'How I escaped the house of horrors': Hostage of Australia’s most evil killers tells how she fled

Natasha Christian

The escaped victim of two of Australia’s most evil killers David and Catherine Birnie has told of how she gained her captors trust by watching Rambo and listening to Dire Straits with them before she fled.

On the morning of Monday November 10, 1986, Kate Moir had spent a sleepless night chained up in the Birnie’s Moorhouse Street house of horrors.

The escaped victim of the notorious killers told Channel Seven’s Murder Uncovered that on the day of her escape her captors had ordered her to call her parents to tell them she was okay.

A young Kate Moir.
Police officer Laura Hancock.

“They told me to ring my parents and tell them I’m at a friend’s house,” she said.

Kate told of how Catherine held a knife to her throat as David listened to the call on another phone.

During the call she said she told her family how she'd gotten too drunk and decided to stay with a friend.

She had hoped her parents wouldn't believe the story, as she wasn't known to be a drinker, and that they would call her friend to check the story.

But instead they went to sleep.

David and Catherine Birnie.

Kate told of how David Birnie behaved as though it was like any other day, despite having a teen girl captive in the house.

He ate breakfast and left for work, eventually leaving just Kate and Catherine behind.

“I changed my odds to fifty fifty ‘cause I’m just alone with a woman',” Kate said.

Killer David Birnie.

Meanwhile Detectives Paul Ferguson and Vince Katich set up a task force to investigate Denise Brown’s disappearance.

That morning Detective Katich drove to where Denise was last seen to interview an eyewitness.

While trying to piece together the puzzle, Kate was learning the dreadful truth.

A report of Denise’s disappearance had made the morning newspaper.

“We were sitting in the lounge room together, Catherine and I... and Monday’s paper was there and there was a picture of Denise Brown’s head.

The prescription drug bottle Kate was able get David Birnie's name from.

“Catherine started laughing and I said 'what’s funny?'

“She said 'You think a big girl like that could look after herself' and you couldn’t tell from the photo that she was a big girl.

“So I knew for a fact that they’d killed Denise Brown.”

Killer David Birnie.

Kate didn’t ask Catherine whether she had killed Denise.

“I didn’t want to die,” she said.

She said David had admitted that it was his intention to kill her when he returned home from work.

If Kate were to survive the ordeal she had to win Catherine’s trust in the meantime.

Kate Moir.

“I was very compliant, I was very nice. We listened to Dire Straits again, we watched Rambo together,” she said.

“I managed to become friends with her enough that she let me go outside with her and her guard got down.”

Kate Moir speaks on Murder Uncovered.

The pair went back inside and there was a knock at the door.

“She told me to go to the room, shut up and not say a word or she’d kill me,” Kate said.

But Catherine had forgot to chain Kate to the bed.

A young Kate Moir.

As she went to the door to do a drug deal, Kate saw her only chance to escape.

“I finally got up the courage to check the window, to make the noise that was needed to break the lock to push it open,” she said.

“I went from being really, really scared to being normal to being like, 's**t, I’ve really got to do something here'.

When she escaped the house she ran to neighbouring homes and banged on the doors until someone answered.

“I’m hysterical. I’m barefoot wearing my black leggings, a black singlet, knickers,” she said.

After no response she ran to a vacuum cleaner store with a bloke in a suit standing out the front.

Kate and Laura are reunited.

“I ran up to him and said I’ve been raped, please take me inside and call the police.”

After begging for help the police came and took the terrified teen to Palmyra station, where the only woman on duty interviewed her, 22-year-old Laura Hancock.

Officer Hancock happened to be at the station on relief because it was short staffed.

She had only graduated from the police academy that July.

30 years on Laura Hancock told Murder Uncovered it was the first statement she had ever taken as a police officer.

A young Laura Hancock.

“First of everything,” she said.

“Obviously at the time I met Kate, (she was) coming out of the most horrendous ordeal and it became apparent fairly quickly that Kate was in some sort of form of shock.”

Killer David Birnie.

Kate told her she believed there were other victims and that she was going to die had she not escaped the house of horrors.

Kate detailed the crime but when she asked 30 years later whether her story was believed, Hancock said police treated it as a “bizarre” case.

Birnie murder victims Susannah Candy and Mary Neilson.
Birnie murder victims Noelene Patterson and Denise Brown.

“Kate already knows this. I was told that it was a bizarre story and to just stitch her up for a false report.

“I’ll never forget those words, that is verbatim, I have lived those words for thirty years.”