued that "bizarre" behaviour was Edwards' attempt to hide his victim after he was disturbed by security patrols, and he planned to come back and kill her but she fled, still bound at the wrists.

"The theory just holds no water at all," defence counsel Paul Yovich said in his closing submissions on Monday.

"If he wanted to kill her, she would be dead.

"There is no evidence to suggest that he intended to come back."

The victim and a security guard said they saw a light-coloured van driving in nearby streets shortly after the attack, but it was not known if it was the same vehicle she had been abducted in.

Mr Yovich said the teen had been through a "dreadful ordeal" and there was a "brutal element" to the rape but Edwards didn't injure her "beyond the sexual assault itself".

"Dropping" her into bushes was not a life-threatening action, and he would have known she was alive and would run away if he left.

Edwards had "ample means and opportunity" to kill the teen at the cemetery or drive her elsewhere to do it, as the state alleges he did with Ms Rimmer and Ms Glennon.

"He did not," Mr Yovich said.

The lawyer said Ms Barbagallo's assertion the murders were sexually motivated was "a matter of conjecture".

He accepted the pathological evidence was "largely neutral", with the court previously hearing Ms Glennon and Ms Rimmer's bodies were too decomposed to ascertain if they had been raped.

The prosecution argues the cemetery rape shows Edwards had a propensity to take vulnerable young women from the edge of Claremont's entertainment strip as they walked alone on a weekend night, either by abducting them in a "blitz attack" or luring them into his Telstra work vehicle, which looked like a taxi.

But Mr Yovich has sought to poke holes in that argument, pointing out differences between the sex attack and the killings.

"We submit that the murders are fundamentally different."